THE BLOG
29/08/2011 17:45 BST | Updated 29/10/2011 06:12 BST

Indie Publishing and Quality Control - Why Only Readers Matter

It doesn't matter if a book is good in a classical or academic sense. All that now matters is whether or not people want to read it and if they'll pay to do so.

If you were a gambling person, and perhaps you are, you'd know that you can't pick a winner every time. Whether horse racing or football, regardless of the odds, you're going to lose some money, some of the time. The very same reality faces voracious readers. Book store or online download, somewhere along the line you are going to end up reading a turkey.

However, when major publishers and agents talk about independent publishing, they often refer to themselves as offering a quality control barrier between authors and consumers. This barrier, they say, means that for as long as you buy books from the major publishing houses you are far less likely to read a bad book than if you explore the world of independent publishing.

You can certainly see where they begin to form the basis of this argument. It doesn't take long to search through Amazon's Kindle eBook store and find a title that is poorly edited, poorly designed and, most importantly, poorly written. Without mentioning names, I personally uncovered a series of science fiction books (not my own I hasten to add) which were so diabolical as to be amusing. I wondered if that was the point, but unfortunately, the writer was deadly serious.

Of course, I might fit into that category myself, but I believe I give readers adequate information to make a purchasing decision based on their own internal quality measures. Through a combination of different mediums, readers can evaluate the Legacy Universe books and decide whether or not they appeal to them.

Firstly, Amazon's sampling system allows any reader to try out ten to fifteen percent of any of my books before they purchase them. You'll notice some authors pad out that first percentage of their book, filling it with blank pages and useless nattering to ensure that if the reader wants to find out if the book is any good, they have to buy the whole thing. Mean, I hear you say. What cads, I hear you cry. I agree, and therefore would urge you only to support indie authors who don't abuse this system.

Secondly, my product description is detailed and contains critical information about what the product is. Go have a look for yourself. Unlike print books, you can't tell if a digital release is short or long, nor can you scan through and check for bad language and general adult content. Indie writers, including myself, often include word counts and general content descriptions to better inform the reader, overcoming some of these hurdles.

There's also blogs, and twitter and all the other forms of social media that writers use to connect with the reading public. Through all of these mediums, or through just a few, readers can make their own decisions about quality, and may arguably end up being more capable of avoiding bad books.

Of course, the 'quality control' argument really falls apart when you start seeing indie authors, who have been repeatedly rejected by publishers, land major deals following indie success. The most successful writers are now seeing books picked up by big names. They are even managing to negotiate contracts whereby they retain control of digital rights, and only hand over the distribution of dead-tree books.

John Locke, who I've mentioned before, has recently struck a deal with Simon & Schuster to release his million selling Donovan Creed books in print form. John has written at length regarding his repeated rejection by agents and publishers. Now though, after consumers have proven them wrong, one of the biggest houses in the business is now paying to print his books. This is not only great news for John Locke, but for every author, as it shows a willingness to combine the very best of what both worlds can offer.

Ruth Harris, the New York Times bestselling author of books such as DECADES and HUSBANDS AND LOVERS, feels that changing economies now means that traditional publishers may now struggle to offer the same level of quality control as they could once profess to:

"Professional authors with substantial track records who have gone indie have the experience and knowledge to produce high-quality work. However, traditionally, large publishing houses had full staffs of editors, copyeditors and proofreaders so that manuscripts were thoroughly vetted before publication. Changing economics have forced publishers to downsize and those staffs no longer exist. In preparing my previously published fiction for e-publication, I have found only a few very minor errors--mostly typos. In more recently published fiction, the error rate is noticeably higher."

What does this all tell us then? Well, it tells us that readers are becoming the only reliable means of quality control within the publishing world. Given the right tools, and given that authors do not try to deceive them, readers will ensure that the quality releases, whether indie or otherwise, will always rise to the top.

It doesn't matter if a book is good in a classical or academic sense. All that now matters is whether or not people want to read it and if they'll pay to do so. If they do, traditional print and indie digital writers can work together to make popular, quality works available to even more people. That seems like a win-win for everybody, and means the traditionalists can stop being precious about the quality control they supposedly offer.