Apparently indie authors are instructed to “show” not “tell”. This writing advice for new writers can be very confusing. Especially as if those who actually say that pretend they hadn’t read anything by SJM, Stephen King, James Patterson, or Hugh Lowry ever in their lives. *Eye-roll* But that was just the start of my discovery.
I’ve read over 400 books this year, so far! And let me tell you something I found very odd. If you want a book full of long winded exposition and very little plot, pick up an indie title. If you want a book filled with simple writing with tons of fluff, pick up a traditionally published title. And I’ve always wondered why that is.
Then I realized: indie authors are held to incredibly higher standards than those picked up by Penguin, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, and Macmillan, for example. And I almost guarantee none of their query submissions followed these “indie rules” people have put in place. I bet they all took notes from trad authors titles and wrote from that.
WRITING ADVICE FOR NEW WRITERS
Harmful posts like these: “how to sell a million books” “how I made $17,000 a month selling one book on Amazon” “how these indie authors became famous overnight” and others. The issue? None of them will actually tell you their secret.
Why would they? They’d rather lie and make you believe anyone can make $100k a year writing rather than tell you the truth about how they got themselves there. Which inevitably spawned in slush piles of people only caring about making a quick buck.
So what’s the truth?
They paid their way through. That’s right. All of those six-figured “inspirational” authors ALL have paid for that 100k. Whether it be paid reviews, advertising, getting into magazines, ghostwriting ect. But they won’t tell you that or admit it. They’d rather make people believe “writing is easy” and they became “Famous Overnight“. There’s no shame in sharing your tips.
But there is shame in telling authors to do these below, distracting them from their writing career. How do I know? Because I’ve done every tip and trick out there EXCEPT paid adverts and paid anything and saw zero results! I was pretty much an expert at failing at becoming a successful writer.
- Build a Newsletter (how is one expected to do that with virtually no audience?)
- Study the Market/Keywords (most of the successful keywords you can’t even use on Kindle unless you’re a publisher and websites gatekeep that keyword information)
- Commit to Social Media (as if everyone else isn’t already trying to do that exact thing and social media will just bury your posts or shadowban you if you advertise there without paying)
- Build a Website (then learn everything about indexing, keywords, and not accidentally using “black hat tricks” because Google hates when you rank higher if you’re not paying for their ads. Just like every other social media outlet)
- Post Blogs on Said Website 3 Times a Day (very rare to find original posts online. Most are cookie cutter copy and paste crap)
- Engage with People Everyday (draining if you’re an introvert)
- Ask a Fellow Author to Read Your Book for Feedback (they’re doing it too)
- Interview with Other Authors
- Email Book Blogs to Share Your Book (most require payments to be reviewed/listed)
- Quit Your Job to Write Full-Time (very harmful advice. Don’t quit your day job. Sales are not guaranteed)
All very valuable, yet all time consuming and some harmful. Just sit down and write already. Check out this site for some in-depth statistics regarding author earnings, editing, and publishing statistics.
How many ppl you know read a book that ISNT on some best sellers list or traditionally published? It’s very hard to get anyone to commit to your indie novel when they base their TBR pile after the NYT Bestseller’s List or USA Bestseller’s List.
And I’m sorry to break it to you, but you’ll NEVER see an indie title up there. And this link describes why that is: Big Lies that Indie Authors Believe.
Sure, that answer would obviously be to ask people who actually READ indie books and then hope they like it. But guess who that audience is?
Other indie authors who are looking to do the same thing. Trust me, they’ve seen the same websites you have. They’re all implementing these “Tips and Tricks” as well. Especially the dreaded Show Vs Tell rule.
SHOW VS TELL: THE ISSUE WITH IT
My issue with show vs tell is that many “seasoned” indie authors keep telling new authors to show and not tell. Even though as children we were often encouraged to Show AND Tell.
Take this as an example: Sally went to the market that morning. She typically wouldn’t but her cabinets were starting to collect dust and her family invited themselves to dinner at her place that night.
Sounds fine. I’ve read worse. But a seasoned author will tell me to:
- Expand on it more
- Don’t use passive voice
- Get rid of the “-ly” adverbs
- Don’t use “that”
- Don’t mix verb tenses
So then it becomes:
The night before, her family made plans to visit in the evening. Sally didn’t have enough food to feed all of them and decided she needed to make a quick run to the market.
“Show more, tell less”
The night before, her family made plans to visit her in the evening. Sally swung open the cabinets. Their bare frames creaked from age and cobwebs dusted the corners in the back. She ran a finger through and found her pink padded index to now be fully covered in gray filth from years of ordering take out rather than cooking a meal for herself every night. But something about this night was different. Her face scrunched in curiosity but she let it go. No point in worrying about things she can’t control. But she knew she didn’t have enough food to feed all ten of her family members and needed to make a quick run to the market.
Sure it sounds fine and dandy when nitpicking from one line or one paragraph. But many of these details would have been prevalent in the ‘before’ paragraphs. So there wouldn’t be a need to repeat yourself and create redundancy for the sake of showing.
All of these details could have also been later described, so as to get on with the story already. What happens at the market? We can go over the whole family and food dynamic later. And many authors would pad it even more by adding descriptive words the typical population (unless they’re Harvard or Yale) wouldn’t even use in day-to-day conversation.
MY ADVICE TO THOSE GIVING OUT HARMFUL/USELESS ADVICE:
Stop holding indie authors to those unreasonable expectations. Big name publishers aren’t taking your advice either. Makes me wonder if that’s the issue though. Is that the problem? They won’t take you seriously as an editor/promoter/author so you just have to tear down everything about a story that makes it great just to feel better about yourself when that person fails just as you had?
Or is it because another author gave you the same regurgitated advice and it didn’t work for you so now you’re handing it out under the guise “maybe it’ll work for you” as a kind of editor when you know damn well it ain’t working for anybody. Because that’s low. And its attitudes like that why indie authors get a bad rap and then people wonder why they don’t want to hire these “editors” nowadays.
Because they’re going around telling indie authors to “show don’t tell” yet give examples of telling as showing and vice versa. Then when an indie author DOES show, they’re told to show more and more and more. Until their novel becomes 80% fluff, 10% nonsense, 7% absurdity, and 3% plot.
Then once that is completed, and they’ve done “everything right” by all of the “standards” they’re badgered for having a single freaking typo/formatting mistake! It’s enough to drive a person mad. That’s why I say “F*ck It. I’ll do what I want.”
People crave simplicity in this confusingly contrapulated superfluous deleterious kind of world. (See what I did there?) Point. Proven.
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