It used to be that if you wanted to be a published author, you had to pour your mind and guts into a manuscript, craft and recraft it, before sending out dozens of copies, wrapped in crisp manila envelopes to a long list of publishers. And then the wait, it was often a long, gut-wrenching, torturous wait, ending more often than not, with a stern, but politely worded rejection letter. Sometimes a publisher even admitted your story was good, your writing was top-notch, but it just wasn’t “what we’re looking for at this time.” Seven small little words that suddenly made all of the sleepless nights and caffeine-driven days fell like deep gashes on your delicate creative spirit.
And then along came the self-publishing with its secret cure – the self-published ebook– to heal all of those bleeding wounds.
With a simple click of the button marked “upload” on sites like CreateSpace and Smashwords, a tidal wave of everything from historical romances to spy thrillers, epic sci-fi war journals to literary manifestos was now instantly publishable, and instantly available to the world. And for a time, the world welcomed the tsunami of new books. We’re human after all, and humans love stories. They are the sustenance for our soul, the water to our unquenchable curiosity. We downloaded one of these newly published tales, grew giddy as our digital reader synced up our library, then settled into our favorite reading chair, or pushed back in our bus seat to dig into the words that would take us out of our mundane, boring lives.
But we longed to be entertained, so even though we’ve read and reread that same first page half a dozen times and still didn’t understand a single thing the author was trying to convey, we started to feel bad. Our inner reader (not to be confused with our inner gods or goddesses, that’s another conversation all together) whispered things like, “they must have uploaded the wrong version” or “maybe I just don’t get this author.”
And so, we once again jumped online and roamed the cyber stalls to find another book that sounded like our piece of pie. There was no shortage of options, so we quickly found another book, and grew excited, but perhaps not as much as last time, for the opportunity to read what will surely be the world’s next undiscovered best-seller.
And this time we forged on all the way to the end of the first chapter before deciding we’d been had.
It seemed all of the thousands of self-published titles were just short stacks of stink covered in a shiny covers. We wouldn’t have paid a gum wrapper for such drivel if we had known, much less any of our hard earned money. Our inner reader grew furious, jumping up and down, sending lightning bolts of pain into our temples while shouting, “I could have put a newspaper in a blender and pulled out something almost equally as legible.”
We made up our minds, “No more indie books, I’m only going to read those published by a company I recognize. I’ll not waste any more of my money on substandard storytelling!”
But did we make the right decision? Are all self-published books miserable drudgery hardly worth any more of our time or energy then that spent scanning past them and wrinkling our noses in disgust? Is there no possibility of finding a self-published book that actually makes us want to read not only the second chapter, but all the way to the end?
I am here to tell you that while there are a great many books I wouldn’t give a piece of ABC gum for, much less the shiny wrapper it came in, there are, in fact, a great number of wonderful self-published stories just waiting to be read.
The trick is knowing where to find them.
And that’s part of the reason I started Storyteller Alley. I wanted to prove that all great stories don’t require a stamp-of-approval from a big publishing company. Sometimes they are born in an indie writer’s hand-written journal or in midst of a small press author’s midnight write-a-thon. They become the stories that make you cry, and laugh, and think. Stories that will make you forget who you are for a moment and let you fall in love or rescue the world.
So if you’ve ever suffered from a furious inner reader and sworn off independent and small press books, or if you’ve never thought to try them, then I’d like to personally invite you to give them (another) chance. Come let me introduce you to stories and authors who are worth your time and investment. Let me give you the priceless gift of good literary entertainment.
Who knows, together we just might find the world’s next best-selling author.
Veronica Jorden is the founder of Storyteller Alley and First Page, Last Page. She is a former soldier, proud Army wife, a mother to three brilliant albeit demanding teenagers. When she’s not reading, editing, or writing she can be found volunteering for the Military Spouse Business Association or baking cupcakes, though only one of those activities includes ever includes frosting and sprinkles.