Sunday, April 29, 2012


There is no code used in alternating the description of a self-published writer as an indie or independent. The moniker is accepted by other professions, such as by musicians, who had a similar problem with their industry and solved it by releasing their works by themselves. They didn't kill the mainstream issued music, but did gain respect and a just return for all those who produce it. The market evaluation is not provided by a bunch of  industry executives, but by the listening public, . This is not yet the case with independent authors.

The industry funnel is much too narrow to accommodate all writers who seek to be published. Therefore, one should not assume that the fact a manuscript wasn't "vetted" by an industry gatekeeper is to be considered inferior by definition. But the ease of self-publishing (in print and digital) enabled by new technologies, does allow books of lesser quality to flood the market along with many perfectly solid works.
To understand better where The indiePENdents. org and I as its founder stand: We are simply proposing  to separate the wheat from the chaff, by peer-reviewing indie titles which were not given access to the traditional publishing channels. To our surprise, we are encountered resistance to the idea from some indie authors; many are simply rugged individuals, but others may be driven by other considerations.

So far, bookstores and libraries have been accepting only books issued and recommended by the industry. Our aim is to certify, through panels of three reviewing peers for each submitted indie title, that the book with our Seal deserves a place on their shelves. 
We don't claim this as a right, but do want to level the playing field, which is not the same as asking for an entitlement. 
The economics we suggest are no less appealing than those bookstores get from the publishers. 
A consignment contract by which the indie author ships a requested number of copies at his/her expense, pays a stocking fee of $40 or so, and is responsible for the return of all copies not sold in six months. In the meantime, the bookstore retains 25% of the selling  price. I don't think "mainstream" is giving a better incentive to bring a book to the judgment of readers. 

Some marketers try to discourage consignement placement, claiming that the bookstore will favor titles from'mainstream' publishers the way supermarkets display their wares. I say that if the bookshop owner gets a comparable percentage of profits, with prices which are comparable, he will not spend time to hide 'self-pubbed' books in favor of  the 'pubbed' ones.

As an example: a writer strapped for money need only $115 to send 20 copies on consignment. He will get his total investment paid back after half of the books are sold.  Each additionsl copy brings him a royalty of about $10. Multiply this by a factor of x if the book takes off. 
If need be, sometime in the future, The  may consider finding sponsors for an escrow fund: it would lend authors seed money for the initial investment cost of consigning their books. We can call it  ABSOL ("A Book Send Off Loan") program until a good writer comes up with a better title.

Thursday, April 26, 2012


The idea of peer review, the basis of came to me in one of the LinkedIn discussion among writers about their books. It was also the genesis of The which my editor, Julia Petrakis, and I launched December 13, 2011. It is volunteer and free, not open to any commercial interests, and doesn’t sell any services or goods.
Some of the writers in the discussions were seeking an honest criticism of their work by other authors. Some wanted a peer review of a draft they were still not sure about, but most were offers of an exchange of copies for reviews on Amazon.
I mailed printed copies to several people, and electronically to a few others.   I knew I was risking a bad review being posted where my books are sold. So did all the others. 
Their reviews were published on Amazon, ranging from perfunctory to glowing. On a writers’ digital exchange, one said noncommittally ‘Jasha is worth reading.’ But whatever judgment it brought, this novel way to get an evaluation looked to me both valid and valuable, but most important not corrupted by commerce nor nepotism. 
This turned out to be a genuine, professional, thoughtful review and commentary, welcome even when less than favorable. It was completely different from the playful (perhaps incestuous’): “Like my Facebook page, and I will like your Facebook page,” which has been going on for a while on another LinkedIn site.
The peer reviews also seemed more trustworthy than those issued, for a fee, by “professional” review mills. Some authors are induced to buy these, in the hope that -- since they couldn’t get the attention of the overwhelmed mainstream book industry --  this will bring them recognition in the marketplace. 
It is a real question whether a knowledgable reader will give much credence to a hack review. What’s worse, with or without such paid reviews, self-published  books are still refused access by bookshop owners and shunned by librarians because they have not been vetted by gatekeepers set up by ‘legitimate,’ mainstream publishing channels. Up to now, this was for them the only guarantee that a book earned its right to see the light of day. Thus, they haven’t been giving a place on their shelves to ‘unproven’ titles. The aims to open these gates to ‘indies,’
The seal will give them the assurance they seek.  Our peer review seeks to establish an even playing field and open the market to printed and digital works, wether they are mainstream or independent i.e. self-published titles. 
Last December, the loudest objections to even starting the indiePENdents were in the form of questions like “who are you to judge anyone?’ and  accusations of elitism. Then, the discussion boiled down to the standards themselves. Having now been voted on by the membership, they have become the official basis for our three member panels to start reviewing already published works. They are no different than those used by the best book reviewers.
We now need more members to volunteer as peer evaluators, and others willing to approach their local media, give out information, and spread the word about the work of The indiePENdents. The general reading public, you local bookstores and libraries need to learn about  this new validation tool on which self-published author can star relying right now.
If you are reading this, join The Whether you are an independent author or simply care about the future of literature and the new model of publishing, you will be part of publishing history in the making.

You cam find both Jasha M. Levi and The on Facebook and Twitter. We will expand into other social networks when we master using these two. Also, visit the LinkedIn discussion group The