The idea of peer review, the basis of imdiePENdents.org came to me in one of the LinkedIn discussion among writers about their books. It was also the genesis of The indiePENdents.org 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 indiePENdents.org aims to open these gates to ‘indies,’
The indiePENdents.org 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 indiePENdents.org. 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 indiePENdents.org on Facebook and Twitter. We will expand into other social networks when we master using these two. Also, visit the LinkedIn discussion group The indiePENdents.org