I saw an ad for an independent book awards web show thing. “The Best Indie Books” available, or something like that. My first thought was “How do they decide what’s “best”? Is it the number of sales? The amount of money made? Anyone who has read any of the most “popular” books out there these days can attest to the fact that the books that are the most popular, or the books making the most money aren’t necessarily the “best”.
Best written? Okay, still subjective, but, there are certain criteria one can point to as indicators of high or low quality work. To do so, however, threatens to come perilously close to the “Best Edited” category. The other part of being “Best Written” becomes subjective because it is based on the reader’s emotional response to the work. Few would argue that George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones isn’t a piece of really well written work, (ok, I know someone has to pipe up now and say they hated it), but to someone who really dislikes the genre, or doesn’t read much to begin with, or only reads magazine articles or whatever, it may be simply another drafty castle epic. Hardly the “best”, in their eyes. They may be able to appreciate the quality of writing, if they read it, which they won’t, so it doesn’t matter.
The same goes for “popular” music and the other things that get dragged along with it, like late night TV appearances, Greatest Hits collections, comeback tours by guys that look more like my dentist than the rock stars I grew up with, etc.
In the past, the song that sold the most 45’s, (kids, ask your parents), was declared the Number One Hit, and received more radio airplay because people obviously liked it, which in turn caused more people to buy it. This didn’t last long, though. The public would soon turn its attention to the next big thing.
Today, the next big thing is hyped months in advance, marketed as a smash hit single, book, TV show or movie long before anyone outside of the focus groups has seen it. Its earning power is secured by front screen splashes on iTunes and clandestine promotion by “fans” throughout social media. It has to truly and wholly suck out loud to stand against the machine that demands it make money. And, even then, it’ll cover the spread overseas.
The marketers have decided for us. “Best” equals “most money made”.
Independent authors, and those who read and review their work, haven’t made it there yet. They haven’t been completely corrupted by the system that demands a high percentage of the population‘s favor be indicative of value. Aside from the occasional review of one’s own work under an assumed name, and the pay-for-stars game that has sprung up now that Amazon has all but defined success for indie publishing, it’s still real. The people who read and review indie books are doing it because they love new and undiscovered talent. They love literature and they love the idea of being respected as a source for quality work. They put together these hit parades of “Best of Indie Publishing” because they want to build their own credibility by promoting quality work.
And that’s a good thing.
So, check out the recommendations you see on the web. Take a chance on an indie author and read and review them honestly. Soon, your friends will be coming to you for your recommendations. Who knows, you may be posting your own “Best of Indie Publishing” awards soon.
If you do, don’t forget where you got the idea. I’ve written a book you’re going to love. I haven’t sold many copies, but that doesn’t mean it’s not great, right?