Giving A Voice To Indies Bewares Writing

A new organization is being formed which is aiming to give a voice to indies – the Indie Author Support Network. The idea was proposed by indie author Marie Force, and it’s still at the very earliest stages, but what I’ve heard so far is very promising indeed – particularly that it will be exclusively focused on high-level advocacy and interfacing with retailers on issues which concern indies.
I’m not a member of any writer organization. I joined one here in Ireland when I first returned home, but didn’t renew after they wouldn’t even take the most basic stand against a local publisher who wasn’t paying his authors.
I know people join organizations for lots of different reasons, whether that’s continuing education or competitions or even just the social/networking aspects at conferences, which are desperately needed in such a solitary profession, and I think those needs are pretty well met with the various genre-focused organizations out there, and NINC too. However, advocacy has always been of most importance to me and I think there is a critical need right now for a very focused group which specifically speaks to the rather curious set of issues that indies are dealing with in 2018.
And most of these issues stem from, or are exacerbated by, a lack of representation. We are a huge chunk of the market now, but we don’t have a seat at the table or a voice in the room.
While I’m a huge respecter of the work Victoria Strauss and the rest of the Writer Beware team have done on behalf of all writers (and the SFWA in setting that up and its partner orgs in helping with logistical support), as well as the work that the Alliance of Independent Authors has done in building an all-encompassing indie writers’ organization, I think there is a very specific gap right now for a group exclusively focused on high-level advocacy for indies, one where institutional energy is all directed towards that one task.
Over the last couple of days, Marie Force has been gathering expressions of interest to form just such a group, one that would interface directly with retailers. She has already spoken with KDP about dealing directly with the group on issues of common concern, and they seemed very positive about the idea.


Despite some rumors flying around, there is no specific agenda in place yet – the organization is still being formed and that conversation is yet to be had. That said, there are a whole bunch of issues right now that such a group could conceivably tackle.
(These are my own personal opinions/priorities/preferences, of course.)
A lot of the issues today stem from Kindle Unlimited. I’m not pro- or anti- KU personally. My books are wide, but I manage marketing for someone else who is all-in with KU (and does very well out of it too). But there’s no doubt that KU has had a dramatic impact on the market and raised issues which need to be addressed.
There is a chronic lack of transparency in the program – leading to issues like authors getting page reads retroactively reduced, with Amazon refusing to furnish any kind of reasonable explanation for same.
The compensation system at the center of KU is a relatively new model in publishing, and it has had many unpleasant side effects such as making the Kindle Store a giant target for various scammers, and Amazon’s response seems to vary between doing nothing and allowing things to spiral out of control, to nuking from space and hitting a lot of innocents.
Amazon’s TOS also needs to be a whole lot clearer on a range of things, so authors have absolute clarity about what is permitted and what isn’t. And there needs to be some kind of proportionality in any sanctions handed out – right now we have the crazy situation where an author who openly admitted to clickfarming his way to #1 gets the same sanction as an author who did nothing wrong but was targeted by a third-party.
The one-size-fits-all punishment of rank-stripping seems too onerous for the latter and too light for the former (IMO, YMMV).
On a personal level, I feel like many of these issues were flagged by the author community when KU first launched, and if we had a voice in the room back then, perhaps many of them could have been avoided too.
There are a lot of organizations out there already doing great work in various fields, but this feels like the right idea at the right time, something that isn’t necessarily in competition with the likes of NINC or RWA or anyone else, but a really focused group exclusively dealing with indie author advocacy.
And if you are interested too you can join Marie Force’s Facebook Group – the Author Support Network – or express your interest at IndieAuthorSupportNetwork.com. Marie Force is looking to gather expressions of interest from 1,000 indie authors before April 30 to see if this idea has legs (and she was halfway there after just 12 hours).
I’m excited to see where this goes.

24 Replies to “Giving A Voice To Indies”

  1. I think the biggest question many of us have, and haven’t had answered is that she’s going to get 20k from her 1000 signup members. While I absolutely agree that every group needs dues, what does she need 20k for startup costs? When asked, comments are going missing – whether they’re being attacked by other group members or banned from the group I don’t know, but I’m very uneasy at giving an indie that isn’t signing you, Wending, and other large voices in the community more than many of us can hope to make in our lifetime, with 1000x$20 to join.
    I also have to question HOW this will work. I’ve seen mention of the Audible debacle. But I’ve also seen some of the people bragging about being part of the thousand talking about how they’re going to push to make it all about their issues – one even went as far as to say that they’ll throw another faction of the indie writing crowd (erotica writers in this case) under the bus because ‘they’re causing all the problems’.
    There’s no apparent vetting – just a willingness to pay $20 and help start it up.
    Maybe it’s a sign of how much this stuff actually comes up in the community and doesn’t get anywhere, but I’m not sure this is as good a thing as people think. I think she’s asking an awful lot, without any specific guarantee she even knows what she’s going to do after. And that she’s ‘daunted’ by it just makes me question who will carry the weight when it becomes too much.
    I’m sorry to be negative about this, but I’d be behind this if there were big names already involved. And I wish her every success. But bigger organisations have never managed to sway amazon on anything – why ‘unionising’ as other member of the 1000 described it will change things is beyond me.
    And as an erotica writer, I’m worried that if they do affect change that we’ll be damaged even more.

    1. It’s really early days and I’m sure there will be more solid info soon about what kind of issues might be priorities and finances and all that practical stuff. I think they wanted to test the waters first and see how solid interest really was. All the questions you are asking are valid and I’m sure they’ll be answered in due course.
      BTW I haven’t seen any firm discussion of any kind of agenda or priorities except in the vaguest terms and haven’t seen anyone even mention erotica writers – in any context – let alone any bragging or agenda-pushing or anything along those lines but I’ll keep an eye out for it.

      1. No…whereas, I have. Erotica writers are being vilified already, and posts are going up and vanishing as people realise others are reporting them back, but she’s managed to address the ‘no agenda’ thing, but not the finance thing. It all feels very much like it’s going to be a romance writer’s issue push – she mentioned the Romance issue with Audible, she’s talked about stuff that affects all Indies, sure, but…that list is herculean. Depending on who is on the steering committee, and which people sign up in cliques, it could be the Author Support indie board, which isn’t a necessarily bad thing – but it won’t have a broad enough base to tackle the options. I mean for Pete’s sake – SWA has a huge membership base and they’ve often said they feel powerless to change the industry because it moves so far.
        No…the idea is brilliant. That she’s not vetting…that worries me almost as much as the 20k she’s got with no transparent business plan.
        I look at it this way – if someone had gone onto Kickstarter, and said ‘I want to found an indie author committee to address the issues,’ listing what she did, she’d HAVE to give a budget. She’s just doing it without the onus of giving a budget, or responsibility.
        And to be honest, if she just wanted to gauge interest, she could have said that there will be a membership fee, register interest. Or gone to Kickstarter.
        I hope my unease is wrong about this, and it affects equal change for all legitimate Indies, but, I’m afraid of the damage an unbalanced board can do, if they get the access she’s going for. The Puppies are a perfect example (Rabid/Sad). They’re only a part of the voting process, but they broke things, irrevocably, and caused a lot of trouble, for so many years.

        1. After your first comment, I went over to the Author Support Network Facebook group and checked through all the threads on this topic. I didn’t see one mention of erotica writers (good or bad). Maybe these conversations are happening somewhere else but I haven’t seen anything like that. I don’t know where else this is being discussed – I’ve only seen one small thread on Kboards referring to it.
          I think it’s pretty early to be making judgments on how this will play out, but if you want to adopt a wait-and-see attitude that’s perfectly fine. Details are obviously going to be scant at this point, but the intentions sound pretty good so far.
          Also, not sure what “vetting” process can possibly be in place at this embryonic stage, but I guess it’s reasonable to assume that membership criteria and the like will be one of the first things to be discussed (I’m guessing here – I have no special knowledge). This is only at the expression of interest stage – nothing is technically formed yet AFAIK…

      2. I know. They’re doing it on closed groups or their own fan groups.
        I’ve tried sending some through to the sign up address, but it occurs to me that some of these people operate under pen names on the group. One person even said to her superfans group that if you pay me to do it, I’ll take five slots. And I’ll get each of my friends to take five slots. We’ll make sure OUR agenda is pushed.
        She pulled it down after someone pointed out it could be forwarded to anyone. So…
        I know it’s not being talked about in public broadly. The bullies have learned to at least control where it comes up. Being an innocuous pen name myself, I see some horrifying things aimed at other Indies – and that’s the final point.
        Is there anything being done to address the behaviour that defeats Indies. The review trades, the sockpuppetting, all of the things that Indies do in the desperation to get ahead, but end up screwing the rest of us? Because I honestly believe that without that change, without the chance to say ‘this is over’, any platform can say ‘Indies are doing this in part to themselves. We’re not capable of fixing errors caused when Indies trigger the system’
        I absolutely agree – as soon as this pops up out in public, someone should call out anyone aiming to use this to pull things only in a niche favour should be called out, but until then, the closed and secret groups are a breeding ground for taking over lots – not just this.
        My mind keeps pulling back to the ‘rabids’. And how badly they damaged a huge community that was set up for the greater good of a group of writers. And how easily fake news sways people (irony, I’m well aware, given there’s no proof I’m seeing this stuff), that this is something that needs a lot more than $20 each in the port, a website, and some high end areas.
        I’m going to stop taking up space on your blog and I’m going to work on removing myself from the toxic places, which is the best I’ve seen from this in it’s young life. And I will wait and see, and hope I’m wrong. But having been involved in mastermind groups, and author groups since 2011 (like you) under my real name, I’ve seen good intentions soured by one bullying, loud voice. We all have.
        You’re right about one thing. If we were consulted when it was launched, even as a focus group, I think things would be different.

  2. While I also have concerns about how this will play out, I am willing to sit back and see what happens. I am skeptical though I hope this thing works. While I am taking pass on spending the bucks to be a founder, I have joined the FB group.
    I have also linked this piece to my blog at https://kevintipplescorner.blogspot.com/2018/04/david-gaughran-giving-voice-to-indies.html
    Kevin
    (who prefers to eat babies late at night and with them drizzled in chocolate)

  3. Thank you for this post, David, and for your support of this effort. To answer the questions posed above, we have more info going out soon to the founding members, but the $20 membership fee will be put toward start-up costs, including fielding hundreds of emails, procuring URLs, setting up a website, establishing a bank account, applying for nonprofit status, and a variety of other behind-the-scenes tasks that I am currently paying for because my staff is handling these matters. I have made them available to assist with this effort, and they will be paid separately out of the start-up funding. The CPA who serves as my CFO will be provide transparent accounting on the use of organizational funding. Our goal is to pursue a high-level agenda with a goal toward benefitting all indie authors, regardless of genre. Whether or not we’ll be successful remains to be seen, but until we try, we won’t know what’s possible. Hope this helps to clarify and please let me know if you have other questions.

    1. I just want to thank Marie Force for doing this. I’ve been praying for a big indie author to launch an advocacy-focused network for so long… The idea was discussed on kboards several times, and each time the outcome was asphyxiation and paralysis by analysis. But now it looks like my prayers are finally being answered. So happy this is happening!

      1. I hope that we can help to bring about some positive changes to the indie experience. Fingers crossed!

  4. Well, I’m interested, but I’m already paying ALLi for membership there and waiting to see how that pans out.
    Also, I’m a reformed Facebook user, not planning to return anytime soon [too time-consuming] so I might be excluded anyway.

  5. Thank you, David, for sharing this information. I applaud Marie Force – who is proving to be a force, and, you, David, as always, at the forefront, championing Indies.
    Thank you both.
    I’m in.

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