Going on a bit of a rant here. One of the reasons authors want an agent and a NY editor is so they’re seen as “real” writers. The work has been supposedly vetted and found worthy by professionals. (Not always well- I often see errors in trad pubbed books). The thinking appears to be that vetted work means good work.
Now in comparison, I used to make and sell soaps. Not the boil lye kind (lye kinda freaks me out ;)) but the buy high-end meltable soap base, add high-end essential oils and colors and mold it kind. People would buy my soaps based on smell and looks. And if they were looking for shea butter, hemp seed oil, goat’s milk, etc. They knew what they liked (Shea Butter for example) and they knew what smell they wanted (vanilla) when those two combined and the soap looked nice as well a sale was born.
No one vetted my soaps.
No higher soap professional looked them over and said, “These met the standards of what we think are viable products”.
The customer bought them because they met what the thought they wanted. And when they liked them, they bought more.
But the book world is skewed. The mindset is changing, but still many folks believe self-published books can’t be as good as “real books” (not my words here) because they haven’t been screened.
Now I am not talking about the “oh, I just finished my novel, let me find a photo and slap it on Amazon” folks. I once saw a tirade about the reader being the first screener and putting crap up was ok. Um- no. Just No. If you’re putting it up so Aunt Suzie can get a copy- fine- but if you’re trying to build a writing career-- no. Put the Photoshop down and walk away slowly.
I’m talking about folks who hired professional editors, professional artists, professional layout folks. The work has been polished, crafted, worked on to within an inch of its life. Why is that seen as less “real” than a book that has gone through the same process but outside of the author’s control? If a reader buys my work, they are doing so because it looks interesting, and it looks like I might have a clue as to what I’m doing.
Indie authors are investing in themselves to get their writing career out there. We're scrimping and saving so we have hire talented professionals to help us. Which might be part of the problem actually.
Way back in the old days there were Vanity Presses. You paid them a bunch of money and they gave you a bunch of books to use against your friends and loved ones. I think to some point the taint of that still lingers. And "paying" might be the trigger. Yes, I am going to be paying professionals to do things out of my skill set. But is that any different than when I paid professionals to get a graduate degree? Took me ten years to pay off my graduate school loans, and not sure how much of a return I got on that investment. No one questioned the cost or wisdom of me going to grad school.
And when I started my soap biz-- all those supplies, business license, etc weren't free. I had to invest on that as well. No one questioned the cost or wisdom of my initial outlay then- it was a business.
Writing is a business. Some of us chose different paths to get the work out there.
As a writer, we all--indie and trad- have an obligation to make the very best book we can for our readers. As Indies- we have the control and the say over just what goes into that. But if we do our jobs right, our books are very very much as real as a traditionally published one.