Let no talent be lost to the chaos of the publishing explosion: that is the cri de coeur of IndiePENdents.org, “an association of self-published authors, editors, proofreaders and others interested in the future of literature” founded, in his 91st year by reader and writer, Jasha Levi.
IndiePENdents.org “evaluates independent books and recommends those that meet our basic standards of writing” and wants to take indie writing to libraries and media reviewers. ALLi (The Alliance of Independent Authors) invited Jasha in to tell us more — and how indies can support his efforts.
JASHA LEVI: A main complaint about many self-published books is that they are “crap.” We are compiling a list of self-published books that we have determined to meet our standards and that we therefore believe are NOT “crap”, but are as good as any books published by the major publishing houses. The titles and authors of these books have been compiled in a catalog that we are planning to mail to libraries around the country.Our mission is to level the playing field and open the doors to new literary talents, where traditional publishing has closed them. We do this without charging any fees and without any commercial interest.
Our goal is to separate the well-written from the badly-written books, that is all. Talk about our “reviewing” has been misconstrued. What we do, in fact, is “evaluate”: we simply attest that the book is properly written.
We check each title against a set of standards we initially thought was very simple and clear (apparently, nothing in this world is as simple as it first appears): correct spelling, correct grammar, correct punctuation, and basic formatting.
The award of a Seal of Good Writing goes to titles that meet these basic, objective standards, established by a membership plenum in the most democratic of ways, applied in cyberspace by majority vote. Members aren’t allowed to solicit professional services in order to keep our value judgments free of any possible bias.
By using objective criteria, we remove any personal bias from the scrutiny, leaving no room for subjective taste and opinion. We deem those to be the readers’ prerogatives.
By November 2012, we've awarded the Seal to 24 titles, representing a variety of genres. We listed them in our first ever catalog/brochure, WELL WRITTEN, WELL EDITED, UNKNOWN BOOKS – Don’t judge the book by its publisher. This is also available in print for $8 on Amazon.
We hope to convince libraries to start offering their patrons independently produced titles, and let readers, rather than publishing business gatekeepers, decide which books the public wants to read. We would also like to use the document as our calling card to book and feature editors in all media.
The other day, we informed the membership of our newly acquired non-profit status. A few responded immediately with contributions, some with kudos. It is too early to tell if our membership is able to provide material support we need but, if the response of people from my personal address book is any guide, the reading public feels the plight of self-published authors and is keen to connect.
In less than 12 months, indie authors from all continents have joined us. With more than 300 registered members in cyberspace across the US and all continents, the organization has reached its next level and its goals are on their way to fruition.
We would like to distribute the catalog to all the libraries we can reach; with a simultaneous PR effort to the media, in a quest for recognition of independent writers, this requires a substantially larger sum than the two founders can afford.
For the whole first year of the organization, Julia Petrakis (my editor and co-founder) and I have been the sole underwriters of this program in whose contribution to society and its culture we firmly believe. The indiePENdents.org became a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization in December 2012. As stated in our articles of incorporation, we evaluate self-published titles without fee, and no officer is paid. Why, then, are we suddenly asking for contributions?
True to the website pledge, we do not sell or promote any services or products. The membership is free and calls for voluntary action.
As we grow, our success calls for more expenses than two citizens of modest means can carry on their shoulders. With our growth, the cost of website maintenance, mailing lists for libraries and bookstores, envelopes, printing and postage have been increasing. We are not specifically asking members to pitch in; they are welcome to do so voluntarily, as part of the public.
In serving the cultural needs of our society, we need partners and we believe our cause is worthy of support.
Our arguments are:
- Publishers are abandoning the role of literary scouts. We are taking it on.
- Multinationals spend thousands of dollars to reach the public. They vouch for the quality of the books they print, but choose only those they consider as sure moneymakers. This forces many writers to self-publish.
- Independent authors don’t have the same financial ability to reach the eyes and ears of the public.
- Without the word of traditional gatekeepers, librarians and readers have no way of knowing if a self-published book is any good. We intend to change that.
IndiePENdents is a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization. Contributions can be made by PayPal to [email protected], or by check or money order to The IndiePENdents, marked for bank deposit only, and mailed to 9 Ashton Lane, Hightstown, NJ 08520. Contributions are tax-deductible in the US.