A letter to all indie writers and readers

I’ve been a compulsive writer for nearly thirty years. I’ve published nine books and I’ve even won some literary awards. I’ve been interviewed by major newspapers and local magazines. I recognize that a real writer is supposed to create stories for the art itself, ignoring the fickle heart of the market place and corporate profits. I know all about papering my walls with rejection slips and the joy of selling that first copy of a new manuscript. I’m not a quitter and never will be able to stop writing even if I wanted too.


When a relationship feels wrong, it’s time to regroup, figure out the problem, and correct it. But if the list of the failings and faults continues to grow it is time to start fresh and anew. With the current over-saturated state of the indie and commercial book market, I feel like all art is quickly sinking into obscurity with no way to refresh it. With ads offering book publishing services becoming as common as cola ads, the literary marketplace has been overwhelmed with talentless writers concocting books in a few weeks rather than the years a professional writer might take.


What does it all mean? How will a talented author make a living? Is the writing life now about luck or plain accident to hit the best seller list? Should a writer hope for posthumous fame to justify their sacrifices?


Being a writer eats away great chunks of life, including giving up jobs, friends, and spouses in order to put words onto paper. One has to be willing to risk all for one’s personal art. Writing is a process, and like most processes, if you do not do it on a regular basis, you generally decrease your facility for it. But today’s marketplace is littered with those unwilling to take the time to master the craft.


People who write for the admiration of others make the lifestyle look like some amazing, spiritual, intellectual process. They want to be ooed and ahhed and respected by their peers because they have achieved what few have; they’ve written and published a book. Writing a novel can be a gratifying, transcendent thing, but at the end of the day it’s about putting your butt into a chair and typing and rewriting, and editing, and typing, and rewriting, and editing endlessly until the word-sculpture is the absolute best it can be.


Technology and the internet make it possible for an unknown writer to be successful without getting an agent and going through a traditional publisher. But when the majority of amateurs who have been rejected by traditional publishing choose indie publishing as an alternative, they often find a cruel surprise in store. No one is listening. They don’t have an audience.


 So, why do I care?


These wanna-be authors and the ease at which they can publish their scantily written novels has clotted the marketplace. Amateurs have bought up all the respected sponsorships and tainted their effectiveness because too many bad books have been purchased by readers expecting something better for their money. Amateurs have spammed the global writing communities to the extent that the mere mention of a link to a professionally written and reviewed manuscript brings hate and warnings from the sites that the author will be banned. I experience this regularly even though only about five percent of my posts are about my books. These days, trying to get noticed has become a cardinal sin.


I used to dream of writing for a living and sharing my stories with the world. I spent nearly three decades revising my novels, getting them professionally edited and reviewed, and rewriting them to perfection. I had a big-time NY agent for four years and then parted ways three years ago when the indie revolution and ebooks became all the rage. I indie published nine of my thirteen completed novels in the span of a year and a half and have sold a combined 15,000+ books since then. One of my novels even hit #32 on Amazon’s romantic suspense best seller list. But in the last six months, I’ve seen a terrible trend in indie publishing nearly wipe out the professional writer. No amount of marketing and self-promotion seems to work anymore in a marketplace bombarded with amateurs trying to peddle their wares.


My name is Neil Ostroff and you can Google me if you’d like. I won’t give a link to my blog or my books because it seems that even the mere mention of self-promotion will bring on the hate, and it’s tough enough trying to justify the writing process without that added emotional discomfort. I’ll still sit in my office and write, it’s a compulsion, but I don’t know if the world will be able to discover my books amongst the millions now being published yearly and given away free. It’s a shame that technology can provide so much yet also take away so much at the same time. The era of the writer, musician, artist, making a living at their craft has nearly ended. True artists will continue to perform their magic, they have too, but the dream of earning a living at it is over for the vast majority. It’s now up to algorithms and sheer luck.


I think I’ve written all I want to say on this subject. Back to the keyboard to work on my latest novel.