As a soon to be author with a small press, I understand a little about the challenges a new writer faces in getting their work out there. I try to support new, small press and indie authors by buying their books, and I've discovered some great stories that way. That being said, I've also read a fair amount that was just plain awful. This is where the rant comes in. I have read so many stories lately that were littered with grammatical errors, riddled with cliches, tense and POV shifts, underdeveloped characters and just plain shoddy storytelling. These were books that were aggressively marketed by other writers that I've seen. People with thousands of Facebook likes and Twitter followers who have really impressive media platforms that make me say WOW--this person has their shit together. Then I read their work and I'm like...um, what?
I don't want to come across as a snarky bitch. I'm not a snob. I don't claim to know everything there is about writing. I'll read most any genre, I'll try anything new, I'll give anything a chance...and as long as it's a reasonably well-written book with good characters and an interesting story, I'm entertained.
Authors, please please PLEASE do yourselves a favor and:
a) Learn your craft. Seriously. Grammar, sentence structure, plot...all of it. KEEP learning it. Even if you've published, you should be constantly finding ways to improve. Good writing has a certain flow to it. Good storytelling is an art form. I know that feeling you get when you complete a novel length work--it's like a writer's high. It is a huge accomplishment you should be proud of. BUT...it's not finished, not even close.
2) Hire a competent editor...or at least some critiquers & beta readers who are both sharp and honest. This kind of goes with the above. After reading your own story over and over again, you're not likely to catch errors. And you are not going to recognize areas that a potential reader might find confusing or unclear because you already know what happens and why. You need honest feedback and to keep an open mind when receiving it. Join a critique group, take some courses, workshop the fuck out of your story--and I'm not talking friends and family who will tell you house awesome it is, I'm talking about people who are willing to rip your work to shreds--point out any possible plot whole, flat character, cliche, error that they can find.
c) Find a cover artist with graphic design knowledge. Even if you go with a pre-made cover because that's all your budget allows. It's all about being a professional and presenting a professional looking product. Speaking as someone who has an artistic background, I will say I'm very turned off by poorly done covers, and unless I know the person, I will not buy it.
This is YOUR product. Indie should not equal amateur. Don't be so blinded by your desire to see your name in print (or ebook) that you rush to get it out there when it's not ready. /rant.