The majority of indie writers have gone through the same channels as I by sending their work off to known publishing houses, waiting the prerequisite four months (sometimes longer) before receiving that first rejection slip or email. Possibly, like me, they took the criticism seriously and tried to adjust their story's format to what the publishers said was needed, only to receive another rejection another four months later. In my case, the second rejection slip was word for word the same as the previous one, although I had sent in something completely different. I realised then that they hadn't read my work.
I decided that eight months out of my life was already too much time to have lost when my aim was simply to get people to read me. Every writer needs readers to exist.
Three years later, thanks to that writer-friendly institution known as SmashWords, I have over a dozen works in the marketplace and SW has distributed me to most of the main e-book vendors in the USA.
Amazon came later and it has a fair share of the rest of the e-book market.
So far, so good.
Where the bad comes into the picture is when other authors are ruthless or unethical.
Reviews on any book can sway someone's interest in reading it. When there are a few reviews leaving four and five stars on a novel and then someone leaves a one star, not much damage is done. There are trolls about who delight in leaving one star on anything they come across that is free. A good reason never to give a book away for nothing!
A fellow-writer was horrified to discovered today that he was on a list of writers who have allegedly purchased five star reviews for their books. Not just the occasional review but in batches of 500. It does happen and is quite blatant when that is all the author has on his/her book within a short period of time. No one should accuse me of buying reviews. In fact, over all of the vendor sites where my work is displayed with more than a dozen books, I have only received about of 350 reviews total. These reviews didn't appear suddenly but over a long period of time.
There is no doubt that the author, accused of purchasing reviews, has unjustly had the finger pointed at him. Someone has tried to under-mine him because he sells in their category. The higher you climb in the sales ranks, the more you will sell. People often look at the books doing the best before buying. By bringing him down, another person hopes to get ahead of him. Rather pathetic for someone to resort to such tactics but we have all encountered that sort of person in various fields of work – the back-stabbers, the duplicitous ladder-climbers.
It happened to me once when I was #1 for a week in free Kindle book downloads. A reviewer left a one star review saying, this book is poorly written, don't even get it free! A ridiculous statement because it would not have cost anything to find out for one's self but that person perhaps hoped it would stop others downloading my book. It has brought home the fact that the majority of one star reviews seem to arise when the book is free, which is interesting, as I have never received a one star review (yet!) on a book that was purchased. Offering the book at no cost is risky, but allows new readers to decide if they like what they read enough to want and to buy more.
There will always be an upside and a downside to publishing stories. Since I remain passionate about my writing, I will naturally continue to take the good with the bad, the rough with the smooth...