Let me be clear—I don’t take sides. I appreciate the self-published author, the author published by a small press, and the New York-published author. Because you know what? No matter what publishing route any of us decide to take, we are all still authors.
We write because we can’t not write.
No label will ever take that passion away from us.
Each of us has our own path.
Each of us has our own voice.
This guest post is by Jessica Bell. Bell is an Australian award-winning author and poet, writing and publishing coach, and graphic designer who lives in Athens, Greece. In addition to her novels and poetry collections, and her best-selling Writing in a Nutshell series, she has published a variety of works online and in literary journals, including Writer’s Digest. Jessica is also the Co-Founder and Publisher of Vine Leaves Literary Journal, a singer/songwriter/guitarist, a voice-over actor, and a freelance editor and writer for English Language Teaching publishers worldwide such as Macmillan Education and Education First. Before she started writing she was just a young woman with a “useless” Bachelor of Arts degree and a waitress job. Visit Jessica’s website: jessicabellauthor.com.
The beauty of indie publishing is the very thing that critics say is its downfall: there is room for everyone. Have a unique voice that doesn’t fit the mass market? Want to write another angel book, even though publishing experts say angel books are “dead”? Indie publishing allows the readers who love exactly the kind of books you write to find you, even if that number is too small to interest a mainstream press. And if you have written a book that has mainstream appeal? There are even more readers who will scoop up your value-priced indie book.
The climate of the publishing industry nowadays is pretty exciting for indie authors. And the stigma attached to non-traditional publishing is well on its way to the paper shredder. Take a look at this article.
More and more authors are finding the courage to self-publish or sign contracts with small presses dedicated to building niche markets. They’re proud of their work, and they’re making serious money selling it to readers around the world. They are reaching readers by the thousands, tens of thousands, and even millions, without securing a contract with a mainstream publisher. The fact is, the market is saturated, especially as more and more indie authors make bold steps toward self-publishing. Mainstream publishers are driven by market trends, leaving a unique opportunity for indie authors to cater to niche markets and target audiences.
Since I decided to go indie, I wear the badge proudly. Because, yes, it’s in my best interests right now. My best interests. This is a choice I’ve made, and it’s working out well. I sell around 400 books a month. And bit by bit, that number is increasing. To some, this might seem like peanuts compared to self-published successes like Hugh Howey and Colleen Hoover. But to me, whose intention was to connect with readers, the figure is certainly nothing to laugh at. With these sales, I cover all my marketing expenses, and earn a little extra cash. And most importantly, I’m being read, and my visibility is growing. I’d rather have my work out there, and organically garner interest now. I have the control to attract new readers every day, build a loyal fan base for my other works, rather than leave my manuscripts sitting in a drawer waiting for consumer trends to change in my favour. I may not have millions of readers, but 400 a month is a lot better than zero.
Indie publishing is not the only solution, but if you don’t get that big break because the mainstream publishers are only publishing a select number of books, and yours doesn’t happen to be what they’re looking for, then submitting your work to a small press, or publishing your books yourself, may be your best option. In fact, for some authors, even if a mainstream publisher is interested, indie publishing may still be the route you prefer to take.
Indie publishing allows all writers of all stripes access to the world’s readers.
The industry has changed, forced into embracing the digital revolution, just like the music industry. Independent artists are everywhere now. Authors don’t self-publish because they’re too lazy to go through the slog of submitting queries to agents, or editing their manuscripts properly, or simply out of impatience to see their work in print, just like independent musicians aren’t too lazy to find a record deal. They simply have a different sound. Or they don’t want to be told by the record label what they should and shouldn’t record. In a saturated market, where publishers/music producers have millions and millions of queries and proposals, independent artists are driven by self-belief and a passion that their work deserves a place.
Independent artists are, in fact, some of the most motivated and tough-skinned artists I’ve ever known. A lot of them, including me, have huge stories behind the reason they publish independently. Stories that most people will never know about, because when someone releases a book, it’s not like you can say on the blurb:
“This book is self-published, but the author actually once had an agent and a book deal with a Big 5 publisher, but decided to go the indie route because she felt it was better for her, both professionally and emotionally.”
“This book is self-published because the author spent years and years querying it, was told that the writing was great, but no agent believed they could sell it. So … here’s the book. The author doesn’t need to sell a million copies, a few hundred is enough. Plus it’s been through so many edits after all the agent feedback, you won’t be able to find a thing wrong with it.”
“This book is self-published because the author looked at the future changes coming in the industry and decided to leap ahead, to follow a path that had not been trodden a thousand times before. This author isn’t afraid to be different.”
Every indie author’s path is unique.
Because every author is unique.
So, I urge everyone who is skeptical about indie publishing, to think about the story behind it, and the effort it’s taken to get it out there, and the determination the writer has. Indie publishing is not for the impatient … it’s for authors who want their fate to rest in their own hands.
There are many pathways to success as a writer. Whether you choose to pursue a mainstream contract, go the small press route, or dive straight into self-publishing, your path will be unique to you.
You are a writer.
So be an author.
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Brian A. Klems is the editor of this blog, online editor of Writer’s Digest and author of the popular gift book Oh Boy, You’re Having a Girl: A Dad’s Survival Guide to Raising Daughters.