Jan 10, 2012

A Few Facts about Indie Authors

As an introduction to this site, I thought we should start by clearing the air about what “indie” is all about.

Indie = independent.

Independent = paying your own way, creating your own path

An indie author is an author putting her own work out, paying for the publishing and distribution of her books. She may get help with this, just as an independent business hires desk help, etc., but it’s her call and her funds. She’s not contracted to someone who calls the shots, who says yes or no, who has everything done for her. She does or overseas everything and she says yes or no.

An indie publisher is someone who accepts manuscripts by other authors and pays to have them published, overseeing all of the details related to getting a book out, from formatting to cover design. They’re the small pubs, privately owned, and often a one person operation (again, with some paid help).

Authors published by indie publishers are not indie authors. They are small press authors. If you submitted your work for acceptance or rejection and they’re putting their company ISBN on your book, you are not an indie author. You’re traditionally published.

That said, there are some misconceptions about self-published, or indie, authors. Let me clear some of that up.

~ Not all indies are indie because they could not get published traditionally. This is the biggest myth that needs to be squelched. Many of us decided not to go the traditional path, not to ask someone if our work should be published, not to wait around and sent query after query for months or years just to have our books sit on a secretary’s desk for her to not be “in the right mood” for that kind of book on the day she happens to look at it. Yes, that happens. Some of us don’t want to write what’s selling at the moment. We don’t want to stick with the A B C plot or the specific word count within 20 characters of too many or not enough. We want to write what we need to write, the stories that truly matter to us, that we need to share. We don’t listen to “no one wants to read that kind of story” because you know what? Maybe they do. And according to how well indies are selling their “oddball” stories, apparently they do.

~ There is not only one way to do it “right.” There are a myriad of methods available, many of which are quite respectable, and authors need to find what works for them and for their personal goals. Yes, there are better and worse ways of going about things, but wrong is a judgment call (so is better and worse).

~ One that makes me cringe: “all vanity publishing is bad.”
No. Not when they’re calling it “vanity publishing” to hire a company to help format and distribute your work, to use their ISBN and company name so you don’t have to create your own and deal with the legalities of that. There’s nothing wrong with going that way if it suits your needs. Just be careful. There are reputable companies offering these services. There are also some horribly non-reputable companies doing the same. Research! But just because a “vanity” press name is on a book, that does not mean the author is was wrong to go that way and it doesn’t mean lack of quality. Give them a chance. Check out excerpts and think for yourself.

~ Another that makes me cringe: “authors must make use of Amazon.”
No. Many indie authors sell much better on other sites in other stores and make better profits from each sale that way. Readers will go where authors send them if they’re interested. Exclusivity is not the path indies should follow. We need to be out there as everywhere as we can be. Indies are Amazon’s sucker deals. We can price our books at .99 if we wish and many will just for the chance at numbers and rankings. Big publishers, however, will not go for this tactic with their books. They will not be exclusive. They will not give their books away. They want sales from wherever readers shop. We should, too. Amazon is using indies and small press authors willing to give their books for free or for .99 in order to pull readers in so they will then buy full price books from the big pubs, since they are there anyway. I won’t play that game, which is why you won’t find my ebooks there. Be careful about exclusivity or selling yourself short. In every part of life, when you sell yourself short, others will, also.

~ Not all indie books are badly in need of editing. Yes, many are. I admit that many are and too many authors throw their books out long before they are ready. Granted. I resent when they do this because it makes it harder on those of us who have studied the craft, who work hard to edit and rewrite and re-edit and pay attention to style and grammar and pesky little book things such as plot, climax, and denouement. Some of us indies do know what those things are and we actually use them. My advice to potential readers: insist on excerpts long enough to see the author’s writing style and technique before you buy. But please, don’t dismiss all of us because too many are too unprofessional. I have read indie books that were much better than big pub books. I have also read indie books that screamed, “the author has never studied writing in her life!” *sigh*

The big benefit for readers that so many are going indie? Choice. You’ll find any topic in any mix of genre under the sun in indie fiction. Indie screams Variety! Creativity! Imagination! and … Freedom.

If you haven’t tried an indie book lately, or ever, give one a try. Look for a mix of Huck Finn, Jane Eyre, Godzilla, & Harry Potter all in one novel. I bet you might find it!

LK Hunsaker

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  1. Great post about us indies Ms. Lorraine!

    I'm still procrastinating about "that book" I told you I was wanting to write.

  2. Thanks, TC! What are you waiting for? ;-)