The Indie Author
Today, the Indie Author is a seemingly new type of writer taking on the traditional publishing world. Ask twenty people what they’d like to be if they could be anything in the world, and you’ll more than likely get at least one or several who answer, “Writer.” You might find people with aspirations to be astronauts, or major league sports players, or president, but those are not necessarily universal. “Writer,” however, seems to be. Wanna be writers have populated humanity for centuries, but until the last two decades, have never had such opportunities to achieve their dream than the Indie Author does today.
Many of us, perhaps all of us, have a story or more to tell. Whether it’s a unique life story or a perfectly crafted mystery, drama, sci–fi adventure, or romance. Anyone can write — perhaps not well, or easily, but many believe there’s a writer can be found in all of us. We talk, we explain our days, we describe interesting things that have happened to us in our lives, what happened to someone else, and so on. And we dream. We humans are storytellers ranging from amazing to laughable and downright terrible, but storytellers nonetheless.
Then what’s the deal? Why isn’t everyone knocking out short stories, articles, books and novels left and right? What’s the holdup? With the advent of digital delivery systems, myriad writing and organizing programs, online “support” groups, and a host of other avenues never available to the average aspiring writer, why don’t we see an even larger showing of writers, independent or otherwise?
Partly because most people are great at coming up with great ideas, but terrible at implementing them. Some people are excellent at editing other people’s stories, but not so great at developing their own. A great many people lack the drive, focus or tenacity needed to write larger, more complicated works such as novels. Other people fear rejection and allow that to stop them from even creating anything that might be rejected. Even so, why, with so many opportunities available that bypass traditional, restrictive publishing, why aren’t more people grabbing hold of their independence and pursuing their writing dreams?
In fact, there has been a tremendous uptick in Indie Authors and publishing companies in the last fifteen years. Though there’s a lot of reading material out there, in particular, digital works, there’s also quite a bit that is not good. Not-so-great to terrible organization, poor structural construction, typos on parade, confusing story lines, poor character development and amateur covers are just a few of the problems that riddle the independent publishing industry. Even though there’s a plethora of indie works available to the public, quality can be lacking in more than a few. There may be signs of change, however, with the explosion of ancillary Indie Author support businesses such as editor/proofreaders, cover designers, interior designers, formatters, etc.
Years ago, there was a stigma attached to the self-published author, surely promoted by the big houses to thwart any competition and elevate their importance to the writing world, but no more. A writer, in particular, an Indie Author, is not just interested in being a writer at all costs, but with being an artist with their artistry and independence intact. To get published by a mid-size to large publishing house, a writer must submit their manuscript to an editor who may disrupt the author’s creation by eliminating characters, scenes, plots; move things around or demand that other scenes or characters be created. To get published by a big house, many restrictions are placed on the author, financially and creatively.
An editor may try to mold the manuscript to their vision and not to the writer’s. Though a writer will give up autonomy for a contract, for many writers, it’s the only way to be published, still believing in the stigma against indie publishing. To an emerging class of writers — the Indie Author — being published by a big house is like making a deal with the devil. Thankfully, today, as in no other time in modern history, authors of every stripe have true and myriad choices for publishing their works.
With the surge of digital avenues for independent publishing and self-publishing, a great deal of freedom from the chains and restrictions of the big publishing company has been infused into the writing world. It’s a great thing. Progress. Freedom. But at the same time, some of the services a big house provide to the signed writer — in particular, editing and proofreading — are now the sole responsibility of the Indie Author. And it is a tremendous responsibility. The Indie Author, while reveling in the newfound freedom and unlimited opportunities of self determination, has a responsibility to their readers. Most regular readers are hardcore readers, and demand, at the very least, proper spelling and sentence structure. Strong story organization and character development are equally important. Not understanding the importance of those elements will not only doom an Indie Author, but it universally undermines the Indie publishing movement to some degree.
There are a lot of roadblocks that keep aspiring writers from writing. Whether it’s a lack of time, too many responsibilities that distract the writer, or a lack of organizational skills, they’re all roadblocks to overcome. All writers, independent or otherwise, have roadblocks with which they struggle. The difference between those who actually write and those who think about writing is that the writers who write have figured out how to manage or overcome the issues that might stop them in their tracks.
Go into any bookstore and you’ll find numerous books that have been written to help writers write. Go online and you’ll find even more. Successful writers are happy to tell you how they became successful, but in the end, there is no set equation that will bring success to an individual. The individual writer has to do the work to find their way to success. Attend seminars, read how-to books, write as often as possible, and read. This cannot be emphasized enough. The best teachers of story construction, character development and plot structure are other authors and their books, especially books that “speak” to the aspiring writer reader.
The Indie Author has freedom, indeed, but again, the responsibility for their works from creation to promotion can be overwhelming at times. The only thing an author has to deal with when publishing with a mid or big house publisher is the writing and rewriting; and, of course, marketing by doing public readings — the publisher does the rest. The Indie Author, however, has much more to do in order to get their work to the public — and it’s all on them.
There’s the initial writing, which, depending on the individual circumstances, can take months or years. Then the editing process begins, and that, too, can take a long time depending on how many changes and what type of changes are made. Sometimes an Indie Author will hire an editor and/or proofreader, or may enlist the help of avid readers who know sentence structure and story construction. Nonetheless, it takes time. Then there’s the cover design which needs to grab a potential reader from, oftentimes, just a small thumbnail graphic.
Once a book is ready for publishing, an author will begin to submit their manuscript to literary agents or directly to publishing houses. The Indie Author, however, must decide where and how the work will be published. From their own website, through a major retailer like Amazon or Barnes and Noble; will the book be delivered digitally or physically? Either way, the book must be formatted properly for every single digital format, as well as for physical paperback or hard copies. Indie Authors either pay someone to do that for them, or they do it themselves which can be extremely time consuming.
After the Indie Author’s work has been published, things don’t get easier. The writer does not just go back to writing their next work. The writer does go back to writing their next work, and they begin the marketing phase of their newly published work. Social media, word of mouth, internet ads, readings, and drumming up reviews which drive sales on the internet, are just a few of the daily tasks an Indie Author must attend to in addition to writing while also tending to their everyday lives.
Why aren’t there more Indie Authors was asked earlier in this article. The answer is simply, because it’s hard work. It requires a long-term dedication that most aspiring writers cannot handle. Being an Indie Author requires organization, dedication and a belief in one’s self. An Indie Author is generally a fiercely independent, self-motivating individual who demands respect for their work, who does not to wait for “permission” to get their artwork to the public. An Indie Author does not ask for permission to pursue a writing life or allow some big business to determine their future for them. Successful Indie Authors work just as hard, if not harder, to promote their published works as they do working on their in–progress works.
If you have the yearning to be a writer, there is no better time to pursue that dream, especially as an Indie Author. Continually work to hone your craft, read, go to seminars, study; but more than any other preparation necessary to be a successful writer, make time to write. The more you write, the easier writing becomes. The more you write, the better you will write and the closer you will be to developing your own writing “voice.” And always keep in mind there is much more to being a writer or an Indie Author than just writing.
In addition to Indie Authors, the readers of fiction, non–fiction, short stories and so on are the beneficiaries of the new world of Indie publishing and the emergence of the new publishing world. True, Indie Authors may have to claw their way to the top of the growing heap of independently published works to get noticed, and readers may have to weed out some poorly constructed works to get to the gems; but for the Indie Author there is no greater triumph than being discovered by the avid reader as a gem. Readers, by nature, are explorers, and to discover the gems is a thrill worth seeking. It’s a great and growing relationship. More and more gems free of the confinement and restrictions of big house publishing are being discovered every day, thanks to the hard work and dedication of the Indie Author and the tenacity of dedicated readers.
The big question when discussing the subject of independent publishing always evokes, is: Will the emergence of the Indie Author eventually destroy the hold big house publishers have on the literary world, or will some type of balance eventually be reached? The truth is, the business model of the big publishing houses is taking a beating; and, like many other outdated businesses before them, they will either have to adapt — quickly — or become a chapter in the history of book publishing.
Have you read a book lately? Was it written by a big house published author or an Indie Author? Where do you get your reading material? Via downloads to be read with a digital reader, from the library in print or on tape, or from traditional outlets such as bookstores? Please feel free to share your reading experiences.