You don’t have to listen closely. The roar can be heard throughout the world of books: The roar of the indies.
The best indie books have many wonderful benefits:
- Many fictional works are designed around e-readers. The paragraphs are shorter so as not to overwhelm the reader, the story is designed to grab attention right away and keep it so that there is an action-packed flow, and the language is geared toward the audience. Not all indie books are like this, but many top-selling indie e-books are.
- Traditional publishers have applied a different philosophy for years. Their editors sometimes screen great storytelling or great writing for various reasons. The audience may be too specialized. The author’s qualifications may not look impressive on paper. The proposal may not have followed standard guidelines. Etc. Now such stories have the opportunity to be shared. Not all writing screened by publishers is good writing, but some great indie stories wouldn’t have been published without e-books and print-on-demand.
- Editors sometimes revise good writing for various reasons. Perhaps it would offend a few readers. Perhaps it doesn’t agree with the editor’s sense of style. All writing needs some degree of editing, and traditional publishers fill a demand for reading material that meets a high editing standard. However, it’s also nice to read material as the author intended it, without revising it to save our eyes from possible offense and without corrupting the author’s unique style. Some indie books have also been through several rounds of editing, but with the author having the final say. Well-written indie books have some merit this way.
- An idea may actually be too creative for a traditional publisher to take a chance on it. As a result, you can find some incredibly creative self-published books that are actually quite good. They may not be easy to find, but if you can find the gems, they are worth the search.
- Time-sensitive material can reach the audience very quickly when it is self-published. Traditionally published writing can take dozens of months to reach the market.
My next point, I believe, is really huge and sometimes overlooked. In fact, I would say it’s often turned against indies, when it should be the other way around.
Indie authors will often give you personal attention:
- Some traditional publishers and their editors strive to market a bad image for indies with statements like, “You’d never see Stephen King commenting on his own reviews,” and pointing out instances where indie authors don’t handle criticism well. They do have a valid point here, but there are many successful indie authors who behave quite professionally. Plus, indie authors often do some things that big-name authors can’t or won’t do, which may be beneficial to readers.
- It’s often easier to get in touch with indie authors, they can give you more time in personal interactions, they are likely to place higher value on helpful feedback, etc. Being smaller-scale authors, they simply have more time and one customer makes a much bigger difference to the indie than to the big-name traditional author. This has some advantages. Many indie authors are happy to meet their readers and will strive to make each reader feel special. The top indie authors are likely to give you the benefits without the disadvantages. A few rotten eggs in one restaurant shouldn’t spoil dessert in every restaurant.
Some indie authors have made big names for themselves:
- Have you heard of Amanda Hocking, E. L. James, or Hugh Howey, for example? If not, check out their stories. There are several highly successful indie authors.
- More and more traditionally published authors are switching over to self-publishing. Why not? Once they have already made names for themselves, why not reap the benefits of self-publishing? A small-time traditionally published author might run into a few roadblocks with bookstores or the media, for example; but if you have a name like J. K. Rowling and self-publish (and make your popular name well-known if adopting a different one), a bookstore manager or journalist would have to be really foolish not to roll out the red carpet.
Many indie authors are working very hard to help you find books that are likely to be relevant to you:
- It’s really challenging to discover good new books – there are just too many books out there (even within traditional publishing). The traditionally published author who receives a big advance may not feel nearly as motivated as the self-published author who isn’t selling any books without actively marketing. As a result, indies are working hard to find members of their target audience, bloggers in their target audience who may review their books, etc. They are trying to deliver good books to you. Not everyone goes about this the right way, but there are successful indie authors who are striving to unobtrusively help you find good books to read.
Indies have a huge community:
- There are hundreds of thousands of indie authors. Add to this number their relatives, friends, acquaintances, and coworkers. You don’t need a calculator to see that there is overwhelming support for self-published authors. The number of books combined with the number of people in this immediate support group leads to an astronomical number of sales. A single small-time indie author may not provide much business, but overall the amount of business is staggering. Indie-friendly companies like Amazon, Kobo, Smashwords, CreateSpace, Lulu, and Ingram Spark are reaping many benefits.
- There is a huge support group for indie authors. This starts with ample free help with tips on writing, editing, marketing, formatting, cover design, etc. There are numerous discussions in community forums for indie authors to interact with one another. There are wonderful support groups on blogs and social media.
- Many indie authors read and review indie books. Since there are so many indie authors, this leads to many sales and reviews from within the indie community itself. Add to this their friends, family, and acquaintances, and you can see that many readers support the self-publishing concept. (I’m not talking about friends reviewing the book of an author, which Amazon is doing a great job of minimizing. I’m talking about an author and his or her friends and family reviewing books of unknown indie authors, simply because they support the indie concept.)
When you take the time to search through the haystack, every gem that you discover provides you with an incredibly wonderful feeling.
Just because there are some indie books out there that seem to have lousy covers, lousy grammar, lousy spelling, lousy formatting, lousy stories, lousy writing, or appear to have just been slapped together quickly with the hope of earning a few bucks, this shouldn’t detract from the many indie authors who have great writing skills, took the time to edit and format carefully, thought of great stories, produced fantastic covers, and otherwise published wonderful books. (Personally, I’m not in favor of calling anyone’s hard work and passion lousy.)
Let those who have done well define the world of indie books, not those who are deemed to have done poorly. The most successful indie authors show the true potential of self-publishing. Let’s focus on this.
We can do our best, we can try to help others, but we can’t be responsible for every other author out there. Should we not judge each author individually, rather than create a stereotype for all indies?
It takes much courage for a great writer to pursue self-publishing. There are also many benefits to reap for doing so successfully. And those who do succeed help to open doors for the rest.
Let me make it clear that I have nothing against traditional publishers or traditionally published authors. They provide helpful products and services. We need them.
My point is that many indie authors are also providing helpful products and services, and we need them, too.
I read both traditionally published books and self-published books. I enjoy both, and for different reasons.
Both self-publishing and traditional publishing are very large entities. The indie roar is growing, and is no longer being drowned out by the traditional roar.
Chris McMullen, self-published author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers