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What Does It Mean to Be an ‘Indie’?


Therese here to introduce you to Erika Liodice’s new column, The Indie Way! Through this column, Erika will provide us all with facts and opinions from the perspective of the independent author. I couldn’t be happier to see this roll out here on WU, and I look forward to learning right along with all of you. Thank you, Erika!

Do you know what today is? It’s the first annual Indie Author Day [1] (#AuthorDay16 [2]). To celebrate, nearly 300 libraries [3] across the U.S. and Canada are coming together to educate writers about independent (a.k.a. “indie”) publishing and introduce readers to the indie voices in their communities. As an indie author myself, this seemed like the perfect opportunity to talk about what it means to be an indie and clear up some misconceptions.

Myth: Independent publishing is a last resort for writers who have been rejected by traditional publishing.

Fact: Many indie authors intentionally skip the “traditional” route altogether. They do so for a variety of reasons, some of which include:

Most indie authors know that readers don’t shop by publisher but rather by topic, genre, or author name, so they choose to focus their time and energy on producing great books that readers will love rather than chasing a book deal. (For more reasons why writers go indie, check out #PoweredByIndie [4].)

Myth: Self-publishing and independent publishing are the same thing.

Fact: While many people use the terms interchangeably, there’s actually a big difference between the two. Self-publishing is generally embraced by writers who view their publishing pursuits as more of a hobby than a career. They might be interested in creating a book that is important to them but has little commercial appeal, such as a family history or a memoir. Or they may be “starting small” in order to test the waters before committing to publishing on a bigger scale.

Independent publishing, on the other hand, is embraced by writers who view themselves as author entrepreneurs. They treat publishing as a business. Many establish their own imprint and run it like a mini publishing house, buying their own ISBNs and hiring freelancers to help them produce professional products. They develop marketing plans to launch and promote their titles. They attend industry conferences, book fairs, and educational workshops to build their networks, identify business opportunities, and continue improving their skills. They may even eventually decide to publish other authors. For the indie author, publishing isn’t a hobby; it’s a career.

Myth: “Independently published” means poor quality.

Fact: Most indie authors today are savvy about what it takes to gain and maintain loyal readers. They take great pride in their work, and they are committed to creating well-written, beautifully-produced books that readers will enjoy. They seek out professional talent—such as freelance editors, graphic artists, book formatters, and foreign language translators—to help bring their vision to life. They belong to professional organizations, like the Independent Book Publishers Association [5] (IBPA) and the Alliance of Independent Authors [6] (ALLi), where they have access to a wide variety of publishing resources and can learn from like-minded writers. As a result of their commitment, many indie titles are indistinguishable from traditionally published books.

Myth: Indie authors are just trying to get rich quick.

Fact: Most indie authors know there are far better ways to get rich quick. After all, independent publishing requires an upfront investment of time and money with no guaranteed return. What really motivates indie authors is the desire to tell their stories and connect with readers. And they believe in their vision so deeply that they’re willing to take a risk and invest in themselves.

Myth: Once you go indie you can’t go back.

Fact: Independent publishing can lead to all sorts of opportunities, including a book deal with a traditional publisher. There are plenty of stories about authors who managed to find their fan base and catch the attention of publishing houses—and even film studios—after independently publishing their work. And there are just as many stories about traditionally published authors who found more success by going indie. Whether your goal is to be a lifelong indie, eventually break into traditional publishing, or strike the balance of a hybrid author, independent publishing can help you get the exposure you need to achieve your goal.

Myth: Being an independent author is a lonely, disempowering existence.

Fact: Being an indie author means being part of an inclusive, empowering community of writers who are constantly trying new things and sharing what they learn. Forging your own path can give your writing a sense of adventure because you never know where your journey is going to lead or what opportunity is going to pop up next.

Myth: If we ignore the indie movement long enough it will go away.

Fact: The indie movement is a groundswell that isn’t going away. Every day, new technology makes it easier for writers to publish their work and reach readers. It’s the best time in history to be a writer because there are no longer barriers standing between you and your publishing aspirations. To many this is a threat, but for those who understand what independent publishing is all about, it’s an incredible opportunity.

If you want to learn more about independent publishing, check out an Indie Author Day [1] event near you.

Any indie authors out there? What misconceptions have you encountered?

About Erika Liodice [7]

Erika Liodice is an indie author and founder of Dreamspire Press, where she is dedicated to teaching curious minds about unknown worlds through story. She is the author of Empty Arms: A Novel [8] and the children’s chapter book series High Flyers [9]. She is also a contributor to Author In Progress [10], the Writer Unboxed team’s first anthology. To learn more about Erika and her work, visit erikaliodice.com [11].