Monday, October 12, 2009

Dawn of the Indie Writer

The dawn of the indie writer is nearly upon us. We're fast approaching the point in time when the stigma will be erased, and self-publishing will become not just an option but the norm for authors. As brick-and-mortar stores give way to the online marketplace, independent authors will finally be able to compete fairly with "traditionally published" authors. Instead of spending time struggling to get their books on the shelves, indie writers can concentrate on marketing their product on the shelf space of the Internet, side-by-side with traditionally-published titles.

Detractors have always said that self-publishing is for writers that aren't good enough to be published traditionally. But these days, what that really means is that a writer's work doesn't fit neatly into some corporate pigeonhole. As indie writers fill the voids and satisfy the audiences left behind by traditional publishers, self-publishing is becoming accepted as a legitimate alternative.

There's been a recent trend among traditional publishing houses of jettisoning their "midlist" authors - authors that are moderately successful but are not bestsellers. By eliminating these authors, the publishing house is taking choices away from the reader, narrowing the marketplace. They are doing this so that they can spend their diminishing marketing dollars on "sure-thing" titles, but ultimately I think they are speeding up their own demise.

Abandoned midlist authors will have no choice but to self-publish, and they will take their solid work, their years of experience, and their established audiences with them. These writers will lend more credibility to self-publishing, raise the quality bar, and help remove the stigma.

If the Internet has shown us anything, it's that there's an audience for just about anything. That said, those audiences still expect a certain level of quality. Books of poor quality will be quickly panned by readers. Solid writing and good storytelling will be recognized, and will find an audience. The difference is that these titles will no longer need some subjective seal of approval from a traditional publisher to reach those audiences.

For the first time in history, it will be the marketplace that determines the successes, not some suit in a large publishing house concerned primarily with the bottom line. Having more titles in the marketplace empowers readers. As indie publishing becomes more prevalent, and brick and mortar gives way to cyberspace, it will be the readers that get to choose which titles rise to the top and which sink to the bottom. On the Internet, the lines between self-published and traditionally-published authors will be blurred, and the reader will choose the writer not based on the publisher on the spine, but by the content inside the book.

The fuse is ready to be lit. Indie writing is set to explode into the public eye as the next major phase of publishing. All it will take is a single spark - some shining example of self-publishing that will capture a large enough audience to really showcase all that the self-publishing paradigm has to offer. The day that Oprah picks a self-published title for her book club. The day that the New York Times bestseller list contains a self-published title - these days are not too far off.

Will you be ready for it? Will you provide the spark?


  1. Peter, there have many self-published books to make the bestseller lists...Still Alice and The Lace Reader among them. Trouble is, as soon as they hit the big time, the self-pubbed authors hear the siren sound of the big, traditional publishers and sign with them.

    The problem has been mostly that there was no place for people to find the best of self-published books. Thanks to IndieReader (, a new website that sells and promotes the best of self-published books, hopefully book-lovers and self-published authors will finally find each other.

  2. I don't view signing with a traditional publisher as a problem. It's up to the author whether they want to sign with a traditional publisher or remain independent. I'm glad that you mention these titles though - they illustrate that self-publishing is a legitimate stepping stone to traditional publication.

    I'm also glad that you mentioned the problem of finding indie books. I've actually been planning another post about this that highlights what sites are out there right now, and looks towards the future of such sites.

  3. Great post! Very encouraging. I am working on a website on this subject...