Randall Wood

How Indie are you?

                                                         Via: Flickr

As the world of self-publishing continues to grow and change, the term indie author is naturally evolving as well. Most would define the term in the simplest definition as possible;

Indie Author: An author who produces and publishes their own work without the aid of a traditional publishing entity.

But is it really that simple? Is the author who gathered together a stack of family recipes and puts together a cookbook for a Christmas present any different from the author who has several titles in multiple genres, all being distributed world-wide through a publishing imprint they own themselves? Is the latter author likely to scoff at being compared to the former? Does the cookbook author hold her head high and proclaim herself an indie? At what point does a hobby become a business?

The fact of the matter is that they are both right, the only difference is the scale that’s applied. Both of these authors at one time looked to the internet for guidance, which they found in droves. Some advice was geared to their level no doubt, but the majority most likely not. Information targeted for one may be rather useless to another. Their goals may be very different. Most blogs tend to dispense advice that speaks to the author who is on the same level as the person writing it. This makes the search a challenging one for many. Should these advice givers identify their target reader better? Would tagging the post help the aspiring author better determine if the advice was something they should read? Do blog posts need a blurb in front of them? A number system to classify them perhaps? What level of maturity is your personal indie author journey at? Do you need G-rated information for the new indie, or are you well into XXX territory?

Most authors seem to fit into category’s defined by the goals they have set for themselves rather than their experience or what kind of book they write. I see them falling into five categories.

One- An author much like the cookbook author I mentioned earlier. Someone who wishes to have the family ancestry project she just finished and the photo’s she’s been safeguarding for generations organized into a nice book. Or perhaps someone who found a stack of poetry in their grandmothers sock drawer after her passing and wants to share it with the world. These authors usually want print books only and will publish in very small numbers to a select audience. This is the only group that may be best served by one of the so-called vanity houses, a publishing service where they can obtain a packaged deal for the books they need on a one-time basis.

Two- E-book only, on Amazon. This is the author that has one or two works and writes primarily for their own satisfaction. Publishing is a convenient way to get her books to friends and family and are typically free or very cheap. The author may mention their book on their personal Facebook page, or maybe on Twitter, but has no website or blog. They look to the internet for advice on do-it-yourself formatting, editing and cover art. They spend as little money as possible.

Three- Also E-books only but past the hobby stage. They publish with the hope that the books grow into something more. This author reads more blogs and articles and is self-educated to the point of recognizing the dangers of the vanity presses as well as the pitfalls of the trade publishers contracts. This is the stage where they stop writing query letters. They lurk around the popular self-publishing blogs such as The Passive Voice, The Newbies Guide to Self-Publishing, The Kindle Boards, and The Digital Reader looking for information on affordable marketing and ways of gaming the Amazon system. They budget more for expenditures related to their self-publishing efforts and are willing to spend more for editing and cover art. They actively promote on Facebook, Twitter and other social networks. They have also moved beyond Amazon and are selling their books through other online retailers. Some may have a static website or even a blog.

Four-This author has E-books with all available retailers and paperback POD books through Createspace. They promote through an active website and blog and set aside regular funding for marketing. They are active readers, visitors and commenter’s on writing blogs such as Kristine Rush and Dean Wesley Smith. They’ve formed a sole-proprietorship or LLC and publish using their own imprint.

Five-This author is all in and may be writing as their sole source of income. They have E-books at all retailers, as well as paperback and hardcover POD books through  Createspace and Lightning Source. They have a successful website and blog with a healthy volume of regular readers that also offers direct online sales. They have an established team of beta readers, editors and cover artist. They have a monthly marketing budget including a flyer for moving books through the independent bookstores. They have cut a deal with a producer to create Audio books. They have their books in translation to move into foreign markets. Usually this author will have a larger body of work published or an extensive backlist prior to going indie. Some rare possibilities are an agent and a print distribution deal with a traditional publishing house.

Of course it goes without saying that not every author will fit neatly into these categories I’ve listed. Many will straddle two or even three. Some will have the goal of reaching level five while others will no doubt be perfectly happy at level one. Some will progress as their writing improves and others by how much they budget for the expense. Others will simply wish to have more work to publish or be better educated before they move on.

The good news is that whatever level an author may be at now, the ability to climb higher is getting easier every day. Emerging software is making formatting easier for the less computer savvy. The ability to go from a basic Word document to a fully formatted Mobi or Epub file may soon be a one-click function. Book formatting templates, such as those offered by Joel Friedlanderare making the publication of paperback print-on demand books easy for the new indie author. Combine this with the work of cover artists such as Derek Murphy, who offers paperback and dust-jacket packages, and the once-locked door to quality print books is now open to everyone. Audio Book producers and voice talent are now offering packages catered to meet the demands and budgets of indie authors making the once expensive and out-of-reach format a viable possibility.

With the announcement of Ella, a distributer that aims to handle indie authors, arriving this week, the last closed gate held by traditional publishing has now been opened. There is now nothing standing between the author and the reader. With no gatekeepers standing in the way the era of big publishing, as it has been known for decades, may truly be over. The end result might just be the perfect world for the only two people in the equation who really matter.

The writer and the reader.

The success of the indie author has shown that the readers are willing to try new and unknown writers. This week James Patterson was moved out of the number one slot on the New York Times bestseller list.

Who replaced him? Marie Force , an indie author.

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