Thursday, October 27

What is an Indie Author?

I hear the term all the time but the question remains, "What is an indie author?" Thus, I set out to find an answer.

I first sought to discover the meaning of this word, "indie." Perhaps from that I would further understand how this label would belong to an author.

"Indie" is a shortened form of “independent” and has nothing to do with Indiana Jones. Disappointment².

"Indie" is a word you will find in common use in relation to music and film, although I'm more familiar with the term "independent film" than "indie films."

What does it mean for an author to be independent?

Hmm... Definition time!

Independent (adjective)
  1. one whose opinion is uninfluenced by another
  2. not dependent on another’s support
Sounds like a powerful and snazzy way to describe oneself.

Those of us who are of an artistic and romantic nature will perk up at such a thing. Films funded from the pocket – low-budget but enlightening. Music which goes against the grain, finding kin to connect with.

Appealing as it sounded, I still wasn't sure how the term applied to authors.

So I kept looking, and finally came to a conclusion as to what an indie author is, or at least how the term is most often used in today's market.

An indie author is a self-published author: someone who takes the plunge to publish their work on their own, whether via a website designed for the purpose, or through self-printing and distribution.

What is self-publishing?

It's when, instead of going the route of getting an agent and a publisher, you take the decision to publish your own work. You control the decision of how your book is presented and marketed to potential readers.

These days, anyone can self-publish. However, if anyone can do something it becomes far less extraordinary, doesn't it? Well, anyone can self-publish but whether everyone should is an entirely different matter.

Regardless of whether you would read a book that you knew to "be self-published," you have to admit that the term "indie" has a much nicer ring to it.

To me, whether a book is self-published or traditionally published is irrelevant if the book is good. I always say, 'A good book is a good book is a good book.' Not all self-published books are going to be good. In fact, a lot of them won't be.

Thinking back to the romanticism of indie music and independent films, I believe that a spectacular read which has been self-published would be an exciting discovery. Even more so because there are so many novels – self-published and otherwise – which are far from compelling.

I'm not sure I would go out of my way to read a book just because it was labeled "indie," although I believe there is a growing support for self-published authors these days. Authors self-publish because they have not been able or inclined to obtain a literary agent and a publishing contract.

Most books aren't taken on by agents and publishers because they are not up to the written quality that they are seeking. Yet a few of these books are just not seen as marketable. Thus, their chance to be published slips away in the absence of fitting into to a current trend.

What is an indie author? Well, I'm still not 100% sure.

There is a definite affiliation with self-publishing, but when it comes to the broader sense of "indie publishing," an "independent publisher" seems to be synonymous with a small or niche press, something very different from self-publishing.

I wonder... Are those that call themselves "indie authors" in fact indie at all? It's an interesting, albeit confusing, thought.

For now, I think that I'll just stick with affiliating "Indie" with Dr. Jones.

What is your definition of an indie author?


Sydnee said...

I've always considered 'indie' to refer to an author/musician/whatever that isn't published under/by one of the major companies, like Harper Collins or Sony. So under this definition, indie doesn't necessarily mean self-published, but it can.

In music, I think of indie as 'underground', meaning the artist doesn't have the means to promote the way Lady Gaga or Justin Beiber can, and so they aren't as well known. One of my favorite musicians, Justin Nozuka, is considered 'indie'. No one knows who the hell he is. Every author who calls themselves 'indie' seems to fit under the music definition, so that's the one I've always used.

Andrea said...

Hey! I've heard of Justin Nozuka! :-) (In response to the comment above mine.)

To me, Indie means exactly what it stands for: independent. Whether that be a small-press published author, or a self-published author. They're basically the same--not dependent on the legacy publishers. You're right - it has a nice sound to it. And it's a great way to make money (albeit difficult). I'm proud to be Indie!

Thanks for this post - I came across it accidentally and really enjoyed it.

John Paul Allen said...

I'm an indie writer. In my case, I've worked with small publishers. The difference between what I do and those who sign with large publishing companies is that I've never received an advance. I do work under contract and get paid - oh and I make a bigger percentage on royalties.

Linda L. Rigsbee said...

I'm an indie author because I enjoy the creativity (probably the control too.) I've never been rejected because I never tried to publish traditionally. I agree that an indie author doesn't have to be self-published, though.

NCcharmer said...

I am also an indie author, but I enjoy all the benefits without the enormous outlay of money. I have over 45 five star reviews on Amazon for my hilarious Evidence of Insanity. I would recommend indie to anyone.

NCcharmer said...

I am also an indie author and consider myself getting all the benefits without the enormous cost. I never expected to be a best seller with publishers on 5th Avenue, but my readers and I have had a great time. I am on Amazon with my book Evidence of Insanity and have over 45 five star reviews between Amazon and Kindle. On top of that, a lot of my readers contact me for an autographed copy and we become great friends.

Christian Clason said...

I'm an indie author! Though down on my luck, I enjoy seeing these little articles, because I don't regret self-publishing, in fact it's liberating to know that I have full control of the work.
It's a difficult route, but being an indie writer is nothing to be ashamed of (though some use the term in a derogatory fashion).

Catherine Kane said...

Respectfully, I think there's a point that you've missed in your investigation. (May people miss this point) In today's day and age, traditional publishing companies contract with authors for books that they think will "earn out" or make the publishers the amount of money that they think justifies initially taking a risk on that book.
But what if you write a good book that speaks to a smaller or "niche" market? Even if its a book of excellent quality and one the publisher likes, they will still not take it if the risk of not making money seems too great to them.
No harm, no foul. They have to make enough money to stay in business and publish more books, but that can lead to making excessively safe choices that have nothing to do with the quality of your writing.
And that's why indie writing rocks. I'm an indie writer in a niche market (practical occult books) and the odds are poor that I could find a company willing to take the risk of taking on my books, but self publishing lets me put my books out there and the feedback I get tells me my books are helping people (which I love) as well as making money (which keeps me in frappachinos...)
If you'd like examples of the kind of writing I'm talking about, check out my author's page for better context