If you are a humanities student who feels like they haven’t quite found the right career choice after college, listen up. While there may be a list of career choices presented to you already, the list cannot be fully complete without mentioning indie publishing. Not often discussed as a career choice, it is sorely overlooked. If you have ever dreamt of writing a book or getting involved with publishing, this is for you.
We’ve compiled an “Indie Guide to Publishing” with the help of four people who have chosen this path. You might just realize it’s the journey you too want to follow.
What is Indie Publishing?
Indie publishing has multiple definitions. It seems everyone has a different definition depending on the perspective or the area of indie publishing that they are involved with. A vast definition that many consider is that indie publishing is everything that isn’t comprised of the Big Five publishers: Harper Collins, Macmillan, Simon & Schuster, Random House and Hachette Book Group. This includes self-publishing, small presses, hybrid presses and even medium-sized or larger presses that stand outside of the five major publishers. But there are other definitions as well.
“I think it’s just the author being like the most responsible person for their book and managing the actual publishing process,” Author of The Chronicles of Elira and Founder of the Glory Writers Press Victoria Lynn said.
This definition is revealing, because indie publishing does require a lot more of authors, especially in self-publishing and hybrid publishing. But often for small or medium-sized presses, even when they run independently, they may function very similarly to the Big Five. The vast array of categories that fall under indie publishing can make it hard to define. But whether you define it as everything outside of the Big Five or as a publishing process where the author is more responsible, indie publishing is nothing to dismiss. It is an ever-growing category of possibilities.
Why Indie Publish Instead of Traditional Publishing
You may be asking the question, “Why should I join the indie path in publishing?” There are scads of reasons people have joined the indie publishing journey. Some are more personal while some are more monetary. But here are just a few reasons why you should indie publish. They just might convince you to become involved with indie publishing.
The number one reason why a lot of people choose indie publishing over regular publishing is creative control. They want a bigger say over their book choices. This may include wanting to control the cover, the content or the community they interact with as they sell their book. Some authors don’t want to haggle over things they find very important. Indie publishing gives them the space to control that.
“When I decided I wanted to publish I was thinking through the pros and cons of traditionally querying or doing it independently, and the more I thought about it the more I liked having the creative control. I had a lot of healthy checks and balances with other professionals, with my community. I felt confident that I could do something that was as good as what I would get from the traditional house,” Author of seven books, including The Knights of Tin and Lead series Emily Hayse said.
Creative control is a huge draw for indie publishing. But it doesn’t require quality to be sacrificed at all. Indie published books can be every bit as good as traditionally published books. But indie publishing can embrace unconventional choices and empower the writers. Therefore, it is one of the biggest enticements for those who want to make a career in publishing, whether that be as an author or press owner.
Indie Publishing Makes the Space
Every author and indeed every person has a unique story to tell. These stories can vary vastly from what is currently in the market space. Take a look at the past-when books like Twilight or The Hunger Games came out, traditional presses scrambled to find books like those to fill the publishing slots with the current demand. Often, traditional presses focus on trends, and this is not necessarily a bad thing, but it does give a slot to indie publishing. Indie publishing often takes a chance or opens a space for new stories that don’t have proven value just yet.
“…the market approaches things like we have a space, let’s find a book to fill it. Indie marketing or indie publishing creates a space for your book,” Lynn said.
Whereas traditional markets look for books that match current market cravings, indie publishers can often create niches or openings for something new. They don’t just have to adhere to trends, which is often quite the benefit and draw for indie publishing. This often leads to indie publishing being the right fit for a writer with a unique story to tell. It can also open doors for those who want to open presses to showcase those unique stories.
A Tailored Support
In addition to creating a space for new and unique books, indie publishing also allows for community and a tailored response for authors. The small press is a great space for this. It offers the structure and support that so many authors need, but with a publisher who has the space to pour into that author and listen to their vision. It embraces that creative control but pairs it with a platform and direction. It provides a tailored support.
“I think some things that a lot of like smaller presses offer is more specialized care. They often will have less people, like, for example, Harper Collins has over 10,000 authors, so it’s not as easy to have that personal relationship with the owner of the company. It’s not as easy to get as much influence and say,” Owner of Monster Ivy Publishing Michelle Carpenter said.
With smaller presses you can really have that sense of community and care. Micheline Ryckman, founder of Whimsical Publishing and Illustration, started her journey with indie publishing by writing her book, The Maiden Ship, while bedridden with chronic illness. When her book took off, she wanted to boost other authors and use her platform. This led to her publishing Mckenzie Catron, author of A Daughter of the Trolls, who is also chronically ill. They took a chance on each other, and the press now has several more books to its roster, but it hasn’t lost the community. Ryckman explained that she talks to all of her authors daily. Community and tailored support is something that is treasured about indie publishing.
Independent Publishing Stigma
In the past, there has been quite the bad report about indie publishing, especially in regard to self-publishing. It was seen as a process you would resort to only if you could get published nowhere else. Books published independently were seen as cheaper and with far less quality than those traditionally published. While there are certainly books out there that some could cite if proposing this, it is a dying stigma in the face of a mountain of evidence that proves that indie publishing is not a last resort. Nor should it be dismissed because authors can be quite successful utilizing this category of publishing.
“There is a stigma against self-published authors, and I would say ignore that stigma. Self-publishing is a totally legitimate way to go. There are people who make millions of dollars off of it. Many of them make way more than the large big five authors, because they make 100 percent of their royalties, they make them all, and so it’s a viable option, and you shouldn’t listen to the stigma…” Carpenter said.
Indie publishing and self-publishing are nothing to disregard. Authors can be every bit as successful as those who go the traditional route. But the difference is they can often take home more of that percentage. So don’t believe the dying stigma, because it’s just that: dying. Indie publishing is flourishing.
Patience is Needed
But while indie publishing is entirely viable, it often requires patience. No one should go into indie publishing simply for the fact that it is a faster process or the easier way into publishing. Don’t be in a rush. It requires as much time and energy as traditional publishing if not more. And the benefits of indie publishing might not happen instantaneously.
“I think the biggest thing is being willing to put in the time and be consistent and show up again and again and again even when you feel discouraged, even when you feel like nobody’s catching onto it, even when you feel like I’m doing all this work, and I’m not seeing any results from it,” Ryckman said.
For some, this means that they will have to have a supplemental income for a while. This may be related to your field such as editing for others, or it may be working a different job that allows your creative muscles to rest for a bit while still earning income. For others, it may be continuing to market your book even when the payout seems slow for a while. Indie publishing requires faith to show up until you’ve made it. It requires patience.
…But It’s Rewarding
But although it can be challenging at times, it can truly be rewarding. Indie publishing comes with so many benefits from community to creative control. It is truly a career that thuds in the hearts of its writers and small press owners. It is a path that many don’t consider. But they should.
“The more I learned about the traditional side of things, the more I grew to actually love indie and love how the options it gives me, like the way it fits into my life… like there’s so many things, but just like the ability to be in charge of my own book from every aspect, and so that’s really why I fell in love with it, and why I’m still super passionate about it,” Lynn said.
Being a writer utilizing indie publishing is a viable future for any college student looking at their options. And while it may seem less than orthodox at times, it ought to be added to the pamphlets that students are given with what to do with their humanities or English or creative writing degrees. Many have already paved the path. It comes with many benefits, a few cautions, but a great path.