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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Falling in Love With the Indie Press

I don't understand why the Indie presses don't get more love. Part of the problem, I suppose, is that too many people don't know what an Indie press or author is. Conversations tend to look like this:
@NewAuthor - I'm an Indie Author! Buy my book!

@Me - That's great! Which press did you publish with?

@NewAuthor - Press? I'm an Indie. I used Smashwords.

@Me - o.O You mean you're self-pubbed... That's cool too. Link?

@NewAuthor - [link] But I'm Indie, really.

I usually run and hide at this point because someone who doesn't know publishing terms probably can't figure out spell check, and I just don't want to go there.

The root of the problem is the stigma against self-publishing. There are still people who think Self-Published means "Failure". Several years ago a group of self-publishers rebelled against the stigma, the false assumption, and the name declared themselves "Indie Authors", which was cute, but technically wrong.

It also makes the real Indie Authors very upset.

That's because the Indie presses have been around for a lot longer than people think. They are now, and always have been, the niche publishers. The quiet, small-time presses that specialize in publishing for specific groups. Back in the day the Indie Press was the home of poetry, small literary translations, and books on local history. Now the Indie Press is the reigning queen of the ebook.

Indie is still home of the niche novel, but the still quiet press is expanding. Some of them are destined to be major publishers. Why?

First, the Indie press combines the best of Traditional and Self-publishing: the author queries the press directly (cutting out agents and royalties), the editor works with the author directly, and the turn around from acquisition to publication is often under six months, and almost always under twelve.

Second, the Indie press takes everything, and I mean everything. They've knocked over the magazines and e-zines to publish everything from micro-fiction (under 5,000 words) to mega-fiction (over 120,00 words). Novels, novellas, flash... you name it and the Indie press will eat it up. Traditional publishing has a very narrow range for accepted word counts.

Third, the Indie press has a vetting system and standards. In the world of self-publishing there are some very good books, but there are also books that... well... sometimes you wish the author had run their work past a gatekeeper. Read: I Ain't Your Beta Reader by Krista D. Ball if you don't understand that concept. The harsh reality is that vanity presses (where you pay for someone to publish you) and self-publishing have no control system to keep the crazies out. While a majority of self-published authors are amazing people who write fabulous books, there are always a few that rise up in the Amazon charts because people really don't believe it's that horrible and buy the book just to find out.

Fourth, the Indie press has a support system, and in some cases it's better than both Traditional and Self-Published. When an author self-published they know that's it, they don't have backup, they're going to do it alone. It's part of the decision making process and it usually works out fine, even if it is stressful. Traditionally published authors expect to get support from their publisher, but they don't always see it, especially the midlist authors. Indie publishers are excellent at nurturing new authors, in building brands, and in promoting their authors full tilt.

With all of that in the Indie press's favor it's suprising more authors aren't giving it a try, but I've heard the objections.

"Indie only publishes erotica/romance." - Lie! There's an Indie press for everything.

"Indie books are never printed." - Lie! Most houses determine who gets a paperback depending on word count. Flash fiction and novellas may not be printed, but novels usually are.

"If I go Indie no one will ever read my book." - Lie! Indie authors are doing quite well with the small presses. Feel free to ask around if you don't believe me.

Just flipping through the titles of the books I've bought this year a good percentage of them are published by an Indie Press, over 50% I'm guessing. Of the new titles and authors I've bought (i.e. ones I hadn't read before 2011) it's almost 100%. I have a few self-published titles, and there are some major authors whose series I love from traditional presses, but 2011 has been the Year of the Indie Press for me.

What about you? Where is your reading list coming from?

P.S. I have a big announcement coming soon. If you look around at the pages on the blog (see the tabs at the top) you might just be able to guess!


  1. Okay, now. I have been published with Indie Presses and self published. I feel no shame either way and don't really think that hiding the fact I self published behind the term "indie publishing" would do me any good. Why? Because indie presses aren't always that good either. Sorry to say it, but lately I've seen much better self published books (both in content and form) than from small "indie" presses. I don't want to start an argument here, because frankly I'm tired of arguments, but I use indie for self publishing because it's the way it's used now. Language changes and accommodates new meanings. You may use "indie publishing" for small presses, but I have yet to meet an author published with a small press who says "I'm indie published". They say "I'm trad published".
    Just my two cents.

  2. I didn't even know there was a difference between indie and self-published. I say I'm trad published - I'm published through a small press. So does that make me an indie?

  3. Chrystalla - It's changing, but not changed. I think people still need to know the difference.

    Pippa - For most people "Traditional" means "Big 6 with an Agent". Anyone can chop off the label and say "I'm a published author." That's a true statement across the board for anyone has written a book that you can buy. If you take chrystalla's definition of Indie, then yes, you'd be considered Traditional because you used an editor, not a self-publishing process or a vanity press.

  4. As you know, I support Indie Presses (I prefer to call them small presses at the moment) WHOLEHEARTEDLY. I really, honestly think I will never move on from Rhemalda if they keep moving the way they are moving. I adore being there. Such a good fit, and it's nice that there are so many other small presses and options for authors who need to find good fits, as well.