Titles are a fickle thing. I have written about titles before and have touched on the topic many times, but this time I want to get very specific. Today I want to look at the difference between self-published authors and independent/indie authors.
First, let’s establish when the difference came into play. We can all thank Amazon for the distinction between the two terms. If we jump back to 2007, we see Amazon first introducing Kindle Direct Publishing; a means for individuals to put their written work up for sale using the Amazon marketplace, specifically coinciding with the release of their Kindle.
This is where independent authors began to shine. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
The publishing industry has long-reigned as the gatekeepers and sole-proprietors of the book world. It used to be that aspiring writers would have to pen their manuscript, then either try to get through those gates themselves or find an agent who can help them along the way.
We all know the problem this presents: in a year there might be millions of stories waiting to be published, but only a fraction of agents available to represent them, and a fraction of that fraction making it through the publishing houses. It meant that readers only got a tiny piece of the literary pie to read, and only a handful of writers could pursue their dreams.
Self-published authors existed before the popularity of eBooks took hold. They were the authors who would write their work, then pay for it to be printed. Self-published authors would have to fund their own print runs, then sell the physical copies of the books they had in stock.
Because of this, self-publishing still had somewhat of a gatekeeper: the printing services. And, unfortunately, this was one of the factors that led to self-publishers getting a bad name. Vanity publishers were popular among self-publishers. They were publishing companies only in name and would charge exorbitant fees to “publish” an individual’s works.
There were cases of successful self-publishing authors, but with such high fees, an incredible amount of work necessary to succeed. Add on the trouble marketing because social media had not yet taken root, and self-published authors were seen as outsiders. They were viewed as people who paid for their own work to be printed and then faded away into obscurity. It was nearly impossible for self-published authors to sell enough or make enough of an impact to truly be taken seriously.
But with the introduction of the Kindle in 2007, eBooks began to gain popularity. They were disruptors in the book industry and continue to be, having surpassed traditional book sales years ago.
The rise in eBooks also coincided with the massive growth of social media. These two factors created the perfect storm.
Enter independent authors
Independent authors, at a fundamental level, are no different than self-published authors. Deep down, both authors just want their work to be out there for people to read. Indie authors just have a new set of tools that self-published authors did not.
The two things that made it almost impossible for self-published authors are gone now. You can make a bigger impact and easily grow your base with social media. Your reach is not confined to who you know and who lives next door. Instead, you can reach every corner of the world with social media to promote your work and your brand.
And publishing your work is no longer outlandishly expensive. With eBooks and services like Kindle Direct Publishing, publishing your book only costs your time and (hopefully) a great cover artist and editor. You don’t need to pay for your book to be printed, but instead can upload a single file and reach millions of people!
But with these new tools came a heck of a lot of responsibility. With so much potential, indie authors have to work harder than ever to make their dream come true. And with the barrier of entry so low, everyone must continually up their game to stand out from the crowd.
And, as time goes on, indie authors are being accepted more and more. In fact, in the United States, independent authors now outsell the biggest publishing houses. So the stigma is slowly fading to the background.
But it is not completely gone. There are still a ton of people out there who see indie authors as the same self-publishing, vanity house users as a decade ago. The fact is that self-publishers worked hard back then, and indie authors work just as hard, if not harder today. Yours is a full-time passion and a full-time job if you are willing to work hard enough.
So whether you say you are self-published or an independent author, hold your head up high. You are a disruptor, a pioneer, and one hell of a hard worker. Be proud of that and write on.