The Good and the Bad of Being an Indie Author

THE GOOD AND THE BAD OF BEING AN INDIE AUTHOR

Being an independently published author isn’t easy, but as a recent article by Joanna Penn on her blog, The Creative Penn points out, there are both difficulties and advantages to the indie publishing world.  The post is a the result of Penn’s experience chatting with other highly successful indie authors, and brings up some interesting pros and cons of going the indie route.

The cons are fairly well-known: mainly, the lack of prestige and the difficulty of having to do and/or manage it all.  Penn also brings up the necessity for investing in yourself: “…if like me, you are intending to make a living from this, then yes, you need to invest money in creating assets for the business with the intention of getting it back in multiple streams of income…”

But the independence and control that comes with indie publishing seems to be worth it: Penn brings up the lack of empowerment that a lot of traditionally published authors feel without any decision-making power over their own books. Indie publishing gives authors total creative control. Additionally, indie publishing lets authors get books to market without having to wait for the OK from a traditional publisher, gives them higher royalties, and allows them to sell to any global market.

With the pros and cons presented, Penn says, “the important thing is that you, the creator, are empowered to choose per project how you would like to progress.” Increasingly, indie publishing is becoming a better choice.

WHY FAN FICTION IS SO IMPORTANT

Rainbow Rowell, author of Fangirl, recently talked to Buzzfeed about her upcoming book, Carry On. Carry On originated as fan fiction (aka fanfic) within the book Fangirl, which explores the world of online fandom and how it has influenced an entire generation.

Rowell talks about why fan fiction is so powerful: “I think, when we love a story, we want to make it our own. We want to bring it inside ourselves. But, for me, most of the stories I loved were about white, straight men.” Fan fiction is a place where readers can reinterpret their favorite fictional worlds by telling them in ways that represent their own experiences. For example, Rowell addresses the fact that fan fiction often interprets characters as LGBT where they aren’t in the original text. In this way, fans are influencing mainstream culture by showing that stories about diverse characters are popular and in demand.

The interview also addresses the way the Internet has built communities around fandom. Rowell mentions how she’s seen women become friends over Twitter by bonding over her books. She also talks about how the Internet has broadened what kind of voices are part of mainstream culture, specifically talking about her experiences with fat women being represented as beautiful in stories and artwork on Tumblr. “We all get to be part of the conversation now,” she says. “And our voices come together.”

ANOTHER LOOK AT E-BOOK SUBSCRIPTION SERVICES

A panel at BEA 2015 discussed the potential future for subscription e-book services. The conclusion reached: things are looking pretty rosy. The panel, moderated by Mark Coker of Smashwords, included Justo Hidalgo from the Spanish-language subscription service 24Symbols, Noelle Millholt of the children’s book service Speakaboo,  and Andrew Weinstein of Scribd (you can find a curated selection of IR/Scribd indie titles here).

Why are subscription services so successful? Scrib’s Weinstein suggested that the lack of a buy button eliminates buyer’s remorse, making readers more likely to browse until they find something they like. Subscription services are also good for trad publishers: they make the same amount of money as they would from a retail sale.

Despite the benefits, trad publishers are still wary about making their titles available through subscription services. Will there be a change in this mindset, or will the trend of e-book subscription fade away?

A NEW LOOK FOR KINDLE

The Kindle is a great way to read books, but many have found that its typesetting and layout have been subpar since it first came out. But a recent reveal might change that. Amazon is changing its default Kindle font to the new Bookerly, a typeface that better resembles print books but still works on a screen. And according to Amazon, it’s 2% easier on the eye than their old font Caecilia, which doesn’t sound like much, but is a big deal for those who have had trouble with Kindles in the past.

In addition, there will be some major layout changes: for example, Amazon is getting rid of the ugly absolute justification of text. They’re also fixing up some kerning issues. In general, it looks like Amazon wants the Kindle to be as easy to read as any print book. The typeface and layout changes are a step in the right direction for that goal.

PRINT BOOKSTORES: THE REPORTS OF OUR DEMISE HAVE BEEN GREATLY EXAGGERATED

To paraphrase Mark Twain’s famous quote, it appears that the demise of brick and mortar bookstores has also been overestimated.  And despite the fact that online book sales and e-books seem ubiquitous, indie bookstores seem to be making a comeback, their numbers having gone up 25% since 2009, and their sales going up as well.

Nostalgia is one factor behind this trend: the feel of a print book is definitely more appealing than the glow of a screen to many readers. On the other hand, younger readers tend to believe that digital books and online bookstores are inherently better. “Technology always gets a free pass,” says Yale professor David Gelenter. “[People] take it for granted that if the technology is new it must be better.” And some believe that both mediums have their own unique advantages that need to be retained: author Maryanne Wolf discusses the “bi-literate brain, one equally at home in the digital and analog worlds.”

The debate over brick and mortar bookstores vs. online bookstores continues, and the smart indie author is wise to have their titles available in both places (speaking of which, you can find more information on IndieReader’s In-Store (IRIS), a unique distribution channel that will get your title in front of 37,000 brick and mortar bookstore buyers here).

Have a lovely weekend, Indie Readers, and be sure to check out the list of IR Discovery Award winners and buy their books!

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