The term ‘independent author’ has come to be used for self-published authors to a great extent. The trouble is that’s self-publishing still holds a certain amount of stigma, even though I’ve found some real gems among the slush.
Self-published authors certainly come under the term of independent author, but it also refers to any author who is not specifically tied to one publisher. Independent authors have flourished among the traditionally published author pool for decades. Even Charles Dickens would be classed as an independent author, as would William Shakespeare.
It has never been unusual for an author to publish through multiple small publishers, especially if there is specialist material involved. For example, my first seven books were published by Capall Bann, who specialise in Mind, Body, Spirit material. When I wrote my first Fantasy novel, it was necessary to go to another publisher who dealt in fiction. As it happens that publisher actually leaned towards language and travel books and was just branching into fiction, which didn’t work out well. I then sent an eight book to Capall Bann which fit their subject material.
This use of multiple publishers makes me an independent author. I am free to send manuscripts to any publisher and have different subject matter come out from different sources.
For about a month at the beginning of 2012, I became a self-publisher for my fiction after obtaining release from my contract with the fiction publisher. I was still traditionally published with Capall Bann, but the fiction was up on the E-book circuit directly. It was a short-lived stint in another world, as Paganarchy Press quickly showed interest in releasing my fiction as well as future Mind, Body Spirit books. I haven’t broken my relationship with Capall Bann, but I have the option to send titles to either publisher. As there are some parameters with Capall Bann that I might want to transcend for future books in the genre, this is a great advantage to me. They have book store distribution where Paganarchy is mostly on-line sales, so there are factors to consider with any material I write.
The future of publishing is changing. I’ve seen veteran authors with major publisher contracts releasing titles independently. Authors are taking control of their own work. While I don’t think that publishers will ever become redundant, they have new competition in the realm of on-line sales.
The day of authors contracted to a single publishing house are diminishing. While the jury is still out on the future of E-publishing and whether the dross will drown out the gems, Pandora’s Box is open. We’ve entered a stage of the history of publishing where ALL authors have become independent authors, although the advertising machine of big business will always drive a few names to the top.
For the reader it has become a golden age with cheap and free books electronically thrown around left right and centre. While the controls of publishing in the old way kept the 80% slush from burying the readable material, it also held back a great deal of creativity in the name of corporate clones. I wonder when I read a five star book if it ever would have seen the light of day if the author had been forced to negotiate the old publishing regime that required a slow process of submit and wait, submit and wait. Many gems may never have been uncovered.
Fortunately the need for quality controls has become apparent and people who want their own material to survive the deluge of slush are looking into means of separating the wheat from the chaff, such as review sites that specifically recommend better titles from the E-reading market and collectives that require that an author has been traditionally published to obtain membership.
There is scope for a happy anarchy here. Good writing will always shine and as much as authors who deal with small publishers, collectives and self-publishing may have a tough marketing job ahead of them, it is the price of freedom within the publishing industry that has never happened before. Actually, if you look at it historically, publishing in the nineteenth century when many classics were written was not nearly as difficult for a literate author as it was in the twentieth century. There were fewer writers and more autonomy among individual publishers. Now in the twenty-first century, we have more writers than ever before but we have technology that allows them to put work on-line, publish through easy and free methods and, admittedly, to put any old dross out there. But readers get to know which authors are the good ones. The readers have become the slush pile judges and a review on Amazon carries more weight than a professional reviewer in a newspaper nobody ever reads.
The day of corporate clone control on books is fading. It is up to us to edit properly and spread the word when we find a good author. We can make it a positive move for the readers and for a brave new world on independent publishing.