In music and movies, it’s always hipper to be indie. It means you have met success without a corporate blessing. It’s the spirit of individualism made manifest. Being indie allows us the freedom to explore, to push boundaries, to not have to worry about whether or not we are addressing a wide enough, all-encompassing audience. Being indie means that in order to succeed you have to be original, innovative, cutting edge, and at times, controversial.
And finally, that same reputation is moving into the world of publishing. Sadly, this new reputation is still too new to cause massive sales, but indie books are finally gaining respect. With people like Amanda Hocking, Amy Joy, Blake Northcott, and E.L. James seeing respectable sales figures, the old-school publishing industry is taking notice. The independent and self-publishing worlds are now seen as a proving ground, not competition. We are the minor leagues of publishing; some of us will be called up to majors, but not all. But the question is: do we want to?
The publishing companies do next to nothing to market your book; it’s still up to you. The books stores only have so much shelf space, so if you aren’t an immediate success, it doesn’t matter how awesome your book is, its shelf-life is about as long as fresh fruit. And let’s not forget how long it takes for them to release your work. You may be waiting years to see your book finally hit the shelves and an even longer time before you see any money from it.
Despite this, do we still need that validation, that corporate blessing? I think that it really depends on your goals. Everyone wants validation or appreciation for what they do. No one wants to be seen as unimportant. Because of this, I’d imagine most indie authors would jump at the chance to sign a contract with a major publishing company. And yet, you really have to ask yourself: is it really in your best interest? If you are already a best-seller, how much more validation do you need?
What if indie became the new publishing paradigm? After all, it allows us to find our audience, publish when the book is ready, and make it available to anyone with internet access. Along with that, the indie reputation is going to continue to improve. Unfortunately, there will always be, as one author put it: “karaoke of literature,” but time will help filter out those who don’t live up to the indie label. Those that get frustrated will give up, leaving the most dedicated, the most creative, the most passionate left to push the publishing industry into a new golden age.