What is an “Indie” Author?

This a question that I’ve seen countless times over my writing career and wanted to weigh in. If you follow any book blogs or book related accounts on social media, you’ve probably seen the term “indie author” used before. While there are countless memes that say “support indie authors,” there’s also a fair amount of confusion as to what the term really encompasses.

Much of this blame falls on the word itself. People take indie to mean independent and therefore, self-published. That’s a fairly logical train of thought.16021_1543661555857821_4749658774172860935_n

Except for the fact that indie is a term that’s been used in the arts, including literature, for far longer than self-publishing has been a prominent practice. Indie films aren’t necessarily completely funded without studios and indie music isn’t always recorded without labels. To say that indie books must only be self-published takes an unrealistic deviation from the way we’ve used the term for decades.

Indie doesn’t mean independent. It means, independent from a major backer. The film, music, and publishing industries all have similar structural hierarchies in the sense that the top is dominated by a few huge companies, with smaller companies further down the ladder and self-funded artists at the bottom of the ladder.

For publishing, indie encompasses the books outside the big five: Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin/Random House, and Simon & Schuster. Vague, right? Well, it’s kind of supposed to be.

All the word “indie” reflects is the lack of a behemoth company producing the book. For those looking for a term than separates self-published and traditionally published books, you’re in luck. There’s an easy way to tell the two apart. Self-published books are self-published and traditionally published books are published through a publisher.

So why the indie label if we have easier terms to tell books apart based on their production history? There’s a simple answer for that too. Aesthetics.

Calling yourself an indie author is a lot more fun to say than telling people you were published at a small press. Say “indie” and “small press” out loud if you don’t believe me. Furthermore, the word “self-published” is still stigmatized by many people. In that regard, indie serves as a euphemism to use to those who may not check out your work otherwise.

Is it useful? Those memes exist for a reason. Some readers do like to feel like they’re supporting the underdog. There is of course, the flipside, the people that may view indie works as of a lesser quality. There isn’t really a right or wrong answer.

There is however, something to be conscious of with labels. I see authors who both traditionally and self-publish call themselves “hybrid authors,” a horrifically clunky term. Calling yourself a hybrid author essentially validates the self-publishing stigma as you admit that there’s a difference between traditionally and self-published work.

Beyond that, it’s a branding nightmare. Do you think an average reader knows what a hybrid author is? Do they care?

As an author, you need to be conscious of the image you project to yisupportbykm-002our readers. I see authors complain that their blog posts aren’t translating into sales when their blogs are basically all writing talk that an average reader wouldn’t find interested. I created ASOBAW to have a place to talk about books, while my general interest articles remain at my author site.

Does the indie label matter? Kind of. I don’t particularly think of it as a big selling point, but the amount of people who fumble to define an intentionally broad term is concerning. Pick your labels wisely and for good reasons.

Me? I’m just a writer. You should read my stuff.

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Why I Don’t Do Cross-Promotion

There’s a disclaimer at the top of this site that explains my policy on blog tours. While you’ll see various promotional posts for other authors on ASOBAW, those are all from authors I know. Those posts aren’t cross-promotion as there hasn’t been a single instance where I’ve agreed to host an author here in exchange for promotion of my own work. I do it because they’re my friends and I know this is a tough business. Some of these people have hosted blog posts for my new work (which you should buy), but that’s also because they’re my friends.

I get e-mails and messages from people asking if I’ll post or tweet about their book in exchange for them doing the same for one of my books. Plenty of pe54efb434082d09699edefc8a637a5dfdople do this and there’s nothing inherently wrong with it. We have a flooded market and it’s hard for any author to get publicity.

I always refuse these requests, as well as any that say something like “I’ll gladly share anything of yours.” It’s nothing personal. I’m just not interested in telling my fans to buy something because there’s something in it for me.

If I wanted to have my work promoted by people I don’t know, I’d hire somebody or I’d ask bloggers who I know to help. That’s their role in the literary circle of life. Mine is to write and to spread the word about my own books (which again, you should buy). To help my friends promote their own books isn’t a job, but rather something friends do for each other. For strangers, not so much.

This post is not meant to be condemnatory toward the practice. If you’re an author who cross-promotes, go right ahead. You don’t need to justify yourself to anyone, nor do I in choosing to publicly state that I’m not an author who does that.

One of the beauties of publishing in this day and age is that I get to interact with my fans quite frequently. I see their messages and I respond to them. A relationship has been formed. One that does involving one party trying to get the other to buy something from them (plug number three to buy my books). At this in this scenario, I know that what’s being sold is worth buying (because I wrote it).

 

 

Author Don’ts: The Author Photo Selfie

These days, anyone can be an author. You can type gibberish into a document and upload it to Amazon and voila, you’re an author. Which isn’t to belittle those of us who actually put effort into our work, but rather to provide an accurate view of the playing field. Some authors put no effort into their bios/product descriptions, leaving blatant typos/errors for all potential customers to see.12118933_10153258251404091_1352673674225516874_n

The first step toward building a fanbase is to look professional. You’re someone who has set out to convince people to pay money to read your work. It’s important to show that you take pride in that opportunity.

Making an Amazon author profile is important, but also incredibly easy. The whole process can take five minutes if you want it to. The question is, should you want it to?

No.

Of course not. It’s easy to spot the lazy ones. So don’t be one of them.

So where does the selfie come in?

People like selfies. The selfie stick will likely grow to be a billion dollar industry. Chances are, your phone or computers has some selfies on it. When you’re making an author profile, which requires a picture, it can be awfully tempting to put a selfie up there.

And really, why not?

The answer is simple. Professionalism. You know, the thing that shows you’re serious about providing a quality product that people should pay hard earned money for.

Many authors work on shoestring budgets and simply don’t have the money to hire a photographer for headshots. You don’t need to hire a professional to look professional. All you need is an Instagram filter and another human being.

I mean that. If taking an author photo was harder than asking someone to take your picture, I wouldn’t write this article. I get that it’s harder to ask someone for something than doing it yourself, but is that really an excuse?

Am I overthinking this? You may think so. You might have a selfie as your author photo. But consider this.

Would you have a selfie as your LinkedIn picture? If the answer is yes, then fine. Leave the selfie.

Your author picture isn’t really for you. It’s of you. It’s for your readers. In many ways, it’s the first connection you make with your audience. Regardless of what you choose to do, be aware of that.