Welcome to Indie Week! I’m Amy Edelman, the founder of IndieReader (www.indiereader.com), the essential consumer guide to self-published books and the people who write them.
I launched IndieReader over three years ago after reading an article in The New York Times, and then another one shortly thereafter in Time magazine, both of which talked about how traditional publishing was changing. It seemed that, miraculously, a few self-pubbed books–specifically Still Alice by Lisa Genova and The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry-had been scooped up by traditional publishers and had gone on to reach the tops of bestseller lists worldwide. There were also, it was noted, established writers like John Wideman, who for reasons including creative control and larger returns, were choosing to go it alone. My first thought was, ‘how cool would it be to find those books before the trad publishers did’. I immediately went to Google to find a site that listed the hippest and best reviewed indie books. To my surprise there wasn’t one.
Remember, this was a full two (or so) years before ebooks, back when the only indie title on the bestseller lists was The Shack. Back then The New York Times had stated openly that they would never include self-pubbed books on their bestseller list and it wasn’t until a year or so later that they inadvertently did, a book called Her Last Letter by Nancy Johnson.
As you know, that policy no longer stands and the Wall Street Journal and USA Today also now include indie books in their bestseller lists. And how could it otherwise when so many indie authors are selling so many books? [NOTE: Check out IndieReader’s ‘List Where Indies Count’ for an indies-only list of best selling titles].
What does remain the same is that, for many (especially traditional media), self-published authors are still considered less talented than their traditionally published counterparts. Compounding the slight is that indie authors don’t pay for big fat ads that support traditional media like the trad publishers do and so they are excluded from their pages. So while indie’s online presence is tremendous–thanks primarily to Jeff Bezos and a little invention he called the Kindle-in book reviews and in-store, their books are still ignored (and that’s even if they have the luxury of being distributed by a traditional publisher. Just ask John Locke. Without review in consumer publications his books may as well be invisible).
But this is supposed to be an upbeat event, so let’s focus on the positive.
In the three years since IndieReader launched, the publication of indie books has exploded (due mainly, of course, to technology and popularity of ebooks). For those authors interested in snagging a trad book deal, publishing an indie book (and then promoting like hell) has become the new way to pitch. Why spend years trying to get an agent who will try to sell your book and then-if it is bought-waiting an additional year or two to see the book actually pubbed when you can do it yourself, make money while you do, and possibly end up with a great book deal in the end? [See Amanda Hocking and EL James, author of the originally pubbed FanFic ’50 Shades of Grey’ for details.]
But it’s not just that there are more indie books being published. Thanks to the popularity of ereaders, there are more indie books being purchased and read. John Locke was the first indie author to crack Amazon’s million-seller club and there is a long list of indie authors [find a good one here: http://selfpublishingsuccessstories.blogspot.com/] who are doing very well, thank you. Perhaps that’s because, vanity publishing be damned!, the majority of books we receive and review at IndieReader are really good. I should state upfront that that’s not just my opinion. I don’t review any of the books personally, but IndieReader hires reviewers who also work with respectable outlets like Publisher’s Weekly and Clarion, so they know what they’re talking about when they give an indie book a five-star rating.
So the books are good and the on-line readership is strong: what’s left? From the beginning, my vision for what indie books could be was shaped by my career in public relations and marketing. In my eyes, indie books offer all the hipness and excitement that indie movies and music do. Today more than ever, almost everything we produce gets co-opted by corporate culture, turned into a business model, reformulated and churned out like soap to appeal to as many people as possible. In a world where almost everything is packaged by committee, indie books offer content with a single voice: the writer’s own. There is a hunger for things authentic and books by indie authors are the natural next thing for book-lovers tired of yet another James Patterson or Danielle Steele novel.
It’s true that indie books are still lacking respect from the ‘establishment’ and the in-store distribution that would bring. But in the three years since IndieReader launched, indie books have come quite a long way. And, based on the talented and dedicated authors we’ve been fortunate enough to come across, I’d say that the future of indie looks very bright.
Amy is a publicist and a writer. She self-published her first book, ‘The Fashion Resource Directory’, back in the 80s, long before POD and Amazon and e-readers roamed the land. Her second and third books (‘The Little Black Dress’ and ‘Manless in Montclair’), were traditionally published (by Simon & Schuster and Shaye Areheart Books, an imprint of Crown). Having the good fortune to have published books both ways has given Amy a first-hand look at the advantages and drawbacks of each.
As both an author and a publicist with over 20 years experience, Amy understands how difficult it is for all authors to get exposure. She came up with the idea of IndieReader, ‘the essential guide to self-published books and the people who write them’ for two reasons. The first was to create a more level playing field for authors who choose to go it on their own. The second was to give book-lovers the opportunity to discover great works that they might not have otherwise have found.
In its simplest sense, IndieReader is a venue for discriminating book-lovers to find and purchase books published by the people who wrote them. Think indie movies-produced with a singular vision-instead of the mass-marketed stuff you’d find at the multiplex. In a world where almost everything is packaged by committee, IndieReader offers you books with a single voice: the writer’s own.
Don’t get us wrong. We’re not saying that Indie books are better than those that are traditionally published. We’re just saying they’re different. Let’s face it: you pretty much know what you’re getting when you pick up the latest Danielle Steele or James Patterson. And sometimes that’s a good thing. But sometimes you just don’t want to read the same old same old. Sometimes you want to read a book that’s genuine, unique and outside the mainstream. A book that will surprise you. A book that isn’t on the night table of every other person you know.
The indie book movement features writers who want to continue the tradition of book publishing on their own terms-keeping it relevant and steadfast despite the sales and marketing formulas used by the traditional publishers today.
Buying Indie doesn’t just give you the opportunity to show support for great writers, it also allows you to support the environment. Because unlike traditional publishers, whose over-stock languishes in dusty warehouses, many of the books featured on IndieReader are either eBooks or printed via Print On Demand technology, so they aren’t made until after they are actually sold. Why kill all those trees before the book is even bought?
Here at IndieReader, we think that people can decide for themselves, and don’t need the big publishing houses to tell them what they should like. These books are as singular as our readers. All it takes is a read from you to prove it.
Are you an IndieReader? You’ll never know till you try.
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