I am giving this short speech today at the St. Louis County and St. Louis City libraries as part of Indie Author Day. I wanted all of you who couldn’t join us to be able to read it as well. I hope you enjoy it. Learn more about my speaking engagements.
When I was invited to be part of Indie Author Day, I was honored and humbled. I’m very proud to be an independent author and to be part of the first ever national day celebrating our work and our achievements. Our community has grown tremendously in the last five years, and now the books we produce rival – and in some cases outsell – those released through traditional means.
I want to be clear that I have nothing against the traditional publishing industry. I may even still join it in the future, but it isn’t what is right for me as an artist at this moment in my career. And that’s what being an indie is all about: taking control of your writing, your career, and the myriad decisions that go into it. We are no longer the ugly step-children who couldn’t make it traditionally; we are the entrepreneurs who chose to go our own way.
In her novel The Light of Paris, Eleanor Brown writes that the surrealist artists of post-WWI Paris were “making space for themselves without waiting for someone to give them permission.” That is exactly what we are doing as indie authors. We may cross traditional genre boundaries, write about subjects or in time periods that aren’t considered marketable, or simply want to do things on our own schedule. Whatever our reasons, we are producing our art without so much as a by your leave. We have something to say and aren’t waiting for anyone to give us a stage; we are building our own.
Now, being an indie author isn’t without its challenges. In declaring ourselves free of traditional constraints, we also take on the burden of being our own patrons, financing our cover art, editing, production and marketing. We take the financial risk that our work may not find an audience – or at least not enough of one to recover what we’ve invested. But such is the curse of every small business owner, from freelancers and flower shops to barbers and bakeries. We take a leap of faith that with enough hard work and a bit of luck, we will somehow make it.
We also face the seemingly impossible task of making ourselves known in a world where a new book is published every five minutes on Amazon, which is already home to 3.4 million books. But somehow, we still manage to find our audience – no matter how large or small. Whether we use Facebook ads, make book trailers or go the route of hand-selling and attending conferences or speaking engagements – we get out there and let people know we are here and why they should be interested in what we have to say.
Really, that is a challenge for every author, whether indie or traditional. But as indies, we have to do it ourselves, or if we’re lucky, with the help of a publicist. Without the endorsement of a big publishing house, we rely on the help of our tribe, other authors and readers whose loyalty we’ve gained, to provide endorsements of our work. They are our support system, our lifeline in times of crisis and uncertainty, and they can be a connection to new readers.
As indies, we may be perceived as being in this alone, but that is far from the truth. We have a vibrant, supportive community that is more generous than I’ve ever seen anywhere else. I’ve found genuine well-wishes even from people who have written about the exact same subject as I have. In the corporate world, we’d be considered competitors, but I’m coming to realize that here we are really allies. Whether we share resources, write guest posts together or just silently cheer one another on, it is that support that buoys us and keeps us going in and ever-changing industry that doesn’t really know what to do with us.
We’ve broken the traditional paradigm and that scares a lot of people. I say let them be scared; we aren’t. You know who else wasn’t afraid to try something new? Steve Jobs. Bill Gates. Ben Franklin. Madame Curie. Thomas Edison. Henry Ford. The Wright Brothers. And we can’t forget the Founding Fathers of our country. Without them we wouldn’t have iPhones, PCs, eyeglasses, X-rays, light bulbs, cars, airplanes or an independent nation – things we now take for granted. While few of us are on that grand of a scale, without us, the publishing world would be lacking in richness, diversity and, our readers would be still be searching for our stories.
It is the independent spirit of the publishing entrepreneur we gather to celebrate today. In the last five years, we’ve gone from being tentative explorers of the brave new world of ebooks to producing top quality work that makes the bestseller lists. Some of members of our community have even become breakout stars – such as Courtney Milan, Colleen Hoover, Bella Andre, Hugh Howey, and many others – authors who regularly outsell those who are traditionally published. We’ve done this through discipline and professionalism, by writing outstanding books, and applying business acumen to our work – for this is no mere hobby; this is our job, regardless of whether we have another that pays the bills.
With the rapid advancement of technology and gradual acceptance of our legitimacy as real authors, in another five years – even in one year – who knows where we can be. We may well be the new norm. How we get there is up to you and me, the indie authors of America. I, for one, am proud to celebrate us and our accomplishments – past, present and future – today.