Before the turn of the Century, independent authors—more colloquially known as self-published authors—were near-universally regarded as amateurs. There was little pride in pronouncing yourself as an unsolicited author without any professional representation, such as an agent, a business manager, or a publisher. Times are changing, however. The 21st Century has seen a digital renaissance, and the analogue world has passed intro obscurity. This new wave of technology has allowed authors and readers alike to break free from the unitary mould that has prevailed for a hundred years. There are still rules to learn and customs to uphold, but they are easier than ever to learn, and with a little bit of research and creative ingenuity, the time is ripe for independent publishing to stand as a respected entity.
For independent publishing to succeed, the model of distribution must be malleable to the expectations of the modern reading audience. There is a high degree of presumption for content to be complimentary on the internet. Whether content is consumed through proper channel or via illicit means, the reading audience—as well as all consumers in general—are for more easily swayed toward digital content if it doesn’t rely on an immediate monetary commitment.
Independent authors must subscribe to the new model if they hope to survive and thrive in a digital world of infinite possibilities. By offering complimentary content, they are establishing a pretence of respecting their reading audience and they also widen the scope of their potential readership. It is then the prerogative of the independent author to offer a means of donation, via equitable services like PayPal or Patreon, for willing readers who wish to give some monetary support.
A clever way to benefit readers who offer a donation is by offering exclusive auxiliary content that enhances the reading experience. Some tact must be implemented with any additional content to ensure it is not offered at the expense of the free audience. Independent authors cannot offer a freemium service where revelatory chapters are locked behind a paywall, as this only serves to frustrate and alienate the audience. Additional content must be entertaining and worthwhile, but it is imperative that it always remains auxiliary.
It must be understood by all creative artists—especially those who stand independently against the tide—that the model of consumption has changed, and rather than aggressively rallying against any kind of metamorphosis, it is the duty of each and every artist to adapt. Consumers all across the world do not want to pay for content, and while this attitude might seem pretentious at first, we as artists must understand the ideology behind it. The world is inundated by entertainment, and most of it is mediocre, yet the consumer is still paying for it. If the modern consumer disdains parting with their hard-earned funds for solicited content that, by every right, should maintain a sense of value, how can we expect them to be favourable toward the independent market? It is by eliminating the expectation for remissions that independent artist might earn the right to be respected, and eventually compensated, by the consumer.
An independent author’s duty to their reading audience does not cease with easily-accessible content, however, no matter how salivating the concept might initially appear. The independent author must provide a ubiquitous experience that never draws the reader’s attention to the copyright page so they might scoff at the publisher who thought this was a veritable narrative. The publication must possess a professional facade, including, but not limited to:
- A low proportion of proofreading and copyediting errors.
- An attractive cover art that maintains a degree of finesse.
- An engaging narrative with entertaining characters.
With due diligence, plenty of rewrites, some varying advice from family and friends, and some dedicated self-education in proper syntax, independent authors can hope to forge a publication that is seamlessly integrated into the literary world.
Currently, there is too much disparity between the independent and professional industry, and it is the sole duty of independent authors to bridge the gap by being cognisant of their abilities. If you understand literature, then you will know in your heart and mind when you are ready to unleash your writing upon the world. The age of information provides an accessible toolset for any burgeoning author to understand the finer details of the publishing world and earn a professional tenor. It takes a long time to learn how to write well, but with perseverance and a lot of trial and error, the stigma of the egregious world of self-publishing can finally be lifted.
Independent authors must cast away the notion of earning thousands of dollars, immediately quitting their day job, and becoming a household name. Any artist worth their weight in gold knows that true art is about passion, and if you want to make a million dollars, you should consider becoming an entrepreneur instead. Everything discussed in this article is about establishing a self-sustaining system, one where the writer trusts the reader and where the reader trusts the writer. The best-written books might not generate a lot of income, but the audience will have a far better experience. Remember, a small success should still be seen as a success. A constant and faithful audience is built upon trust, and once that relationship is solidified, an author no longer needs an exorbitant marketing machine in order to sell their words. So long as the independent author endeavours to provide their audience with something worthwhile, then the author can hope to have a future.