I’ve been reading this term “indie author” for a while. I thought it meant someone who self-publishes their work. In all honesty, I thought it meant someone who self-publishes their work but for some reason wanted to give it a fancier title. I’ve also wondered whether I had it all wrong and indie author meant authors who place their work in independent (i.e. non-chain) bookstores? Being the word nerd I am, I had to know.
Based on the research I’ve done (don’t expect any footnotes), the concept of an indie author seems to be evolving. Yes, it might have originally meant what I thought it meant: self-published. Now it seems to mean someone who is actively involved in the transformation of the publishing industry by deciding for herself how she wants to get each piece of her work in front of the reading public. Under this definition, I might be an indie author.
Here’s my mix. My nonfiction book was published by a small press. My essays and short stories have appeared in traditional literary journals. I chose to self-publish my short story collection in audio, on-line here and at other sites (podiobooks.com, iTunes, YouTube, etc.) and in CD form. I am pursuing an agent with my novel, Train Trip, hoping to get it placed in a large publishing house. I’m considering releasing The Bone Trench in serialization at Wattpad.
Why so many different avenues? The small press and literary journals I chose because that’s where publication was at the time. The small press did a great job; even today with more options available, I don’t see where any would have better served the book. In contrast, I can’t help wondering if I would continue to publish in literary journals, not when my stories have been downloaded over 3000 times at podiobooks. I didn’t go there for the exposure; I chose to record the stories because the content and my voice (I did local NPR commentaries for years) seemed a nice match, and I thought it would be fun. Having seen the international access, though—it gives me, a true lover of literary journals, pause.
Why am I treating my novel manuscripts so differently? Train Trip seems to have commercial promise in a pretty mainline way. The Bone Trench is weird as hell. Even if I get an agent for one novel, she might not be in interested in the others (my fashion model detective novel or my novel about a civil rights reparation lawsuit or my “coming of age in the 1970s” novel or my Hurricane Katrina novel that might be considered YA.) So my option for these other manuscripts would be to get a different agent or figure out what publication avenue might be a better fit.
“A better fit.” That phrase seems to sum up my publishing decisions. Plus, there’s one more factor: the wait. If I truly believe the novels I’ve written—all very different—have something to say, do I want to wait the five or six years it would take to get them through the traditional publishing process, even if I were lucky enough to find someone who might be interested in them?
I don’t know. I will wait to see what the agent says about this revision of Train Trip. If she’s interested, I’ll ask her about my other manuscripts. Then, indie author that I am, I will have more decisions to make.
Remember: You Cain’t Do Nothing with Love