Am I an Indie Author?

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 (, 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


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About Ellen Morris Prewitt

My dog can run faster than any other dog at the dog park. My husband can make a pan of rocks taste good. I'm proud to live on the Mississippi River. I have a traditionally published book (Making Crosses: A Creative Connection to God (Paraclete Press)) and I'm trying to get my novels "publication-ready." For almost 7 years, I've written with a group of men and women who have a personal experience of homelessness. If you want to know more, check out blog's Constantly Changing Facts About Myself. If you want free stories, go to and listen. Thank you for getting this far.
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5 Responses to Am I an Indie Author?

  1. Dearest Microcosm, The problem with most Indie work is that it is poorly written at best. (Whoooaaa, now that’s news…) Yup, eighty percent of the indie work (and that’s a conservative estimate) should never have been published in any form, which makes it extremely difficult for talented writers like yourself to reach readers. Although much of your work has been validated with the treasured stamp of “traditional” publication, you will nevertheless need to stand on tip-toes and shout like hell over a mob of mediocrity before readers will actually find you. You, however, have one edge: You’re pretty darned good. So, with that said: I’m witcha, Sista Micro… Go for it! RD

    • Ellen Morris Prewitt says:

      I just read an article that said the main determinative of success as an indie author is (drum roll) . . . quality of the writing! But I’m pretty sure I don’t fit into the categories that most easily translate into on-line success (horror, sic-fi, fantasy, romance). Or at least that’s my perception of what’s happening—as always, what do I know? (however, I do know a darn good writer who has self-published . . .)

      • …really, what’s the name? You are too nice lady, but I value your validation more than some wet-behind the ears MFA reading manuscripts for some agent. Thank you. I assume the schedule was full?

  2. Ellen Morris Prewitt says:

    Love it! “I’m a microcosm”—say it and own it. Thank you for joining me on this blind journey.

  3. Luanne says:

    Ellen, you are a microcosm of what is happening in publishing today. That’s your identity for today: microcosm ;). Seriously, what you describe is what is happening overall, i think. It’s scary and exciting!

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