Sunday, January 5, 2014

Is The "Indie" Designation Still Required?

(We have declared our independence to the world!)
I recently read an article by best selling indie author Hugh Howey talking about the changing publishing landscape, and he brought up an interesting point - just how necessary is the "indie" title in publishing anymore?

Long ago, calling something "self-published" was akin to saying "it's shit."  Self-publishing was seen by the public as something that couldn't get published by a reputable company, so the author had to bring it out on his or her own, and it probably was because it wasn't very good.  Self-published writers languished in the doldrums, most even omitting that they had anything self-published if a publisher or agent took notice of them down the line.

In an attempt to get away from this, many self-published writers started calling themselves "indie," as in "independently published."  This had a nicer ring to it, and it tried to get away from the self-publishing stigma.  After all, we weren't doing so because we couldn't find someone - we were just "independent" of the traditional publishing world.  About four or five years ago, the indie movement exploded, with writers setting their own prices, and books that were at least on par, looks-wise, with traditionally published works.  A few indie writers started making inroads into the reading public, and most of us felt like we could, if not achieve fame and fortune, at least earn a living.

Then something strange started happening.  First of all, the public started noticing the quality of books was improving dramatically.  These were no longer big piles of crap that looked cute, but they were actually pretty good stories.  Then, established writers like JA Konrath and Terry Goodkind started publishing independently and maintaining good audiences.  People started wondering what the heck was happening.

Is it time to drop the "indie" part of what we do?  After all, with the potential demise of Barnes & Noble, as well as the downfall of mass bookstores in general, will anyone really notice the difference between the traditional market and the indie market?  Now that access to the customer is on about an even playing field, and with indie books outnumbering traditional books by over five to one, will anyone notice or even care that the book is indie or not?

Maybe this is a chance for us to graduate to something larger.  We can start just saying we're published, rather than adding "indie" to what we do.  Yes, it might mean we don't get that feeling of being a rebel, part of an underground and subversive movement, but it would mean that we've achieved most of our goals, the biggest of which being acceptance.  I don't know if we're there yet, but given the changing landscape, it's worth pondering.

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