May 26, 2016

Indie publishers & self-publishing: the future of authorship

A desire for authorial control may come to replace big time publishing houses 

The publishing world as we know it may be shifting permanently towards a more independent framework. 

As the literary marketplace becomes increasingly digital, self-publishing authors and smaller independent publishers may soon eclipse big publishing moguls.

In 2013, Amazon revealed that “a quarter of the top 100 bestselling Kindle books on Amazon.com in 2012 were published via Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP),” according to The Guardian. KDP is self-publishing software owned by Kindle.

The Guardian also reported the rise of websites like Writer.ly, an “online marketplace that connects authors with freelance editors, book designers and marketers.”

The future of publishing, especially in a literary market that’s increasingly dominated by the younger writers of a digital age — connected globally with other writers through social media — belongs to self-publishers and independent publishers.

I’ve been writing poetry for several years now. I’ve managed a poetry blog for two years, where I post new pieces and receive comments and feedback by writers and readers alike.

Last year, I found the blog of a Toronto-based independent literary magazine, that was looking for poetry submissions. This literary magazine also doubled as an independent publishing house, which later accepted my manuscript of poems and agreed to publish it that same summer.

It granted me a freedom and intimacy in the process of publishing my work that counteracted the image of big-kahuna publishing houses I’d imagined.

The image painted of big publishers — like Penguin Books and Oxford Publishing — is quite the opposite: they’re scary, they hack a writer’s very being and they turn royalty nightmares into a reality.

Caitlyn Siehl is a New Jersey-based poet whose work has circulated Internet-wide through her writing blog on Tumblr. She’s published an anthology of work, entitled What We Buried, through Words Dance Publishing, an independent publisher that publishes work by authors from across the globe. The business is operated entirely online.

I asked her if she thought self-publishing and indie publishers were the future of authorship. She said yes with no hesitation.

“The publishing sphere is very exclusive and difficult to break into. The amount of talented poets I know who deserve to be published are so often overlooked,” she said.

“Self-publishing opens up an entire new arena for writers. If you look at Goodreads, many of the poetry books nominated for awards are poets like Trista Moreland, who self-publish their work. It’s the future, definitely, especially in an Internet age where talented voices can get swallowed up in all of the noise.”

A feeling of control over one’s work while going through the publishing process is a unifying theme amongst independent publishers, their clients and those who choose to self-publish.

“[Writers] can adhere to their own deadlines, and they don’t have to worry about getting screwed over when it comes to royalties,” Siehl said.

Words(on)pages, a Toronto-based independent publisher, has written about this same principle in the “about” section of their website.

“We want to remind you that your work is valuable,” the page reads.  

“We want to give you something you can put on a bookshelf, something you can peddle at readings, something you can sell to kind friends and curious strangers. We want to give you money. We want to give you proof that your years of late nights and awful jobs and first drafts and rewrites are worth it. Think of our work as tangible proof that hey, your shit’s pretty rad.”

As for self-publishers, Damien Walter of The Guardian says the same hook applies.

“The freedom indie authors have to market and price their own books has allowed them to dominate the digital marketplace of the last three years,” he argued.

It seems, then, that independent publishers aren’t so independent anymore. The literary world is increasingly populated by people with the same hope: to publish and read work that’s true to the author’s wishes.

Self-publishing carries this idea to the next level — I wrote my work, so I control it. End of story.

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