Are you an Indie Author?

It feels like I’m in the busiest period of my literary life to date, although a little window of let-up is in site after our Kilburn show, but many of the things causing such busiment are hugely exciting, and this is the perfect chance to share one of them. Well two, actually, because it’s media week coming up – on Tuesday morning I’ll be talking about the future of publishing and Year Zero on Radio Dubai – do be sure to tune in.

On Monday, the lovely Carolyn from LitChat, one of the highlights of the cultural week on twitter, has asked me to host the chat as part of the annual Indie Author Showcase (to join in, simply enter the #litchat hashtag into twitter’s search, and add it to your tweets, keep updating and you’ll follow and take part in the whole thing – it happens from 4-5pm EST, which is 9-10pm BST).

THE TRANSCRIPT WITH ALL (RECORD-BREAKING) 705 TWEETS IS HERE It was such a fantastic, busy night that #litchat even made it to trending!

This is a great thing to be able to do, and it was suggested I prepare some questions to ask participants in advance, all of which led me to think, what actually IS an indie author? And am I one? So, here are the questions I’ll be asking, and brief thoughts on my own answers. Do comment here, and come and join in on Monday.

For those new here, do look around at what we do – I hope you’ll find some of the most amazing shorts, poems, novels, articles and live gigs anywhere. And aside from our members, and our own blogs (in “links”) here’s a list of some of my indie heroes & places

Sabina England

Moxie Mezcal


D J Young

Shayne Parkinson

Endaxi Press

Thomas Stolperer

Guy Le Charles

Kirsty Logan

The Beat

Solidad De Costa

1. Those of you who think of yourselves as Indie authors, what does the “indie” bit actually mean to you?

I must confess, the more I use the word the less I understand it, and the more it feels like just another genre. I also find it harder to separate in my mind from “indie” music, where it seems simply to be about the kind of label you’re signed to.

2. How do you feel about the things a mainstream publisher would do for you (editing, distribution, design etc)? Are you “indie” because you want to do these yourself (if so, how?), or because you consider them irrelevant to what you do?

I love the control I have over editing and design. On the other hand, with distribution, I just think the whole mainstream model is wrong, and I’d rather rethink from scratch. To me the idea of bookstore chains that stock titles that’ll sell a few thousand globally is just bonkers, and inefficient, and I have no interest in being part of it. Likewise, I just don’t get ISBNs. If you’re “indie” why do you need one? For me, someone who puts an ISBN on their book isn’t indie – or maybe that’s exactly what Indie is and I’ve answered questions 1 & 3 – Indie is self-publishing in the sense of doing what a publisher does, but yourself/on a smaller scale.

3. What do you think the difference, if any, as an approach, is between Indie, Punk, and Alternative?

See above. I both like and dislike the term Alternative. I hate it because I don’t see what I do as being in opposition to anything. I’m not on of “the ones who do it differently from the mainstream”. I just do what I do. On the other hand, at least in the UK (I don’t know the US terminology I’m afraid), Alternative has overtones of a slightly seedy, underground (again I’m ambivalent about that word as it contrasts with overground) world that I like. Punk is s great word descriptively, because it has democratic and DIY implications that are great. But it’s overused and has become associated with things that are a bit crap. I think I just do what I do, but every now and again in order to get on radio shows and in magazines, I might need to give that a name.

4. How do you feel about “the mainstream?”

I don’t, really. I certainly. We do what we do, they do what they do, and there’s room for both. What I’m not so sure about are people who self-publish in order to get to the mainstream. I’m sure it works sometimes, and I’m sure the mainstream will more and more look at self-published writers. On the other hand, I don’t think it’s the best way to enter the mainstream, and you may spend more time than you wanted doing things that won’t help you in the long run. One thing’s for sure, though – that isn’t indie. It’s an alternative way of querying the mainstream.

5. How do you reach your readers?

This is the really interesting one, and the one I’ve least to say on because you know what I do already:

  • this website!
  • other web-based projects like the forthcoming eight cuts gallery
  • hanging out in galleries and music venues
  • writing reviews and articles in magazines and ezines my readers read
  • live shows
  • trying to get reviewed
  • generally hanging out with people who do what I do – forming networks in the fiction, music, art, poetry community

See you Monday!!

~ by yearzerowriters on June 19, 2010.

15 Responses to “Are you an Indie Author?”

  1. Good luck Dan, unfortunately I don’t think I’m going to be to follow it.

  2. How exciting! I’ll be there for the chat.

  3. Super, Erika!

    Marc, I know exactly what you’ll be doing and I’m trying to think of a way of doing likewise, but sadly I think I may not be able to.

  4. Best wishes for your LitChat hosting gig, Dan! I’ll be on the road then, so will miss it, I’m afraid.

    I’m mellow about ISBNs. To me they’re just a tool; just another way of searching catalogues, and finding the outlets where a book’s available. I think they’re sometimes seen as a badge of respectability, but given that anyone can buy them, I really don’t see them as part of the gatekeeper role associated with traditional publishers.

    For me, being Indie means that what appears in my books, as well as how my books appear, is my responsibility, and I like that. I’m old enough to remember when “punk” just meant “bad”, and wasn’t associated with any particular movement. I’m not consciously Alternative; in fact I probably come across as fairly conventional (though you know what they say about appearances). I’m just me.

    My motivation extends no further than writing, and engaging with readers. I’m just not interested in trying to to interest conventional publishers – a certain innate laziness probably helps there. The only thing that would motivate me to try the conventional route would be if I were reasonably confident that it would gain me far more readers (and I’m not). That, or being offered an absurd amount of money. Seriously absurd.

  5. Without ISBN are you basically talking about chapbooks? Even if you have decent printed ones.

    I just view myself as a writer. Of course I have to think about how I get books to readers, but that’s all I think the word ‘indie’ means – independently distributed in that I’m responsible for bringing it to readers’ notice & the POD or downloadable e-bookis just the delivery system of the final product.

  6. Shayne, Marc, as always I’m thinking on the hoof, and having considered opinions from you has helped give my thoughts some more shape. I have a feeling there is a genuine distinction between indie and something else, whatever name it has, and I think you’re both right that indie is probably best used where the author takes responsibility for doing what it’s traditionally the role of the publisher to do.

    I’m not rabidly against ISBNs, and for lots of genres I can completely see the point. For me not having one has two advantages – 1. I can see whether it’s possibly to market a book without one, satisfying my curiosity and is one way of making sure my book isn’t listed on B&N or Amazon (I’m not sure I really have anything against them, I just have this intuition that it’s right for my kind of book not to be there, and for the moment I’m going with my gut although I don’t quite understand why [though I’ve a pretty good idea])

  7. I am an idie author and to me, indie is about cutting out the middle men and bringing your work directly to your readers. In the tradition of indie musicians and indie film makers, I am taking advantage of available technology and bringing my novel directly to my audience.

    In the past, if you wrote a novel, you needed a publisher (preferably a big one) for printing, distribution, and publicity—but the established publishing industry has outlived its usefulness in all three arenas.Now, I can do everything Random House does—at home, in my spare time, with my laptop and an internet connection. With the advances in personal computing technology and print-on-demand printing there isn’t a single thing Random House does that I can’t do myself.

    Looking forward to the #litchat on Monday – please let me know how I can follow you on twitter.


  8. Hey Dan – thanks for listing Endaxi 🙂

    For me indie is about being a total control freak and it kicked off from knowing without a shadow of a doubt that it would be the only way to get my poetry ‘out there’ and guarantee the quality control standards I would be happy with. I had a poem published once in a mainstream anthology and was bitterly disappointed with the end product even though I got £50 for the poem. The poems were great, the illustrations nice – but the look and feel of the book – meh!

    And once we’d got the hang of the publishing cycle it seemed wasteful not to bring some other people on board and we are all having a lot of fun and so far (if we don’t count the cost of the ISBN numbers at the start) breaking even and hoping that one day we as publishers we might even be able to buy a packet of crisps with some profits – but probably Lidl own brand not Walkers Sensations LOL

    I LOVE the word Alternative (you knew I was going to say that didn’t you?) – it doesn’t mean anything sleazy to me. I spent my entire life looking at the alternative to whatever came my way and I just think the word is short hand for, ‘thinking outside the box’ and of course is about balance – which is how it is interpreted in my Alternative Poetry Books series. Both Alternatives are present in my books to provide the Yin Yang harmony of wholeness. In this case the alternatives being the funny and the ‘serious’ poems.

    Sorry I didn’t turn up on Monday but things have been crazy bonkers, inside-out and standing on their head for me lately and I nearly forgot to turn up to the launch party of a book I actually contributed to & which Endaxi is extremely proud to have published – Sheena Ignatia’s Summer Shorts anthology.

    I came up with this as a tagline for it: Discover a world of excitement you never realised existed, by looking inside your Summer Shorts! So that is what I was doing on Monday.

    Maybe I am a bit sleazy after all … oops.


  9. The full transcript of the litchat session is here:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: