Sunday, April 19, 2015

Watching the Indie Revolution Unfold

As someone who self-published her first mystery in 1995 and the second one in 2008, I’ve been watching the indie scene with interest for some time. You might wonder why haven’t I continued self-publishing. Well, I landed a contract with a small traditional publisher in 2010 and they released four titles in four years. It was challenging to come up with enough material to write a book a year, so I have mixed feelings when I say that the arrangement is coming to an end. I’m looking forward to self-publishing again, but things sure have changed since 2008.

Even though, the indie revolution had already begun back then, my focus was on print books. I met a number of enthusiastic, intelligent indie authors on Amazon forums who were committed to writing and selling their books, and who supported one another. At that time, most of those authors were also producing print versions.

As you probably know, the revolution had grown  in leaps and bounds by 2010. Amanda Hocking became a household name in the writing world. I think Hocking’s very public success story inspired a rash of hastily put together novels with poorly designed covers, poorly written blurbs, typos, and terrible formatting. Yet ebooks were still selling. Readers were buying their first Kindles and filling them with inexpensive books. By 2011, I noticed that fewer authors were bothering to release their titles in print. Plenty of ebooks were selling for $.99, until the backlash came.

Lousy reviews of some ebooks appeared. Too many indie authors were spamming everywhere and wars of words sprang up. Blogs and articles appeared either supporting or trashing self-publishing. Over time, some readers wanted nothing to do with indie authors who relentlessly promoted everywhere. $.99 novels were now referred to as the $.99 ghetto, meaning if it was that cheap it had to be crap. Authors who didn’t care what anyone thought stuck to their guns. Those who didn’t want to be branded a ghetto author raised their prices. Those who were really serious about writing rewrote their books, or paid to have them professionally, or learned to write better books. And still the number of ebooks and new authors grew. So did the war of words, and emotion, and then something else happened.

The percentage of ebooks being sold started to level off. Amazon introduced Kindle Unlimited (a subscription service for customers who want to borrow books) which began to hurt some authors sales. The big publishers slowly figured out that lowering their ebook prices would make them more competitive with the indie contingent, and inexpensive promotion opportunities started to become more expensive, ie. Bookbub.

So, where’s the revolution at now? Well, it depends on who you ask as opinions vary. The indie world, while still new on many levels, is maturing, settling down, and adapting to customer demand for quality, inexpensive books. More indie authors are doing a better job with cover design, content, editing, and formatting. They’re learning that staying competitive doesn’t mean glutting the market with barely edited work. Effective marketing, promotion, and discoverability is still a challenge, but smart authors have learned that indie publishing is a long-term venture. Some of those who lack patience or a desire to improve their writing have moved onto other things.  Based on the author forums I visit these days, others are thinking about it.

The indie revolution is still underway, and for me it’s even more exciting. I look forward to jumping back in but not until I have enough quality work ready to share with the world.

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