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How Indie Publishing Compares to the Indie Music Scene

31 October 2013

From the Jessica Bell at the ALLi Self-Publishing Advice Blog:

Indie publishing already allows writers of all stripes access to the world’s readers.The industry has changed. A lot. It’s been forced into embracing the digital revolution, just like the music industry was.

Independent artists are everywhere now. And authors don’t self-publish because they’re too lazy to go through the slog of submitting queries to agents, or editing their manuscripts properly, or simply out of impatience to see their work in print, just like independent musicians aren’t too lazy to find a record deal. They simply have a different sound. Or they don’t want to be told by a record label what they should and shouldn’t record.

In a saturated market, where publishers/music producers have millions and millions of queries and proposals, independent artists are driven by self-belief and a passion that their work deserves a place.

. . . .

But the indie publishing scene still has quite a way to go to match the acceptance the indie music scene has acquired since the advent of Internet downloads and torrents. And to be honest, I still don’t understand why it is taking so long.

. . . .
1. Indie musicians thrive on the freedom it gives them to be more creative and produce music that is true to their own vision. This attracts listeners who are after something different than the mainstream.

2. Indie musicians do not define themselves by their label; they define themselves by the music they produce. They are their own brand.

. . . .

4. With the digital revolution, it’s more convenient to listen to samples online, and decide whether it’s something you really want to purchase. So there is no logical reason to complain that there is too much crappy music out there, because you can always sample before you buy.

Link to the rest at ALLi Self-Publishing Advice Blog


20 Comments to “How Indie Publishing Compares to the Indie Music Scene”

  1. I see that the battle of distinguishing between “indie” publishing and “self-publishing” is entirely lost. For me, those two remain two totally different things.

    • Or won, depending how you look at it. For me, there’s no such thing as “self-publishing.”

      I’m an independent author. I operate outside the corporate system (which isn’t actually “traditional.”).

      If PG won’t mind a link, I wrote about it here almost two years ago: http://willentrekin.com/what-im-talking-about-when-i-talk-about-indie/

      The fact is, as long as the “self-publishing” term is used, I think that old stigma is propagated. People say there’s less–or indeed no–stigma anymore, but I think that will only truly be the case when all publishing is simply publishing no matter who pushes the button to put the file on Amazon. When agents and editors and those in or associated with the corporate system have aknowledged the viability of what they call “self-publishing,” it always strikes me as being somewhat begrudgingly. And really, most have only accepted it so far as they believe they can profit from it.

      • So where do actual “indie presses” (small/non-Big5/6) pubs fit in now that you’ve taken over the term?

        Also, not sure how efficient is is to escape the “stigma” of indie by taking a term that’s essentially misleading. Looks almost like a) people want to “hide” behind the term or b) are ashamed of self-publishing.

        (I say that as somebody who’s self-published, small-press/indie-published, and published with one of the then Big-6 publishers, and each of those models had an advantage at the time, and I might use any of those to achieve a certain end.)

        • As I commented here last week, indie authors are essentially a small press of one. A tiny publisher whose list happens to contain solely the work of the author who founded it.

          I’m not sure what’s misleading about stating that one is independent of the corporate distribution system.

          You do know language evolves, right? Grammar and dictionaries are descriptive, not prescriptive.

          Congratulations on having so many options and opportunities. Not all authors get so lucky or get them. I’ve said before, authors can choose to press the button themselves, but only to pursue the corporate system (and derivations thereof).

          • I’m an Indie Author as well. I have a publishing business which publishes my books, only. It is not that self-publishing is meant to be a stigma, but the traditional publishers have made that name into a stigma, the way they use to say about Vanity published authors. In politics they use negative campaigning to discredit the opponents. In Real Estate the realtors call home owners who sell their houses on their own, FSBO (for sale by owner.) I and other writers did not create the stigma for self-pubs, the trad-pubs did, and I refuse to own that label.

        • There are indie authors and indie publishers. That’s the distinction. Authors tend to publish their own work and indie publishers tend to publish the work of others.

          It isn’t hard to distinguish between the two, and the term indie has been around a long, long time, used by many different endeavors.

          Indie contractor, anyone?

          • Indie authors are a subset of indie publishers whose list consists solely of their own work.

            All indie authors are indie publishers. Not all indie publishers are indie authors.

            There are a bunch of us who blur the distinction you mention. Off the top of my head, I’ve got Dave Eggers, Bob Mayer, Chris Meeks, and me. I have a feeling it will become more common.

  2. The similarity between musicians and writers is that both of the groups had to pass the gatekeepers to issue their creations to the consumers. The musicians escaped the gatekeepers when digital recording/playing was introduced. And now the writers see the same freedom with e-books.
    However, there is a difference between musicians and writers in the form of the medium by which the output is issued and received. The listening public did not argue that the smell of Vinyl, tapes, CDs is so much more comforting than the smell of MP3. Music is heard and when it comes from the most advanced and easiest to use device it is adopted quickly. For stories it is not the same. Stories are silent and they have to be deciphered (read) from a device, a paper book or a device for e-book. The cost for the e-Book reader is the obstacle. And it will take longer for readers to switch from paper books to e-readers, than it took for music listeners to switch from turntables, tape-decks, CD players to iPods.
    But it will happen.

    • I don’t think a kindle is any more expensive than an iPod. And after investing in a kindle, the cost is recovered quite quickly, since ebooks are generally a lot less expensive than physical books, especially hardcover. So, I don’t know if the cost of ereaders is really the issue.

      I agree the switch will happen, though, and is happening now. There will be a point of discontinous change, where bookstores start to close, and physical books are hard to get. I don’t think that day is far off, but it might still be a year or three.

    • Actually, I still use CDs because 1) I have a CD player so burning CDs is how I listen to my MP3s when I’m not on the computer and 2) because I want the lyrics. I hated CDs that didn’t include lyrics and pretty booklets before MP3s were even on the scene.

  3. Here’s why it’s taking longer: There is no equivalent of YouTube for indie publishers, nor do I think there ever can be. Books and music are two entirely different media. And though Amazon is great for indies, it’s not YouTube, and it doesn’t actively promote independent authors.

    If someone out there can figure out a way to promote indie writers the way YouTube helped promote indie musicians, well, there’s gold in them thar hills.

    • Isn’t that sort of what Wattpad is? I admit I’m not familiar with the Wattpad platform so maybe not, but that’s the impression I’ve gotten from mentions I’ve seen.

      • Yes, no, not really? Wattpad is just another iteration of the idea behind Fictionpress, which is the original fic version of Fanfiction.net, and Writing.com (formerly Stories.com). It’s online writing and POSTING vs. publishing. It’s a different animal, a different community, though admittedly the one I belong to, which is why I can speak from large readerships and feedback and word counts even though you’ll see only a handful of published books of mine on Amazon. I didn’t come out of this indie world; I stepped into when it commercialized and adopted the practices of the online writing community.

    • How does YouTube promote indie musicians? It seems to me people simply put their work up there and it either gets seen or it doesn’t. Now, YouTube certainly promotes mainstream musicians—like everyone else—but indies? Not so much. It’s the luck of the draw, just like books.

      • I think I wasn’t clear enough. Books and music are so completely different, that it’s difficult to compare the two.

        YouTube has the front page with the most popular videos. You can embed YouTube videos into any webpage. You can email a link to a video and your friend can hear/watch the entire thing in a couple of minutes. Books are long form. Music is short form.

        And I see that Lance has pretty much pointed out the most valid difference below. If you give away your book for free, you’ve given away your entire product–unless you write a series.

  4. Of course the real difference between indie-music and indie-writing/publishing(self-publishers, or whatever you want to call us) is that indie-musicians can give their music away for free to build up a fan base and then charge for concerts, t-shirts, special editions etc.
    In fact traditionally “giving” music away for free has always been how musicians develop a fan base. Nobody ever paid (directly) to listen to music on the radio, or watch music videos etc.

    Writers have to make money by selling their work.

    • True but some for example put up free work also. Kristine Rusch has a free story every Monday on her website. I think that’s far overboard for most people but free samples or occasional works can be teasers to bring in readers.

  5. IMO, the disruption of the music industry:

    Yesteryear – musicians staged live shows (tours) to promote a label released albums.

    Today: – musicians stage self- released albums on-line to promote their live shows.

    If my opinion makes sense does it relate to writing/publishing?

    Just curious.


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