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Indie: Publishing Rides the Waves

When an artist decides to guide his or her own destiny and become the pivotal force in releasing their art, only good can come of it, right?

You’d think so, but for years, those in the publishing world would have both authors and readers believe not. You’re not a real author unless you have a real contract with a real (New York) agent, who has finagled you a real deal with a real Big Publishing House. The old guard would have you believe that a self-published book is a cheap, vain plea for attention, not worthy of an honored place on your bookshelf or in your Kindle.

So why the bad rap, especially when it comes to books? Independently produced film and music has been the pulsing to its own beat and rotating around its own orbits for years now. When Hollywood or New York deemed a project too dicey, too out there, or too expensive, the rock and roller or budding film producer scraped up their own funds to showcase their art on their own. In fact, the tradition of independent film has been around since the dawn of movies.

As for music, such labels as Sun and Rounder Records were launched as an alternative to the major record producers. Now, with the Internet, nearly anyone can become a singing sensation. Who could forget this earworm of a song, independently produced, that went on to viral popularity?

I’m a writer, and my dream is to become published. Of course, it would be nice if I were discovered a la Hollywood and Vine. I would be plucked from a writer conference crowd after a frenzied round of agent speed dating, or my stellar query letter would somehow rise to the top of the slush pile and everyone from mailroom boy to assistant to agent to editor at a Big House would fall madly in love with my manuscript. The rest, including fame and huge advance, would be history.

Wake up from the dream, writers! Sure, your project might land you an agent. If your book is outstanding, maybe even a great agent. If your book is mildly entertaining, maybe a really hungry agent meaning to make a name for herself.

As with film and music, the hard facts of writing are these: The competition for the traditionally landed work of art is fierce. Slush piles have become the slush Rocky Mountains. There are lots of good stories coming out of tons of good story tellers, and with the Internet, the stories are spilling out faster and faster. It’s a brand new age. Self published doesn’t equate to vanity pressed. Sometimes indie is the only way to go.

One only has to look at Brokeback Mountain, a great Annie Proulx story and a fabulous movie, but not mainstream enough for a Big Motion Picture company to produce. It had to go indie. Likewise, there’s a lot of good music out there. Had punk or grunge not found an alternative creative outlet, we might not know the Ramones or Pearl Jam. And if young adult fantasy author Amanda Hocking hadn’t the need to make $300 for a trip to Chicago, she wouldn’t be the sensation she is today.

Why Go Indie?

There are many good reasons to consider going indie, and some of them have nothing to do with the writer’s narcissistic bent:

An unusual story. Perhaps you have a good, solid story, but it doesn’t fall within the general purview of a specific genre. In my case, Virtually Yours, soon to be e-released, is contemporary and would appeal to women, especially those in the “mature” woman category; i.e. one-time sassy chick-lit readers now moms (which is why I call my particular story ‘mom-lit’). There’s some mystery involved, but it’s light hearted — definitely not a thriller. My novel is a beach read, not literary fiction. But it’s not a true romance, even though there’s plenty of love involved. While there is a potential for hook up at the end, the story concludes without anyone under the sheets… yet.

Unfortunately for me, agents are geared toward representing one genre or a set of them. If your book, like mine, is in a crossover genre not easily defined, you might find yourself fighting an uphill query battle, your email inbox full of rejection letters.

About Joanne Huspek

I write. I read. I garden. I cook. I eat. And I love to talk about all of the above.