“We do what we want,” best-selling indie author Bella Andre said, pithily summing up the advantages self-published writers enjoy in the digital marketplace, on a panel this morning at the International Digital Publishing Forum at Book Expo America in New York City.
Plus, Andre said, “we’re evolving.”
Part of that evolution, according to Barbara Freethy, also a successful self-published author, will lead to a clearer distinction between the traditional and indie communities. For one thing, “authors don’t really like the term ‘hybrid,’” Freethy said, because it doesn’t reflect the actual business experience of working independently and with a publisher simultaneously.
For one thing, the marketing legwork publishers now require of authors consumes an enormous amount of time and focus. Hugh Howey, the self-published author of the best-selling Wool series and the Author Earnings reports, agreed with Freethy that putting one’s work in a publisher’s hands doesn’t always mean freeing up time to write. In fact, Andre even envisions some indie authors hiring COOs to help manage the many aspects of their businesses.
Working with traditional publishers doesn’t guarantee greater returns, either, Howey said. “I do far better on my print-on-demand self-published books than I do on my print books from a major New York publishers.”
So if the hybrid phenomenon shrinks away, what might the indie landscape look like in the near future? Here are a few predictions:
More self-published authors in print. “There are too many digital best-sellers…that don’t have a print outlet,” said Andre. Even the committed ebook readers at the source of indie authors’ success make few distinctions between who, or how, their favorite books are published, and many still want print copies of titles they read digitally. It’s only a matter of time, according to Andre, before the indie revolution sweeps into the print market.
More communal approaches to storytelling. As Howey put it, “storytelling is getting back to its roots” with fan fiction and social platforms like Wattpad allowing readers and amateur writers to influence the publishing process.
More content. Asked whether the rise of self-publishing is pushing too much content into the market for readers to consume, Andre replied, “There can never be too many books, come on!” Howey added that that point of view is a relic of an earlier period: “For an industry it looks like too many books, [but] there are never enough books that an individual might want.” The challenge for self- and traditional publishing alike is to reorient their business around that reality.
More, and more sophisticated, third-party vendors. Andre cited the difficulty vetting translators when it comes to licensing her books internationally. In response, a number of consortia are arising to help authors find good translators for their work. Freethy compared the impact of self-published authors on the digital market to to the gold rush: many of the those who made a lot of money, she said, were the ones selling shovels.