Author’s Corner: The Indie Publishing Revolution

The Indie Publishing Revolution

As recently as ten years ago, it was a print-centric world. Printed books accounted for nearly all book sales and the traditional publishing houses controlled the means of production, distribution and sales, working strictly with agents who would screen manuscripts before they were sent anywhere.

The agents and publishers of the traditional houses decided which writers actually got published; which books would become available for the public to read; which authors would remain in print … and which would be allowed to publish another book.

They were essentially the bouncers of that world.

Agents screened the work, while publishers assisted authors with editing, print and digital production, translation, pre- and post-publication sales, distribution to retailers, accounts receivables and payments, promotion, tax compliance, sales reporting and analysis, merchandising support and more.

The brick-and-mortar book retailers placed additional constraints on opportunities for writers. There were 1,000 or more titles competing for every available bookstore space. This hasn’t changed very much. If anything, given the demise of many big-box retailers, there’s less shelf space now than ever.

Yet, ten years ago, the biggest challenges faced by writers weren’t dissimilar to the challenges every indie author faces today.

How do I make my books more discoverable to readers?

Self-Publishing Revolution

Author R.L. Herron

Author R.L. Herron

Amazon released the Kindle, its first e-reader, on November 19, 2007. It sold for $399 … and sold out in five-and-a-half hours. Established authors wrote most of the books originally sold for the new digital medium.

However, no longer stigmatized as vanity press, self-published books have taken off, up from essentially nothing a decade ago, as thousands of new writers have joined the indie-author movement. According to a recent (October 11, 2017) Bowker Report, almost 800,000 books were self-published in the U.S. in 2016.

Indies have been drawn by the advantages of self-publishing … faster time to market, complete creative control, pricing and promotion flexibility and the opportunity to earn royalty rates up to five times higher than traditional publishers pay.

Self-publishing has become big business.

Indie authors are now a major force in publishing, and I expect their influence to increase. However, as self-publishers, indies have had to assume responsibility for all the roles once fulfilled by traditional publishers.

Traditional publishers have managed to stay afloat in this worsening (for them) marketplace by shifting more and more marketing responsibility to authors. Therefore, if you want to be a writer, traditional or indie, you have to build a social platform to promote yourself.

Publishing Prediction

If you believe, as I do, that indie authors are the future of publishing, it starts to become clear some form of consolidation is inevitable, with traditional houses joining forces with self-publishing companies.

It has already begun, with traditional houses opening indie subsidiaries, and we’re likely to see increased merger and acquisition activity as large publishers recognize an opportunity to take advantage of the glut of indie writers to strengthen their portfolio and grow their businesses.

Despite the challenges, I believe there’s never been a better time to be a writer. Today, you have the freedom, knowledge and tools to chart your own course.

All you need to do in the meantime is write good books.

Next: The power of earned media.

About R.L. Herron

R.L. Herron, the author of multiple works of fiction, including several Readers' Favorite medal winners, lives and writes in Michigan with his lovely wife, and a finally-paid mortgage. His books are all available on Amazon and online with Barnes & Noble. Visit Author R.L. Herron's Website, Broken Glass.


  1. self publishing may not be vanity but paying for reviews most definitely is vanity

    • Most legitimate review organizations have a reading fee involved, but if the ranking of the review is affected by the monetary concern then it is most definitely vanity. “Readers’ Favorite” is one good review organization, providing unbiased reviews for free. They do have an annual contest that require an entry fee, but the review is separate from that. “Kirkus Reviews” is another legitimate review organization, used by all the major publishing houses. There is a stiff reading fee involved, but they publish the review whether it is good, bad or indifferent. Getting a good Kirkus Review is a fabulous achievement.

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