Tuesday, March 12, 2013

GUEST POST: The Future Looks Bright for Indie Authors by Kim Donovan

The Future Looks Bright for Indie Authors

Kim Donovan is an indie author and one of the co-founders of Electrik Inc, a collective of children’s writers in the UK involved in publishing their own books to a professional standard. She has an MA in Writing for Children from Bath Spa University. Kim’s series, St Viper’s School for Super Villains, was the first book to be published with an Electrik Inc logo.

I’ve been asked to write about my vision for the indie market. If I had a crystal ball, images of the rapidly changing environment and technological advances would be flashing before my eyes. We’re in a period of significant change. I’m sure if you asked a mainstream publisher or literary agent for their vision of the future
they’d have very different predictions. No one knows exactly how things will turn
out, but I do know that indie authors will be quick to adapt and will grasp new
opportunities as they appear.

Indie titles will continue to become bestsellers

We’ve all read about indie success stories: Amanda Hocking, John Locke, E. L. James and Colleen Houck to name a few. There will be many more. Independent authors have creative freedom to experiment, change direction and break the mould. Traditional publishers will increasingly look to the independent market for authors they can turn into mega brands, whose books are selling well or have a ready-made readership for them, for example on YouTube. Interestingly, Colleen
Hoover whose first two self-published novels were subsequently sold to Simon & Schuster has decided to self-publish her latest book. She says her experience with the publisher has been great, but she ‘loves the royalties provided through self-publishing and also the control.’ Wisely, she says she’s not discounting being traditionally published again (1). Hoover is a business woman and a writer – she’s right to keep her options open.


We only really hear about the jackpot winners but the reality is that the majority of unknown indie authors, like myself, have to work hard for every sale. The market is already saturated and I predict it will become even tougher to get new writers books noticed in the future. As Mark Croker, the founder of Smashwords says, ‘In the next few years, I expect millions of out of print books will come back to life as ebooks. Millions of writers will self-publish new titles. The virtual shelves of online
ebook retailers will expand to accommodate a limitless supply of ebooks.’ (2) The expression: cream will always rise to the top is relevant here. I believe more authors will join forces and form collectives, like Electrik Inc, to compete on quality. They may also purchase services together. All the indie writers I know are concerned with producing great books. I actually feel my work is under more scrutiny than the books of my traditionally published friends. Croker envisages there will be more professional editing and more professional design cover for everyone. There will also be more costs! At the same time, authors will also have to compete against those who are growing a readership by giving their work away for free.

In this information-overloaded environment, readers will seek out the work of writers they know will be a good read. I believe people will continue to pay for these titles. In a bookshop, a browsing reader might pick up an unknown author’s book, flick through a few pages, like the look of it and buy it. I don’t think anyone has ever bought my children’s series, St Viper’s School for Super Villains, purely from browsing the Amazon store. Sales have come from social networking, school visits, interviews with the press and readers talking about my book on review sites. This all takes a huge amount of time. I predict we’ll all be spending even more hours on marketing in the future.

Technological advances

There are mixed views on whether the paperback book’s days are numbered. Print lovers cite the slowing of ereaders as a sign that physical books are holding their own (3). Sales of ereaders have also been affected by the advent of tablets (4). Up until now, the children’s market has been somewhat resistant to digital books (5), but a recent report commissioned by Scholastic found that ebook reading is now on the rise among young people (6). For the foreseeable future, indie authors will continue to publish both physical and electronic books. The more formats the reading material is published in and the more platforms it is sold on, the more readers the writer can reach. It seems like almost every day one of my Electrik Inc colleagues sends me a link about a new development – interactive apps, adaptive ebooks for kids that have multiple levels of difficulty (7) the first 3D video-
supported ebook (8) . . . the list goes on. I envisage more indie authors working in partnership with developers in the future.

There is so much to talk about, but I’ll stop here. One of things I love about being an indie writer is how openly people share information and help each other. Go to any indie forum and you’ll find posts on all the issues that matter.

1) Kindle Direct Publishing Newsletter. 23rd February 2013. Volume 23.
2) http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mark-coker/2013-book-publishing-indu_b_2352895.html
3) http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323874204578219563353697002.html
4) http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323874204578219834160573010.html
5) http://digitalprinting.blogs.xerox.com/2012/08/markets-and-apps-e-books-vs-printed-ooks/#.USKF_vKd6e0%20http://
6) http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/14/ebook-reading-on-the-rise_n_2471366.html?utm_hp_ref=tw
7) http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/trade-shows-events/article/56000-toc-2013-startups-sharing-and-the-future-of-publishing.html
8) http://www.thebookseller.com/category/tags/e-book?page=1

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