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Why Indie and Self-Published Authors Matter

July 14, 2014

Indie and self-published authors matter yet are often ignored as viable players in the publishing industry. We matter to the big publishers and retailers because we are groundbreakers, innovators, creators and consumers. From our ranks you will find the next Hugh Howey and Amanda Hocking.  We matter to readers because from our books they will find their next favorite author and can’t-put-down series.

Yet, it is nearly impossible as an independent or self-published author to get our books into a Barnes & Noble store, even if we offer the maximum discount and the books are returnable. Some independent bookstores even refuse to stock our books. We seem to be given no thought in the current battle of the Goliaths, Amazon vs. Hachette Book Group, and in the mergers of the big six (now down to five, soon to be four?).

But we matter because we are the backbone of the publishing industry. We are old and young, workers and retirees, rich and poor, and we are readers. We write in all genres, and in different voices.  We write really good books and some really bad ones too. While we are making the publishing industry stronger by creating (mostly) friendly competition, by giving readers more choices, and by creating new genres (fan fiction anyone), we are also buying books. We matter because we know what this is really about: creating enticing fiction and non-fiction that pleases readers.

We matter because we are the brick and mortar of the publishing industry. Without us, Amazon wouldn’t have a market to play hardball with Hachette. Without us, traditional publishers and agents wouldn’t be culling Amazon to discover the next successful indie or self-published author to lure to the traditional publishing world.

Eliminate the farm workers and there’d be no tomatoes and cucumbers at our supermarkets. Remove the 12th man from the Seattle Seahawks and perhaps they would not have won the Super Bowl. Do away with independent authors and self-pubbers and say good-bye to diversity in our reading choices.

We’ve already had a world where readers were limited to authors chosen by a few publishers, and from that world the indie movements began.

For the most part our novels do not sell like Jodi Picoult’s, and it’s unlikely our books will be made into movies like Divergent and The Fault of Our Stars. However, from our ranks will come the next big thing.

Most of us who are indie and self-published authors work hard at our day jobs, write diligently when we have the time, and gather to discuss our writing and the industry. Many hold the hope that one of the big publishers will pick them up. I hope it happens. I really do. But for those that it happens for, and for those who have already made the leap from the indie to the traditional world, I hope they never forget their publishing roots.

And to the bookstores and the large and mid-sized publishing houses, don’t discount indie and self-published authors. Listen to the people who make your bottom line: the readers. They already know what you have yet to learn: we matter.


Joanne Lewis is the author of murder mysteries and historical novels such as Forbidden Room and The Lantern. Visit her website at and email her at


  1. leanlulu permalink
    July 14, 2014 6:49 am

    One thing that might help is raising the caliber of self-published books. So many are just plain awful—rife with grammatical errors, lacking in plot. in a sense the self-pub world has lowered the bar. Sad to say, but true.

  2. leanlulu permalink
    July 14, 2014 6:50 am


  3. Lauren permalink
    July 14, 2014 8:27 am

    I’m sorry. This post is nonsense.

    There are a few success stories in sef-publishing. Very few. The vast majority of self-published books are an embarrassment for their authors and for every writer who strives for quality. Those are the books that show little regard or knowledge about the craft of writing, editing and book design. Those are the books that are not only self-published, they are self-edited, and self-designed (or a friend or spouse helps). They scream amateur. I’m tired of these books with their awful writing, poor editing, and cheesy covers being pushed ad nauseam in every writers group one can join. (Most self-published authors have no idea how to market, either, and they think that pushing their books on their fellow writers is a great idea.) I am heartsick that they join the ranks of books that actually deserve to be published.

    The blog writers suggestion that this junk is the “backbone of the publishing industry” would be hilarious if it weren’t so sad. There is a REASON why self-publishers “are often ignored as viable players in the publishing industry” and she is either oblivious to it or doesn’t recognize it as a problem. Please let’s not pretend horrible self-published books are not part of the image problem.

    If there are good self-published books out there, they swim in a sea of trash.

    I don’t believe that the future of publishing depends on self-publishing. (God help us, if it does.) I believe the future lies with small indie publishers who still gatekeep and care about quality. Quality writing, quality editing, and quality book design. To cheerlead any lesser effort is big mistake.

    • July 15, 2014 12:54 pm

      I agree to some extent, but I don’t understand the combativeness. Yes, I’ve seen some horrific self-published books. The problem is that anyone and their brother, sister, or 2nd cousin thrice removed can self-publish. Which means, that not everyone who self-publishes is an actual writer. Some people just think they have a great idea for a story, write it down, and then upload it to amazon for e-readers. However, most writers/authors who self-publish, the ones who love and hone their craft, actually pay money for editors and/or cover designers. IOW, a real writer who loves their work would be embarrassed to self-publish the trash referred to here. I believe those hard-working self-published authors are the ones this blog poster is referring to, not the hacks. It’s unfortunate that the good ones get grouped in with these people who aren’t really writers and dismissed as hacks by such a comment as this one.

  4. Anya permalink
    July 14, 2014 9:01 am

    I’m glad people are finally agreeing to pull back the curtain and see the little man at the machine. Most self-pubbed books ARE an embarassment. You can’t even trust the reviews on Amazon as people are offering their books for $0.00 and bartering for good reviews. I’m currently reading one of these $0.00 books and I’m not sure how I’m going to handle the review. The book is comical, and not in a good way.

    • Lauren permalink
      July 14, 2014 10:41 am

      Anya: So true. I am long past believing any review I read on Amazon for a self-published book.

      The other day I read a bad review on Amazon. The author had replied defensively to it, and he and the reviewer had a to and fro argument about it over several posts, thereby guaranteeing that the negative review would remain visible. Another “smart” marketing move by an author ignorant of the basics.

      As a writer, and a booklover, I am truly offended by the efforts of self-publishers that demonstrate their disrespect for the writing profession and the reading public.

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