This Is the Future of Book Publishing
Self-publishing emerged as a way for more authors to publish their books without endlessly querying the Big 5 publishers. Indie publishers operate as a middle ground for aspiring authors.
Historically, publishing a book has been possible through one of the selective Big 5 publishers, such as Penguin Random House or Macmillan, a boutique press or self-publication. Self-publication, the old-fashioned way, entails paying up front for thousands of books.
In the wake of Amazon and other platforms’ rise, a new self-publishing style emerged: print-on-demand. This new publishing option eliminated upfront payment options for publication, which caused a boom in authors publishing their work. New writers trying to make a name for themselves quickly inundated self-publishing platforms, such as Amazon’s KDP. Many of these authors lacked the knowledge of publishing-industry standards and marketing techniques to become successful. Because of this, many self-published books will never see a bookstore or get noticed by bloggers. The oversaturation of lower-quality self-published works means authors with high-quality work struggle to get noticed.
Despite the overcrowding in the self-publishing industry, some authors have successfully garnered the press’s attention and earned recognition for their work. These authors typically have a strong background in digital marketing and graphic design that allows them to create exciting graphics and social-media-engagement campaigns. Others who lack these skills but can afford to hire a digital-marketing expert also see success. Those authors who can do neither are left seeking a middle ground between self-publishing and endlessly querying an agent who may endlessly query the Big 5.
Independent publishers as a formidable middle ground
Independent publishers operate very similarly to the Big 5 publishers, but are often more open to diverse authors and genres. Usually, their publication catalogues offer a wider breadth of genres tailored more toward current trends and reader enjoyment instead of award-chasing. There are some genre-specific indie presses, particularly for the romance genre. Indie presses also generally operate on a smaller budget, but offer authors a higher royalty percentage, so authors receive income sooner than they would with a bigger publisher. Indie publishers often work directly with authors instead of with an agent. Like the Big 5, indie publishers are pretty selective of the work they choose to publish and usually have specific quality guidelines for publication.
Independent publishers versus vanity publishers
Independent publishers may sound similar to vanity publishers, but there are several key distinctions. One distinction lies in when the publisher earns revenue. Vanity publishers require authors to pay before helping with publication and marketing, whereas independent publishers share the book’s royalties after publication or offer upfront advances on royalties, just like bigger publishers. Independent publishers create more of a partnership with authors and develop a marketing and publishing strategy to ensure these authors succeed.
Another distinction is the role of the publishing company. Vanity publishers act as a go-between for the authors to help them find reputable editors and cover artists. They may help with marketing and distribution, but this responsibility often falls on the authors. The authors also bear the financial risk of publication, as they are paying the production costs. Independent publishers take on all the financial risk of publication but assist with marketing, distribution and book production.
Indie publishers amplifying marginalized voices: a case study
The first book I published was a self-publication, and I noticed it did not garner as much attention as I would have liked. So I decided to go through the traditional publishing process and queried over 100 publishers for my second book. I heard back from very few. It was published by an indie publisher, where I saw what was working and what could be improved in the publishing industry. I learned the publishing industry’s ins and outs and noticed a need for a company that focuses on diverse voices.
In 2015, I created an independent publishing company, GenZ Publishing, that caters to freshed-voiced, but often overlooked and underrepresented authors within the publishing industry. We focus on authors who pen stories around meaningful dialogues, such as overcoming adversity. Since its conception, GenZ and its YA imprint, Zenith, have published over 115 books, including #OwnVoices LGBTQ+ and disabled books. In addition, our marketing team helped many of our books reach the Top 100 list in their respective categories on Amazon.
I like to say that our authors make a positive impact on the world one word at a time. Through our books, we would like to make that a literal reality. That’s the power of independent book publishing.
The future is diverse
Diverse, inclusive books are crucial to create positive change in the world, and traditionally underrepresented authors in the publishing industry deserve a chance to showcase their writing talents. Independent publishers are the starting point to ensure these stories are read, enjoyed and consumed by the public. Over the last several years, more indie publishers focusing on marginalized voices emerged.
Reading is as essential now as it ever was. Book readership has increased by 30% from the previous year, and people are routinely seeking new stories to capture their attention and test their beliefs. As a result, independent publishers must continue forging partnerships with traditionally underrepresented authors and marginalized voices and select those who create new perspectives and essential dialogues for people to digest and learn from.
With more readers feeling seen and heard, it’s no wonder readership is up. Independent publishers are the future of publishing for a world in which everyone can be a reader.
Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor