In an article at CNN.com titled "If it's cool, creative, and different, it's indie," journalist Catherine Andrews wrote:
"The term 'indie' traditionally refers to independent art -- music, film, literature or anything that fits under the broad banner of culture -- created outside of the mainstream and without corporate financing."
According to the Independent Book Publishing Professionals Group:
Like other independent artists, many indie book publishers face challenges that the industry giants don't experience. We typically have to work a lot harder to get our books into retail stores (or our authors onto Oprah) and ultimately into the hands of readers. As Chris Anderson reports in his bestselling business book The Long Tail:
"More than 99 percent of music albums on the market today are not available in Wal-Mart. ... Same for any other leading retailer and practically any other commodity [including] books... The vast majority of products are not available at a store near you."
So what is indie publishing? Indie publishing is going outside the normal run of agents/big publishers and going it on your own. You can self-publish, or you can go with a small press that publishes your book but leaves you to do all the work to get it places. It means not having as much help getting your books onto bookstore shelves. But it also means literary freedom, to write what you want and to express yourself in a way that may not be as acceptable in the mainstream marketplace.
Many indie authors have gone the e-book route. You can find hundreds of e-books published by indie authors on Amazon. That doesn't necessarily mean they're all good. For every good e-book out there, you're going to find a dozen that needed professional editing or shouldn't have been published at all. But now, in the digital age, anyone can be a writer.
Linda Gillard, a successful indie author has this to say about measuring success as an indie author:
As indies, we too are in danger of being driven by commercial rather than artistic concerns. One of the reasons we might be tempted down that road is that practically the only way you can get taken seriously as a writer is by earning shedloads of cash or winning a big prize. There's almost an artistic imperative to be financially successful so that the world (or at least the media) will hear your message and appreciate your talent
Well, even though I have a lot of them, I'm trying to work out for myself if an indie author actually needs readers to be "successful". Success for me is saying what I wanted to say in the way I wanted to say it, then putting it out there in a format that's accessible even to those with a low income.
To be sure, I love the regular income indie e-books have generated for me but by my own definition I was "successful" the minute I uploaded the novel no one would publish -- the one my own editor said was "unmarketable" and "in dire need of a re-write".
Success for me equals creative freedom. I know plenty of allegedly successful authors who don't have that.
So what does define a successful indie author? I think that's for the author to decide themselves. Some feel they're successful if they just get their books out to a reading population. Others look at the money they make as what drives their success rate. It truly all depends on the personality and the goal of the author.
Is indie publishing better than traditional publishing? I can't say one way or the other. I can say it's different, and new, and change is often frightening for those who don't want the world to change. But I say let's open the world to everyone. Let's see what happens.