Green dragon tiles on the roof of a Chinese pavilion.

A Peek into the Indie Writer World – Part I: What Does it Mean to be Indie?

If you’re invested in reading books or if you participate in the convention circuit, you may have heard the term “indie writer” gaining popularity. What is an indie writer?

The traditional publishing model generally follows these steps:

  1. Writer gets experience, submitting short work to magazines/websites and longer work to publishers who accept unagented pieces
  2. After acquiring three or more significant or professional publishing credits, the writer finds an agent to represent them (agents generally only manage longer work, such as novellas, novels, and screenplays)
  3. Agent may work with the author on editing their novel or novels
  4. Agent connects with publishers, submitting novels to acquisition editors likely to buy them (the larger the publisher, the more acquisition editors they have)
  5. Once a publisher offers to buy the novel, the agent helps the writer navigate and understand the contract; some aspects may be non-negotiable
  6. The writer receives an advance, this is an advance payment on expected royalties
  7. The publisher may pair the writer with an editor (some houses are cutting this step)
  8. Publishing and distribution is handled by the publisher
  9. The writer receives royalty checks if the work out-earns the advance
  10. The Publisher continues to work with the writer, rejecting stories that aren’t viewed as profitable and directing the writer to marketable stories, until either party finds the relationship a poor fit (though writers and publishers still need to honor the contract if it covers or includes multiple works)

An independent, or indie, writer has decided not to follow the traditional model of publishing. They do the writing, editing, cover selection, publishing, distribution, and marketing themselves. Since it’s critical to have a professional end product, indie writers need to be honest with themselves about what they’re really capable of. It’s a good plan to hire out the parts of this process they don’t have the training or skill set to truly accomplish. Many indie writers hire out the cover art or the book’s layout and design elements.

Print on demand (POD) technology has drastically changed the publishing landscape, evening the playing field for writers who want a different path.  I’ll cover more on how POD and various printing and distribution companies work in the writer’s favor in a future piece in this series.

Check out Part II of this series.

For more articles on writing, check out my Reflections From the Sol section.

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Author of adult and young adult speculative fiction (fantasy, science fiction, dark fiction)

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