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Independent Publishing: The Wild Wild West!

Independent authors are the new pioneers.
“Go West, young man” became the mantra for the nineteenth century migration. Adventurous and bold men and women packed all of their belongings into a wagon and headed west with dreams of a better life. The mantra for the twenty-first century might well be, “Go independent, young man.” Only now that mantra applies to both young and old, and both men and women. The world of independent publishing is full of pioneers breaking trails and bushwhacking their way through the wilderness of eBooks and eBook promotion.

Amazon is selling more eBooks than traditional books.
Amazon, one of the largest retailers of books, reports since mid-year 2010 they have consistently been selling more eBooks than printed books. While industry analysts predicted that Amazon was likely to sell two to three million Kindle eBook readers in the year 2010, actual numbers are reported to be over eight million.

Amazon’s list of Kindle bestsellers is full of Independent Authors.
Amazon’s “Bestsellers in the Kindle Store” which lists the top one-hundred titles (and is updated hourly) is full of independent authors. As of this writing, Amanda Hocking, twenty-six-year-old indie author (as independent authors are often referred to) has a staggering five novels in this top one-hundred list (#37, #44, #57, #58, #60). Right now, one of her novels is higher in ranking than recent offerings from John Grisham and James Patterson. That fact alone is astounding, but the truly amazing part of the story is that Amanda Hocking’s first published novel appeared April 15, 2010. She currently has eight full-length novels and one novella available for purchase. Since April, she has sold over 900,000 copies of those nine books.

And she’s not the only one. Independent author Nancy C. Johnson’s novel, Her Last Letter, just appeared at #16 in the New York Times Bestseller Combined Print and eBook list. Independent author, Karen McQuestion wrote novels for years and despite some initial encouragement and a few close calls, never made it into traditional print. In 2009 she decided to publish one of her novels as Kindle eBook through Amazon. She currently has six eBooks available through Amazon and one of her books has been optioned as a film.

Die-hard book lovers are becoming converts.
My husband bought me a Kindle for Christmas. I did not want it. In fact, I was angry when I opened the present. Even with Oprah’s very public endorsement, I had held out. I wanted nothing to do with reading a “book” on an electronic device. You see, I love books—the look of them, the smell of fresh ink and leather-bound books, even the way they feel in my hands. I have a room just for books in my house. My own library with a leather couch and a fireplace. Just looking at those books on my bookshelf makes me happy. And in my lean years (pre library, leather couch, and fireplace), I bought used books for twenty-five cents at garage sales and Goodwill stores. 

In less than a month I had over one-hundred books on that unwanted Christmas present. I bought a purse that would hold my Kindle so it can always be with me, and I normally don’t even carry a purse! And this admission pains me a bit … but I have not bought one traditional book since Christmas. Not one. I would also be embarrassed to tell you how many books are on my Kindle now. Books published by traditional publishers and independent authors. Because now we are no longer living in a world of or but and. As more and more independent authors find their way into those coveted best-selling spots, the world of publishing will continue to morph.

EBook buyers are often voracious readers.
With the ease of buying and the possibility of having a huge library that takes up no more space than your eReader, readers are buying more books than ever before. Classics, often in the public domain, can be downloaded for free. Many other eBooks are available for ninety-nine cents. Three of Amanda Hocking’s novels are available at ninety-nine cents, as is her novella, and the remaining five are available for $2.99. Many authors promote their eBooks through promotions where the price of the book is dropped for a limited time. Such a strategy not only finds the writer a greater audience, but is also a great deal for the reader.

Art without edit. 
Artwork is not edited. No one stood behind Picasso and said, “You need to tighten up your work. Maybe drop an ear or two.” No one told Monet, “The public just isn’t interested in paintings with water lilies. Try something a little more mainstream.” No one suggested to Michelangelo, “If you made David a little more ripped, you might attract more attention.” Artists work without edit. They create a piece of work and it either stands or falls on its own merit. For the first time in modern history, the writer now has the ability to do the same. The writer no longer has to wait outside the gates of publishing, hoping to be let in by the gatekeepers—agents, editors, and publishers. Like the pioneers who moved west, the independent author is striking out and following a bold new path into a new frontier.

Some of our greatest books were rejected multiple times before being published. How many other great books never made it into print because their writers were discouraged and gave up after a few rejections? How long will it be before writers go directly into the route of independent publishing and sidestep the traditional publishers altogether? Before you tell me that will never happen, let me ask you how many twenty-somethings have a land line in their home? When you ask them if they have a land line, their answer is liable to be, “What for?” This just might be the same question many young writers begin to ask when considering the often discouraging, and always time-consuming route of submitting manuscripts to traditional publishing houses. “What for?”

As for this writer, I am hitching up my wagon and heading West.