In most cases, the word “independent” is considered a positive word. It evokes feelings of strength, intelligence, and confidence. But this isn’t necessarily the case when referring to independent artists. It takes a measure of courage in order to make your art available to the public. Whether you are a visual artist, musician, or writer, you always make yourself a little vulnerable through your work because you open yourself up to criticism more so than if you had the safety net of a producer or publisher. And sometimes, an indie artist is automatically criticized just for being indie.
Whenever something is created outside of the normal channels, it takes a while for it to be accepted. It isn’t judged based on what it is, but rather how it was created. In time, most people will begin to look at the art and forget about how it was made. But it does take time.
Some of the most popular movies ever made are independent movies. Ever hear of a little film called Star Wars? Sure, it was distributed by 20th Century Fox, but it was financed by its creator, George Lucas. Over time, indie film has become very popular with movie fans. In fact, many people like the story-telling in indie films over the big blockbusters that get the “Hollywood” treatment. Some are not fans of indie films. But, whether you like indie films or not, the decision is mostly based on the final film and not if the film was produced independently or not. In other words, independent films are now accepted as a valid art form.
The same is true with independent music. There are some amazing bands out there that are producing great music on their own. One of the draws to indie music is the discoverability factor. I can tell you from personal experience how much fun it is to hear something you really like that you’ve never heard before from a band you’ve just discovered. It’s fun to share your new discovery with your friends. Indie musicians have come a long way from being considered amateurs in a garage to selling millions of copies of their music. In other words, independent music is now accepted as a valid art form.
Independent writing is currently in the infant stage. There are groups of readers that enjoy the work of independent writers, but it is viewed as amateurish and below standard by most. Many people feel that, if you couldn’t get published by a traditional publisher, your book must not be any good. But, that’s not the case all the time. Sure, there are manuscripts that are rejected by publishing houses because the book just isn’t that good. A lot of times, the manuscript is rejected because it can’t currently be categorized in a popular trend. For example, when the Twilight movies were at their peak of popularity, it was hard to get a book accepted by a publishing house that didn’t include vampires. It sounds kind of shallow, but the traditional publishers are in the business of making money. If a particular type of story is selling really well, that’s the type of story they’re looking for. That being the case, publishers reject book submissions that are really good, but simply aren’t the type of story that is popular at the moment.
I’m an independent writer. I’m proud to be an independent writer. I get to write what I want and I know that what my readers get is exactly the story I wanted to tell. My work doesn’t go through the filters of a traditional publisher. Sure, I use an editor. But, I get to pick and choose the edits I want to incorporate into my work. I get to hire the artist I want and get exactly what I want for the book cover. I get to control the pricing and where my work is available. I’m in control of the marketing. There are perks to being published through a traditional publisher. They have in-house editors and cover artists. They also handle some of the marketing. I’m not saying that traditional publishing is bad. I read traditionally published books just like I listen to mainstream music and watch Hollywood movies. But, I also enjoy the freedom I have through indie writing.
I look forward to the time that independent writers are accepted just as indie filmmakers and musicians are. There are several indie writers that are making independent publishing more acceptable to readers. Hugh Howey, for example, published his popular Wool series independently. Wool was actually noticed by Hollywood and was optioned by filmmaker Ridley Scott. So, we may be seeing a Wool movie in the future.
If you are still a little leery of reading independent books, read the reviews on Amazon. Many times, we buys books by our favorite writers simply because they were written by our favorite writers. I’ll buy something written by Lee Child or Elmore Leonard without needing to read the description. But most of the time, especially with independent writers, we need to read the descriptions and reviews. Maybe you will read a description or review and decide the book isn’t for you. There’s nothing wrong with that. Just please don’t judge the book based on it being written by an indie writer. If you do, you may be be robbing yourself of a great experience with a great book.