If you are an avid reader, most likely, you are getting all your books either from some major chain store, like Chapters Indigo or Walmart, or your local library. But did you know that what you see at these places is a tiny fraction of all the books that had ever been written? Most stores distribute only books released by major publishers, such as Random House or Harper Collins. Thousands of titles get published by smaller presses every year, and millions become self-published. Some independently published titles make it to small bookstores and gift shops, but most of the time, their authors have to rely solely on Kobo, Amazon, and a few other online stores.
It doesn’t always mean that independent titles are of any lesser quality than those that have made it to New York Times bestseller lists. Many less popular titles are just as amazing as top bestsellers and deserve more attention than they actually get.
First things first, let’s clarify the terminology. By the term “independent,” I mean both self-published books and those released by small, independent presses. The reason why I decided to lump them into one group is because of the endless struggle many authors from both categories have to face.
The truth is, not everyone has patience for two hundred rejections. Some aspiring authors are lucky enough to get a contract from a smaller press. Many others turn to self publishing. Nowadays, tools for creating a professionally-looking book are available almost to anyone with basic computer skills. Platforms, such as Createspace and Lulu, make the entire process relatively easy.
Although many independent authors eventually do become successful, a stigma around the indie market still exists. Books produced without help of a substantive editor or a professional designer are more likely to have grammatical errors, unprofessionally-looking covers, and unconventional plots. However, I strongly believe everyone should at least consider buying an independently published title. Here are the main reasons why:
Terrible books exist both in indie and traditional markets.
You won’t believe the number of times I’d come across bestselling novels with plot holes and bad grammar. I’d even encountered an error-ridden classical title! I won’t mention the names because I don’t intend to offend anyone. However, this is true. Even the traditional market, no matter how competitive, isn’t perfect. Making errors is part of the human nature. Most of the time, editors and proofreaders will work hard to eliminate all mistakes and make sure the plot is top notch. However, there will always be an odd time when you’ll see a typo in print. Does it mean the author or the publisher doesn’t stand a chance? Not at all. It simply means there’s still room for improvement.
Indie books are more unique than mainstream books.
These books often don’t fit within the mass market for a reason. Since most publishers are on a tight budget, they can only afford to choose those titles that will appeal to large segments of the population. However, all people are different, and something that appeals to one person might not appeal to another. By exploring independently published titles, you have a higher chance of finding something that will appeal to you on a personal level.
Many independent authors are highly educated and are amazing at writing.
While MFA is not necessary for becoming a great writer, general education is always a bonus. Among independent authors, you’ll find many talented professionals from varying fields with an aptitude for creativity. Their writing style is often sophisticated, and their content is filled with interesting facts. Also, small presses are more likely to produce literary fiction and poetry, the two genres many big publishers shy away from.
Indie market is an amazing source for freebies and discounts.
If you haven’t heard about BookBub yet, you should definitely check it out. Every week, the web site lists hundreds of books available either on a big discount or completely for free. Authors of series often offer the first title at no charge in hopes readers will want to buy sequels. Oftentimes, they are successful. Getting a free book through BookBub or another similar platform doesn’t oblige you to anything and is a good way to figure out whether this particular author is right for you.
FINALLY… By buying an indie book, you’re helping someone to fulfill his/her dreams.
As I’ve mentioned, publishing world is tough, and getting a book out there is often half the battle. By buying a non-best seller, you are giving someone a chance to prove him/herself worthy to the world.
After reading the final point, you might be wondering why you should bother helping some stranger get more exposure for his/her writing. Well, let me reassure you that you don’t owe anything to anyone. So if you don’t feel like risking your fortune for some obscure book no one else is reading, you are not obliged to do so. However, you just never know what you might find if you look a little wider.
Over the past decade, I’d found myself enjoying music that had never been marketed in my area, connecting with characters from books few people know about, and listening to talk shows from overseas. With the world being so small and technology so advanced, you might always discover something less obvious but more fascinating.