A Plea For Indie Authors

By Rob Keeley

So, indie authors: we’ve all been there. You’ve carefully written your masterpiece, seen it through the editorial process and into print or electronic form. You’ve worked with your publisher on the cover or sourced one yourself, written the blurb and your author bio. You’ve researched your market thoroughly, know your target audience and have set the cover price. In short, you’ve done everything a traditionally-published author would do; creatively, perhaps even more. You’ve started to build a profile for yourself. Maybe you’ve got five-star reviews on Amazon, book trailers with numerous hits on YouTube, even been listed for awards. You’re holding signings, workshops and readings of your work. You’re a success.

And then someone asks the fatal question.

“Are you self-published?”

Always with the polite distaste you might use to ask about a second-hand garment at a jumble sale. Oh, “self-published”. That ghastly phrase. It has all the connotations of amateurishness and “done in the shed”. Most unfairly, as there are some brilliant self-publishing companies, including the one I use. But I’m not surprised that so many of us prefer the terms “independent publishing” or “indie author”. As soon as the phrase “self-published” is uttered, all our achievements seem to crumble away. We seem to be second-class citizens, no-hopers in the eyes of the literary world. Don’t believe me? Go online. Look at how many awards exclude “self-published authors”. Look at how many directories refuse to list us. For those using indie publishers it’s a complete misnomer anyway, because we don’t handle production ourselves. We have production and marketing staff every bit as talented as those employed by big commercial publishers, and the only difference is that we authors pay for their services. Is there any other area of business where putting capital into one’s own projects attracts such a stigma?

Times are changing, thankfully. More doors are opening to us. There have been some phenomenal indie author successes in print and eBook form. But many of us still seem to drift along in moderate success, trying to get an agent to recognise us as part of a talent pool. Weirdly, the fact we’ve gone it alone seems to be taken as an indication of failure, despite all evidence to the contrary. More than once I’ve been told my work isn’t something a particular agent could sell, even after it’s been selling successfully for over five years! As a children’s author I’ve done school visits, lit fests, been longlisted for two awards, highly commended for a third and nominated for the People’s Book Prize. Yet sometimes I seem to have no greater literary profile than when I was an unknown, sending spec submissions by post.

So: can I turn this into an appeal? Not just for myself, but for all the unrecognised indie authors out there. Agents, trad publishers, please: give us a chance. Let us prove ourselves to you. Talk to us, give personalised feedback, tell us what you want. And then allow us to give it to you, and to the world.


Rob’s latest novel for children, The Sword of the Spirit, was published by Matador Books (Troubador Publishing Ltd) in July 2016. For more information about Rob and his work, visit www.robkeeley.co.uk or Twitter @RobKeeleyAuthor.

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