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There is credibility in being an unknown, self-released musician; being a self-published writer, simply, there is not. I apologize ahead of time for the following generalization and also the following corporate-marketing cliche: indie books need Millennials in order to be cool. OK, so that sounds as horrible to you as it felt to me, writing it, so let me revise to something a bit more substantial and less corporate-speaky: indie books need (or if not need, would definitely benefit from) the same sort of connoisseurship culture that has defined ‘indie music’ for the last 15 or 20 years.
Independent musicians, and now not-technically-indie indie bands on major records labels, can safely depend on a whole subculture of music trading and discussion to help propagate their music, a subculture which is for the most part cultivated by people in their twenties and early thirties. It is essentially impossible to say just how many independent musicians exist in the United States, just as it is essentially impossible to say how many independent, self-publishing writers there are, but it is fair to assume, I think, that both numbers are big numbers; that there is more ‘indie’ in general than anyone can even begin to listen to or read, and that both indie writers and indie musicians must try to impress internet gatekeepers to gain an audience.
The difference is simply that musicians have a better shot at this; that while most indie musicians languish in obscurity, just like most indie writers do, indie music seems to be more flourishing, varied, and respected than indie publishing.
The same, however, cannot be claimed against indie music: some of the biggest acts in indie music over the past decade—The Arcade Fire, Animal Collective, and Bon Iver—have all received consistent critical acclaim and adoration, and deservingly so in my opinion. One of  the claims—or rather, the claim—made against indie publishing is it simply fails to produce writing deserving of serious consideration, but there’s really very little proof for or against this claim. Simply put: the indie music community is more daring because the culture of indie music itself—a culture that comes with a diffuse but huge network of indie music writers—values artistically serious and daring recordings. Like What You're Reading?Subscribe for the latest indie book reviews and news, features, tried-and-true author advice and exclusive promotions, delivered to your inbox. Matthew Gasda's first novel "Moon on Water" is now available through online retailers and by order at bookstores everywhere.
I am a fiction writer who is an indie publisher and is writing a book on music collecting, so I have lots of thoughts about this issue. And that, I think, is the real reason that the trad world and all their sales-spinning critics, etc, hate us so much. The original piece and the comments preceding this one have fairly stated the predicament of most self-published authors, so I’ll add just a few words to sharpen the point.
None of this is meant to suggest that we ought to give it up, this maybe-quixotic project of publishing our best work ourselves.
I think it’s the fact that I hold books to such high standards that so many indy writers look so bad to me.
I would be thrilled to have a pile of blogging websites about indie writers and books, if the indie authors were anywhere near as brilliant as the indie film writers on depth and character development.
I think there might be a problem in the medium itself as text of any form is a primary focus medium.
This ridiculous comment helped us find a bug in Disqus that was sending emails to us, but then not showing the pending comments in our Disqus panel. I think the solution again, is the same one proposed here: the building of indie book communities.
Here are just a few examples of recent designs from the Keep Calm-o-Matic creative community.
All I am saying is that while indie music isnt particularly well at the moment, it certainly isnt dead and independent music makers and record labels have been responsible for the majority new music that has been created over the past 20 years. Thankfully not all genres got taken over by the majors, although you’d be surprised just how many hard-core club imprints, say, EMI has.
There’s never really been a question of the independents being the DRIVERS of this industry. What is NOT well is the MAJOR industry and the trickle down deleterious effect it has on the music scene as a whole.
As I said before, the majors almost entirely stopped innovating musically and it goes back to the 80’s. Not to leave you with only one side of the argument, however, today’s majors are the inheritors of policies instigated by their predecessors. But… any new thinking and breakthrough ideas will almost certainly have to come from the outside. People review, Facebook, Tweet, and old-fashioned talk about new music in person; independent DIY bands relying on Bandcamp are celebrated for their independence, and music connoisseurs are genuinely proud of discovering new and totally unknown artists. The difference between indie (which is functionally synonymous with ‘internet’) music culture and book culture, however, is that while there is a huge cultural digestive system prepared to process and categorize the constant release of new music, there is nothing analogous for new indie books.


There is credibility, it is cool—or at least can be—in being an unknown, self-released musician; being a self-published writer, simply, there is not. Hermetic and authentically original acts with almost no initial mainstream appeal have managed to branch into major artistic (and commercial) figures. A Google search of indie book reviews yields a relative pittance of hits, given the fact, that you, Google searches the entire internet. While a self-released musician still faces immense challenges promoting and selling themselves, there are millions of music fans who go online every day hoping to discover a great new artist. We are used to thinking that’s way too many books in the universe, but the number of bands (and recordings by a band) are exponentially higher than the number of authors or books.
I do believe that there are inherent differences in the two art forms that dictate how well they can be marketed through social networks and buzz.
But I can say from personal experience and observations of my fellow authors that the conclusions made here are not accurate.
It has been a life-saver for me (another story, another day), to be able to self-publish my first novel, and it’s going to save me again in a couple months when I publish my second. My husband runs a music blog where he features only unsigned submissions and I’m a book blogger, so I can definitely see the difference in the way we approach what we feature on our sites.
My husband can go through a string of 10 e-mails in 15 minutes, playing a 30 second clip of a song before mumbling something about not reading the blog or getting excited about a new discovery. Indie musicians, as a subset of the music industry, tend to be younger and more apt to use social media. So living rooms, couches, coffeeshops, university libraries: sub literary ecosystems have to evolve into publishing and marketing enterprises.
It was a huge help, and it resulted in us finding a few other comments that had met the same fate as your original comment, which you’ll notice is now showing below.
You can access more indie music than you could ever need (or want) and more importantly, you can do it largely for free or very cheap. Click through to see more designs, create your own, share designs and purchase customised products. Not by much, but at least you won’t be playing into the public prejudice of independent=poor-quality vs major=officially-sanctioned-and-good. Indie music was and is called that because the labels when the genre was first mentioned were indeed independent. Even if you go back to the early 90s a lot of bands were on indie labels but then they got bought and became mainstream, like you say.
For that reason, each city in the UK is renowned for a certain sound that is played by local bands, some of which get big! Any style under the sun is beautifully represented by hordes of hungry and exceptionally well prepared indies.
I know many top people in the major companies and they’re good folks with an impossible mission. A site like Pitchfork, for instance, breathlessly reviews small and no label (along with major label) acts every day–and there are hundreds of websites emulating Pitchfork, and thousands and thousands of blogs who feed on the scraps and sawdust of the bigger music sites.
The reason this happens, I’m trying to suggest, is that indie music has an anarchic, yet dependable structure for filtering its own content—and more importantly, because serious music fans have genuinely—and this happened a long time ago—turned against most of the major label output. This means that right now, indie publishing is stuck asking potential readers to buy books on faith, while indie musicians can genuinely turn to an entire cottage industry of bloggers and journalists to establish that faith for them. There is no comparable willingness to discover, as far as I’m aware, among readers, who are already, I suspect, less numerous than music fans to begin with.
We should not forget, however, that Eisler built his reputation (and that very enthusiastic fan base) by publishing many of his John Rain novels the old-fashioned way.
Without self-publishing, both manuscripts would be sitting, as someone said, in a desk’s dark drawer. It takes a lot more than three minutes to read the first few pages of a book and to make up your mind if the rest of the book is worth reading.
I love music for its simplicity, but I think a book, once a reader invests in it, can change your life in the way a song can’t. I’ve been banging this drum (nailed that metaphor!) but never so articulately as you.


Launching books from laptops is not enough because a love of literature, manifested socially, is an inperson social phenomenon!
This might sound like not very much, but compared to the glut of free, tastable, tangible indie music, it starts to add up. But let me just leave you with this hint: if you have the funds for it you can hijack not only a popular term. Among the major differences, and one of the major reasons indie publishing doesn’t have the same ‘filtration system’, is that serious readers don’t believe that there’s anything worth filtering in small and independent publishing. The consequence of this, is that many musicians feel empowered—and rightfully so—to simply reject major label attention, while most writers are absolutely desperate for a ‘Big 5’ contract. So what one is forced to wonder, is how many legitimately good novel manuscripts are being kept in desk-drawers (or Google docs) for the day when an agent will magically rescue them from obscurity?
The prevailing zeitgeist of indie-pub culture seems to be, “Isn’t it just a hoot, this sport of knocking out novels! I do love when great small presses pop up on my radar, it feels like things start to shift a little.
I was inspired by my novel Loser’s Memorial on the Alice in Chains heavy metal song, Rooster. They can use social media to present clips, videos, etc, of songs, which, as others have pointed out, are brief and require less commitment from a viewer.
You might hear a song by an indie band for the first time on spotify or last.fm or in a YouTube-Playlist or on an obscure USB-Stick a friend has left at your appartment after the last party. Downloading an album or going to a local indie show usually falls into the range of $1-$15. But finally and most importantly, the vast majority of the rest will have no idea what you’re talking about. All that happened is the majors thought they could make money from indie bands and so started signing them up. It is impossible to know, but one can be sure that if the indie reading community looked more like the indie music community, that number would be much smaller. Dumitru laid out the biggest challenge – we can hear a band quickly, effortlessly and know if we dig them.
You might hear it for the first time while you work, on your way to a friends house or cleaning your windows. On the other hand, they can provide a lot more value for your buck (in terms of entertainment per minute) than music does. Unearthing indy writers takes more work though we’re published in journals and do events in our own communities. Like it or not, there is still a stigma attached to being self-pubbed unless the author has a significant backlist. And for those of us a little older, it is really hard to get our audience to spread the word via social media, or in many cases to even use it at all. Set up more readings or story slams and create an underground network so we can crash on couches and meet writers in other towns across the country. Major publishers, while they have made mistakes, are still more likely to offer a wide range of reading voices, subjects and genres.
Lastly, why isn’t there a kickstarter site for writers who have a novel in the works?
In addition, the music industry never had the chutzpah to send up talking heads to lambast the Indie Movement in print and media, non-stop, while the Publishing Gatekeepers have been bad-mouthing self-published work for a hundred years to cement themselves as sole authority on quality. Indie writers have a much bigger hill to climb than the musicians who want to put their music out to the market. At this point, they are NOT willing to change their draconian terms (giving you 25% of 70% royalties on most sales, for example).
Every time my agent tries to sell a book to them, I end up making more within two months than what the Big 5 offered me for it.



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