The Importance Of Indie Books With Indie Reader Amy Edelman

Earlier this week, I defined what I think an indie author is and in today’s interview we further explore what indie books are. In the intro I discuss how my next novel Prophecy is going as well as some of the takeaways from the #FutureBook conference that authors will find interesting.

Amy Edelman is the author of 3 books and the founder of, the essential guide to self-published books and the people who write them. She has also started the Indie Reader Discovery Awards.

In this interview, we discuss:

  • How Amy got started with her own books. She had an agent but originally self-published The Fashion Industry Resource Book and then The Little Black Dress, a fashion history book, was published by Simon & Schuster. “It was the best of times and it was the worst of times” in terms of experiences with traditional publishing. Amy has also written a memoir/novel but her day-job has been PR & marketing.
  • She started Indie Reader after reading about the state of self-publishing and the growth in the market. There are obviously good books to be found but traditional publishing houses weren’t picking them up. Branding an entire category of books as ‘not worthy’ seemed short-sighted especially based on the success of indie film and indie music, so indie books were just waiting to happen. Indie books needed to be branded in a way so that the book lover could see that incredible books are available but in a separate category. It’s different but not inferior.
  • The site is designed as more of a consumer guide to self-published books. The main goal is to be a Rolling Stone magazine for indie books. It’s not just mainstream fiction but also art books, comics and lots of other types of books. Indie is a wide field full of people who are creating.
  • Indie is really about control. You get to decide what you want as the cover and how you market it. People should feel empowered. Traditional publishing does offer new authors a lot but it isn’t the fantasy of huge advances and book tours, fame and fortune. A lot of indie authors are working very hard and doing the PR & marketing themselves, taking the risks themselves.
  • An indie book is when an author has published it themselves. The book can’t have been published before as that means a lot of help has already been given. A traditionally published author with a new indie book is still indie.
  • Has the stigma of self-publishing gone away yet? People couldn’t tell you who publishes the books they read, they don’t care but they would still decide it was bad if they knew it was self-published. Claiming the word ‘indie’ is better as ‘self-publishing’ as a term is forever tainted. Within the ‘indie’ group there are also lots of differences – there are writers who understand you need editing, it helps if you have a great cover – there are certain things you need to do, not just write. The quality is unbelievable for those indies taking it seriously.
  • Great indie books are the same as any other type of good book. Indie Reader is looking for books that aren’t the same as traditionally published books but there are also a lot of books that could be found on any bookstore shelf. There is quality across the board. Good writing, strong characters, imaginative story is the same whatever. IndieReader is aiming to aid discovery of great books that others might not know about.
  • Readers don’t know anymore who is publishing the book. The consumer doesn’t know or care what is indie. The NY Times list contains indie books but they seem not to notice.
  • Media don’t cover self-published books as there is no money in it. Traditional publishers advertise so it comes down to money. Mainstream media need the dollars. But the consumer wants a good book.
  • On the Indie Reader discovery awards. The thing that makes the competition stand out are the judges who are the top people in the industry including agents, publishers, book reviewers. The important thing is discoverability and this gives authors a chance. Most indies are interested in a traditional deal, they want to be offered it even if they wouldn’t accept it.
  • On discoverability and marketing. It’s so hard to get attention. Even if you get some really big media, it might not result in sales. It’s important for everything to look professional and you need to have author contact information available. There’s lots of things that aren’t worth paying for, like a book trailer. It doesn’t cost anything to build a large twitter or facebook following. You can’t just be a writer anymore, even if you’re traditionally published. You need to be a business person and a PR person as well as a writer these days.
  • Not every writer can be as prolific as John Locke. It’s a different kind of success than a literary novel that takes a lot of years with no backup novel coming up soon after. The multi-book model doesn’t work for everyone. You need to define your own success. I talk about meeting the financial amount that I would have got (potentially) as an advance but I made it my way. As an indie, you end up with a book that is all your vision. There is no bad genre. It’s about what book lovers will enjoy.
  • Amy talks about how she has discovered the Kindle recently and how the next 6-12 months will take ebook reading mainstream as it reaches a market who may have been resistant before. Print books won’t go away but ebooks will continue the march onwards.

You can find Amy at and on Twitter @indiereader.

You can find the Indie Reader Discovery Awards here.

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  1. Doug Lance says

    What a wonderful episode! This podcast gets better every time.

    Amy and I have spoken about “indie” branding before. And I think it is something that is very important for the indie movement as a whole. I’ve been trying to organize people to get together with my magazine and shake up the system a bit. I think 2012 will be the year of the indie.

    My magazine is switching to a royalty payment system, where authors will get a percentage of sales (forever, like a book) so that there is some incentive for authors to work together. I think that a system like that will help authors organize and work together in a grass-roots fashion to brand “indie fiction”.

    I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again. What we need is a break-out indie rockstar to go mainstream and shine the spotlight on the whole indie movement.

    • says

      Hi Doug – I think Hocking & Locke et al have made indies more prominent, now we just need more evidence of quality as well as mainstream fiction. I also think indie books need a better branding, for example, there’s an indie film category on iTunes so why not indie books?

      • Doug Lance says

        The indie music scene started when the iPod became popular. Indie film scene started when digital distribution of film became practical. The Kindle (and other ereaders) are now in the hands of the youth. Writers have zero distribution cost, which was the catalyst for the other digital industries to go mainstream. I think it will happen in time, but not until there is that one big breakout, rockstar hit. Think Harry Potter big. In the next ten years, I think that one of the big book series will be indie and be on the Kindle. That’s when the brand of indie will be established in the minds of the mainstream. Before that, there is no way to reach the masses, unless maybe we could raise capital to get a SuperBowl/World Cup ad spot? Haha…

        • says

          Great post Joanna. And Doug, I can’t help thinking that with music and film that the breakout acts are ones who got famous enough with their social media marketing and digital sales that they went mainstream. I’m thinking of Arctic Monkeys and Owl City who made it online then used that success to get mainstream deals. They remain online savvy but they are very much not indie anymore. I can’t think of a good example in the movie business, closest I can get is Robert Rodriguez, who again started out doing his own thing and while he retains the means of production in his own hands he is very much playing with the big boys now. Amanda Hocking broke her career online but since her success got a book deal. Do Indie people always end up signing with major studios, labels and publishers, or do some of them stay Indie? I think that’s what we really need, Indie artists who stay Indie even after they get famous and successful.

          • says

            Hi Phil, a number of traditionally published authors are going indie with some of their books – Barry Eisler being one and of course JK Rowling has started her own company for Pottermore – hardly an indie in one sense of the word but she has the ebook rights and is creating a whole new world for fans.
            John Locke has also stayed indie – he only signed a distribution deal with Simon & Schuster for print – he keeps the rights. Smart man! There’s room for all models :)

  2. says

    Great episode Joanna. I have followed IndieReader for a couple of years now. Amy’s site helped me TREMENDOUSLY when I was self-publishing for the first time. Fantastic resource! It helps to have the support out there and know others have been there! Thanks for sharing, my friend!

  3. says


    This was the first episode of your podcast I’ve listened to and learned a great deal. I’ve downloaded the rest and will be going through the back episodes. Thanks for putting out great content :)

  4. says

    I’m actually thinking that books might go the way of vinyl, and by that I don’t at all mean that they will be a dinosaur. I mean that in music what’s happening is that CD is pretty much dead and MP3 is where the mainstream is starting to live. Vinyl has become a premium format, selling for much more than a CD, with books and other printed materials in an expensive deluxe package. In books what I think this means is that eBooks will be the modern equivalent of paperback, and hardbacks might be the deluxe premium package. Just a thought.

    Also very interesting gamification thoughts. It does bring home how publishers are trying to “get with the kids” by bolting on digital products to their current product lines, rather than allowing “the kids” to produce their own products for them which might be brave, bold and original. I think book publishers are a bit like the groovy dad at a kids party who tries to talk like your teenage children’s friends to make it seem like they understand their culture. Embarrassing.

    Publishers don’t value Indie books because if they did take it seriously they’d have to admit that they are out of touch with all the most interesting modern authors out there. It’s easy to scorn things which you feel threatened by. It seems to me that the best outcome would be for book publishers (who have the outlets and marketing channels) and the best most professional indie authors (who have the best most original ideas and writing talent).

    Just my 2p.

  5. says

    I have a supported self-published novel coming out this fall that has been in progress for 3 years while I try to come up with money to keep the editors happy, This delay has been good though because I seem to benefit from gestation and re-gestation pediods, or like a cow with three stomachs, several layers of digestion. I have written short stories, novellas and and finishing another novel. The stories were all published and I self published the novellas on Kindle and Smashwords, but have done miniscule marketing. I have been torn about whether to to send the next novel out or indie publish it. All of these interviews are convincing me to go Indie more and more. If I have to pay editors anyway, and I have to market my books anyway, I may as well get things on the internet to an international audience and reap 70%.
    Thank you, Joanna and guests!
    As for Amanda Hocking – she is talented and I wish I could write just one series of teenage wet dreams and finance all the books I really I want to write. (Just joking!)
    Alyne de Winter


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