Democratisation of the publishing industry
What do William Blake, Lord Byron, e e cummings, TS Eliot, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Hardy, Ernest Hemingway, Stephen King, Rudyard Kipling, DH Lawrence, Anaïs Nin, Edgar Allen Poe, George Bernard Shaw, Lord Alfred Tennyson, Henry David Thoreau, Leo Tolstoy, Mark Twain, Walt Whitman, and Virginia Woolf, have in common? They all, among many other literary greats, self-published at some point in their careers.
So then, why the lingering stigma attached to self-publishing? Unfortunately because 'indie authors' are automatically lumped into the same category as 'vanity authors', even though self-publishing and vanity publishing are as distinct from one another as traditional publishing and self-publishing. While indie filmmakers and garage bands are lauded for their grit and tenacity in producing self-funded movies and music, the stigma of self-funded publishing continues to be a millstone around many an indie author's neck.
But it's high time for the stigmatisation and marginalisation to end. Just like 21-year-old Australian-born model Stefania Ferrario (below) - currently the face of Dita Von Teese's lingerie label - is campaigning for the fashion industry to #droptheplus size label for curvier models, so too, is a new wave of indie authors arguing for equal respect and recognition alongside their mainstream counterparts. Books and their authors, just like models, should come in all shapes and sizes - some catering to the highly commercialised mass market, others to smaller, or more discerning niche markets. Neither should be perceived as superior or inferior to the other, but rather variations on the same core product. A model is a model is a model, whether 'straight-size' or 'plus-size'. A book is a book is a book, whether a paperback, hardcover, or ebook. And an author is an author is an author, whether traditionally published or self-published.
That said, any self-respecting indie author who expects to be taken seriously needs to make sure that everything about their book is on a par quality-wise with the books produced by traditional publishers. From the editing and proofreading, to the interior layout and cover design, it is inexcusable to cut any corners. Not only do you risk undermining your brand and weakening your value as an author in the eyes of your readers, but also in the eyes of your fellow authors, and traditional publishers, all of which simply perpetuates the stigma of an inferior product.
So then, how do local indie authors go about producing high quality, commercially viable books that can sit comfortably alongside their traditionally published counterparts, on both virtual and real-life bookshelves? By outsourcing the professional services of credible industry players, like Staging Post and MYeBook, both based in Johannesburg. Tapping into the ever-increasing demand for cutting edge self-publishing services - in paperback, hardcover, or ebook format - these guys offer a one-stop-shop for indie authors who are serious about the quality of the work they put out for public consumption and scrutiny. Individual services can be cherry-picked by the author according to their needs and budget, to best prepare, polish, publish, and promote their books - in national bricks-and-mortar bookstores, as well as across the plethora of international online stores.
March 2015 has been a boon to the local independent publishing industry, with not one, but two major events taking place over consecutive weekends. Last Saturday I attended South Africa's first Indie Book Fair at the Sunnyside Park Hotel in Parktown, organised by Porcupine Press and their brand new indie imprint, African Narratives, primarily to listen to Sarah Taylor deliver her keynote speech on Broadening Horizons: The expanding opportunities and freedom of self-publishing. (Taylor is the marketing manager of UK-based Matador, the self-publishing imprint of Troubador Publishing Ltd, and editor of The Self Publishing Magazine.) And this coming Saturday I will be attending the first South African Indie Revolution book festival at Modjadji House in Floracliffe. Exciting times!