Following her recent part in a meeting at the British Houses of Parliament as part of a group of influential authors and writing bodies, Orna Ross, founder and director of the Alliance of Independent Authors, calls for governments to recognise and support indie authors and the contribution they make to society and to the global economy by encouraging and facilitating financial independence and business education.
When are governments, and other funding bodies, going to acknowledge that the new author is far more than a writer? And modernize the kind of support they are offering to the author community?
More than a decade after the widespread adoption of self-publishing, few official governments or associated bodies seem to be aware of the growing contribution of indie authors to business, culture and society.
Independent and self-published authors are excluded from much current research and analysis, giving us highly skewed data that leads to widespread misinformation.
At ALLi (the Alliance of Independent Authors), our Self-Publishing 3.0 campaign wants to redress this gross imbalance. We urgently need creative industry leaders, at all levels, to engage in global analysis and support of our pioneering, global, author-businesses.
Indie Author Earnings Research
In some territories, there is official hand-wringing over falling author earnings. A recent important report by the UK Authors Lending and Collecting Society (ALCS), an association that does much good for authors, has ignited this official response again. (Download the report here.)
While the statistics ACLS isolate do give cause for concern, there are problems with such surveys when considered from an independent author’s perspective.
The report sees self-publishing as a supplement to trade publishing income when, for successful indie authors, it is the most significant part of their income. The flaws in traditional author research has been extremely well analysed by author, publishing consultant and ALLi advisor, Jane Friedman.(Read Jane Friedman’s report here.)
Unless we look closely at all that is happening in the vibrant self-publishing sector, we are missing out on the true picture for author earnings today.
Indie Author Earnings and Self-Publishing 3.0
To date, our Self-Publishing 3.0 campaign has focused on author education. Now we are calling on the governments in six individual publishing territories—Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, UK and US—to:
- recognize the entrepreneurial nature of the new indie author
- acknowledge the social, cultural and economic contribution of our work
- develop and provide the support we most need: not writing grants but business and mindset training programs
Those responsible for business, entrepreneurship, culture, intellectual property, the knowledge economy, and related industry organizations must get better at identifying, tracking, quantifying, and supporting indie authors as part of the creative digital micro-business sector.
Indie Author Earnings: Social and Economic Benefit
There is real socio-economic benefit to be had here. The position is well stated by Greenfund’s Report on the Creative Economy.
Creative industries “have become the true wealth of nations in the 21st century”, it says, being “highly transformative in terms of income generation, job creation and export earnings” and also generating what it calls “non-monetary value that contributes significantly to achieving people-centered, inclusive and sustainable development.”
While we might quail at the language of the report—presumably “non-monetary value” means things like truth and beauty, diversity and democracy, societal meaning and purpose—it is clear about the growing significance and value of such industries. The indie author is part of this transformative creative economy.
Indeed, given that all creative businesses must learn how to produce and distribute content, it is arguably the most significant and valuable strand in this diverse sector.
Every creative business is also in the publishing business, if we return “publishing” to its original meaning of making content (text, audio, video) public.
In all six targeted territories, self-publishing is one of the most dynamic and fastest-growing sectors. Yet we are very rarely found in creative entrepreneurship programs. And literary programs are not supportive of author business.
Indie Author Earnings: Digital Business
The digital micro-publishing businesses run by indie authors operate at the intersection between technology, culture, the broader economy, and wider society.
Successful independent authors go beyond self-employment as freelance sole traders to run sustainable and scaleable value-added businesses.
Our businesses hire other publishing professionals and earn us more income than earned by trade-published authors who have sold an equivalent number of books. Through them, we are adding value in a great many ways, from evolving new literary forms, formats and genres to paying more taxes.
Our community suffers from a significant skills gap. Many authors are carrying over a mindset that seeks validation from others—publishers, critics—rather than reader, one that waits for others to “choose” us rather than choosing ourselves.
- We resist the notion of being in business.
- We undervalue our intellectual property and the many ways we can shape it to provide us with multiple streams of income.
- We are overly grateful to publishing partners and give away or undersell our publishing rights.
Producing, distributing and marketing our products and services relies on us acquiring new knowledge and skills. As does understanding the value of our intellectual property and copyright. As does managing the processes that build and maintain a successful digital micro-business.
And success also requires the ability to recognize and seize new opportunities.
Indie Author Earnings: Support
Yet when it comes to support, authors are not offered business skills, IP knowledge or mindset training. Support is offered—if at all—through a grants model that focuses on buying time for writing.
Where there is self-publishing success, it is largely down to indie authors educating each other.
If governments truly wish to help authors succeed in the digital age, we need to go beyond the current handout model and set up new programs that provide business, legal and mindset training for authors.
Such training and support moves us beyond the realm of traditional aid into an investment structure that is of more benefit to us, and to the wider economy and society.
I am reminded of the old adage: “Give someone a fish and you feed them for a day. Teach them to fish and you feed them for life”.The current support structure for authors is the former – what we need is the latter.
Let’s support the author community with what’s needed to set up and run successful author businesses. Let’s help authors regain their authority and autonomy.
We would love to hear more from you about our Self-Publishing 3.0 campaign and what you would like us to say to government and creative industry bodies on your behalf.
Also, we need your help to get the word out.
Please leave your ideas, feedback and offers of assistance below in the comments box.#Indieauthors - join our campaign for government recognition & support of our socio-economic contribution - important message from @OrnaRoss, #ALLi founder Click To Tweet
BACKGROUND READING ON SELF-PUBLISHING 3.0
From the ALLi Author Advice Center Archive