Indie Author’s Barriers

I wrote before about barriers and piracy, but this time I want to narrow in on a single barrier.

The biggest barrier for indie publishers (of all media) is not being known. No one is going to buy your book, or game, or movie, or anything else if they don’t know you or it even exists.

Anyone who has become well-known in their market has had an enormous amount of luck on their side, be it a good review on a popular site (or many popular sites), or if they just got a small group of fans that kept growing as they kept putting out more and more media.

The barrier here is obvious – people can’t buy your stuff if they don’t know it exists. Piracy, then, has been stated to have had a very positive effect on people who aren’t well known. There was a group of indie musicians that came out in support of Napster back in the 90s. These relative-unknown’s were building a fan-base. People were looking for sounds similar to what they already enjoyed, and Napster provided an easy way to browse similar users collections and be exposed to a band they never would have heard of otherwise.

The same applies to books.

Even once you do stick your head above the crowd, you have to make it count. I don’t read as many books as I’d like because I’m not familiar with many authors that have impressed me, and $10 (the typical paperbook price) is daunting to figure out if I like an author. My location isn’t very library friendly either, so it’s a 40 minute walk to and from a library and there are just some points of the year I’m not up for that hike (say, in the winter or rain).

I’d love for more authors to offer their works for free through legitimate means as an advertising method. I’m more than willing to pay for entertainment if I feel I’m going to like it – and this isn’t about you, the creator. This is about me, the consumer. I’m not trying to hurt you if I want your stuff for free; I’m not trying to rip you off. I’m testing the water to see if you and I could be a fit.

People’s taste in entertainment varies wildly. Even though I might like vampire erotica with a bad boy main character, I might not like /your/ vampire erotica with a bad boy main character. So why don’t you let me sample it, see if I like your writing style before asking me to shell out the money to test the waters.

People only have so much money for entertainment each month. Sure, your book might cost less than a chocolate bar – but I know I’m going to like that chocolate bar because I’ve had it before and it was kick ass. And I, like most people, are far more willing to spend money on a sure thing rather than a risky chance.


  1. maxmordon says:

    I live in Venezuela. Here, color television arrived in 1983 and movies could take years before getting released. Thanks to piracy, people from the third world of my age have been presented with cinema, literature and music that before you could only dream of and not only that but also has allowed new artists here to get themselves known around.

    I believe somehow this will slowly kill “The superstar” we have seen in the past and allow a more ample equality when it comes to artists. Heck, perhaps money is now on public performing as it used to be.

    • Anjasa says:

      That’s what I’m hoping for as well. Just more money, and more acknowledgement, and a greater diversity in artists for all genres. Unfortunately, it hasn’t seemed to happen with music yet, and movies are using it as an excuse to stick with big names and redone plots…

      It has, however, allowed for some people who would otherwise be unknown to be able to do what they love as a full time job. Hopefully that will become a reality for more people.

      • maxmordon says:

        Yeah, cinema are pretty much returning to some fascimile of the Studio System and we can’t say globalization equals balance in content. After all, more than half of the internet is in English and centers on the US. Wikipedia alone has more articles about fictional locations than South American writers, for example. And I do worry that it ultimately boils down to a Hobbes’ choice, everyone seeing all the options and choosing the most advertised one.

        But again, I believe we’re in a period of transition and its too early to say what will all this end. Personally, I doubt paper books and newspaper will disappear since they’re still heavily needed in the third world and we usually get a “hands me down” approach toward the first world.

    • J. Keep says:

      I hope that’s the case and we see a sustainable trend towards a diverse entertainment industry, with lots of creativity and rewards for many. Though part of me fears that markets tend towards consolidation as big money becomes involved, and they’ll eventually find ways to put a stranglehold on internet commerce.

      • maxmordon says:

        I will say its more of a polarization. We will see a more stark contrast between well-established consortiums and small-time independent artists. At the end, I believe, this will harm the most to middle-sized artists and entrepeneurs since they will have to compete pretty much with both.

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