What Is Indie Book Publishing?

In an article at CNN.com titled "If it's cool, creative, and different, it's indie," journalist Catherine Andrews wrote:

"The term 'indie' traditionally refers to independent art -- music, film, literature or anything that fits under the broad banner of culture -- created outside of the mainstream and without corporate financing."

Although many independent book publishing companies are incorporated, they are independent of the major conglomerates that dominate the book publishing industry. Independent book publishers include small presses, mid-size independent publishers, university presses, e-book publishers, and self-published authors.

Like other independent artists, many indie book publishers face challenges that the industry giants don't experience. We typically have to work a lot harder to get our books into retail stores (or our authors onto Oprah) and ultimately into the hands of readers. As Chris Anderson reports in his bestselling business book The Long Tail:

"More than 99 percent of music albums on the market today are not available in Wal-Mart. ... Same for any other leading retailer and practically any other commodity [including] books... The vast majority of products are not available at a store near you."

Yet independent book publishing is thriving in spite of the challenges.

According to the most recent (October 2019) report by Bowker, publisher of the Books in Print database, the number of titles self-published in the United States grew to over 1.6 million in 2018, an increase of 40% over the previous year. "This trend is likely to continue as the quality of many self-published works now rivals that of traditionally published titles," according to the report.

Worldwide, as of 2021, the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) estimates more than 2.7 million books are now being published in a single year.

The overwhelming number of new books, combined with the millions of titles already in print, makes it difficult for booksellers, librarians, and consumers to identify books that are worth buying and reading - especially when those books are not published by companies with multimillion dollar marketing budgets.

As Chris Anderson reports in his best-selling business book The Long Tail: "More than 99 percent of music albums on the market today are not available in Wal-Mart. … Same for any other leading retailer and practically any other commodity [including] books… The vast majority of products are not available at a store near you."