The day after I moderated four panels at Indie Author Day, I watched a heartbreaking TikTok video by fellow indie author J.C. Wade. At a school where she works, she met another author who was signing books for the library. When she told her she was also an author, the visiting author gave J.C. “the sideways look” and asked, “Who’s your publisher or are you an indie?” She told her she was published by a small press and now publishes independently. The visiting author replied, “Oh well, I’m published with one of the Big Five.” J.C. said the experience seemed “rather icky” and left her “seething inside.” She felt like that author was questioning her contributions as a writer, her books, and her voice.
I wished that J.C. could have been at our Indie Author Day. She would have seen how much voices like hers and ours are valued and appreciated by readers. She would also know that we writers don’t stand alone.
First, we need to look at some truths about getting picked up by a Big Five publisher. Here’s what author Candice Jarrett revealed from a recent Department of Justice lawsuit against a Big Five publisher.
Why would anyone want to be an indie author? A deep dive into the current state and realities of the Traditional publishing industry. Featuring statistics from NPD Bookscan. #indieauthor #indiesuthorsoftiktok #indieauthorsupporter #indieauthors #selfpublishing #selfpublishingjourney #querying #indieauthortok
Even if you are traditionally published, you still need to work to promote your books. That’s where the power of community helps.
Every member of every panel I was on (including myself) got to where we are with writing because of mutual support. We reached out to others, asked for help, and gave help in return. We built connections and delivered on our promises. And from those connections, we met new people and built new connections. Since Indie Author Day, I got leads to do three book events. One of those leads came as I helped another writer promote her book. And I’m currently helping another writer get into a bookstore to do an event.
That’s the power of community.
Something that the Big Five author signing books at J.C.’s school library and a certain other bestselling author have forgotten is that all writers are struggling with the same challenges. We are trying to share our insights with a public drowning in facts (or ill-formed opinions and outright propaganda masquerading as facts). Meanwhile, elected officials and well-funded organizations want to control what people read, and media conglomerates want to pump out bland, unoriginal, and AI-generated pap to extract the most money from writers and readers.
So, why are we fighting each other?
We should learn from our brethren in the film and TV industry that all of us can succeed when we stand together. That’s what I saw at Indie Author Day. Writers shared ideas, made connections, and built each other up. Those of us who had some success helped those who are starting out. And those who are struggling found inspiration and advice. No one looked down their noses at anyone else because we all remember how hard it was when we were new to the field.
We also understand the importance of our work. As sci-fi author Gareth Powell said on Threads, “Books are important. They promote empathy, education and imagination and encourage you to question the world around you. That’s why the forces of evil want to ban them.” By working together, we offer something valuable to a world that desperately needs it.
Regardless of how you’re published, we authors need to build each other up. Cooperation—not competition—can advance us as individuals and writing as a whole. Through community, we can share our unique voices and vision with the world.
Pictured: Indie Author Day panel on Mastering the Writer’s Toolbox. (L-R) Mary Vensel White, Jonathan Fesmire, Max Evans, Barbara Pronin, and moderator Matthew Arnold Stern. Photo by Clark Fesmire.