Indie Author Day: Grow Your Creative Community
By Angie Littlefield
This year’s Indie Author Day will be held on Saturday, October 12. Because that day is also Canadian Thanksgiving, my local library in Pickering, Ontario, will host its event a week earlier, on Oct 5. Graphic designer, photographer, and webmistress Mary Cook and I are the team behind this event. It is sponsored by the Pine Ridge Arts Council.
Indie Author Day, now in its fourth year, celebrates authors who bring their novels, memoirs, local and family histories, cookbooks, children’s books, and all manner of fiction and non-fiction to the world’s attention without the benefit of large publishers.
New technologies, platforms, and companies make Indie publishing possible and positive. Authors need not line up behind millions of hopefuls at the tiny doors of established publishing houses. There are other ways into print. The Wattpad platform has a global community of 80 million people who read Indie authors on their site. Maaja Wentz, who will present at the Pickering Public Library, received 141,000 reads on Wattpad before winning a Watty Award for her first novel. Feeding Frenzy, The novel is now is broadly available, both digitally and in print.
Companies once dubbed “vanity presses” now provide full service for those ready to get their much-polished gems out there. The authors who will appear at the Pickering Library have all used different companies and methods: Peter Fritze, author of two crime novels, used Ingram Spark; Grace Fraser Henry used WordPress for her memoir; a collection of short stories by five authors turned to CreateSpace; Howard Pell passed on his financial fitness advice using a print-on-demand shop; and A.B. Funkhauser, Sher Leetooze, and Gregory Patrick Travers established their own micro-publishing houses. By doing so, these authors made available fun, informative, and historical books that readers love. The twenty individuals’ stories at the Pickering event show the variety and acceptability that is part of the new Indie world—publishing without the “sting” of vanity.
For those still in doubt about the paradigm shift to “positivity” connected to self-publishing, Emma Hooper’s self-published Etta and Otto and Russell and James won the Ottawa Independent Writers’ Frank Hegyi Award for Emerging Writers in 2017 and went on to Simon & Schuster. Wattpad employs data engineers to mine Indie stories on their site for Wattpad Books, the company’s first direct-publishing division, and for its Wattpad Studio, which partners with major international film and movie studios. After, based on a Wattpad hit with, yes, a billion reads, went on as a film to open at number one in seventeen countries, the top-grossing independent film of 2019. To be sure, the paradigm is shifting towards Indies.
There are now a number of Indie awards—Watty, Indie Reader Discovery Award, National Indie Excellence Award, and so on—and libraries, such as the Vancouver Public Library in British Columbia, have established Indie collections. As the Vancouver Public Library says, “The goal of this collection is to promote local books that might not be available through traditional channels, both to increase exposure for local writers and to increase the selection for local readers.” Note the emphasis on “local.”
Indie authors do best locally, and by and large appear neither on bestseller lists nor on Oprah’s, Reese Witherspoon’s, and Heather’s (Heather Reisman, CEO of Canada’s Indigo Books) picks. The world is still dominated by the large publishers. And that is why Indie authors need you!
So why not create an Indie Author Day in your community? There is creative talent all around you. We at Pickering used a 100-mile-rule for authors to qualify, with the reasoning that if local farmers’ markets support local agricultural producers, why not create events that promote local creative writers? The American Indie author website (indieauthorday.com) is very inviting and is filled with resources to get any individual or group started. They have put together a template for a typical day. Here’s our team’s template for Pickering:
- Display of Indie books for twenty authors in the library for a week.
- Theme: “Book Clubs and Buzz.” (We have a different theme each year.)
- Keynote speaker—a very successful Indie with a five- to eight-minute talk.
- Four short presentations by Indies who have done something special (in PR, on Wattpad, or as their own publishers).
- A moderated panel with representatives from five local book clubs to talk about tastes, selection processes, what is most loved, and why.
- Networking, mingling and sales before, during the break, and after the event.
Sign up now on the Indie Author website and join libraries across North America for this year’s Indie Author Day!
Angie Littlefield is an author, curator, educator, and editor. She has written three books about Canadian artist Tom Thomson, the most recent of which is Tom Thomson’s Fine Kettle of Friends. Her eclectic interests include curating art exhibits in Canada and Germany and working with children from Nunavut and Tristan da Cunha to produce their books. Her other books include Ilse Salberg: Weimar Photographer, Angelika Hoerle: Comet of Cologne Dadaists, and The Art of Dissent: Willy Fick. She co-created www.readingandremembrance.ca, a website with lesson packages for Ontario educators. Angie lives in Toronto, Canada.