Independent Authors Are Following The Indie Music Script

independent authors

By sending buying links through emails, texts, tweets, Facebook posts, and posts on their blogs and websites, independent authors are making sales and earning higher royalties.

Want to know what the future holds for self publishing? All you need to do is take a look at the Indie music scene. Today’s independent authors are following a similar script to the one musicians wrote over the past two-and-a-half decades.

The parallels are almost an exact historical mirror image.

  1. First, technological innovations opened the door. For musicians, this included cheaper home recording options, the ubiquity of CDs, and the ease of MP3 access and distribution. For independent authors, it’s digital files and printing, eBooks, and POD production and distribution.
  2. Next came the impact on the traditional gatekeepers’ control of the marketplace as independents crashed the party. The old guard’s stranglehold on tastemaking dissolved. What happened to the big music labels like Sony, EMI, Capital, etc. matches the upheaval and consolidation we’ve seen among major traditional publishers.
  3. Finally, access to the marketplace opened wide, with musicians and authors adding a tsunami of content to Amazon, iTunes/iBooks and hundreds of other platforms and channels. Music fans – and readers – continue to be the beneficiaries of this new creative era (no matter what Laurie Gough at the Huffington Post has to say – take it from the massive reaction in the comments!).

Now independent authors can follow musicians in the next chapter of creative success by selling printed books and eBooks directly to their fans. Authors have the ability to make more income – a lot more! – and engage their fans to build long-lasting relationships without the middleman.

Building a direct channel for sales is the best option to create a lucrative income stream that has no intermediary looking to charge a sales commission. With your own web pages you can make much more than the typical eBook and POD royalties. For example: BookBaby authors earn 85% royalties on eBooks sold through their own BookShop eCommerce pages. That compares with rates of 30% to 70% selling through Amazon. For Print On Demand titles, BookShop sales earn authors a guaranteed 50% royalties, much more than the 8% to 15% earned on Amazon.

There are even more benefits to selling direct to your readers

Selling direct enables the author a way to learn more about their customers and create a rich and meaningful relationship.

  • Controlling your own sales channel allows you to build a strong marketing database that can be used for strategic email messaging.
  • You can share your story to help readers get to know you better and encourage them to be ready to support your future writing efforts.
  • This relationship with your readers – many of whom are now actively looking to buy directly from you – enables your fans to support creativity on a personal level rather than through a global conglomerate. In many ways, it’s more in line with similar movements where farmers, artisans, and craftspeople are establishing a localized economy through farmer’s markets and craft venues – physically and online.

How do you get readers to buy direct instead of via Amazon?

The answer is within your control. One of the hidden truths of self publishing has to do with browsing and book discovery on the huge retail sites. In a nutshell, it just doesn’t happen for indie authors. While it’s important to have printed books available on Amazon for legitimacy, it’s very unlikely that readers will discover self-published authors this way. The Amazon algorithms for genre or book searches don’t favor unknown independent authors. Searches are often done for more famous authors. (Not unlike how indie music artists have a hard time being discovered on iTunes or Spotify.)

The good news is, self-published authors ARE getting discovered in a whole different way.

In talking with dozens of self-published authors and by monitoring sales results, we estimate that a vast majority of sales by independent authors are a result of their driving interested readers directly to a designated retail website to make a purchase. As much as 90% of sales for some of BookBaby’s self-published authors come from BookShop.

What this means is that authors already control where their books are sold by sending buying links through emails, texts, tweets, Facebook posts, and links posted on their author blog or website. Their faithful readers follow their instructions as to where to buy.

Once you have your own direct-to-reader web pages set up, send readers there instead of Amazon, iBooks, or Barnes Noble. You’ll make lots more revenue and your readers will enjoy a better experience by dealing directly with their new favorite author!





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Making The Most Of Print On Demand. Part 1: Your Timeline To Maximize Book Sales
Making The Most Of Print On Demand, Part 2: All You Need To Know About Book Pre-Sales
My Parents’ Experience With Traditional Publishing Led Me To Self Publishing
Why Seth Godin Self Published
Print On Demand: The biggest advance in publishing since Gutenberg
Book Discovery Sites Can Help You Find More Readers


Steven Spatz is a writer, marketer, and the President of BookBaby, the nation’s leading self publishing services company. Spatz’s professional writing career began at age 13, paid by the word to bang out little league baseball game stories on an ancient manual typewriter for southern Oregon weekly newspapers. His journalism career continued after graduation from the University of Oregon at several daily newspapers in Oregon. When his family took over a direct marketing food business, Spatz redirected his writing and design skills into producing catalogs. The Pinnacle Orchards catalog was named "Best Food Catalog," received dozens of other national awards, and the business grew into one of the nation’s largest gourmet fruit gift businesses. After the company was sold, Spatz continued his direct marketing career with Fortune 500 companies including Mattel and Hasbro. He joined AVL Digital in 2004 to lead the direct-to-consumer marketing teams for music industry-leading brands Disc Makers, Oasis, and CD Baby. After serving as Chief Marketing Officer, Spatz was tapped to lead the company’s new publishing division in late 2014. In 2019, the AVL Digital Management team purchased the New Jersey brands, including BookBaby. The company is headquartered in Pennsauken, NJ (just outside Philadelphia, PA) and meets the printed book and eBook needs of thousands of self-publishing authors around the globe. Spatz lives in Glenside, PA with his two children, a demented cat, and some well-used bicycles. Steven loves to hear from authors, editors, and publishers in the BookBaby community with tales of publishing trials and triumphs. To tell him your story, write to


  1. It sounds great, but in my experience, that does not work either. For 9 years I have been emailing, Facebooking, Tweeting and any other way that comes to my brain and the results have been worse than dismal. I have reached thousands of people in my book’s category (non-fiction political) through over 75 different groups on FB with an average number of members of over 10,000. Year in and year out I have gotten tons of “Like”, “comments”, reactions and praise about the articles that I post, with each post asking them to visit my 2 FB book pages. They do visit but getting them to click on the book itself, even just for the free views, has been a complete failure despite offering them a 25% discount ($17 becomes $12 and change). I can’t even get them to visit my book website on Wix. It is actually as though everyone that I reach has a strict policy of ‘no book buying’! I never expected to get rich, but selling less than 50 books in 9 years has me in despair. I have read so many articles like this and they seem to presume that you will have plenty of interest and will be able gain a fan base and interact with them. If anyone has the real secret to getting people interested in buying an Indie book, I am all ears, but I am not the slightest bit optimistic (anymore!).

    • Steve Spatz, your article inspires me, because your comparison with the indie music business is spot-on. The public has heard so much whining from the music corporations, and prominent musicians habituated to the old “gatekeepers plus strong copyright” system, but the truth is that a much greater number of independent musicians can now make a living in a relatively free market. The book business is going the same way, as you advise.

      However, a free market is competitive, and it is certainly difficult for newbies to break in. My first book got nowhere, and I empathise with the comment from Wayne Ollick. But I’m in the same sector as Wayne, yet we probably won’t buy one another’s books, because this market is dominated by brilliant scholarly offerings from academics with big reputations supported by the weight of academia. Many intelligent people think they have the answer to humanity’s problems, but being read requires the utmost dedication to high standards of research and presentation, and probably a little political correctness as well. I inspected Wayne’s book on Amazon and found no evidence from the blurb or the reviews that indicate that it has significant contents. Your communication skills may be great Wayne, but your selling effort is not working on me – no disrespect intended, I am trying to be helpful.

    • Readers just aren’t prepared to pay that much. Go for the Small Profits Quick Returns formula (SPQR) and what you lose per sale you will make up with volume. Think about a limited-period free give-away, to get those product reviews. After all the main reason we write is for the pleasure of being read.

    • Maybe you need to change your subject matter. I wrote stuff that had no commercial appeal for many years. Part of understanding the business of art is to find something that has a built in demand, and then write the perfect book for that. In films we call it ‘distribution in reverse’. Find the audience, figure out the entertainment they are craving, then create the movie.

  2. I am interested. My book “A JOURNEY THROUGH CANCER” PUBLISHED through TATE PUBLISHI
    NG who is now out of business. So where do I go from here. Sue Combs

  3. I too am an independent author of many self published books, I have tried everything that I can think of, and over the course of the last four years, I have given away $500 worth of my books and have only had less than a hundred dollars in actual sells, I’ve put up with all of the potential social media sites and have two web pages, with no progress at all. So if there is a way to get noticed, please let me know, thus far I have 108 self published books on the market.


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