Indie Author Manifesto

goodlife guide

By Mark Coker

Over the last six years since founding Smashwords, I’ve witnessed a dramatic change in attitudes regarding self publishing.  I’m pleased that much of this transformation has been led by the professional example of Smashwords authors.

Where once self publishing was viewed as the option of last resort – the option for failed writers and an option marked by stigma and shame – self publishing is increasingly viewed as the option of first choice for many writers.  Over the next couple years I think we’ll reach a point where more first-time writers aspire to indie-publish than traditionally publish.  Indie authors are the cool kids club.

All writers possess unrealized potential, and indie authors understand that.  Ebook self publishing provides the mechanism by which every writer’s true potential can be realized.

At writers conferences I’ve met numerous Smashwords authors who are moved to happy tears when they describe how self publishing has transformed their lives.  I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve felt a lump grow in my throat as I hear their inspiring stories.  These encounters are deeply moving to me, and I trust that you too have experienced the same.

Outside observers might counter that of course the bestsellers feel this way.  Yes, that’s true, but as any indie author will tell you, the joy of self publishing cannot be distilled to dollar metrics alone.  How does one describe the importance of independence, freedom and self-determination?

Critics say self publishing is causing a tsunami of drek that will destroy book culture and render the best books undiscoverable.  Not true.  Yes, self publishing will enable more horrible books to be published than ever before, but it will also enable more better books to be published, discoverable and enjoyable than ever before.  There’s a yin and yang to this.

It’s not an exaggeration to describe the indie author revolution as a global cultural movement.   I think we’re witnessing something profound here as we transition from a publisher-centric world to an author-centric world.  The rise of indie authorship as a global cultural movement is driven by profound changes in social norms, ethical values, customs, belief systems, technology and business practices.

With this radical change in mind, today I attempt to describe the movement and motivations of its drivers – the indie authors – in the form of my Indie Author Manifesto.

I attempt to answer a simple question:  What does it mean to be an indie author?  I’ve distilled the movement down to ten principles that I think capture the mindset of indie authors.

I tip my hat to the many great manifestos that have come before my own meager attempt, including the  US Declaration of Independence, the 10 Commandments and Martin Luther’s 95 Thesis among others.


We indie authors believe all writers are created equal, that all writers are endowed with natural creative potential, and that writers have an unalienable right to exercise, explore and realize their potential through the freedom of publication.

I hold these truths to be self-evident:
I am an indie author
I have experienced the pleasure and satisfaction that comes from self-publishing
I have a right to publish
My creative control is important to me.  I decide when, where and how my writing graduates to become a published book.
Indie does not mean “alone.”  I choose my partners.
I shall not bow beholden or subservient to any publisher. In my business relationships, I seek partnership, fairness, equity and mutually aligned interests.
We indie author comprise diverse writers unified by a common purpose to advance, empower and celebrate writers everywhere.
I am a professional.  I take pride in my work, and I strive to improve my craft to better serve my readers, myself, my fellow indie authors and the culture of books
My writing is valuable and important.  This value and importance cannot be measured by commercial sales alone.
I celebrate the success of my fellow indie authors, for their success is mine, and mine theirs. Together we are pioneering a better future for books marked by greater quality, creativity, diversity, choice, availability, affordability and accessibility.

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