Self-Published Authors Get a Chance to Show Off Their Work At Boston Book Festival

For the first time ever, the annual festival has created a space for independent writers.

The independent author and self-published book industries are booming at the moment, and organizers of the annual Boston Book Festival recognize that.

So to cater to the demand, for the first time ever, they are offering up space to those who have worked tirelessly to get their name out without the help of a major publishing company to back them up.

“That market is exploding right now. I think one of our goals [at the festival] is to always spark the interest and creativity of aspiring authors, and to have attendees be able to see people who are out there [self-publishing], and getting voices out there, which can be inspirational for them,” said Norah Piehl, deputy director of the Boston Book Festival. “It provides a voice for people at the festival that may not otherwise be heard.”

Thirty writers from Massachusetts were hand picked, following a rigorous application process, to showcase their literary works at this year’s festival, in a special section called “Indie Alley,” an opportunity that has not been awarded to writers in the past.

Piehl said in large part, the opportunity wasn’t there because of the limited space the festival has had in Copley Square each year, but this time around, the event, which starts October 17, has expanded significantly. “We have known for a while there has been a demand for self-published authors to have a presence at the festival,” she said. “This year they have found a new place for them in front of the John Hancock Tower.”

Justice Shepherd and Reggit Dogger, a husband and wife team from Arlington that co-authored the fantasy novel The Rivalry for Alsatia, are just one set of authors selected to appear at Indie Alley based on their “quality of work,” according to Piehl.

“We were delighted they selected us,” said Dogger, adding that their novel will be sold alongside memoirs, non-fiction, and many other genres of books. “Festivals like this are vital for the industry because it helps the creative space as a whole. The power of people to be able to connect with authors, and with the public, is very important. It’s vital.”

Dogger, whose book with Shepherd is set in a “magical world” where superpowers can be harvested and stored for later use like electricity, said self-publishers need to have the ability to transcend their basic audience of friends and family, and be able to tap into a larger crowd—something this year’s festival will allow them to do.

The number of books and ebooks self-published in the US has increased by 287 percent between 2006 and 2011, according to a report last year put out by Bowker, the agency in charge of the country’s International Standard Book Numbers, which identifies literature, and facilitates the sale of books to bookstores, both digitally and in print.

A new report released on October 9 showed a nearly 60 percent growth in self-published works in 2012 over the year prior, or 391,000 additional titles. Ebooks continue to gain on print, according to Bowker, making up 40 percent of the ISBNs that were self-published in 2012, up from just 11 percent in 2007.

“The most successful self-publishers don’t view themselves as writers only, but as business owners,” said Beat Barblan, Bowker Director of Identifier Services. “They invest in their businesses, hiring experts to fill skill gaps and that’s building a thriving new service infrastructure in publishing.”

While the market of independent authors is crowded—something both Dogger and Shepherd recognize—it’s still possible to make an impact and get a book noticed.

And that’s OK for them: Dagger said every review—good, bad, or different—is vital for authors. She said some will breakthrough, while others will merely fall flat in the growing self-publishing industry, but it’s what motivates the creative space for writers.

Shepherd agreed. “It’s always a challenge to find an audience. But truly, if we could touch one person, that is a very powerful thing. We are excited it is such a vibrant market place, but it can be difficult to cut through and find the people that love your book,” he said.