In 2007 Amazon shook up the publishing world when they made it possible for anyone with a story and a computer to publish their work. This was done through the introduction of Kindle Select where an author could publish his or her story as an e-book. Amazon's sister company, Createspace, made it possible for the same authors to publish their works in a more traditional paperback format.
Traditional publishing houses initially dismissed this new form of publishing. Some described these "amateur" indie author's works as unpolished, unprofessional, full of grammar and spelling mistakes and unworthy of a reader's time. This rather negative opinion may have had a ring of truth to it, but it didn't last for long.
As new authors learned how to hone their craft, and as self-publishing platforms became easier to use, the end result of the indie's work also improved. Indie authors are entrepreneurs who are, in effect, running their own business. Unlike an author signed to a traditional publishing house, the indie is author, proofreader, editor and marketer all rolled into one.
The indie author who truly cares about their story (which is most of them), soon learns from their mistakes and improves with each new book. Learning how to effective edit your story, proofread (with the help of beta readers along with special software), and format both the e-book and print versions of their books is all a part of being an indie. Indie authors must also design their own cover art (or work with a graphic artist), write their own book blurb, become active on social media, design and set up a website and blog, and then find a way to get their stories "discovered" by readers.
It's a lot of work, but the rewards, when done correctly, are well worth the effort.
The end result has been a disruption in how new stories are being made available to readers. No longer are readers restricted to only a select few authors and a limited number of books. No longer do readers have to go to a physical bricks and mortar store or library to find a new book. For readers it is now as easy as logging on to your computer, searching and previewing millions of books, and making your purchase. E-books are then transmitted directly to your preferred device almost instantaneously, and at a fraction of a traditional paperback or hardcover book. A reader can still opt for a traditionally printed book, and do so from the convenience of their computer or mobile device, and in a few days it will arrive by mail or courier.
Indie authors now make up approximately 35% of all e-book sales in the USA. The Big Five publishing houses have a 25.6% share according to the January, 2018 Authors Earnings Report (http://authorearnings.com/report/january-2018-report-us-online-book-sales-q2-q4-2017/).
The Big Five publishers still maintain control of the traditional print book format, with indie's making up only 4.7% vs. 43.6%, but over time, that statistic may also change.
While traditionally published author still make up the majority of the top 100 e-book sellers in the USA, it is interesting to note that 7 of the top 100 are now indie authors. Of the top 1,000 e-book sellers in the USA, 284 are indies.
In the world of the indie, there is a lot of work that has to be done by the author that a traditional publishing house would normally do. The editing, proofreading, cover design, marketing, etc. all has to be done by the indie author (or farmed out, at the indie's expense). In the end though, the indie maintains control of their work and, if done correctly, can be financially rewarding as well. What is more important to most indie authors than money is the ability to quickly get their works published and read, something which was almost impossible through traditional publishing houses.
The choice to be an indie author is a personal decision. No one can say what is right for you, the author, other than YOU. There is nothing wrong with traditional publishing, but it is a lot more difficult path to becoming a published author. Being an indie author isn't a walk-in-the-park either, but if you have the drive, skill and desire, it is a faster way to get your stories published and read.
Without Amazon and their wonderful, disruptive business model, the world would be missing out on the opportunity to discover talented new authors. Indie books may not always be perfect, but they are genuine, and they have brought many fantastic new stories to readers that otherwise would have gone untold.