19 Apr

“Outliers:” Artists and Independent Authors

Outlier Artists and Independent Authors

Cover of program from National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.

“Outliers” are artists who make art that challenges the norms of mainstream institutions and who are unaware or indifferent to historical art traditions.

Outlier Artists Are Being Recognized

Many outlier artists are African Americans, women, disabled people or prisoners. They lack the agency or access to traditional paths and at one time were largely disregarded or forgotten. I learned about their engaging art, which communicates strong messages and offers fascinating perspectives in times of social, political and cultural upheaval, at an exhibit at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

As my friend and I toured paintings, drawings, sculpture and other creative pieces, the docent explained that these artists are variously termed naive, primitive, visionary, folk or outsider. They are highly motivated and have taken the risk to express their art without the support of the traditional art establishment. They are now getting attention and their work is being brought into broad public view.

Outlier Authors

Afterwards, as I reflected on my experience of this exhibit, I connected the art of these “outliers” to self-published authors who go outside traditional publishing routes to get their books published. Traditionally, self-published books have been viewed as the last resort for authors who couldn’t get published by a traditional publishing house. Often seen as poorly written, weakly edited and carelessly designed, self-published books seldom recognized, acknowledged or even read.

But that has changed since Amazon, Smashwords, BookBaby, Ingram Spark, Draft2Digital and other platforms have thrown the doors open for anyone who wants to publish a book. Authors who go this independent route have more creative control and far better royalties. But, it doesn’t just happen with the push of a button. They must believe enough in their book to take the risk of making an up-front investment, before even one book is sold. That investment pays for the services of editors, designers, illustrators, copy editors, proof readers and marketing strategists who will help prepare and sell the book. For writers who don’t want to manage this professional team themselves, hybrid publishers offer some of the same services for a fee.

My Experience as an Outlier Author

Like the “outliers” in the National Gallery, I was motivated to get my book “out there” and chose not to pursue the traditional publishing route this time with my novel. I wanted the benefits of creative control. For any author, it is a risk just to write your cherished story, share it with the world and wait to see if anyone likes it in the form of reviews and sales. Deciding to self-publish and making that up-front investment are other risks.

Outlier artists and independent authors

In addition to the up-front financial investment, there was so much I needed to learn and manage before I could publish my book as an independent author. Fortunately, I found help from the Bay Area Independent Publishers Association (BAIPA), a group of authors, designers, editors, marketers and other professionals who believe in self-publishing. They are willing to share their experience and their wisdom with those who come to their meetings to ask naive questions, engage help from the professionals or just want to learn from the presenters and programs, how to do it themselves.

Like the “outlier” artists, self-published authors are highly motivated to write their stories, share their wisdom and express their ideas. The availability of new publishing platforms enabling us to by-pass the gatekeepers of the traditional publishing establishment, has resulted in a radical shift in the book business. Similar to the “outliers” in the art world, self-published books are now getting recognition and respect.

What risks have you taken to promote an agenda outside the traditional establishment? What motivated you?


1 Comment

  • I’m a self taught artist ,A Outlier ,Tho I just became aware of the word and it’s meaning today .I am a later in life emerging artist.Coming out of my creative closet ,two years ago at 52.Im a visual artist and writer.If you would point me in the right direction ,I’ll run that way toward the light as fast as my pre geractric legs will allow . Any advice you could give me Would be whole heartly appreciated. Jeannie tarantola ldarkartafactory

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