Anyone who likes to produce or create might have once imagined having their own book. Although many say publishing is in its decline, amongst those worries, independent publishing has gained popularity in the younger generation. Being able to create any publishment they want without worrying about its commercial viability has attracted many and has become a trend. Numerous independent bookstores are emerging around university campuses and students are actively participating in such trend by becoming authors themselves. In this issue, Ewha Voice delves into why independent publishing is gaining so much attention and introduces the readers to a student author, Saleign, who has published her own book and now in the process of preparing for another. Ewha Voice also met Le Debut, an independent fashion magazine established by university students, to explore the field of magazine publication.
Independent Publishing: the growing branch of publication
Independent publishing refers to the way in which authors publish books without the help of commercial publishing companies. Unlike previous publications that had to take commercialism into consideration, independent publishing enables authors to freely create books.
“Production of books became easier, and theoretically, everyone is capable of publishing their own books. Self-publishing and independent publishing will become more and more active.”
As announced by the Publication Industry Promotion Agency of Korea, independent publishing has been continuously growing. Approximately 600 independent books are out in the market and the number has shown a continuous increase.
There are various factors that contribute to the rise of independent publishing. More people are now accustomed to editing programs such as InDesign, which enables layout design to be easier and more approachable. Nowadays the industry also provides small-quantity printing of 200 copies per book. Independent bookstores are also hosting programs and that teach the basics of independent publishing. Online crowd-funding platforms such as Kakao’s Storyfunding and Tumblbug has been taking the financial burden off authors by fundraising, and allowing them to acquire basic readership even before the book is out.
Developments friendly to independent publishing have also led to major bookstores and online platforms into opening supporting services. Kyobo Bookstore’s Pubple, an open-market self-publishing system, was closed in 2015 but re-opened as ePubPle in April 2017 due to popular demand. In a worldwide level, Kindle Direct Publishing is opening new opportunities for independent authors who want to showcase their publications globally.
University student authors of independent books
With the increase popularity and interest in independent publishing, many university students are also taking part in this trend. The biggest reason why the young generation chooses independent publishing is that they can create whatever content they want without constraints from publishing companies with lower risk of its commercial success. This leads to the enrichment of the contents and genre which is much different from previous publication.
A student of Ewha is also taking part in publishing independent book. Yoon Chae-ryoung, known as ‘saleign’ as pen name, is a senior majoring in Philosophy. Currently on the process of getting funded, her book Flower Arrangment Lesson-Philosophical Thinking is a novel cartoon focusing on ‘doing philosophy’ which people can experience in the process of cultivating plants. It focuses on the vanity of life and death, human charcters that is reflected on the plants and moral and value of life.
“My first independent publishment was in 2016 when I was in the ACE project semester that students are able to plan out and delve into topics that they want to experience more about,” said Yoon. “I published a book IDIA which covers living on and living out of people suffering from sexual abuse. Then I realized that publishing books, and getting works accepted to well known publisher is not actually important and that should not be the means to judge the quality of the work. Becuase for them market potential is the most important factor.”
“The biggest hardship that I face is the lack of advertisement compared to other big publishers,” said Yoon. “There is ongoing financial support being held until April, but it is hard for me since I have to take care of all steps by myself from publishing regulation to delivery. Also profits that I can get by selling each book is very low.”
Yoon is willing to publish another book through independent publishing when she thinks those works are worth to be printed and spread as books. While she has faced many difficulties herself, she recommend independent publishing to others.
“Although the process of independent publishing is hard and bothersome, it is worth it,” said Yoon. “It is the only way to experience the whole process of how the audience recieves my book. I strongly recommend independent publishing to people who got their works rejected from publishers since they might not be able to find out true value of your work.”
Le Debut, fashion magazine made of the students, by students, and for the students
In the field of independent magazine publication, Le Debut stands as the first and biggest fashion indie magazine in Korea. Found in September of 2008, they are now rapidly growing as a stable independent magazine.
Although money making is considered pivotal in the magazine industry, Le Debut publishes to voice out their individual ideas and opinions about fashion. Fully run by university students, their young and unique views have attracted the public and even people in the fashion industry.
“I would like to say Le Debut’s biggest charm is its creativity and uniqueness,” said Kim Seo-kyung, the editor-in-chief of Le Debut. “Major fashion magazines may think our works are amateur-like, but that’s not always the case. Our editors aren’t bound to commercial viability and are encouraged to fully express themselves, thus original content is created.”
Stressing that independent magazines should cover subjects and concepts that major magazines don’t, Le Debut puts extraordinary effort for theme selection of each magazine. For every quarterly issue, each editor makes a presentation on a possible topic, After, the whole team goes through careful discussion and votes which theme is most appropriate. Also, because Le Debut is a university student magazine and members change frequently, it almost feels like reading a new magazine every issue, adding even more endless charm.
Being an independent magazine run by students contributes to its unique content, but it’s not always sunshine and roses. Financial issues and time management has always been a burden for the student editors. Running from university buildings to fashion shows and meetings, members of Le Debut work as hard as they can.
“Since Le Debut is a free magazine, we pay for publishing costs by collaborating with brands or placing advertisements,” said Kim. “However, we do not want to become a magazine full of advertisements thus try our best to preserve Le Debut’s uniqueness.”
Despite such hardships, interest towards independent publication is on its rise.
“Nowadays, interest towards independent publications are steadily growing,” said Kim. “Many readers even specifically search for independent publications because they consider indie culture to be ‘hip’ and trendy.”
In modern day society where there is a strong tendency to enjoy things that are distinctive and different from others, people delve into small bookstores and go on their own treasure hunt for unconventional and novel independent publications. Kim views such phenomenon in a positive light. People can publish their works without the help of a big publication company, and the creation of these unique publications contributes greatly to the diversity in the publishing industry.
However, for independent publishing to keep on expanding boundaries in the future, there are things to be aware of.
“As independent publishing becomes accessible and publication platforms increase, this can lead to the issuance of indiscreet publications,” said Kim. “In order for quality publications to increase, the reader’s role is crucial.”
Having published five issues of Le Debut and currently working on her sixth one, Kim advised that having a through vision is pivotal.
“When I became the editor-in-chief of Le Debut, I asked myself about who our readers are and what is the uniqueness of Le Debut that I need to preserve,” said Kim. “If you are interested in independent publishing, it’s a good idea to start by asking yourself what kind of magazine you want to make and what your readers wants to read. When you have a clear answer, its best to start then.”
By Pak Gee-na, Lee Tae-hee, Shin Ye-eun, Wee So-yeon