Interview With Association of Independent Authors Founder Leigh Cunningham

The AIA is an organization recently founded for the benefit of indie (self-published) authors. To find out what this new group is all about, and what it has to offer indie authors, Publetariat interviewed AIA founder Leigh Cunningham.

1. What is the AIA?
The Association of Independent Authors is a not-for-profit organization representing and advancing the interests of independent authors. Our vision is that independent publishing will be the preferred, first choice for all authors.

2. How is the AIA different from the Independent Book Publishers Association and the (mainstream) Author’s Guild?
The IBPA is a trade association of independent publishers. Its mission is to advance the professional interests of independent publishers.
The Author’s Guild is restricted to authors published by an "established American publisher." Self-published works and works published by subsidy presses do not qualify an author for membership of Author’s Guild.
The Society of Authors in the UK only recently amended its eligibility criteria to allow for self-published authors, but entry is subject to sales results, which is not the case for authors published through an established publisher.
The AiA in contrast has a singular focus on independent authors. Every resource in our community is relevant to authors who publish their own work, either in their own name or under their own imprint.
3. What are the benefits of membership in the AIA?
There are hundreds of thousands of independent authors, all doing the same thing, individually. A key function of the AiA is to facilitate the sharing of information and resources so that members can avoid the mistakes made by others. Since authors generally have limited budgets, our members can direct those funds to opportunities that will generate the desired outcome whether it is sales or publicity.
Another priority of the AiA is to improve the quality of self-published works. Our members are serious about ongoing improvement as a writer, and development as a business professional. We offer genuine, honest feedback on writing, cover and interior design, and market strategies, in a supportive community environment.
Members also receive discounts on an array of services relevant to independent authors including marketing, PR, video book trailers, magazines and courses.
4. Must a writer have self-published in order to join?
We have two levels of membership. An Associate is someone who is in the process of arranging the publication of their own work, or one who plans to publish their own work upon completion of that work. A Member is someone who has arranged the publication of their own work either under their own name or under their own imprint.
Unpublished authors (Associate members) require different services, information and resources to published authors who are looking to distribute, promote and sell their work. This differentiation allows us to tailor services to each member type. It also means members can communicate directly with others who are in the same part of the writing or publishing process.
5. Many mainstream-published authors are now going "indie" by self-publishing works for which the rights have reverted to them, or for works not yet signed over to a publisher, yet still have mainstream books in print. Will these authors be able to join the AIA?
Absolutely! We would love to have them along as they epitomize the vision of the AiA, like self-published poet, Chrissie Gittins. Having had success with her first two collections under her own imprint, Chrissie decided to self-publish the third collection because the contract terms offered by publishers did not compare to the rewards and benefits of self-publishing. Opportunities previously beyond the reach of self-published authors, for example global distribution channels, are now accessible, and of course, e-books break down all barriers. We expect therefore, that more and more authors will choose the independent path.
6. Will the AIA be taking public positions on issues that affect its membership (e.g., DRM, Text-To-Speech on Kindle books, etc.), and if so, will members have input to those positions?
We will definitely take public positions on issues affecting our members, for example, we support Amazon’s position regarding the price of e-books. We support the moves by publishing houses to establish self-publishing entities. The term "vanity publishing" has no relevance today – it is a business model that responds to the changes that technology has brought to the publishing industry. Publishing houses are already moving away from offering author advances. It’s only a small step from this to asking authors to invest in the success of their own work.
Our members will always have an opportunity to comment on issues affecting them, which is why the AiA community revolves around our forums, groups and community blogs.
7. What does it cost to join the AIA, and are there any other specific requirements for membership?
During the month of February, our inaugural month, the AiA is offering complimentary first year membership. Registrants can use promo code " COMP " to take advantage of this offer.

The regular, annual subscription rate is USD50 for Associates and Members, and there are no application fees. Membership is open to any author who has, or who is planning to publish his or her own work. Our annual subscription compares favorably with similar trade organizations, for example, Author’s Guild is USD90 and IBPA is USD175. The Society of Authors in the UK is GBP90 per annum (USD140)
We also have Consultant members, and following a request from a bookseller, have added a new category for Booksellers. Consultant members offer valuable information and resources to our members, which is posted in their Group forums and blogs. We plan to work closely with bookseller members to help them with the issues they are facing as much as they might offer opportunities for our individual members.
8. What does the AIA have planned for its inaugural conference in 2012?
The conference will address issues specific to independent authors. We will focus on the business side of writing as our members, as independent authors, effectively run their own businesses. This stream will include topics related to marketing, PR, sales, distribution, finance, etc. Additionally, as one of our goals is to improve the overall quality of self-published works, there will be streams for the technical aspects of writing and book design.
There is a detailed online survey on our website for members to complete, the responses to which will guide us in identifying the west-coast destination, the program, and speakers for the conference.
9. Where can Publetariat’s audience go to learn more about the AIA?
Our web site at or they can contact us directly at

pictureLeigh Cunningham is a lawyer by profession, but most of her career has been spent as a senior executive for two membership organizations. She also worked for PricewaterhouseCoopers as Director, Operations & Finance, Asia.

In addition to her law degree, completed with honors, she has three masters degrees: an MBA (International Management), Master of Commerce (e-commerce major) and a Master of International Trade and Investment Law. 
Leigh sees the AIA as a merger of her past professional career and her new career as an independent author. She hopes to use her business background and education to help other independent authors improve their capabilities as businesspeople, and to use her experiences as a self-published author to guide and strengthen the publishing plans of others.