INDEPENDENT PUBLISHERS ARE AUTHORS acting as their own publishers. They take responsibility for the entire process from writing to publishing, to marketing and sales.
Because of all they do, they also keep the biggest chunk of the rewards (anywhere from 30% to 80% of the sale; while the vendors and distributors — such as Amazon, GooglePlay, or Apple — keep only a small portion of the sale.)
Many modern authors are no longer just writers. They are also editors, designers, publishers, and promoters. These authors take on the responsibility of writing, editing, formatting (the stories for the various platforms — ebook, audio book, and paperback), designing (interior and exterior ), obtaining the ISBN, publishing the manuscript, and then marketing it.
This means that they can opt to do these tasks themselves or they can fork over the money to have someone do it for them. Either way, they are responsible for the overall product. They aren’t just the story teller, they are the whole production and marketing department of their own personal publishing empire.
These are the types of people no longer content to wait for a traditional publishing company to discover them. Instead, they submit their work to the world and dare the world to discover them. Some of these dare-devilish entrepreneurs have turned out to be quite successful (The Martian by Andy Weir was independently published when the movie makers decided they liked it and wanted to make a movie of it).
Publishing independently lets authors set their own schedule, choose their own methods and platforms, and formulate their own unique marketing techniques.
This type of author decides what platforms their book should be available in, what vendors they will use (Kobo vs. Amazon vs. Barnes & Noble), and they decide what the prices will be. (Although, most print-on-demand vendors still set a minimum price for any paperbacks, the author still gets to decide the maximum price to charge for their book.) Having the freedom of setting your own prices can help with marketing. For instance, many unknown or not-yet-known authors will set the first book of their series to $0.99 or free to entice readers to buy the whole series. Traditional publishers are usually quite unwilling to try this marketing technique.
Independent publishers are authors with an entrepreneurial streak. They know what they want and they’re willing to work hard to get it.