However, it appears that these smaller independent publishers are mediocre at generating any significant audience. It feels like it is largely up to the author to develop their own audience.
So I am always keeping my mind open to people who have overcome the starting problem in terms of developing an audience or fan base even outside of fiction.
One thing they've all told me is that one of every publisher's first questions is something along the lines of, "How big is your email list?" The pretty much want writers to have already built up their own audience online.