In college, I took a class called The British Novel. As the name suggests, we read British novels but we read them in chronological order to observe the development of the novel itself. The second novel we read was The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman by Laurence Sterne. For anyone familiar with this work, you'll know what I mean when I say it is experimental. An example for those unfamiliar: There is a page that is entirely black in mourning for the death of a character. In a time when the novel was still being defined, Sterne broke what rules existed.
Some things which were once considered experimental (multiple narrators, for example) have become accepted as another version of the standard. In order for the novel to continue to develop, there needs to be a willingness on the part of publishers to take a risk on manuscripts that may not be commercially appealing. Since The Big Six are going to be concerned with sales, experimental fiction writers have had to seek out smaller publishers that also may be unwilling to take a risk on the unusual.
Independent publishing has opened the doors to experimental fiction. The ability for anyone to publish anything may result in a lot of work out there, and not all of it is gold, but something wonderful for readers, writers, and the novel is the ability to publish the unusual, the risky, the new and bold. Writers today have an opportunity that has been missing for some time in a world controlled by traditional publishing: They can change the face and construction of a novel. They can even change the concept of what a novel is. No more convincing agents, editors, or publishers that your unconventional work is important and sell-able. The power is in the writers now.
Over the weekend, I had the pleasure of doing a sample edit on a piece of experimental fiction. It was breaking all sorts of rules and making some important commentary in the process. I could just imagine editors and publishers asking the author to change this and that and ultimately mold it into something far more conventional. If you ask me, indie authors have a responsibility to keep their voices and ideas strong. If you don't have an editor that really gets your goal (your desired effect), you need to change editors. They should be strengthening your concept and helping convey it to the reader, not diluting it into something traditional and formulaic.
Independent publishing gives experimental fiction a chance to be read and effect change for the novel and for readers. Writers, be bold with your freedom. It's a great time to innovate.