>Indie vs. Self Publishing


I just came across a very thorough discussion of a new terminology debate that has arisen in the publishing world. Increasingly, authors who have published their books themselves have abandoned the term “self-published,” which has some negative connotations, in favor of “indie published” which, so the argument goes, sounds better. But it sounds better because true indie publishing is different from self-publishing, in my view, and self-published authors are using the term in order to hide something.

An independent publisher is a small or micro-press that isn’t part of a publishing monolith. My book, In an Uncharted Country, was published by Press 53, a small independent publisher. They will also publish my new book, coming out in Fall 2012. That is indie publishing. But an author who publishes by him or herself, even if that author sets up a publishing company for the purpose of publishing the author’s book, is self-published. And while some self-published books are just fine–especially those that have undergone professional editing–many (most?) are not. I actually have nothing against self-publishing. There are lots of reasons an author might choose to go that route. But as a reader I am wary of such books because I’ve seen too many that are simply awful.

So, I object to this blurring of the line between “self-published” and “indie-published.” Nonetheless, I recommend this article: Self-publishing and the Definition of an Indie Author.

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  1. >I've always understood small presses, such as Press 53, to fall into the "small press" category. To me, the use of indie to describe authors like me more closely tracks with how it is used in other areas, such as music. It also was the term common when I started learning about the trend before I made the decision that for me and my work, it was the most logical option.

    I know a lot of indie authors, and we're upfront about it. We're not using indie as a way to hide that we're publishing our own work. We're upfront about our books and how they came to be. There are lots of us out here, and many are producing work on par with anything put out by either the Big Six or small presses. Many traditionally published authors have even taken this route, including Lawrence Block and James Scott Bell.

    You're welcome to dismiss us as not being "true indies," but that's increasingly out-of-step with the evolution of thought in the industry forced by the transition to digital and ebooks.

  2. >I don't think I was "dismissing" anyone, but I believe terminology matters. And, as I said, I realize that there are some fine self-published books out there. Steve Almond is another example of an author who has gone this route.

    There's also a lot of crap. Anyone can slap a book together these days and publish it, electronically or in hard copy. I think many readers are confused by this.

    I admit that some in the industry use the term "Independent Publishing" to encompass both self-publishing and small press publishing. (My book won an IPPY, an Independent Publisher award that is open to both small press and self-published books.)

  3. >Oh, there's definitely lots of dreck out there, and I've been pretty vocal in saying we indies need some sort of external mechanism readers can rely on to find the good ones, especially since it's easy to game Amazon's reviews. I've read some Big Six books that are bad, too, though, so the method of publication doesn't automatically confer a level of quality.

    Terminology does matter. And indie has become the accepted term to refer to the move of authors into publishing their own work through ebooks and POD (vs. the old vanity publishers). Some do use it more broadly, but the point at which you could argue that indie doesn't apply to those of us going that route has passed. Trying to stuff that particular genie back in the bottle won't work.

    As for "dismissing," having seen your lone line in your short-story collection publishing post on publishing your own collection, I feel it was an accurate verb, but I fully believe you don't think it was. We're coming at this debate from very different places and with different approaches. We're going to to disagree. 🙂

  4. >I said in the "How to" post that I don't recommend self-publishing for writers who want to make fiction writing their career. I stand by that, and don't consider it dismissive. There are exceptions, of course. And there are established writers who can seize on self-publishing to make more money and have more control. But for emerging writers, it's the longest of shots. Furthermore, the post was about finding a publisher. Self-publishing, by definition, wasn't addressed.

    I've also read books from major publishers that were bad, but I've never read one that wasn't copyedited, or that had no sense of grammar and punctuation. I will only read self-published books if I know the author and trust that these things won't be a problem (like your book, for example, and Maggie's).

    If you want to use the term "Indie" in the way you say has become accepted (I don't think you're right about that), then I can't stop you. But I find the term "self-published" to be more accurate and, therefore, more helpful.

  5. >I know a lot of indie authors, and we're upfront about it. We're not using indie as a way to hide that we're publishing our own work. We're upfront about our books and how they came to be.

  6. >I'm in your corner on this, Clifford. Although the intent, as jennie and mondal both stress, might be fully above board, the way the term is actually used in practice isn't nearly as honest.

    Unfortunately, I think the horse has left the barn door far behind already: there's really no turning back. Get used to "indie publishing" as a synonym for "self-published."

    It's now "small press" that might need to struggle to clarify an identity.

    In a (very slight) defense of crap, it's my experience that when a book comes from a 'Big House' it's not necessarily any good at all (and I have, in some cases, read books that *seemed* to not have been copyedited). The small amount of self-published stuff I've read indicates that some of it's very good. But, yes: the overall level of quality (in every aspect) is below what an established publisher (or small press) would release.

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