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Self and Indie Publishing

I’m interested in the potential of self/indie pubbing, particularly for doing some novellas or stories in my various worlds. I’m also interested in the idea as an industry changer, so I try to keep up-to-date. Anyhow, one of the things that I’ve encountered is that those terms are not defined as I expected. Which is to say, I made some assumptions about what the two terms meant and that everyone bought into the same idea. Turns out, not so much.

I essentially thought that the terms were interchangeable, and frankly, to me, they always will be. Independent publishing and self publishing are all about independently publishing your own work without a publisher. Which is to say, you take on all the roles of publisher yourself–editor, copy editor, designer, cover artist, and so on. Obviously you might and probably wouldn’t do all that work yourself; you’d likely hire out to someone who could do the work better than you. But in the end, you’re in charge; you’re the one who makes all the decisions.

What I’ve heard, though, is that Indie publishing refers to small press publishers. I just don’t buy that because no matter what size they are, they are still publishers. That means they acquire books, have editors, copy editors, and so on, and they contract with the writer for the right to publish the books. So to me, it’s not that they are independent, so much as just publishers. They may be smaller and more agile, but I don’t see them as exactly independent, except that they are not beholden to big corporations.

Obviously there will be others who disagree, and I’m willing to be schooled, so feel free. What do you think? Is there a difference? Is there another publishing term out there that I’ve not heard of at this point?

Originally published at www.dianapfrancis.com. You can comment here or there.


Among we authors who are doing it, I regularly hear "self" and "indie" to be interchangeable. Small-press publishing is, er, small-press publishing. (Those presses are independent of NY, but I don't hear them being referred to as "indie" publishing.)

From my seat, "indie" evolved to satisfy people who felt that "self" was a dirty word, too linked to vanity presses of old.

That's what I was thinking, Mindy. That it evolved. I just can't see it equating with small press publishing. It's just two different things.
I've been using "indie" as another term for "self," but someone (at Miscon? Can't remember who it was) rather firmly corrected me that "indie" was supposed to equal "small press." Whomever it was, it was someone who had an axe to grind about self-publishing and Did Not Like It. Just can't remember who it was.

When I talk to people outside of the publishing world, I use "indie" to refer to self-publishing. It avoids confusion.
I wonder if I know who corrected you. Hmmm. But I'm with you. Indie is a good, transparent word for what I mean, which is self-pubbing.
It's a small world, and honestly, I don't remember (though I do have suspicions, really, I don't remember). It's not going to change my use of the word but it did result in a subconscious note-- "don't use that word that way around this person." I know I can compartmentalize that way fairly easily because I've had to do it in the teaching life. I think the use of the word in that manner is appropriate.

I do know that there is someone at Orycon who will do the same thing, and is rather vocal in the opinion that indie publishing is like being a scab. Analogy doesn't work, especially since this person also knows I'm active in my union and did participate in a three and a half week strike (in a nasty Willamette Valley/Cascades November).
At some point I started thinking of independent presses being ones that are larger than, say, 3 books a year, or narrowly-glossed-vanity-presses. I thought of Nightshade as independent, because while, yes, a small press compared to NYC, it was putting books of sufficient physical quality out that they seemed a cut above what often came out of truly small presses.

I still think of self-publishing as that, although I think I've also called it independent publishing, to differentiate from traditional, NYC publishing. It's semantics. :)
I think this is a good point--small presses wanting to delineate themselves from the rest of the pack did start using the word "indie" in that manner, to mean larger small presses striving for a certain level of quality. So it was used as a term to differentiate amongst small presses and perhaps label particular small presses as being those strivers.

Dang, we need some better semantics here.
I think people have always used "indie publisher" to refer to a small press to make it clear the house in question is not an imprint of something larger. And while a small press is still very much a publisher. it's also true that their business models are often different. As I understand it, a lot of indie publishers don't pay advances or pay only a token advance ($100 or so) and rely on royalties to pay authors. The term "indie author," however,I have only heard in reference to someone who is self-published. It really only gets confusing when you change the noun and start talking about "indie publishing."

March 2017



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