You'll occasionally see me use the term "self publishing" here simply because of its common use among indie authors. But I hate that phrase. Hate, hate, hate it. If you want to call yourself a self publisher, by all means do so. There's nothing wrong with that. My biggest issue with it is when people throw that term around to describe others, including myself.
"Self Publishing" Implies DIY
Self publishing has a bad name for good reason. It's an umbrella term. And it encompasses the amateur DIY crowd -- hobbyists who throw together their own books with no professional help and who for whatever reason think they're above needing an editor. When we blog, we're self publishers. When we publish books, I think there needs to be more involved when we want to do more than publish just to see our own names in print.
I am not a "self publisher." I do not do everything myself. My nonfiction book going through the first round of edits right now won't see the light of day until a variety of professionals have been brought in:
- Beta readers
- A line editor and / or proofreader
- A cover designer
- A typesetter
- A printer
That's a pretty bare bones setup. And there's nothing "self" about it. I don't like the label thrown around, lumping me in with people who slap together a book so they can call themselves authors. Some writers accept that term in a broader sense and don't mind it. But I'm not one of them. I chose the "indie" label for good reason. It's more accurate when it comes to what I do.
The "Indie" Label
You may know that I come from a strong background in the "indie" world. Not only have I been independently e-publishing for years, but before I started making my living entirely as a writer I ran a small PR firm. My work revolved around independent artists at that point, largely in indie music -- where many of our "indie" preconceptions come from.
Even then I had issues with indie labels -- using "indie" as a marketing tool more than anything. In reality, you'd be surprised at how similarly many artists are treated regardless of the size of the label. And so-called indie publishing companies do the same thing in this industry. But being a small publisher doesn't make them independent. It just makes them a smaller publisher. And being an author working with one doesn't make you independent either. "Indie" is doing things your own way. You don't work with publisher. You don't have someone else calling the shots on who to bring in and how many copies to release.
"Indie" is different than contracting with a larger entity that brings your product to market under their name, label, or imprint. But it's also different than DIY. All it means is that you are in the driver's seat. You call the shots. You hand-pick and hire the best people possible for the individual job rather than accepting whomever a publisher has in-house or on call or hiring some generic company with claims that they can do it all. What makes indies stand out is the fact that they not only accept these responsibilities, but they embrace the challenge to independently finance their projects and make the best choices possible. And they aren't naive enough to think they're qualified to do everything themselves.
The "indie" label has certainly been tarnished in its own right by the small companies using it for the marketing advantage. But no matter what small firms choose to call themselves, "indie" is still the more accurate term to describe what a lot of authors are doing in this day and age.
So those who want the self publishing label can keep it. It's not for me. You won't see it mentioned a lot here. And now you know why. I consider it inaccurate. And I think it paints professional independent authors in a negative light from the get-go. For now I'll stick to "indie." In the long run I look forward to the day we're seen as "published" regardless of the imprint or lack thereof behind us. I just don't see that happening as long as the masses continue to cling to that "self" label and its understandably negative implications.
Jenn has 19 years experience writing for others, around 14 years experience in blogging, and over 11 years experience in indie e-book publishing. She is also an Active member of the Horror Writers Association.
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