Friday, 2 April 2010

Indie vs self-published: is there a difference

We're hearing so much lately about Indie Authors, but are they just self-published authors revamped for the new millenium? Well, okay, the millenium is a decade old, but it's newer than the last one.

I don't think they are.

We have

Traditionally Published (NY) Authors. They jump through hoops to get their work out.

Vanity Published Authors. They pay cash up front.

Self-published Authors. Small scale, often write crap, aren't that serious about the whole thing.

Indie Publisher/Authors. Serious business men and women who take their work seriously and seriously use the new technology in very serious ways. I'm serious.

So does that mean there's a difference? Well, this is how I see it. People self-publish books about their local towns or so on, things that have a very small geographical area of significance. There's no point in doing an e-book if your subject is Bonniebrig or if you fancy writing like this:

Ah dunnae kinn if 'at means there's a difference ur nae, but as far as aam concerned thaur is.

Imagine a whole book written like that. I could read it, but could you? So, self-publishing suits very small niche audiences. The writer can put the books together on their PC and print them out, bind them themselves and sell them on the streets of their hometown.

Indie authors are completely different. For the most part an indie author should have the same standards as a NY publishing house. An Indie author should run their own imprint. To look at music, an Indie author is the equivalent of the Ting Tings.

Ting Tings on youtube - Awesome, much.

A self-published author plays the local pub. Sometimes they're good, sometimes they're not, very, very rarely they'll be picked up by an agent/publisher/record company.

Labels are important. It's why you won't here me refer to myself as self-published from here out. I'm indie, and I love it.

What do you think?

Ian O'Neill pointed out I should clear up some misunderstandings.  I did, and you can find my new post here.


  1. What do I think of your explanation of indie vs. self-published? Simple, you are a self-published author. I self-published a book several years ago and referred to myself as an indie author. This is nothing new.

    I argue that indie filmmakers are celebrated for bucking the traditional system, where self-published authors are frowned upon. It is what it is and no matter what you call yourself you will have a tremendous uphill battle to be recognized as a legitimate author. The public sees what it wants to see.

    An indie author, if on par with the NY publishing houses, should post things devoid of spelling errors. Your post is full of them. That does nothing to bolster confidence in the quality of the self-published.

    To say that the self-published aren't that serious about the whole thing is an insult to those who are, myself included.

    Indie and self-published are the same thing.

    Good luck.


  2. Well, strangely enough I'm going to argue that my post isn't filled with spelling mistakes. Okay, I mixed their and they're twice and sorted that, but that aside not a single spelling mistake. If you could point some out that would be awesome, because if I have spelling weaknesses and don't realize I should really sort that out.

    Second of all, I don't think I'm insulting people by calling them self-published. I would have said you were an indie author (therefore I shouldn't be insulting you because you're the same as me).

    As to the uphill battle, I realize that. This is why I'm moving away from the stigma attached to "self-publishing" by attaching myself to the "indie" label.

    And indie authors can buck the trend. We have to move away from the public's expectations.

    One last point: how many times have you picked up a book in a shop and thought "who published this?" Do you care if it was Random House or Del Rey or HarperCollins?

    Personally, I pick books by authors I know I like, or new books going by covers, blurbs, the back cover synopses and recommendations. I don't give a hoot who publishes it. Do you, really?

    And thanks for wishing me luck. I realize I'll need luck, hard work, determination and more luck.

  3. If you are saying you're on par with NY publishers, one mistake is enough. Okay, I overreacted out of anger at being called "small scale, write crap, aren't serious". That was insulting to me.

    So, you want to move away from the stigma of being referred to as self-published, and to do that you rag on the self-published. The whole self-published community wants that but don't attack each other to do it.

    To say that all self-published authors are not serious businessmen (that's one word by the way) is wrong. Also, to say that the self-published only write about small towns is ludicrous or about things that have a very small geographical area of significance is farcical. Your idea of the self-published is narrow minded.

    Regardless of the subject matter, a good story will sell. What hurts the self-published author is the lack of distribution. Traditional publishing is still miles ahead of epubs as well. All of it comes down to exposure. I can't see how starting out your quest to change the public's view of the self-published by slagging self-publishing will be seen as a positive.

    My strategy was to show that a self-published book could be as good or better than a traditionally published book. I put thousands of dollars into it and even though I've made that money back and more, I could not convince the paying public otherwise. If you say it is because I'm a bad writer, then that would simply be a cheap shot.

    I honestly wish you the best in your quest. The more people out there trying to change the status quo the better. My hope is that it can be in a more positive light.

    I pick books just like you do. The problem for the self-published author is that no one knows you. There is no huge budget to blow on marketing, no deal to distribute large quantities all at once, no deal to have an endcap or front of store display. That is how a person picks up that book and chooses it by cover design and copy.


  4. I picked up a new book by a major writer with a NY publisher earlier this year and found three spelling mistakes on page one, so errors still slip by.

    My daughter's school made a book about the Janitor. They sold about thirty copies. In my view that's self-publishing.

    You wrote a book, spent thousands on it, got your money back and more. Independent publishing.

    I'm sorry you see this as me insulting you, that's honestly not my intention. I think that serious people who make serious investments into their work shouldn't be grouped together with folk who sell poetry booklets (that they bind themselves) to friends and family.

    You wouldn't compare a NY publishing company to a University press. I wouldn't compare someone who has made 4000+ sales on Kindle to someone who sold 20 copies to their siblings and cousins.

    And places like Lightning Source can help with distribution. More importantly than that, e-books are the next big thing. Not tomorrow, not this year, but within the next decade.

    By then distribution won't matter. And I'll already have spent ten years building my name in the internet arena. If it works.

    And if it doesn't, well, I want to make movies as my day job, anyway...

  5. I wish you'd have explained it like that from the beginning because that is a compelling argument. Blanket statements don't make your point. Your specifics made your point.

    So, indie writing is just a hobby and movie making will be your real career?

    A person who's made 4,000 plus sales on Kindle is likely from a traditional publisher.

    So, if errors still slip by should we make that an excuse to continue making them? No, we should encourage each other to get better than that. As I said, as good or better than a traditional publisher.

    You should repost what your definition of an indie author is and give your examples. That makes sense.


  6. Ian, I've made over 4,500 sales on the Kindle. Chris was referring to me I think because she mentioned me specifically in her later clarification post. I'm not publishing with a traditional publisher. I find *that* insulting. :P Okay just kidding. But really I'm a total indie and that is my first release.

    I do agree with Chris that people who independently publish their work seriously with an eye toward business and quality should NOT be called the same thing as people who publish awful poetry and barely literate unfocused novels on iUniverse.

    The indie label is something most people don't tend to take until they are actually making some real effort somewhere.

    Since self-publishing and vanity publishing are synonymous labels in most people's minds, it's pretty fruitless to call yourself self-published (even if you aren't ashamed of that label) in any discussion with anyone.

    Indie on the other hand has the precedent of indie creators in film, music, comics, etc. That makes it much harder for people to blatantly misinterpret what you are.

    Of course in the amount of time most people take to argue with indie/self-publishing authors over whether or not they are "real authors," they could have read a couple of pages at least to determine whether or not you're a GOOD writer. Ultimately that's what matters.

    Just my two cents on the matter.