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Friday, December 9, 2011

Just What is an Indie Author and Publisher?

What is an Indie Author?
More insight from writer-publisher-entrepreneur-businesswoman Joanna Penn (Please visit my post Future Publishing and Book Selling – An Insight RE Joanna on my Publishing/Writing: Insights, News, Intrigue blog) for even more background.

Confusion is evident in the fast changing world of publishing ... especially in understanding just what in the hell is an 'indie' author and an 'indie' publisher ... I know I get mashed potato brains thinking about it at times! :)

Here is a post by Joanna Penn from her Creative Penn blog that brings clarity and is one of the best, all-inclusive explanations I've heard to date:

Self-Publishing And The Definition Of An Indie Author


I’ve been at two publishing conferences in the last week and it’s evident that myths and misconceptions abound when it comes to independent authors and self-publishing.

Book Machine’s Publishing Now even had a debate on the motion “Self-publishing is devaluing publishing.” In a heated discussion afterwards, I could see that the definition of ‘indie’ as it applies to authors is still misunderstood. Of course, when mainstream publishers like Penguin announce their own self-publishing arms, it can be difficult to know what the hell is going on!

This is further demonstrated in the leaked Hachette internal memo on the relevance of publishing companies where they equate self-publishing with just digital distribution, which we (hopefully) all know is only the final step in the process. Joe Konrath & Barry Eisler respond with their comments here which is worth a read.

Eisler defines self-publishing: ‘it means you keep the rights to your book and publish it yourself using distributor/retailers like Amazon, Apple, B&N, Kobo, Smashwords, and Sony, typically retaining 70% of the cover price instead of the 17.5% offered by legacy publishers (for digital editions). This isn’t what “most people” mean when they say self-publishing; it’s what everybody means when they say self-publishing.


But it’s true that to many people self-publishing means bad quality books with no editing published by one of the vanity presses and the main concern is that this crap is flooding the world and readers can’t find quality in the mass of rubbish. I know these books do exist but I hope you agree that we can do a lot better than that these days. I also believe that readers are the new gatekeepers so sales online, reviews and rankings will ensure that the cream rises and bad stuff drops out of the picture.

The term ‘indie author’ has been increasingly claimed by authors who want a new label, one that does justice to the work involved.

This is my take on the subject but please add your comments and thoughts as it is definitely a moving target and no doubt there will be continued debate on it. I do mean for this to be an inclusive definition and you may sit somewhere on the spectrum of indie or you may be traditionally published. People have different aims for their books and their writing careers and I respect your choices, I just wanted to add to the debate!

Indie author means truly independent

At its most basic, indie means there is no separate publisher involved. Many indies may have setup their own micro-press, so their books still have a publisher name that is not the author’s name but the publisher is not one of the author services companies. The indie author most likely owns their own ISBNs. The indie pays the bills and is paid by the distributors e.g. Amazon/Smashwords directly. The only middleman is the distributor.

There has been a blurring of the line between indie author and indie publisher that seems to be mostly related to size and scope of the business. I am an indie publisher of my own books so it’s basically the same thing as being an indie author, but there are small & midsize independent publishing houses who don’t like the term indie being used for people like me. However, there are increasing numbers of micro-businesses being set up by authors who also publish other author’s books so these perhaps count as indie publishers.

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