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Self-Publishing & Independent Authors FAQ

What is an independent/indie author?

At ALLi, we use the terms “author-publisher” and “indie author” to distinguish those writers who earn, or aim to earn, their living from writing from those who are publishing a single book for family, friends, or personal community, or to improve their business profile. In both cases, “self” publishing is a misnomer–it implies that we do it all alone. “Independent,” too is a relative term. Self-publishers are relatively independent because we retain our publishing rights and control over our book production and distribution, but publishing is always a team effort.

Some of our members are fiercely autonomous, as DIY as it’s possible to be, actively advocating the self-publishing route for all and envisaging the imminent end of trade-publishing as we know it. While these members of the community tend to be more vocal, many members are actually happy to collaborate with a publishing service where that seems advantageous, working with paid services or trade-publishers as desired.

Some use the term “hybrid author” to describe a writer who publishes books through both trade and self-publishing platforms. At ALLi, we believe the term “indie author” adequately—and best—describes such a writer.

What, then, marks out an “indie” from other authors? For ALLi, you are an independent author if:

  • You have self-published at least one book.
  • You see yourself as the creative director of your books, from conception to completion through marketing, promotion, and beyond.
  • You also see yourself as the creative director of your author-business. In any partnership you negotiate, whether with a paid service, a trade-publisher or a literary agent, you expect your status as rights holder and creative director to be acknowledged in payment, terms and conditions.
  • You are proud of your indie status and carry that self-respect into all your ventures, negotiations, and collaborations, for your own benefit and to benefit all writers.

What is the difference between a self-publisher, an author-publisher, an indie author, and an authorpreneur?

At ALLi, we use the following (sometimes overlapping) terms of reference:

  • Self-publishing author (also called author-publishers): any author who has published a book at personal expense. Self-publishers range the full gamut, from those publishing a one-off book for family and friends to the most entrepreneurial and productive authorpreneur. The term is used interchangeably with author-publisher.
  • Indie Authors: Authors who self-publish to sell and want to reach as many readers as possible. “Indie” is primarily an attitude. Indie authors embrace the creative freedom and control of self-publishing, and choose the publishing services most appropriate to each book project.
  • Authorpreneurs: writers who make their living from self-publishing books and associated products or services. ALLi has a specific membership category for such author-publishers. (See also our Self-publishing 3.0 campaign)
  • Publishing Service / Author Service: Services that handle some or all of the processes of publishing, at the author’s expense. Services run the gamut from freelance one-person operations, like designers or editors, to self-publishing services that handle everything for a fee (e.g. BookBaby), to trade publishers that license rights. Payment to a publishing service can take three forms: 1. A fee 2. A royalty split or percentage payment 3. Rights licensing and investment in design, editing and marketing in return for a much smaller royalty and (sometimes) an advance on royalties. When payment for services takes this third form, we call it trade publishing (also known as “legacy” or “traditional” publishing).
  • Trade (traditional) publishers: Businesses that license publishing rights from authors and handle the publication of their books in return for a large percentage. Most trade-published books are brought out by one of “The Big Five” corporate publishers: Penguin-Random House; Hachette Book Group (HBG); Harper Collins, Macmillan and Simon & Schuster.
  • Independent or “indie” publishers: Small publishing companies which, like the big conglomerates, commission books from authors and publish at the company’s expense, not the author’s. If very small, they are sometimes called micro-publishers.

Why are more writers choosing self-publishing?

Author-publication served only a tiny number of writers before digital technology enabled print-on-demand and the direct distribution of ebooks. This technology has revolutionized writing and publishing. It simultaneously does four things that are very good for authors:

  1. It gives us a global readership, instead of confining us to specific territories.
  2. Our books are continually available — there is no such thing as ‘out-of-print’ anymore.
  3. It takes away the necessity for ‘middlemen’ like agents, publishers, and distributors (though we still may choose to work with such partners — see above). And:
  4. It gives our readers a point-of-purchase just at the moment they discover they want our book.

As the creative possibilities of this revolution make themselves felt, the self-publishing pathway is attracting more and more writers.

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