What is an independent/indie author?
“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.
This is the foundation stone for the indie author: indie authors know we have ownership of our publishing rights, and we are aware of their value.
Indie authors value creative freedom and control. We retain our publishing rights and control over our book production and distribution. We may hire an author service or collaborate with a licensing company or publisher where that seems advantageous, in a creative collaboration between equals
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: 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.
- Indie Author (also called author-publishers): Any author who self-publishes to sell, who takes publishing seriously, wants to reach as many readers as possible and grow a profitable author-publishing business. Indie authors embrace the creative freedom and control of self-publishing, and choose the publishing services most appropriate to each book project.
- Authorpreneur: an author who makes a 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: A service that handles 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) publisher: A business that licenses publishing rights from authors and handles 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” publisher: Smaller publishing company which, like the big conglomerates, commissions books from authors and publish at the company’s expense, not the author’s. If very small, they are called micro-publishers.
Authors who are unfamiliar with the advantages of self-publishing often unthinkingly assume that getting publisher interest is the best pathway to publication. The truth is that it all depends: on the book, on the author’s willingness to become a good publisher and on the offer that is being made.
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:
- It gives us a global readership, instead of confining us to specific territories.
- Our books are continually available — there is no such thing as ‘out-of-print’ anymore.
- 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:
- 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.