“Indie” Authors vs. Indie Authors

Posted on April 6, 2011 by


Nathan Bransford wrote a post today titled Who Should Have the ‘Indie’ Label: Self-Publishers or Small Presses?.

Here’s my comment on the post:

Thank you for coming to my rescue.

My first novel is coming out with a trade (traditional, whatever) independent publishing house this year. I find I have to spell this out very carefully lest people get the wrong idea.

By using the term “indie author”, self-published authors are effectively trying to suggest that they’ve been through some sort of objective, independent critique and passed muster…i.e. that someone is invested financially in their work other then themselves.

This trend says to me that self-published authors are lumping themselves with me because they’re ashamed of being self-published.

Why should they be ashamed of being self-published, for goodness’ sake? People are more and more willing to buy self-published books, and it’s a good thing.

On an egocentric note, I’m proud a stranger was willing to invest in something I created. It feels selfish of authors who haven’t gone through that procedure to pretend they have.

I didn’t talk about linguistics there, because my comment was already getting too long (Who mentions linguistics in blog comments, anyway? Someone who wants her book to fail, that’s who), so let me say it here: if the accepted term for “self-published authors” is now “indie authors”, and it looks like it is, I throw up my hands. I’m a descriptivist; you have to be these days in linguistics. Doesn’t mean I have to like it. Doesn’t mean I’m not really annoyed.

What do you guys think? I really encourage you to both comment here (to uh, help me out with the old ego, you understand) and to go parse the comments at his blog.

To “indie authors”: what would you call me, and why? Come on, sock it to me.

I’m c/p’ing a comment I saw later on Bransford’s post and my response, to further the discussion.

Will Entrekin said…

The problem with the “self-publishing” label is that, for many years and until very recently, there was a continual stigma against any author who chose to publish without the backing/support of some sort of press, small or corporate. This has diminished over the years, but has not yet disappeared; consider the article concerning Jacqueline Howett (sp?) last week, run by the web division of a major newspaper in which the author took the opportunity to swipe at all so-called “self-published” authors, who are not “vetted” by publishers . . . you can imagine where her argument went.

I think it’s unsurprising those associated with corporate publishers are so concerned about such labels, and so quick to call independent authors “self-published.” It’s like the “death tax” versus the “estate” or “inheritance tax.” Regardless of stigma, there is always some perception/connotation that goes along with words or phrases.

I’m an independent author (go Team Indie!).

My response:

Here’s the thing: nobody’s saying that self-published books are necessarily bad or that being a traditionally published author makes your work necessarily good.

HOWEVER, for the vast majority of books, the fact that an objective, independent entity is willing to invest large sums of money in your work speaks to its quality, or at the very least, its readability.

An illustrative example: if you look at the AAR listings of agents, you’ll find a huge mix of what particular agents will cover. Some will only cover specific genres, but the vast, VAST majority are practically begging for good literary fiction. They list it in all caps, or draw attention to it with asterisks, or something.

What does this tell you? That most literary agents are book nerds, that good literary fiction sells like CRAZY, AND that most (999,999 in a million) people cannot write good literary fiction — which are all facts the self-publishing community doesn’t like to talk about.

Let me say again: I love that people are willing to buy self-published books again. I don’t have an ebook reader yet, but when I find a good self-pubbed book in a format I can read, I buy it immediately. I want to support the self-pubbing industry. I subscribe to self-pubbed book review websites.

Be realistic and honest with yourselves: denial won’t get you anywhere pleasant.

And then be all like, “Yeah, I’m self-published, what’s your problem with that? Read my book and tell me I suck *then*.” Then when they read it and think it’s amazing, be really smug.