In my last post, I discussed the misleading appropriation by self-publishing conglomerate Author Solutions (parent company of AuthorHouse, iUniverse, Xlibris, and Trafford) of the term “independent publisher.”
The flip side of this is the growing tendency among self-published authors to call themselves “independent authors” or “indie authors.” I don’t know where this term came from, or who originated it; but I’m seeing it a lot these days (Google it to see what I mean), and, stickler for precision that I am, it bugs the crap out of me.
If you are a true self-publisher–if you’ve handled every aspect of publication on your own–then yes, you can accurately call yourself an independent author, in at least one of the senses below. If, however, you’ve used a publishing service or platform, here are three reasons why the term won’t fly.
1. It’s inaccurate. You didn’t publish on your own. You used a service to publish for you. Whether you hired an assisted self-publishing company like AuthorHouse or used a free service like Lulu or Amazon’s digital publishing platform, you granted a license to your work, you are limited to a pre-determined package or range of services, and you’re dependent on whatever distribution the company or platform makes available. You may not own your ISBN.
Also, since most self-pub companies or platforms require you to follow their Terms of Service, and reserve the right to discontinue publication if they deem you to have breached them, you don’t fully control your work’s availability. And since most pay either a royalty or a percentage of sales income, you don’t control your income, either.
2. It’s redundant. In the larger sense of being independent contractors rather than employees, all authors are independent, unless they’re doing work-for-hire. This is true whether they’ve scored a contract with a large commercial publisher, have gotten an offer from a non-advance-paying small press, have fallen into the clutches of a dishonest vanity publisher, or have bought a publishing package from a self-publishing service.
3. It’s a euphemism. Giving something a different name doesn’t change what it is. What’s wrong with “self-published,” anyway? If you’re proud of having self-published, why not call it what it is? If you’re ashamed, why do it to begin with? Euphemisms are of help to no one. All they do is make things more confusing.
I do realize that I’m fighting a losing battle in pointing out these contradictions, and I fully expect that, like “traditional publisher” a decade earlier, “indie author” and “indie publisher” will become the terminology of choice among those who don’t know better, who wish to pretend, or who fear to offend. None of which, clearly, are me.