Which is worse, self published or Indie author?

(If you’re new to my site, you might like to read my launch post: Gotta launch)

two monkeys walking with their tails up like question marks

A few days ago I read something goofy. It was a little diatribe about self published writers. It went something like this:

“Self publishing means you paid a vanity publisher to put your unedited, probably unworthy book into print, wasting resources and foisting yet another terrible book on the readership. Indie authors take it seriously: They hire editors, vet their work through readers before publication, and hold high standards for all their writing.”

What a load of crapola. How long ago did we start saying “indie author?”

Careful with that mud

Don’t get me wrong – I like the moniker. I just might start calling myself an indie author. But there are so many problems with condemning one self-description and promoting another. (Where to begin?) You see, I’m an indie author who published my bad self, just like all the other indie authors. It’s still self publishing, and that’s a sweet and remarkable opportunity available to us all. That’s a good thing.

I self published, going through months of sweaty research, editing, reader feedback, more reader feedback, revision, and ultimately a line-by-line sit-down and think about every inch of my book, before I used Trafford to put it into print. Self published, people. Guess what happened after that.

Then it really got interesting

I had done my market research so well, and worked the maze of revision so thoroughly, that my book got picked up by a “Publisher.” Some people call that being “externally published.” Most people say that’s when you can call yourself an “author.” See, I wasn’t an author when I put the book into print through Trafford. But when Sourcebooks bought it, reformatted it, renamed it, and put it into print their way, POOF! Wow, did you see that? I’m an author now. Well.

In this big, hairy, bloated transition out of lousy publishing models that keep writers impoverished, and into a model we’re making up as we go, let’s stick to the kind road.

It is a big deal to “get published.” It’s also a big deal to bring a book to fruition yourself. Completion. It’s the meat, baby.

Today, I’ll stay on that smooth track the Independent Authors call their own. We’ll see what tomorrow brings.

Suzanna Stinnett

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5 Responses to Which is worse, self published or Indie author?

  1. Suzanna Stinnett says:

    I’m glad people are finding the comments field! Still working out the kinks on my new blog.

  2. Suzanna, I know a number of poets who have self-published quite successfully and it’s something that I’m considering for my collection of math poems. I do plan to try traditional publishers (inertia has prevented me doing more) but it’s definitely on my list of possibilities. One of the main things holding me back here is, well, fear that I won’t do a good job putting the whole thing together format-wise, picking a cover, etc. I’ve checked out CreateSpace — good possibility but at the moment I’m still intimidated.

  3. Suzanna Stinnett says:

    Thanks for voicing what intimidates you – it’s quite normal. Self publishing is a bigger deal than people realize. I know many people who write and would like to have a blog, but there is a big fear about actually putting it out there. I’ll be talking about those issues over the coming weeks in the material I send to my subscribers. See you there!

  4. Maria says:

    I don’t see much of a difference between “regular” publishing and “indie” publishing except that an indie publisher is likely smaller than a regular publisher. Or am I missing something here?

    I’m willing to bet that the vast majority of true self-publishers — including those who rely on Vanity Press services — don’t bother with editing, design, marketing, etc. These are the services a traditional publisher, no matter what its size, brings to the publishing process.

    There’s a lot of dreck out on the Internet and the advances in self publishing — especially e-books — are putting that dreck out in the marketplace with traditionally published work. I think that ANY traditional publisher will put more effort into creating a quality finished product than the vast majority of self publishers. That’s their business and they know how. The vast majority of self publishers simply haven’t got a clue.

    Note that I didn’t say ALL self-publishers. Some are actually quite good.

    I’ve got 70+ books under my belt, all of which were published by traditional print publishers. I highly recommend that anyone interested in getting a book published attempt to do so through a traditional print publisher first, before taking publishing into their own hands.

  5. Suzanna Stinnett says:

    Maria brings up a couple of important and subtle points I’m trying to unfold here. I’m still not sure, but I think that people who describe themselves as “indie authors” are in effect publishing their own work. I would call that self publishing.

    I’m not at all sure what “indie publishing” is.

    Maria, you said “true” self publishers. Again, this is very interesting to me. What is a true self publisher?

    I too suspect that the vast majority of people who self publish are not using the best practices. When I brought “Open Here” to print through Trafford, I went about it in the most professional way I could, using Dan Poynter’s comprehensive instructions on self publishing which I had studied for years. The result makes my work obvious: The book got picked up by a traditional publisher — which I had not even pursued. Before bringing my book to print (on demand, by the way), I paid a professional editor (it cost about $400 in 2001), and used seven well-educated associates who generously combed the book for troubled areas.

    I have received comments from people who have read both “Open Here” and “Little Shifts” that the extensive formatting changes performed by my publisher did not improve the book. But that’s subjective.

    What I highly recommend is that people make use of the excellent work of Dan Poynter, at least read his Self Publishing Manual (you owe that to yourself) in the process of bringing your book to print. And expect to pay a professional editor. Those are two basics you just can’t ignore if you call yourself a professional.

    The problem I see with attempting to get a book published through a traditional print publisher is that this can be such a long dead-end, the poor book can be drained of all its blood in the process. It is extremely difficult to remain positive about your work in the face of the traditional publishing machine.

    The up side to this attempt is that it can force you through some self-scrutiny to figure out how your book can be made a thousand percent better.

    I’d love to see people respect their own work enough to climb those steep curves of editing, critiques and revision. That would go a long way toward squashing the dreck being delivered in print and in digital form.

    Thank you so much for your comment, Maria!


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