I read an article recently that seemed dated. In other words, my first impression was that it was written eight, maybe ten years ago. However, on further reading, I found it was published on December 7, 2015.
My first impression came from two things:
1) The lack of specifics pertaining to self-publishing.
2) The snobbery aimed at those who self-publish.
In the early days of self-publishing, authors used a collection of names to call themselves: self-published authors, freelancers, independent authors, independent publishers, non-traditional authors and indies (shorted from the independent adjective). Some simply called themselves authors and left it at that.
All these tags are still used, but many authors have settled on one and used it to brand their work. Authors can use whichever they want to describe the method they use to get their stories into the hands of readers. They all mean the same thing.
In the article I read, the author divided authors into three groups, two of them being self-published authors and indie authors. The third I’ll comment on later. In my working experience with self-publishing, these two types of authors are the same. It depends only on what the author wants to use.
Here’s where the condescension comes in. The author of this article had this to say about self-published authors: “This group is primarily interested in writing, and though they may enjoy the tasks associated with publishing, they have relatively little interest in the business.”
She goes on to state, “Self-publishing is the perfect verb for writers for whom publication is primarily an expression of self.” She adds, “…they are less interested in reaching readers than in expressing something, and putting it out there.”
She feels by defining self-publishing in these terms it is not considered snobbery, yet she writes, “Just because it is not perfectly executed does not mean that the effort itself is not valid, in some cases noble. The snobbery that has traditionally met these writers’ efforts is ill-judged. Snobbery always is.”
Mmm. Okay. But stating I’m not interested in the business and I just want to express myself is not being a snob towards my noble efforts.
An interesting side note to this is, the author Orna Ross is founder and director of The Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi). On their About page, the first sentence states, ALLi “is a non-profit professional association for authors who self-publish.” So members are not interested in the business and wish only to express themselves. She calls herself an indie author to separate her from the members.
As a self-published indie author, I am very interested in the publishing business, as I know other self-published authors are. Sure I publish because I want to see my books in print, but I do all this work with the goal of reaching as many readers as I can. To tell me I don’t, belittles all the long hours of work I’ve dedicated to reaching this point in my publishing career.
With regard to Indie Authors, Ross states, “…indie attitude of mind is core to what we do: our most defining feature, and our most essential tool.” She adds some are dedicated do-it-yourselfers while others are happy to collaborate with a publishing service, work with paid services or trade publishers.
In my opinion, her sweeping, general description of Indie Authors includes every type of author out there, from self-published to traditionally published. In essences, everyone is an indie author if they choose to call themselves that. From my experience, they could also call themselves freelance writers. As long as they do not work for a company that publishes their writing (such as newspapers, magazines, etc.), that’s what we are. I have been a freelance writer for almost twenty years.
The most unclear definition is the third type of author: Author-Publisher. Ross defines them as, “authors who want to make a living from their work.”
I paused in my reading the article right there and thought about this. I suppose there are authors out there who don’t want to make a dime. They just want to work their day job and write on the side, sharing their stories with others. They usually publish eBooks only and set them for FREE on Smashwords. Go look; you’ll find them.
But the many self-published and traditionally published authors I know want to make a living from their work. They not only want it, they crave it, they dream of it and they work hard to reach that point when they can say, “I don’t have to support my writing career with a ‘day job’.”
The unfortunate part of this third type of published author is I believe she included Subsidiary Publishing and Joint Publishing. She states it is “second-best to trade publishing”, and that writers go “through a tough time at first, and often fall away.”
The very reason I define the methods an author can take to publish their work is to warn them of the dangers lurking out there. I’m not saying this because I read a sad story on the Internet by an author who was disappointed by a subsidiary publishing or joint publishing experience. I’m saying Authors Beware because I’ve read hundreds of stories by disappointed authors who have been burned by these companies. I’ve also met several writers in person who have lost thousands of dollars from these two types of publishing companies.
The warnings about these types of ‘publishers’ are all over the Internet. It takes less than ten minutes to find stories about authors who have been burned by companies who appear to be reputable. If everyone played fair, there would be no need for Predators and Editors. Author Solutions is one of the biggest culprits, and they go by many names: iUniverse, Trafford, Xlibris to name a few. They’ve also forged partnerships with some famous publishers: Simon & Schuster and Harlequin (Read David Gaughran post)
There are many spot-on views in Ross’ post, such as self-published authors think globally now, not just regionally. We want to sell to the world. We also support each other. We are there for other writers to help them succeed. The writing community is a great community.
However, the general and unclear definitions Ross provided to distinguish one type of publishing from the other is not only misleading and confusing, it’s dangerous. The publishing business can suck thousands of dollars from unsuspecting writers if they are not properly informed. I could be polite and say everyone plays nice, but that would be a lie.
I would rather have an author write to me and say, “Thank you for the warnings about subsidiary publishing and joint publishing, but I found a publisher who helped me get my book published and everything worked out great.” Instead of, “Why didn’t you tell me that some publishers who offer their services will charge me thousands of dollars and still not publish my book?”
I’m a writer. I love writers, and I want them to succeed. I want them to get their books published and have a great experience. I can’t feed them to the wolves because it’s not nice to say some publishers are ruthless and only want their money.
You can read Orna Ross’ full post here: Opinion: Every Author Should Self-Publish (At Least Once).
I define five ways an author can publish. I clearly define the methods, so there’s little doubt about what to expect. It can be read here: Revised Five Types of Book Publishers.