Should Self-Pubbed Authors Refer to Themselves as “Indie?”

I’ve seen the odd snarky comment on Twitter about this, so I thought I’d weigh in.

Should Authors that choose the route of self-publication refer to themselves as “Indie Authors or Writers?” Seems a number of people are bothered by this. Their argument seems to rely on the fact that it is the small press publishing houses that are “indie” and not the authors themselves.

I call bulls*!#.

Let’s look at the two areas of artistic expression where indie is considered, by many, to be a badge of honour; the film and music industry.

What makes a band or filmmaker indie? Well, they aren’t paid to create their work. Instead, they invest in the tools to create it and then find a way to put it out to the world for consumption. Perhaps that’s a simplified view, but really, what else is there? They are creating work that isn’t being done with the blessing and bankroll of a major corporation. They take all the financial risks themselves and, if they’re lucky, reap the benefits.

So what makes them any different from a self-pubbed author?

Did the indie band build their own instruments? Did they build the software they used to record and edit the music? Did they create the infrastructure of iTunes that they used to market and sell their music? No, they didn’t do any of those things. They used their money to buy existing, proven, equipment and then used an existing means of publication.

Did the indie filmmaker build his cameras? Did he create the film and projectors used to show the movie? No, he outsourced all of those things.

If we apply the “publisher is the indie” aspect to the film makers and bands, then shouldn’t iTunes or the company that created the DVDs be considered the indie ones?

The fact is, in today’s ebook world, an author can write their book and create the epub file themselves. In fact, they can do everything up to the point where they have Amazon or iBookstore or the like sell the product. In the sense of the ebook, the author has done everything. The online etailers are just the store where they sell their product.

And if an author decides to create a paper and ink version of their book, they are still involved in the whole process, and in the end, they still pay for the service. They take the financial risk upon themselves to produce the book. No one pays them for it. There is no security that they will ever recoup the money they have invested. In essence, they have outsourced the printing, the same way the indie film maker outsources DVD production, the same way the indie band outsources CD production.

In truth, there is no difference between the financial risk, effort, and love of craft between the indie filmmaker, band, or author. They all create works of art and they all take financial risk to get their work out to the world. Just because they use a company to outsource a service doesn’t strip them of their indie status. After all, they are still the ones paying for it.

I mean, should Compaq get partial credit for my novel because I used one of their laptops to write it? Should Scrivener be considered the indie author because I used their software?

In the end, the reason writers are being questioned as to whether they are indie is because self-publishing still has such a bad rep. It’ll take years of amazing self-pubbed authors to wash that stain away. When that happens, being in complete control of your creative content will be seen as a badge of honour, as opposed to being a hack who couldn’t get a book deal.

So writers, proclaim yourself indie. Get outside the box. Write amazing, crazy stuff that no publishing house would touch and get it out there into the world. There will be people who will love you for it!

12 thoughts on “Should Self-Pubbed Authors Refer to Themselves as “Indie?””

  1. Yes! Thank you.

    I never really understood why some want to be so picky about what we call ourselves. Personally, I roam back and forth between ‘indie author’ and ‘self-publisher’.

    For the most part, it doesn’t seem to matter to the readers what we’re calling ourselves, as long as we’re putting out good entertainment. =)

    1. I guess the main issue is in part to separate the current self pubbers that are doing it to retain control vs those in the past that might have done it just because no one would publish their crappy writing.

  2. A lot of self-published authors create their own “imprint” when publishing. Just like a lot of bands create their own label, or filmmakers create their own studio name. I think the term “indie” makes a very fine distinction between those authors/bands/filmmakers that are making a serious/professional attempt at self-producing their work and those that are just doing it for a hobby.

    1. I just said something like that to Scath. But I think the term indie will be increasingly used as time goes on. It will be up to reviewers, writers & consumers to sort through those that are serious & those that are hobbyists.

  3. Thanks for this post!

    I self-pubbed last year, and I’ve been wondering about whether or not it’s considered indie or just some chick who sent her book to the printer. This was encouraging to read, and I like the comparison with other industries.

  4. Thank you for expressing this with clarity and common sense. We discussed this on my blog recently because someone forwarded me a comment made on a book review site. Being new to this territory, I was confused on whether I had the right to call myself an Indie author. Now, I know I do. And you just confirmed it.

  5. The term “indie” or “independent” has been around for more than thirty years as a publishing term to refer to small press and its authors in the trade press and in the publishing community. It is a precise term.

    Suddenly, some writers have co-oped the term to mean self-published.

    Authors and others in publishing respect words and their meanings so it’s easy to see why so many are annoyed at its misuse. It is also such a blatant misuse that many think those who are using the term haven’t a clue so it hurts more than helps an author’s credibility when they use it wrongly.

    Use the term for yourself if you want but don’t be surprised if most in publishing laugh in your face or sneer at your back when you do.

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