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I'm preparing for a multi-author panel/Q&A at East Brunswick library tomorrow night. One of the topics I'm sure will come up is the use/misuse of the term 'indie publishing'. I thought it would be interesting to conduct a straw poll to find out what the general consensus is about its meaning.

If you've got a minute, I'd appreciate your input.

Poll #1729654 What is 'Indie Publishing?

If someone told you their book was available from an 'Indie publisher', what would you assume?

They were published in the traditional way by a small publishing house (ie: they didn't pay any money to get published)
They were self-published
Something else, which I'll explain in the comments

I'm not looking to discover the 'correct' answer - truth be told I don't think there is one (at least, not anymore), I'm just trying to get a feel for what people immediately think of when they hear the term now.

Many thanks in advance

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( 56 comments — Leave a comment )
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Apr. 13th, 2011 03:33 pm (UTC)
Something else, ie, I'd assume either 1. or 2., but lean towards 2.

I don't really understand why some people find the term "indie" so troubling, and it baffles me when I see writers getting angry about it. Really, if I love a book, I don't care how it got published, so labels like "indie" or "traditional" or "self-published" or "small press" don't matter to me, or affect my buying decisions.
Apr. 13th, 2011 04:29 pm (UTC)
This is just my opinion, but I think the term 'Indie' used to clearly mean small publishing companies, in the same way that 'Indie record label' meant small record company (for the record - no pun intended - many small acts, including the band I sang in, Gentleman Jones, became their own 'indie record label' by self-publishing their own work).

For music, that's not such a problem. It doesn't take but a few seconds to hear whether a song is a: your kind of music and b: if the recording quality is any good. With a book it's not so easy to tell.

Echelon Press (who published Fur-Face last year) is a traditional (ie: they pay me not the other way around) publisher, but I no longer describe them as 'Indie' because some folks assume I mean self-published.

I'm not against self-publishing, but (for many and varied reasons too long-winded to go into here) it's not a route I would choose to take. I describe Echelon as a 'small traditional press' so people don't jump to the wrong conclusion.

I can't speak as to why some traditionally published folks resent self-published authors calling themselves 'Indie authors', though I do think if someone's going to self-publish, he/she ought to be proud to say so.

If I had to guess, I'd say there are those who feel that it's somewhat disingenous for self-pubbed writers to describe themselves as 'Indie published'. After all, their work never had to get past a slush reader, and in many cases never went through an objective editing process.

Again, just my opinion.

Sorry for the long answer :)
(no subject) - msstacy13 - Apr. 13th, 2011 04:31 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - rowyn - Apr. 15th, 2011 02:38 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - rowyn - Apr. 15th, 2011 02:34 pm (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 13th, 2011 03:37 pm (UTC)
I'll be curious to see what your results are. I always just think of "indie" as "smaller publisher."
Apr. 13th, 2011 04:31 pm (UTC)
I thnk it used to, and probably still does for the average reader.
(no subject) - sandrawickham - Apr. 13th, 2011 07:13 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jongibbs - Apr. 13th, 2011 07:19 pm (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 13th, 2011 03:42 pm (UTC)
IMHO, "indie publishing" *ought* to mean traditional publishing by a small (i.e. independent) publishing house, but the term seems to have been (or at least is in the process of being) co-opted by self-published authors, at least from what I've been seeing lately.
Apr. 13th, 2011 04:29 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I think you're onto something there...
(no subject) - jongibbs - Apr. 13th, 2011 04:32 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - msstacy13 - Apr. 13th, 2011 04:33 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jongibbs - Apr. 13th, 2011 04:40 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jongibbs - Apr. 13th, 2011 04:31 pm (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 13th, 2011 04:32 pm (UTC)
I can't help it;
Indie Publishing has me thinking of Hornblower and the other midshipmen
putting out a newsletter on the Indefatigable...
Apr. 13th, 2011 04:39 pm (UTC)
Meanwhile, if Flatwater Press takes off,
I might start calling it an Indie,
but not until authors actually submit things to my editing
and decision process...
That would make ~them~ authors of an Indie Publisher,
although my own work at Flatwater would still be self-published.
Apr. 13th, 2011 04:41 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I think you're onto something there...

Hehehehehehehehehehe :P
(no subject) - msstacy13 - Apr. 13th, 2011 04:53 pm (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 13th, 2011 04:40 pm (UTC)
If you said "indie publishing", I would always think small indie publishing house.

If someone said "independently published" I'd be more likely to think they self-published.

I don't care either way and as a writer, indie publishing gives me some hope. Mostly I just want my work out there. It doesn't have to be by a major publishing house. There are plenty of books that are published by major publishers that I've never heard of, so it's not a guarantee that your book will do well. In fact, the grass roots movement can sometimes be even more powerful and could theoretically lead to more wider acclaim.
Apr. 13th, 2011 04:43 pm (UTC)
True enough. A bigger publisher may help get the word out (and your book in more stores), but if nobody likes your novel, it won't save you.

Thanks for sharing :)
(Deleted comment)
Apr. 13th, 2011 04:57 pm (UTC)
Gonna be?

Wrong tense.

I like to think that my work sets the standard
by which crap will be judged in the future,
but, yeah...
even if I reach the top of the heap,
it's still a shit-heap...
(no subject) - jongibbs - Apr. 13th, 2011 04:59 pm (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 13th, 2011 05:04 pm (UTC)
I think it can be used to refer to both, legitimately. "Indie" is short for "independent," and it's hard to see anything more independent than doing it on one's own. Truthfully, though, I NEVER heard indie-published used to refer to small presses until people like Amanda Hocking hit it big and the smaller presses started protesting that it was their phrase first. I heard them referred to as small presses, period, not independent presses. Thus, my first instinct is to think that someone self-published, so that's what I put in the poll.
Apr. 13th, 2011 06:15 pm (UTC)
Fair enough. Thanks, Erin :)
Apr. 13th, 2011 05:10 pm (UTC)

I think the "real" meaning of the term indy/indie publisher -- i.e., the meaning the term had when it was coined -- is a publisher not owned by one of the conglomerates. Some of the indies can in fact be of reasonable size; however, because the vast majority are small presses, the term gained the connotation "small". The term remained. however, useful.

I get pretty fed up that the term has now been perverted to include (and, for many people, exclusively denote) "self-publisher". Yet another useful term has been rendered meaningless and thereby effectively driven out of the language, in this instance by people whose sole interest in co-opting it appears to be self-aggrandizement.

There's no sin in self-publishing. There is a sin in claiming a status you don't have.

Is wot I think.
Apr. 13th, 2011 06:16 pm (UTC)
Thanks for sharing, Paul :)
Apr. 13th, 2011 05:18 pm (UTC)
I agree with many of the comments here, in that the term is used both ways these days. But to me it DOES matter, and therefore I feel its use by the self-published is somewhat duplicitous. There are many traditional-yet-small presses I've never heard of, so if you slip in the name of your own company I won't know the difference (but I can usually tell the second I see the book design and the opening page).

I asked a published author about independent e-publishing at a recent segment of Pennwriters Presents and she automatically assumed I meant "self-published."

Next up: Will our home libraries be referred to as "independent bookstores"?

Get this: my husband just said that Stephen Covey's "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People" got onto the bestseller list partially due to the fact that he registered his seminar business as a bookstore, so anything they bought added to his sales records. Hmm...
Apr. 13th, 2011 07:20 pm (UTC)
With 44 votes in, it would seem the vast majority of people don't immediately think 'self-publishing' when someone says 'Indi publishing' which is presumably why ,any self-pubbed authors now descrtibe themselves as Indie.
Apr. 13th, 2011 05:20 pm (UTC)
Being a musician, the word "Indie" always meant independent of the big Corporate Conglomerates who don't give a rat's ass about true music, only product.

As a writer, I would apply the word Indie to independent publishers, those small presses who ceaselessly put out books that unfortunately never reach as many people as they should.

Self-published authors consider themselves indie authors because they are truly independent of any editors, agents, publishers, etc.

I still hear the stigma of self-published = bad book. If it was good, surely a small press would've picked it up, right? So it must be bad. This "I don't want the Man (as in publisher) ruining my creative genius (as in your book desperately needs editing and revisions)" is plain silly and just means you don't want to deal with rejection.

Because of the stigma that exists, no traditionally published author, be it small press or big house, wants to associate in name with self-published authors, so they're raising a fuss about who really deserves to be called "Indie".

Who does all this matter to? Writers, reviewers, industry folk. Readers mostly don't care unless they've had bad experiences with self-published books and that's another matter. But truthfully, not many readers care how the books they read were published, so long as it's a good read.
Apr. 13th, 2011 07:23 pm (UTC)
I remember back in the 70s when it was considered uncool for a band to be with a big label. Those were for 'commercial' music.

All the indie signed bands (many of them punk) would declare in interviews how happy they were to be with an Indie label because they had more creative freedom - which was utter bull-squirt of course. Still, they could hardly say they wished they signed to a bigger label :)
Apr. 13th, 2011 05:33 pm (UTC)
I always think of Indie as small and INDEpendent rather than self-published which is called well self-published!
Apr. 13th, 2011 07:24 pm (UTC)
Lol, fair enough.

Thanks for voting :)
Apr. 13th, 2011 06:36 pm (UTC)
I think Amazon and B&N muddied the waters by offering a platform that made it cheap and easy to self-publish. Folks who use those platforms like to call themselves indie authors, which I think is fine. But I don't think you can be an indie publisher if you're only putting out your own work.
Apr. 13th, 2011 07:25 pm (UTC)
What about 'Indie published'? :P
(no subject) - jongibbs - Apr. 13th, 2011 07:25 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - karen_w_newton - Apr. 13th, 2011 08:08 pm (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 13th, 2011 07:33 pm (UTC)
I am one of the people who voted "something else" and the reason is that I really feel choices (a) and (b) are legitimate, but a vanity press is not. Paying for editorial work, binding, etc, and doing all the marketing yourself is a perfectly legitimate way of getting your work out, especially if you have a niche book. Doing all this work yourself is quite different from falling into the trap of paying a vanity press, IMHO.

Also, from where I sit, I don't quite see the difference between independent publishers and the big six. Don't many of the indies still refuse to look at unsolicited or unagented manuscripts? And isn't the cachet the same when one manages to make it through those gates? Publication by a professional publisher, whether indie or not, is just that: publication by a professional publishing company.

So I guess I really lean toward calling self-published works "Indie". But I have heard the word used both ways, and find it equally legitimate either way. It should just never, never be used for a vanity press.

My two cents!
Apr. 13th, 2011 09:41 pm (UTC)
Thanks for sharing, Mary :)(
Apr. 13th, 2011 09:56 pm (UTC)
i would TEND to assume the latter only because i think it's a nicer way for the self-published to say that they paid to see their book in print
Apr. 13th, 2011 10:10 pm (UTC)
also, i MAY have been reading a lot of writer beware articles on "indie" publishing, so i MAY be a little on the jaded side
(no subject) - jongibbs - Apr. 14th, 2011 01:30 am (UTC) - Expand
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