Call Me, Maybe, Just Don’t Call Me Indie!

I was having a discussion last week that seemed to finish spreading the icing on to the cake for me. It had to do with usage of the term “Indie”.  It has become commonplace to see and hear it on Twitter, Goodreads, FaceBook, and Amazon, where it functions to describe an author who has, by his or her choice, traveled outside the realm of traditional publishing. What I find disturbing is that more and more the word Indie is bantered about seemingly as a disparaging way to refer to an author’s status within the publishing industry and bringing it to the brink of becoming slang. And, last time I checked, slang isn’t really how a person wants to be branded.

There are even discussions that have gone up on Amazon’s Kindle Board “Name Brand vs. Indie Authors”. Name Brand? Ahh, they must mean the traditional brick and mortar publishers. They get the high dollar term, Name Brand. Nordstrom vs. WalMart.

Okay, I’ve shopped in both stores. You can get the Juicy handbags, pay up to and over $300.00, or the Manolo Blahnik shoes, which are insanely expensive as well. It’s not so much the quality you’re buying but the name. Hey, we all know we can just as easily get an off-brand purse or pair of Brinley Co. shoes for less than $50.00 at WalMart. Both brands of shoes are comfortable, both purses are functional. But if it’s got a name brand behind it, it must be extra-ordinary, right? Name Brand vs. Indie.

Oh, there are other artists considered Indie.  In fact, it’s way cool to be an Indie musician. If you’re a musician who is indie, then you are radical, free-spirited. The musician’s version of Amazon is iTunes and like Amazon, there is no fee to sign up, however, and here is where the Big Difference occurs, the Indie musicians have to pay to have the music uploaded to the iTunes site via an encoding house or aggregator (a paid expert to deliver audio content to iTunes – *Credit for this information given to the iTunes website). Contrary to Amazon’s policy that anyone with access to a computer and an Amazon account who wants to upload even a Dear John letter to Amazon, call it a short story and sell it for 99 Cents, can do so without so much as an upload or publication fee. And that person that just “published” the Dear John letter – he’s now considered an Indie author.  Is it any wonder an Indie author is getting a bad rep, and, quite frankly, deservedly so.

I believe it’s becoming important to begin to separate and divide the Indie Authors from the Self-Published Authors. Do you think of yourself as an Indie Author or a Self-Published Author? I know the term is supposed to be synonymous with each other but I beg to differ.  

An Indie means you’re independent, period.  Look it up if you don’t believe me – that’s the definition. A person who self-publishes, the total and complete opposite of independent has taken place. A self-published author uses  resources. They have employed the services of an editor, a proofreader and, finally, a cover design artist. Then the hard work begins – the marketing. The self-published author aligns themselves with other authors, becoming part of an invisible marketing team. They cross-promote the other’s work by tweeting or sharing posts, go in together for giveaways and contests. A self-published artist surrounds him/herself with individuals who support them, just like any traditionally published artist, they have a team working with them. How can a serious author – and when I say serious, I’m talking about a person who lives and breathes writing, can’t live without it – do it independently. They can’t. And that’s what separates the indies from the self-publishers.

I’m in the process of writing my first novel. I have an editor; and, when the time is right, I will be hiring a proofreader, a cover design artist, and someone to do a book trailer. I am surrounded by great authors and friends who I know will be there to help me get the word out that Gail Gentry has finally completed and published her first novel. They are my support system, my agents, and better yet, they don’t take 15% off the top.

I am not now, nor ever will be, an indie.  Call me Self-Published.  

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33 Responses to Call Me, Maybe, Just Don’t Call Me Indie!

  1. Austenite78 says:

    I am with you in this! I also want to be called a Self-Published Author. Indie is being overused, and sometimes even wrongly used. And, as you say, I have noticed that some people use it in a pejorative way, so I don’t like that at all. Thanks for such a thought-provoking post!

  2. It’s fascinating how the terminology changes in meaning, practically overnight! Not long ago, self-publishing was more aligned with vanity publishing – a big no no – and so people were chosing indie to signal that they had not paid over the odds for copies of their book to be published for vanity’s sake, and were in fact serious authors, using resources to make their work better, but doing it independantly of one of the big publishing houses. And of course, the ‘self’ in self-publishing implies doing it all alone as much as independent does, which as you pointed out is nonsense – no one who does it properly does it entirely alone (I’m still talking about publishing here) 🙂
    Maybe we need some new terms, or maybe we’ll just have to define ourselves by our work. There is such a chasm between the self-publishing author who uploads a Dear John letter, as in your example, and the professional author uploading their fifth book, which is also available in paperback, and is properly edited, proofread and marketed.
    Great post x

    • Gail Gentry says:

      Thanks, Joanne. Great comment and observation. One of the points I was hoping to get across was that it would be nice to have some way to distinguish those that choose to do this as a hobby and those who choose it as a profession – and yes, I’m talking about the process of publishing it. 😀

  3. shannonmayer says:

    I’m with you on this, Gail! Good on you for breaking it down, and best of luck with your first novel!!!

  4. Great post; however, just call me “Author”. When I write a bio for my book (or Twitter, FB, LinkedIn, interview, etc.), I don’t say “Indie Author R.S. Guthrie” nor do I say “Self-Published Author R.S. Guthrie”. I am an author. I of course get the point of your post, which is believe is really “stop dissing the Indies/self-published authors; stop calling us out as if we’re somehow less talented than you”.

    Putting any adjective in front of it only proclaims you to be something different. Elmore Leonard is an author; James Lee Burke is an author.

    So is R.S. Guthrie (and so, too, will be Gail Gentry).

    Drop the adjectives altogether is my recommendation. 😉

  5. tracyhtucker says:

    I found this interesting…I am new to this whole scene, and I was not sure how I should refer to myself. I actually had read a post on how “indie” was a MORE desirable label, because it implied that one made the choice to become independent…conjuring up an image of someone who is more of a free spirit.

    Maybe we should just call ourselves authors and be done with it 🙂 – like R.S. Guthrie suggests above. Thank you for giving us all something to think about!

  6. Just so you know, “indie-author” was a term the independent authors – the ones not affiliated with a traditional publisher – came up with themselves as a more palatable term than “self-published,” since being self-published has long been synonymous with vanity presses, PublishAmerica, and the like. Being an “indie” on the other hand, brings to mind things like indie bands and indie film-makers; disciplines where being an indie usually means more freedom to experiment and more daring in the product you put out.

    The self-publishing stigma is slowly changing, happily, and people use the terms indie and self-published interchangeably these days, at least in the circles I travel. I’m a hybrid author myself. I publish traditionally as well as independently, and like R.S. Guthrie, I call myself an author, no prefix necessary. But if you push me, I’ll tell you that I’m a traditionally published author, because I have books out with several traditional publishers, and I’m an indie author, because I publish some of my own books. I have no problem with either designation.

  7. Story Addict says:

    Great thought-provoking post. This has been confusing to me as well. Is indie someone who publishes through an independent publishing house? Someone who just uploads their book online? Or someone who also gets it all nice and shiny and printed? I think the labels are silly, but unfortunately must be used in some cases. I like the term “independent,” I think it’s strong and it says a lot, but as you pointed out, it’s been so diluted and trashed by poor work that at a point you’re not sure if it’s the right thing to say anymore. You want to go it on your own, even if you are working with others, but you’re not *completely* alone. You’re working as hard as any traditionally published author, if not harder. I’ve had an equally hard time with the “self-published” term, as Joanne pointed out, because it also implies doing it completely alone. I’m probably with Guthrie on this one (which, by the way, is such an awesome name). Just call me author!

  8. I agree with R.S. Guthrie – I’m all for everyone being an author, and then judged on the quality of their output. There should be no distinction between a good trad published author and a good self-published author (and the same for bad authors of both types). The book should stand on it’s own merits, and not the method of publishing.

    Unfortunately, in the early days, it was indie authors themselves who were quick to brick and mortar together the wall separating themselves from trad published authors when they first declared themselves to be indie, and backing away from that position and restoring balance will be a difficult proposition.

  9. Reblogged this on EditorEtc and commented:
    Names, titles, descriptive nouns? It’s your personal identity. Choose wisely.

  10. D. A. Conn says:

    I don’t know where you got the idea that all self-published authors all have editors, proofreaders, etc. That is definitely not true and it is part of the stigma that causes others to look down on us, no matter whether we call ourselves indie or self-published.

  11. Natalie says:

    I’m really fond of the word indie. And all of the attributes that you list for a self-published author, like having an editor, or a cover artist, or whatever… that’s all true of most indie musicians, as well. Indie means they’re with an independent record label or self-released, not that they’re doing everything on their own. You can call an internationally popular band signed to Matador an indie band just as much as you can your barista who has a three-song EP on Soundcloud.

    And so I like using the term indie because it allies me, as an artist, with other artists in other mediums who are also producing and distributing their work without the machinery of big corporations.

    • Gail Gentry says:

      Actually, Indie isn’t a bad word. But, when it’s used in relation to authors (not musicians), I am seeing it being tossed around more and more to denote those authors as being less talented as R.S. Guthrie pointed out in what I was trying to convey. Thanks, Natalie. In the end, we are all authors 🙂

  12. Teri Heyer says:

    I’m an Indie Author and proud of it. I work hard to ePub the best books possible. Indies are here to stay, so best to get used to the term.

    • Teri Heyer says:

      There is no distinction between self-published and Indie published. Either you’re traditionally published or you’re not. We’re all authors. We’re all trying to write the best books possible. Indies tend to be more supportive of each other as a group. Once you’ve actually “self-published” a book then you might be more understanding of the Indie movement.

      • Teri, your comment is both incorrect and, worse, condescending. There are distinctions between all words because words become terms and terms grow associations, prejudices, and sometimes dozens of different interpretations. And your insinuation that Gail must hit “upload” to understand the “Indie movement” is ridiculous. If you’d read her writing, you’d have seen that she is every bit the writer you or anyone here is (and as far as your reference of an “Indie movement”, I say you are proving the point that it means something different to everyone—I’ve never heard of a “self-publishing movement”).

        Also, aside from context, semantics, etc. there ARE Indie Presses (so dubbed) that still vet what they publish; presses that state it with pride because they want to be part of something “independent”—a “movement” away from the big five—yet still see the importance of having manuscripts that are well-written and not just tripe that any person with a computer and a send button can “publish”.

        A piece of advice from me to you: don’t write in absolutes. “There is no distinction between ____ and ____” is closed-minded and neither you nor I, nor anyone else has the authority to say such a thing; it’s purely argumentative (and shortsighted) regardless of what you place in the blanks.

        Is there a distinction between beautiful and majestic? Between poked and gouged? Between pain and anguish? A thesaurus would suggest you might use such terms interchangeably, but each of the above words could have vastly different meanings, both between writers and in different contexts.

        Finally, I happen to know Gail and let me tell you this: she studies the markets, the publishing field, what’s been working, what hasn’t, reads all the blogs, and as I said before, writes magnificently. The whole reason she hasn’t hit the “submit” button is because she wants to know EVERYTHING she can and have a great book ALONG with a sound business plan, and you’ve implied that she doesn’t know a thing because she hasn’t “self-published”. That is mean-spirited and you speak with zero authority as well.

  13. PamelaK says:

    I like Indie better than self-published because I still associate self-published with the stigma that it had until only recently. Now more and more of the ‘cool kids’ are publishing without the big 6, or have their toes in both waters, as a hybrid author.

    Personally, I don’t plan to self-identify as either Indie or Self-published. If pressed, I would say Indie, but I’d never announce the fact. Why draw attention to it? I don’t know any traditionally published author that goes around announcing that they are published through St. Martin’s or Random house. They just talk about their books. I have no idea which houses publish most of my favorite authors. It doesn’t matter to me.

    I want the focus to be on me and my book….not on the delivery method which is how I think of publishers, both Indie and Traditional.

  14. indie doesn’t bother me. or self. or epub. someone said epub bothered them. last book i put on smashwords i previewed with adobe digital editions. i thought it looked beautiful. i’ve paid for a few getty images is all. i feel like i am “down in the trenches” and i like that. i call paper or bound books “traditional”.

    turned off autocorrect here. think i have to put it back on.

  15. AMEN to Rob’s response to Teri’s comment!

  16. Teri Heyer says:

    Kindly remove my comment of 9/5, the scathing personal attack from R.S. Guthrie on 9/6 and the 2nd (AMEN) from Cinta Garcia on 9/6, which is also a personal attack. You do not know who I am or what I write or anything about me. Personal attacks are defamation of character and you have opened yourselves to libel. Please remove said comments, including this one and we can each go our merry way. Thank you.

  17. I couldn’t agree MORE!!! LOVE your article! I’m VERY willing to change my terminology, but there are still things that will take time to change. For instance, there are Challenges out there that may be called Indie Authors, where you read so many books in a year’s time that are under the OLD terminology. I don’t think ANYONE will have a problem changing it at all. I just don’t want to see that Dear John letter WRITER, not AUTHOR, call himself a Self-Published AUTHOR!!! LOL!!!
    Yes, I’m ALL for it, it just might take a while for other things to catch up to it, that’s all I wanted to mention. I don’t want ANY self-published author to have their feelings hurt when there are SO MANY things that may still be called “Indie” on our Blogs. It’s Us, who have the Blogs, that may still have OLD terminology that may be called Indie, and some of those things we can’t change until NEXT year. I know there are some Challenges out there called “Indie something”, things like that, but WE ALL support you, you ALL know that!!! We ALL review your books WANTING TO!!!! We back you 100% and MORE!!! We FB, Twitter, Post on our Blogs, do Goodreads, post our reviews on Amazon and other places for you!!! But I think you know that! 🙂
    Thanks for such a GREAT article!
    Laurie

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