Let's talk terminology — a subject that's been exercising minds around ALLi Towers of late. And for the purposes of this post, three particular terms.
* What to call authors who publish their own work?
* What to call those who publish the work of others?
* What to call those who help authors to publish?
First a definition of publishing, which is not, as some people seem to think, a matter of printing or pressing the Go button on your e-tailer's dashboard. These are just steps in a larger process.
What Is Publishing?
Publishing incorporates a range of functions and services, dependent on the book's format and content, that fall into four headings: jacket & page design; editorial & proofing; printing & formatting; marketing & promotion.
The plethora of confusing terms we have around those who trade in the publishing arena arise from a situation where the companies charged with bringing writers' work into the world put themselves at the centre of the process.
- So we have authors described as “self”-publishers, though we don't do it alone and what we publish (and promote) is our books, not our “self”.
- So we have trade presses called “traditional” or “legacy” publishers by some authors, as though they are passé or extinct, which they are not.
- So we have authors who choose to sometimes DIY and sometimes go the trade route are described as “hybrid” and accused (I use this word advisedly) by some DIY colleagues of no longer being “indie”.
- So we have companies that exploit and mistreat authors somehow being accepted as part of the mainstream publishing industry.
It's confusing — because the thinking behind it is confused.
At ALLi, we wanted to make it simple. And we found that's just what it is, when you put the author, not the publisher, at the centre. Here's what we've come up with:
* An author who publishes his or her own work = Author-Publisher.
* An individual or company that invests in work they haven't written themselves with a view to making a profit = Trade-Publisher.
* An individual/company that provides services — jacket & page design; editorial & proofing; printing & formatting; marketing & promotion for an upfront fee = Author-Service.
Authors who see themselves as the creative director of their own books and welcome that freedom and the responsibilities that go with it, including the choice of whether to pay upfront (to a service) or as you go along (to the trade) = Independent Author. But that's another question and more on that over on the ALLi website.
These are the terms that ALLi will be using from now on, unless somebody comes up with something we agree is a better way to think about/ describe it. We will be changing the name on our guide to services from Choosing A Self-Publishing Service, for example, to Choosing an Author-Publishing Service.
Tell us what you think in the comments below.