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Please Don’t Call Me An Indie Author

Talli Roland doesn't want to be known as Indie Author

Talli (don't call me indie) Roland


Some of us wear our indie-author badge with pride. Others think self-publishing is for shmucks. Both stances are equally  irrelevant to what really matters, says Talli Roland. 


Ever since leaving behind traditional publishing to strike out on my own, I’ve been clear on one thing: I don’t want to be known as an indie author.

Well, maybe I should revise that: I don’t want to be known by readers as an indie author. Fellow colleagues can (and probably do!) call me what they like.

We’re all aware of the divide between those on the traditional side and those who’ve self-published. Although the gap is closing as more authors dabble in both and self-publishing success stories filter through, fewer subjects than the ‘proper’ way to publish have drawn more emotional responses from authors, agents, and editors alike.

Strident cries have echoed across the internet, each camp claiming they’re the only route to take. But all this exists within the rarified air of the publishing industry – and that is not my target market.

Sure, I’d love for the industry to have an open mind; to recognize that some authors do have the skills to succeed, and that it might make better financial sense to go it alone. But what’s of real importance to me are those on the receiving end of the product line: the readers.

They’re not bothered by the upheaval happening now; they could care less about labels being attached to authors. What they want is a quality story for a good price, not the rigmarole of how it’s been published.

In this new democratic market, where authors are businesspeople with more choice than ever before, every book has the potential to be equal in the eyes of the reader.

Why demarcate ourselves when we don’t need to?

Author: Talli Roland

Talli Roland writes bittersweet and witty contemporary women's fiction. Born and raised in Canada, Talli now lives in London, where she savours the great cultural life (coffee and wine). Her novels have been short-listed as Best Romantic Reads at the UK's Festival of Romance and chosen as top books of the year by industry review websites. To learn more about Talli, go to www.talliroland.com or follow her on Twitter at @talliroland.


This Post Has 56 Comments
  1. Hi Talli, my marketing plan is to sell my books to readers and I do a lot of events. During those events (book fests, even farmer’s markets) I get asked if I self-publish my books. I deal with that question by telling them I’m published by a micro publisher who has 4 other authors. No one ever asks more and we get back to the value to them of the books I offer.
    Great article.

  2. Wonderful article, Talli!

    I’ve asked a number of readers how important the publisher is to them. Not one of them said it was a factor in their purchases.

    The stigma of self-publishing (or the “prestige” of traditional publishing) is created by the industry, not by the readers. Readers are judging the quality of the book, and they could care less how it got to market or whose imprint is on the spine.

  3. I couldn’t agree more. Readers don’t care and in most cases, readers don’t even know. I’ve never once made a book-buying decision on the strength of who it’s published by.

  4. Good point, we can get caught up in labels and forget that we’re really just authors, plain and simple. The readers certainly don’t identify with the ‘indie’ tag. 🙂

  5. Spot on Talli. As a reader, I love the Amazon/Kindle sytem whereby, as with a printed book, I can read a summary and then leaf through a couple of paragaphs to get a feel. To select the books I will look at? Honest reviews. So why is Amazon preventing authors reviewing authors. Who better to give a critique?

  6. I thoroughly agree. I feel that as writers, our debate should be more focussed on readers and on the quality or content of our writing, as opposed to getting so caught up in the endless nuts and bolts of marketing and how we reach our readers.

  7. Yay! I agree it’s all about the quality of the book and I’ve read plenty traditionally published books that weren’t well written. If you can make the readers happy then what else matters?

  8. I get the point- but not being independent as a writer stinks like dead fish. I am happy with the label, and work to show readers that independents can and often are as good as any. Of course author name recognition is all- and the ex- trads have an advantage there.
    5 trad empires to fall- then authors will get their freedom back- same thing is happening in journalism- independent journalism is blogging.

  9. I agree. After two years of writing again (ten years of not writing consistently due to having a real job) I’m so happy to have to option of self-publishing. Submissions and rejections during college wore me out, but I never really gave up wanting to write. The only people I talk to who care about labels are other writers and those in the business. My friends, who are readers only, could care less and have no idea what’s going on. As was said previously, as long as the book looks good and the story reads well… they don’t care who published it.

  10. You know, I don’t really care if the author is published by a big name or self published. What I care about is the content of the material I am reading. While I feel lots of indie authors need to focus on hiring an editor, that can be said for any of us. The only difference is self publishers cut out that middle man and some can be arrogant enough to think they don’t need an editor. Every writer does! No matter what.
    I have lots of favorite authors out there and the percentage of self published authors I love is growing rapidly. You’re right, readers don’t care how you are published, they care about what you publish.
    Great post, Talli!

  11. As somebody who left trade publishing to go indie, I have to say I am like a child jumping up and down saying, “look! look! I did it myself!’ I love self publishing and am very proud of my indie credentials and no doubt bore readers as well as everybody else going on about how marvellous I find it all. One important point, though, for me and for the Alliance. It’s important that as indies, we take pride in our achievements and take awareness of what we’ve succeeded in doing into any contracts and deals we might strike with the trade. It upsets me when I see a self-publishing writer who has built up a great platform and fan following signing the same publishing contract that would be offered to a new author just starting out — because they are so anxious to be “really” published. Thanks for a thought-provoking post, Talli!

    1. Orna, thank you so much for hosting me today. I agree it’s important to take pride in our accomplishments and to recognise the strength we have, whatever label we choose (or choose not) to have! Trading that in for something that doesn’t measure up simply for validation is not only sad, but slightly worrying!

    2. I ditto what Orna says. I think “indie” raises us above the stigma of “self-published,” although they are the same. Let’s take a look at the independent book stores that are popping up–as Borders and [perhaps] B&N go “belly-up.” No one is denigrating the indie book stores. Likewise, they shouldn’t denigrate the independent authors. That said, I do publish under “LWF Publishing.” The initials are my father’s, and I know he’d be proud. I am too! My publishing house only publishes my books, although I’ve had people ask about it — wondering how to submit their manuscripts. 🙂 I see myself as an author and a publisher–another moment of great pride.

  12. I think it’s all down to jealousy, Talli. As you know, I’m very traditionally published (!), and I’m now going to admit to the big wide world that some of us who made it through all the gatekeepers and the slog secretly resent the success of the good self-publisher. Notice, I said “good”. ‘Snot fair, we moan. They can’t be as good as us. Well, actually, yes, you can – and better. Some aren’t, and here, the cover means a lot. If I see what looks like an amateurish cover, that’s it, I won’t buy, because ten to one, the book inside won’t have been properly edited, and by that, I don’t just mean copy edited.

    Anyway, jealous though I am, I agree that it’s the reader who counts. None of my readers care who my publisher is. They just want to know when the next book’s coming out!

    1. Lesley, I think there is a lot of jealousy on both sides. Self-published writers want the contract; traditionally published writers want the freedom! It’s a case of the grass is always greener, I think. And you’re right – there are plenty of self-published books that don’t measure up, unfortunately.

      Thanks for dropping by!

  13. I think some of the bad ‘tude towards non-traditionally published writers came out of the ‘vanity pubishing’ thing of 10 or so years ago. Everyone knew it was NOT GOOD as one had to pay, and so it became an inferior way of getting one’s work into the public marketplace.

    . Now, when you/me/us are vying with the big houses and putting out books of an equally high standard (both content and presentation), there seems to be still a need to create a demarcation line and categorize.

    Personally,Talli I hate it and am in complete agreement with you. I have enough problems being ‘YA’. Now I’m self-published YA. No, I’m a writer, however my books are mediated.. As are we all. Write on, ladies and gents!

  14. Hi Talli,

    I simply tell people I’m an author. When they ask if I’ve been published, I tell them yes. Then I add I’m launching book six in November. Most of the time they don’t ask if I’m self-published, but if they do, I tell them it’s the ONLY way to go!

    ~Nancy Jill Thames
    Author of the Jillian Bradley Mysteries

  15. I read your article and skimmed through the comments, so forgive me if I am repeating what others have said. It seems to me the essential difference and the one that continues to stigmatize me as “indie” is the fact that none of my books is available in paper form on booksellers’ shelves. I have considered CreateSpace and have even produced a proof copy on one book, but the selling prices imposed by CreateSpace are way beyond reasonable in my view.

    1. JJ, that *could* be a distinction, but many books traditionally published never hit bookshops, either. Even though I had a traditional publisher, it was very rare to walk into a high street bookshop and find my book on the shelf, and I know that’s the case for many other authors, too. It is true that it’s much harder for a indie-published writer to get into the shops, as we lack central distribution and yes, CreateSpace prices are exorbitant.

      Many publishers are now digital-only, as well.

  16. Wise words, Talli. I have stopped say ‘well I am self-published’ when folk say, ‘great, you’re published’. What they say is true, I am published. They read books and I get said books published. When I first s/p people said they admired the courage of going it alone. That made me smile, as in the Indie world of writing, I am sure as heck not alone. I have more support than I would have if I was traditionally published!

  17. I wonder if readers do care that little. I imagine it would depend on the genre people write in, but thinking of the music industry, fans love bands’ independent ethos for many reasons, and the moment when a hitherto independent band signs to a big label can spark near riots on fan forums. We also see in other commercial areas an increasing consumer desire to be both ethical (FairTrade, organic) and anti-corporate (farmers’ markets and other direct-buy initiatives, emphasis on local produce). So I wonder if writers aren’t missing a trick by not touting their independent credentials?

    1. Hm, interesting points, Dan. Perhaps the publishing industry will eventually go the way of the music scene, where readers will embrace the positive aspects independent authors bring. Right now, though, I’m not sure there is enough to distinguish between the two – at least for readers. It’ll be interesting to see how that plays out in the future.

      1. I guess it depends on the genre/your audience, but there are some things we can do now that I believe readers will love us for (and as self-publishers, aren’t we supposed to be in the vanguard of innovation, and driving rather than responding to what people want – doing the things big publishers won’t, which is why we didn’t want them to start with!)
        – Blackheath Books, one of the most exciting micro presses run out of the front room of Offbeat pioneer Geraint Hughes, and Zingaro Books, self-publishing imprint of the UK’s leading performance poet, Kate Tempest, make their physical production stand out, using ethically sourced papers and inks, recycled card for their covers, hand-printed end papers, and the highest quality artisanship
        – refusing to deal with corporations – when I started the micro-imprint eight cuts gallery press and told people I would be refusing to give my books ISBNs so that Amazon, Borders, and Barnes and Noble wouldn’t be able to stock them, people thought I was nuts. But the publicity I got – big articles in Writers’ Digest and 3:am among others, I’d never have achieved without doing that.
        – creating a “house feel” – that’s what made/makes so many independent record labels *so* hot – labels like Stiff and Rough Trade are still legends, and head into the Rough Trade store in Brick Lane and that ethos is still there, right down to the graffiti-friendly loo. They got that because they set out to create it. This is one area I really think in the past two or three years self-publishers have let themselves be overtaken by small trade presses (a species that back in 2007/8 was standing on the edge) who have created exciting, independent, individual, cleverly thought out and skilfully executed worlds around their books – Peirene with their exquisite covers and cult literary salons, And Other Stories – covers again and the unique subscription-ownership model (Peirene also have a great subscription and bundle offer, another area where self-publishers have lost innovative ground to small presses because they’ve started following rather than setting trends), Bluemoose and their combination of fiercely guarded niche (Northern writing) and anarchic marketing; Philistine Press and their “only free” policy combined with the pursuit of books in formats that would otherwise be unpublishable; Melville House’s “art of the novella”. Each of these was started, and at least three of them are still run, by one person with another full-time job who had a great idea and did it from their front room.

        A few years ago, self-publishers were the ones doing these innovative, exciting things. When I started, the icons were people like MCM who was live-streaming his keystrokes as he wrote a novel in three days whilst a team of bloggers interacted with readers on twitter to feed him plot points. Now, I rarely see that. Self-publishing has grown up. And that’s great for many because it’s a solid, respectable business model for people to follow. But it is no longer the unequivocal artistic frontier it was, and it is losing out on the chance to be recognised as such as the media increasingly looks for innovation and uniqueness and again and again fails to find it in self-publishing but finds it in small trade presses. I know there are as many positives as negatives about that but I still find it sad, because for me the go it aloners should be the cultural agenda-setters.

  18. Well said, Talli. I totally agree. I’m the publisher of some of my books, and some are with other publishers, and for me the important bit is that everything that I write is of a good standard, has professional editing, and a good cover. My readers don’t need to know who the book is published by, they just need to know that if they buy one of my books, it will deliver as good a read as the last one.

  19. Superb post Talli and a very valid and important point, readers are looking for a great read one to escape into, they are not interested how the book arrived on the shelf, as along as meets what they are looking for.

  20. Having said all that Talli, you are a great role model for indie publishing. Your books are completely professional, having a amazing covers and you market well. Sadly, I’m still seeing too many clumsy approaches to book publishing. I hope you’re right and the divide in quality is closing.
    Very thought-provoking article.

    1. Oh, thank you so much for the kind words, Charmaine.

      Yes, you’re right: unfortunately, there are many authors who don’t put the effort into ensuring quality control that they should. However, I believe savvy readers can make the call on this by reading samples, etc. In the end, quality will out. Hopefully!

  21. Great post! I sometimes wonder how some people manage to get any writing done at all, considering how much time they spend arguing over what is the “best” way to publish. The important thing is that the end result — the book — is the best it can possibly be, regardless of who published it.

  22. A great point to make, Talli! – it should be all about the reader. I don’t mind the indie tag from other authors whether trad or indie pubbed – it’s ‘self-published’ I don’t want to be known as – because once I’ve written a novel, had a reliable crit, had a professional edit, collaborated over the cover with a pro designer, formatted correctly for distribution and marketed the book with the help and support of the author groups to which I belong – my novel might be independently published but it’s very far from being self published!

    Janice xx

    1. Great point on self-publishing, Janice. It’s very much a collaborative effort, too.

      I should make clear that I don’t mind the indie label in and of itself, but I DO mind when it’s used to sharply draw lines between the different sides.

  23. Talli, nice to see you here!

    A great post, and I wholeheartedly agree; why should we squabble over names? I’ve always hated being put into one box or another. And quite right, we are all trying to please and entertain the reader so why emphasise the one thing about our authorship the end user has no interest in?

    Well said!


    1. Hi Helena, great to see you here, too.

      Yes, in the end, I believe it really should be about the reader. The more emphasis we place on labels, the more we take away from that. I truly believe all readers want it a quality product.

    1. Exactly my thoughts! I don’t even care anymore. I’ve read great indie-published books and some bad traditional published books and vice versa. I care about a good book, not who published it.

  24. First of all, many thanks to this site for hosting me today!

    And thank you, Joanne. Like you, I am SO tired of the constant debate over labels and the squabbles between both camps. The key point is that authors can choose the best route for them – and how they want to reach the ones who really matter in all this: the readers.

    1. I’ve been saying this for like ever. I think the traditional industry itself has forgotten all about the readers. We have all spent way too much time trying to appease some agent or publisher when at the end of the day we’re not writing for them. It’s the readers we want to reach. And sites like Amazon and Smashwords are appeasing them every single day. I say rock on! Great interview Talli and your hair looks great. 🙂

  25. Well said, Talli, and a refreshing reminder that authors can easily get caught up in the ‘back end’ of their work, focussing too much on where they sit within the industry, building an ‘author platform’, and conversing all the time with other authors when really we should be spending more time focussing on readers. I for one am getting heartily sick of labels and terms like ‘authorship’ and constantly being told what I, as an indie author, should be doing. If there’s any benefit to being indie, it’s being free to do what you like! And resisting labels seems like a great place to start.

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