Novelist and Director of the Alliance of Independent Authors, Orna Ross, considers the sometimes confusing question of what exactly distinguishes an indie author from a self-publisher.
This post was prompted by an ALLi member who thought she had to leave our alliance because she wanted to sign a deal with a trade publisher.
“It's ironic,” she wrote. “All the great tips I got from you guys at ALLi is how I sold so many books and that's why the publisher approached me. Do I have to leave now? I don't want to.”
“Of course you don't,” we wrote back. “Lots of our members use trade publishers to reach readers, especially through bookstores, or for foreign and other rights, while still self-publishing other projects.”
Many people call this “hybrid”. At ALLi, it's just part of being indie.
Being an indie author is primarily an approach to writing and publishing, a matter of self-definition.
If you see yourself as the creative director of your books, from concept to completion and beyond, then you're indie. You don't approach publishers with a longing for validation: “publish me please”. (Please, please, I beg you, ple-e-e-e-ase!)
An indie author makes partnerships that help deliver the best possible book to the most possible readers, trade publishers included. Sometimes that might well involve working with an agent to sell certain rights, or directly with a trade publisher.
I sent her the definition of an indie author from the FAQ page of our website:
At ALLi, “independent” is an inclusive description and always relative (everyone needs help to write and publish well). Some of our members are fiercely indie-spirited, as DIY as it's possible to be. Others are happy to collaborate with a publisher where that seems advantageous, some working with paid publishing services, others with trade publishers.
So what marks out an indie from other authors? The Alliance allows that you are an independent author if:
- You have self-published at least one book.
- You recognize that ‘indie' does not necessarily mean ‘self-publishing only' and acknowledge that even the most indie-spirited self-publisher works in collaboration with other publishing professionals (editors, designers, distributors) to produce a good book and reach readers. You are open to mutual beneficial partnerships, including trade publishing deals where appropriate for you, so long as the author's status as creative director of the book is acknowledged.
- You expect your status in the partnership to be reflected in contracts and terms, not just lip service.
- You recognise that you are central to a revolutionary shift in publishing which is moving from seeing the author as resource (in the new parlance ‘content provider') to respecting the author as creative director.
- You are proud of your indie status, which you carry into all your ventures, negotiations and collaborations for your own benefit and to the benefit of all writers.
See also this article about the indie spirit and why every author should self-publish (at least once)
What do you think? Does the definition of indie as creative director of the book make sense to you? What's your definition? Let us know in the comment box below.
And if you'd like to be part of our growing non-profit, to connect with other authors who have walked this path before you and are incredibly knowledgeable and generous, as well as having access to a great many other benefits, you can join the Alliance of Independent Authors here. Together, we're stronger.