Tuesday, November 5, 2013

What is an Indie Author?

While cruising around my Google+ haunts, I came across a persnickety writer who I imagined had a nasally voice and giant glasses he shoved up the bridge of his nose as he stated, " Actually, the term 'Indie Author' is a common misconception. Indie authors are small-press published authors, and should not be confused with the more common practice of self publishing." And he went on to kind of diss self-published authors for trying to "steal" a title or whatever.

That's not exactly what he said, but it's close enough. I also read this in a self-publishing how-to book that I mentioned in one of my earlier posts. The author, Catherine Ryan Howard, cautioned not to label yourself as indie because you are self-published, if that is what you are doing.

But that was news to me, and since titles are everything (eyeroll) I had to do more research to find out what exactly "Indie Author" meant, and where we all fit on the spectrum. What I found were, surprisingly, a lot of dull articles that either got way too specific with terminology and the nitpicky nuances of the definitions, or rainbows and unicorn blogs that couldn't stop blabbering about going for your dreams and picking a title that makes you feel warm and fuzzy. So I decided to lay it out Auchward style for you to see if it helps any.

First of all, in case it hadn't dawned on you yet, "indie" is short for "independent." This term "independent" seems to be used in a variety of ways, but it kind of speaks for itself. You stand alone! From what I understand, this term developed originally from the 1950's to 1980's with independent music labels. I won't bore you with a quote, but I did get it from a textbook, Media Essentials: A Brief Introduction. I just happen to be taking that class right now, so you're welcome.

The term sort of evolved to encompass the book publishing world as well, describing independent publishers who aren't one of the "big dogs" so to speak. They're small, and functional, and are not vanity publishing or self-publish aids.

So oh! You're thinking, wait, the nerd was right?

Sort of.

Here's where I stand with this: Both the mushy dreamland writers AND the nerd got it right. Independent Authors are authors who aren't using the larger industry publishers to represent their work. This could mean that you are an author for an independent publisher, OR it could mean you are publishing on your own...independently. Some bloggers have tried to argue that you're only an independent author if you are making your own publishing company and publishing other works, too.


Where you draw the line with your writer title is up to you, but from where I stand, "indie" is just short for independent. If you aren't relying on someone else, or if your publisher is bravely forging ahead in this risky, not-always-rewarding business (like my publisher, Malachite Quills), it's all the same. **MUSHY UNICORN MOMENT AHEAD** We're all trying to share our creations. So be nice. :)

 Here's a chart for you. As you can see, the more successful or "big" your publisher gets, the more you might be able to consider taking off the "Indie" part of your name. But if you are self-published, whether through your own publisher or not, I think it's pretty safe to call yourself "Indie" if you are so inclined. I am most decidedly an Indie Author. My publisher is small, independent, AND I happen to be self-publishing my second work. I think that puts me smack dab in the middle of the independent spectrum.

I believe the take-away from this is that some writers will try to draw a line in the sand. They'll want to say, "You can't join my author club because you did things differently!" They're entitled to draw lines, but we're entitled to ignore them, especially if they're as arbitrary as they seem. I'm not sugar-coating the fact that self-published authors are at a disadvantage, or even that many self-published works are big piles of poop. There's a lot of poop out there now. But the title shouldn't be what holds you back from feeling accomplished. At the very least, not the title.

As always, I love discussion. What are your thoughts on the title?


  1. Well done, Alyssa! Informative and entertaining. Keep up the good work!

    1. Thank you Stewart! I'm glad you enjoyed it, and thanks for stopping by!

  2. Thanks, Alyssa, for the amusing post. The playing field is leveling, and not everyone is thrilled about it.

    1. True, very true. I think it is leveling, and I can see why it would make some people angry. A lot of the articles I read complained about the marked being inundated with junk, but lets be honest--even some published work was crappy to begin with. At least this way we give everyone a chance.

  3. An excellent post. As writers, we tend to either defend the sanctity of word choice, or insist that interpretation is part of the art and beauty of writing, and there is no more essential choice of words than one's moniker. I'm not surprised this topic creates some static between writers.

  4. Thanks for breaking it down for us, Alyssa!

  5. I'm fully in the camp of If you're not published by the big NY publishing houses, YOU'R AN INDIE AUTHOR.

    *Indie music* can be released on small labels or just on a website.
    *Indie movies* small studio or to be honest I've seen some fantastic shorts on youtube...no studio required.

    So why not Indie Author - Self published/small press/post-it notes on the bathroom wall.

  6. Actually, 'self-published' is more independent than small press, if you go by the essential definition that independent is 'not subject to control by others'. Really, hands down, that's what it is no matter what your venture(writing, music, film, needlepoint, roofing, etc). The word is what it is and 'labels' are purely the product of communities(and sometimes deranged imaginations). You(in the general sense) did it yourself, without reliance on or control by a publisher. That makes you indie. I agree with Gina Drayer %100.

    Good conversation post. :)