I don’t know about you, but I’ve been hearing a lot of conflicting terms tossed around the blogosphere lately.  Writers are braving the murky waters of publishing without a solid grasp of where they’re headed, praying they’ll wash ashore somewhere—anywhere. And that’s a problem.
 
NA Alley isn’t just about promoting New Adult as a category. We want to keep you guys informed of things going on in the industry, too. We want to open up meaningful dialogues and encourage discussion. So, I’m starting a series on industry terms.

Once every seven weeks, we'll explore a new term (or series of terms) together. Sound like a plan? Good! :)

INDIE


For ages, indie has referred[1] to independent publishers—a.k.a. small presses—but the term has been adopted by self-published authors in recent years. Does one group represent the label more than the other? Does it matter? Let's take a closer look.

There are three main schools of thought here:

  • Some say indie publishers are independent of the Big Six, but their authors are not indie. Why? Because indie authors are independent of upfront, contractual assistance—they self-publish and/or start their own micro-pubs.
     
  • Others argue that indie authors and indie publishers go hand-in-hand. They have for years, and shifting the definition will only make things more confusing. Self-publishing already has a label.
  • Finally, there are publishers and authors who reject the labeling system. They find the debate counterproductive and refuse to be called "indie" or anything else.

What do you think? 

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1. I'm referring to the book/publishing industry. I know the term has been around since the '20s and has encompassed a variety of industries over the years. We're cool. ;)

Post a Comment

  1. Honestly, I had a hard time getting around the term "indie" in the beginning. But now, I shamelessly use it for self-pub authors as well as small Indie Presses.

    I truly think though, that "indie" perfectly described self-pub authors as they are truly independent from any publishing house.

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    1. I know what you mean. When you see these terms tossed around as often as we do, it’s hard to avoid picking them up! :)

      Thanks for stopping by, Danny!

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  2. While I can understand how the term "indie" describes small presses, I always use it, and think of it, in terms of self-pub authors. That's the context I heard it in first, and to me, they're independent of everything else.

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    1. Carrie, I'm with Clare here, as I understood the expression on the same terms as she did.

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  3. I can see how this is confusing. When one says 'indie,' are they referring to the publisher or the author?

    Interesting post. :)

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    1. Exactly! I always ask for elaboration, just to be sure.

      Thanks, Melissa. :)

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  4. Great post sista! I hear indie I do think sell pubbing. I guess that and small press are actually both umbrellaed under that term :)

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    1. Thanks, Victoria! It's just confusing because small press is typically thought of as small-scale traditional. The lines are fuzzy, but does it matter now? Hmmm...

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  5. I've always thought indie pubs were just that, independent of the Big 6. But indie authors are self-pubbed, not indie pubbed. That make sense? Oy!

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    1. Yes, it makes sense. Odd, though, isn't it? Gotta love this industry! ;)

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  6. I am self pubbed and i use the term inde sometimes, but ot always. I think its bc I associate the fact I did it independently.

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  7. I've been wrong once or twice, so I may be again. But... I thought Indies were publishers independent of the big houses, but presses that sign authors. How does that make their authors self-published? These small presses can have 100s of authors who sign binding contracts. I self-published my first novel and then signed with two small presses. Does that mean they are actually small houses? Is that the distinction? Although, I've always thought of Theytus as a house and not a press, come to think of it. They're the oldest Aboriginal publishers in North American. MuseItUp is new, and they have published their publishers books, but in order to publish my novel, I had to go through the editing process.

    Okay, I should quit while I'm ahead and go look up the term. I suspect I've been using it incorrectly.

    Hey, Ms. Butler, you little cutie!

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    1. Oo, maybe we should cover presses v. houses next time. Good call, Joylene! :D

      P.S. Thanks for that tidbit on Theytus. Very cool!

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  8. I've seen this come up quite a few times on blog discussions, and am familiar with the three different sides. I tend to refer to self-published and independent publisher authors as indies because they have to promote their books themselves. It all comes down to marketing, so to me, those authors are indie. However, readers tend to view self-published and traditionally published authors in different lights, with more reverence for those traditionally published. But those who are self-published and make it big are often admired more than traditionally published authors. Personally, I prefer the third school of thought. I dislike labels and would rather just be known as an author. I don't see why it would matter how the book got published if it's a quality product. It only makes me curious as an author when it succeeds.

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    1. "I don't see why it would matter how the book got published if it's a quality product. It only makes me curious as an author when it succeeds."

      Yes! THIS! :)

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  9. I had honestly not ever thought about this much. Now that you bring it up though I would think of indie as self-published.

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    1. Sounds like you're in the majority, Donna! :) Thanks for stopping by!

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  10. When I hear the term indie, I think, "self-published." I also think "independent of Hollywood,' when I hear about an Independent film being made. Indie, I think, literally means 'independent of the so-called traditional route."

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  11. I tend to go with the second bullet point as a definition, but the word has been so thoroughly co-opted by self-pubbers now that its original meaning has changed. Language is an ever-evolving things.....

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    1. "Language is an ever-evolving thing..."

      Good point, Jeff! :)

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  12. It seems like everyone started using "indie" for self-publishing when the big self-pub boom happened, but it hasn't seemed to be that way as much in the last couple of months. I have no idea why. And really, I'm fine with it either way.

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    1. The shift sort of popped up out of nowhere (not unlike the boom). Isn't it interesting how these things unfold? :) Thanks for stopping by, Pegasus!

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  13. Awesome post, sista!
    I confess I learnt about indie as self-pubbed authors, but then a little later, learned the difference ;)

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  14. It seems like a certain number of self-published authors started calling themselves indie to bypass the stigma of self-publication. I'm fine with calling myself a self-published author; it's the truth. I don't feel the need to hide from it.

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    1. I think that stigma is quickly fading. :) You're right. There's absolutely nothing wrong with being self-published. You ROCK that label!

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  15. I can't remember where but the best definition I found said that Indie can be self publishing but only if the author created a small press instead of publishing under just their name. Self publishers go under their name. That made a lot of sense. But when i see Indie I see self published. I think it's more the small press author that needs to make the distinction now to set themselves apart.

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    1. Thanks for sharing that tidbit, Laura! It makes sense. :)

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  16. I have always used the terms 'indie author' and 'self published author' interchangeably, and I refer to myself as both. Usually, I try to use the term 'indie author' over 'self published' purely because I think 'indie' has associations with independent music etc and has a positive vibe, while there is still a bit of stigma attached to the 'self published author' tag.

    I know this isn't a technical answer, but it perhaps offers an explanation for why the terms have become muddied - because people like me are using them to suit their own purposes. ;-)

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    1. Hey, whatever it takes! I happen to think the writing world is a better place thanks to 'people like you'. :)

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  17. What a great discussion! I have always thought, like a lot of the people here, that indie was originally coined by small publishers who were independent of the big publishing houses. However, I think that term has evolved with the rise of self publishing. And it makes sense that the self publishers would adopt that term as they, more than anyone, are independent and doing their own marketing, editing and publishing. So I guess it could be used for either group. It is for that reason that I prefer to stay away from the label "indie" as much as possible and instead just say, small publisher or self published. I think they are both awesome in their own right though:)

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    1. Well said, Deana! I'm inclined to agree. :)

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  18. Great topic! I also wonder what is the difference. I have to admit that perhaps the term indie sounds better than self-published. That term can make others envision a book that isn't professionally edited, lousy book cover, etc. - basically the stereotypical self-pubbed author. Also, some published authors like Jodi Piccoult don't mince words with their opinion of the self-published author. So, there's kind of a taboo with the term, and maybe some say indie to get more credibility.

    I say I'm self-published, because I am. Sometimes when I introduce myself as one, a few may raise an eyebrow. But all in all, publishing a book is an accomplishment and whatever kind of author you are, you deserve a pat on the back. Unless your book is really bad in so many ways, you're as good as the indie or mainstream author.

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    1. "But all in all, publishing a book is an accomplishment and whatever kind of author you are, you deserve a pat on the back."

      This deserves a high five, Megan! :)

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