Self-publishing vs. Independent Publishing

Guest Post: The Book Doctor on Self-Publishing vs. Independent Publishing

Q: When you spoke at a conference recently, I heard you refer to self-publishing. Isn’t “independent publishing” the correct term now?

A: Yes and no. An independent publisher is a small publisher that may or may not publish the works of the owner, but it always publishes the works of other authors, as well. When you publish only your own books, you are self-publishing. I know the distinction is vague; in either case you have to set up a company and be a publisher, but an independent publishing house accepts the works of others, as well as the works of the owner.

Also, when you use a firm that helps you publish, so that you don’t have to set up your own company, you are a self-published author, as opposed to a traditionally published author.

In the end, we are simply talking semantics. If you spend any money at all toward the printing of your book, you are self-published. Being self-published used to carry a stigma, and perhaps that’s why some people don’t want to use the term, but the market has changed over the years, and people’s attitudes have changed with it. At a time when selling a book to a traditional publisher is almost impossible, yet printing your own book has become easier than ever, self-publishing has taken on a whole new character and lost much of its prior poor image. Nowadays the only stigma comes from a poorly written or unedited self-published book. If the book looks good, reads well, is thoroughly edited, and sells well, who cares who paid for the printing?


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7 thoughts on “Self-publishing vs. Independent Publishing

  1. It would also be helpful to distinguish between independent publishers and independent authors, the latter simply being the new breed of self-published authors who legitimately see themselves as ‘independent’ of the mainstream.

    You are right though on so many counts – it is semantics, a lot has changed in a very short time, the stigma is fading and will continue to do so until oblivion in the not-too-distant future.

    Enjoyed your post.

    Regards
    Mel
    Association of Independent Authors

  2. An easy way to define self-publishing. If you purchase and provide the ISBN, you are self-publishing. If someone else provides the ISBN, you are not self-publishing. It’s the publishing company that provides the ISBN.

  3. This approach for defining what is self-published is a publishing industry perspective and lingers now only because, as we know, traditional publishing takes a while to adapt to changing conditions – it is style over substance.

    In substance, if an author arranges the publication of their own work, whether they do every aspect of it themselves or outsource part or all of it to a publishing services company like iUniverse, CreateSpace etc then that author has self-published. The fact that the author also outsourced the application for an ISBN rather than apply for it themselves does not suddenly change the nature of the transaction – the author is still self-publishing.

    In a court case in 2008 v BookSurge, it was ruled that the ‘publisher’ was not BookSurge (which issued the ISBN), but the author. The court ruled that BookSurge was merely an independent company that transforms PDF documents into books. It was the author who was in control. That’s the law as it stands today.

    And even though this myth of calling iUniverse etc ‘publishers’ is perpetuated when they are recorded as such because they issued the ISBN, the vast majority of readers, writers and reviewers everywhere know that when they see one of these companies listed as the ‘publisher’ it means the author is the publisher ie the book is self-published.

    Regards
    Mel

  4. @Melanie Walsh – great information. Thanks for the contribution.
    _______________________

    “In a court case in 2008 v BookSurge, it was ruled that the ‘publisher’ was not BookSurge (which issued the ISBN), but the author. The court ruled that BookSurge was merely an independent company that transforms PDF documents into books. It was the author who was in control. That’s the law as it stands today.”

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