Indie Publishing vs. Self-Publishing: What’s the Difference?

After doing some more research, I’ve realized that my first post about self-publishing should actually have been called “Taking the Plunge into Indie Publishing.”

But why? Aren’t self-publishing and indie publishing the same thing?

Well, yes and no. The problem with the term “self-publishing” is that it harkens back to the days where people who couldn’t get their work picked up by a major publisher paid tons of money to a press to print their work and sell it themselves. I actually don’t think there’s anything intrinsically wrong with that model, aside from people losing money because they had no real way to market themselves or their work. The stigma attached to this idea of “not being good enough” to have work traditionally published also made the sale of these self-published works difficult because bookstores typically refused to stock them.

I agree with the growing opinion that publishers, agents, and bookstores should not be the gatekeepers to our reading material. I think readers should be able to choose what they want to read. And the internet has made that possible. While that may mean there’s more junk to wade through since anyone can publish a book, you’ll ultimately be accessing a much greater pool of knowledge and storytelling than ever before.

Keep in mind that publishers don’t choose great books. They choose books they think will sell a lot of copies. And a quality independently published book with the same amount of care in the editing and design process can be just as good or better than a traditionally published book.

Independent (or indie) publishing is a much better, more empowering term for what we as writers are beginning to do with our work. We aren’t publishing work by ourselves, but as independent publishing entities within a larger community of authors. No one calls a guitarist who creates a CD and sells it on Amazon a “self-produced” musician. We call them indie musicians, and we love and respect them. The same goes with indie film making.

So, I think “self-published” writers need to work on embracing the terms “indie publishing” and “indie author.” That’s the only way we’ll be able to beat the unfair stigma attached to the old model of “self-publishing.”

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12 replies to “Indie Publishing vs. Self-Publishing: What’s the Difference?”

  1. AJ Borowsky says:

    Hello Alana,

    Found you through the campaign. Your take on indie publishing versus self-publishing is right on as far as I’m concerned. You’re right that there might be more junk to wade through I also think there’s a lot of junk put out by the traditional publishers. I hope my contribution to the indie publishing world rises above but as you say, my readers will make that determination.

    1. Alana says:Author

      I agree. This idea that traditional publishers never publish junk is definitely not correct. I’ve even read traditionally published books full of typos and errors.

      Thanks so much for stopping by!

  2. Dafeenah says:

    Hi I’m a fellow memoir campaigner stopping by to say hi!! It’s funny I just visited another blog from the campaign list and basically said in my comment the exact same thing you just did in your post only not as well. I work with indie authors and you would not imagine the amount of work they put into making their books the best they possibly can and with each new book I see so much improvement where they learn from their mistakes and it’s amazing to me to be a part of their growth and to see the great work that they publish.

    1. Alana says:Author

      Hi Dafeenah, nice to meet you! I’ve noticed the amount of work indie authors put into their projects as well. The ones who take it seriously are often successful.

  3. […] by Alana Saltz who I learned from a tweet also has a cold. Alana has changed my outlook on the term self-publishing. There are more people interested in writing memoirs then I would have imagined. My feeling was […]

  4. Rob Gokee says:

    “Keep in mind that publishers don’t choose great books. They choose books they think will sell a lot of copies. And a quality independently published book with the same amount of care in the editing and design process can be just as good or better than a traditionally published book.”

    This is the crux of the post, great job, Alana, I totally agree;)

    1. Alana says:Author

      Thanks, Rob!

  5. Callie Leuck says:

    Alana, I think you have made an excellent argument for using “indie author” rather than “self-published author.” I’m sold!

    1. Alana says:Author


  6. Louise says:

    I was just trying to explain to my husband the difference between using the term “self-published” vs “indie published,” Googled it, and came up with this. MUCH better explanation than I was managing to put together. Thank you!

    1. Alana says:Author

      You’re welcome! Although, since writing the post I have discovered that some people also consider “indie publishing” as being published by an indie press (but since anyone can start an indie press, you can still do it by yourself).

  7. Zi says:

    I have published academic monographs by university press but have not been able to publish my novel by a commercial press. I resisted self publishing because of the stigma of vanity press. In recent months I read about opinions on independent publishing. My view gradually changed. It is true that commercial publishing houses mainly concern about sales. Some very high quality books may be rejected. If not for independent publishing the readers would not have the fortune to read them. I think publishing business has gone through a revolution. Serious writers are liberated from the worry of being rejected due to unpopular subjects or sales.

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