What I Love About Self-Publishing

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jensoko

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BySharonNelson,

Thanks for your kind words and the incisive answers to my questions. So far, from the replies received, it's seems to me that the biggest problem with SP lies in the areas of promotion, marketing, and visibility, in order for the writer to obtain a significant number of sales and realize a decent profit. That seems to be an endemic problem with SP and perhaps therein might lie the rub between those who want to go the traditional route and those who believe in SP. I don't know, but if one is in this business to make a full-time living from writing (like I've always been) I can see it being a real problem. Without the proper funding, knowledge of how to use the money, and the proper connections, I can see SP being a hugh headache.

Many of the promo/marketing/being seen problems are also symptomatic of E-publishing or very small-press publishing. Several years ago, B&N used to be more flexible/open to small press books or books printed via POD into their stores, but too many people pulled a "bait and switch" where they ordered books they never intended to pick up in hopes that it would appear on the shelves and attract a reader, that B&N was losing money on these non-returnable print copies. B&N changed their policy and a lot of small e-presses that had fledgling print programs died in the cradle, so to speak.

Even now there are many epublishing presses that have cut off their print efforts because print loses them money. To be fair, there's much of "big 6" print publishing that loses *them* money, but they're bigger outfits and can recoup the losses from the hits they do make. :)

So while a small press can give your niche book a home and a way to be seen by readers, you still have to find the readers and let them know where to find your book and why they should care. You still have less chance of making a mint of money with a small e-press (although there are many who do--which is why I take all the "outlier" arguments with a glass of wine because the same arguments were made 5 and 7 years ago about e-publishing--the "outliers" eventually piled up).

To answer your question list, though, no I haven't started to SP yet, but I have plans in the works--being still in the planning stage, I'm doing a ton of research.

And to answer the original poster's question, what appeals to me about going it alone (or "indie" if I want to set pants on fire :D ) is that it cooks out much of the nonsense we writers tend to get wrapped up in (attracting editors and agents, or publishing with the "right" house, or blaming a bad cover/blurb/no marketing support for mediocre sales) and focuses our efforts on reaching the reader.

I want to reach the reader that wants to read what I write. I know my quirky rom-coms have no home in NY right now, maybe for several years, or possibly never (for reference, my subs reached the right editors just around the time they never wanted to see another romcom ever again). But I think there's still a market out there of readers looking for lighthearted books about silly people doing silly things in the name of love. I'm looking for those people.

And if I flop, I flop because of something I did, not something my publisher did or didn't do, or a bad cover, or a bad slot in the release schedule, or another book out by the same publisher at that time, or whatever. I reach out to readers, and I stand or fall on my own two legs. :)
 

Medievalist

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So far, from the replies received, it's seems to me that the biggest problem with SP lies in the areas of promotion, marketing, and visibility, in order for the writer to obtain a significant number of sales and realize a decent profit.

That's part of it. Other issues have to do with distribution--as in there not being any, other than what the author can manage. There's a reason publishers have sales people who go to book buyers for chains, and sell them books before they've even been completely written, in some cases. The sales staff will go not just to the big chains, but to indie bookstores, too (you may have seen them with their heavy catalog cases containing ARCs and catalogs and sell sheets). They go to trade shows, too, and then market folk take out ads in the professional pubs for librarians and bookstore owners.

Another problem with printed books has to do with cover price. It costs more to print POD books, or small runs (under 10 K). A commercial mass market paperback can cost between 1.50 and 2.00 depending on the size of the run, and things like the page count and cover.

A similar sized book from a smaller run can be cost the author from 8.00 to 15.00. Depending on the printing technology, it won't look the same, either. The cover, the paper, the binding glue and the inks are all different and they look and feel different. It's one of the reasons you really want someone who understands the output for their art--especially in terms of any text on the cover, front or back.

If you do get the book in front of readers--at cons, or bookstores, or whereever--they may well be startled by a cover price that's more than they paid for a hardcover at the local chain.

That seems to be an endemic problem with SP and perhaps therein might lie the rub between those who want to go the traditional route and those who believe in SP. I don't know, but if one is in this business to make a full-time living from writing (like I've always been) I can see it being a real problem. Without the proper funding, knowledge of how to use the money, and the proper connections, I can see SP being a hugh headache.

If people want to go SP and they have a specific niche--and a way to get a good looking professionally produced book in front of readers, these things can all disappear.

I've posted before about a friend and much beloved colleague; Dr. Ruth Mellenkoff. She was an internationally known and respected Medieval art historian. She had a two volume coffee-table format book that publishers wanted to publish--but couldn't do it at a price that they could make a profit on. (It has hundreds of images, as well as text).

Dr. Mellenkoff hired a respected professional academic copyeditor, and a typesetter and layout designer. She paid up front, for all of this, as well as the first few thousand books.

She then got the book carried by academic specialty bookstores, all over the world--which as one of the leading authorities in her field, she could do.

I believe the initial hardcover version sold for about $150.00. Later, a specialty publisher came to her and offered to produce a paperback version of a similar quality.

But this is not the norm. And it helped that she could afford a large cash investment, as well as substantial amounts of her own time after writing the book. She didn't need the money; she wanted to share the information with scholars.
 
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scope

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And if I flop, I flop because of something I did, not something my publisher did or didn't do, or a bad cover, or a bad slot in the release schedule, or another book out by the same publisher at that time, or whatever.

Aren't you making a false assumption when by implying that if you did obtain a traditional publisher the house would do everything wrong? Can't one assume that they will do everything right -- or almost everything? Making such a negative assumption is not unto itself, as I see it, a reason to SP. There may be many other reasons to SP, and as you know I'm considering doing so, but to use your arguement as the reason to do so I find hard to swallow. I've had many books traitionally published and while you always think something could be done better, I really can't complain. Now again, that doesn't mean that I won't try self-publishing, but if I do it won't be because I think traditional publishers are inept.

:)

ss
 

BySharonNelson

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Scope, just out of curiosity... You said that you have had books traditionally published, what made you decide to think about SP?

Promotion, marketing and visibility are indeed a challenge for indie authors as I quickly found out first hand. As I do not rely on this for income I am trying not to stress too much about making money. I do hope that one day I will be able to make this my soul career but I am not going to hold my breath. I am perfectly aware of the odds of hitting it big as a writer whether it be traditionally pubbed or indie so I am trying to be realistic and shoot for something that is attainable. On the up side I have talked to countless indies who do make a decent amount of money each year on their books. It can take a year or more to build up any kind of following so I am not going to stress too much, yet :)
 

MacAllister

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Promotion, marketing and visibility are indeed a challenge for indie authors as I quickly found out first hand. As I do not rely on this for income I am trying not to stress too much about making money.

Actually, let's please knock off this inaccurate and misleading nonsense of "indie authors" right now.

Not here. I get that everyone is suddenly using "indie" instead of "self-published" all over Twitter or the Kindle boards, and frankly, I don't care. It's still just wrong, inaccurate, and a litte dumb, and we aren't going to do it here.

Self published is not indie. Indie has been used in the publishing industry for decades. It already means something specific, in this context.

And AW is NOT a "rawr! Self-pubbing! Rawr!" forum. We're about education, and helping writers make choices based on real information, not just on self-promotion and POD/Smashwords/Kindle marketing BS. I don't want to hear another goddamned word from anyone who doesn't like being smacked in the face by the cold, cruel truth of some of the real drawbacks to self-pubbing. And I'm finished letting enthusiastic but clearly ill-informed members accuse other members of "trolling" just for posting those hard truths Nobody promised anyone here unequivocal support in their choices -- especially if those choices aren't well researched, well informed, or even marginally realistic.

If that's what people are looking for, I highly recommend the Kindle forums.
 
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MacAllister

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Recommend all you want. I pay the bills for this place, though -- and "indie" in this context is simply wrong. When I say "we aren't going to use 'indie' that way on AW" I mean it. I will not advocate spreading that kind of crap propaganda misinformation. I'll close the damned room, first.

If someone else (not one of the big six, but still an independent, actual publishing company) paid for your books' production and distribution, you're independently published.

If you picked up the tab for your own books, you're self-published.
 
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MacAllister

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Right - has anyone else spent a dime to edit, produce, and distribute your books, then -- not a company that you own or are a principle member of? If so, then okay. Absolutely. You're independently published.

Otherwise, you've certainly at the very least invested an enormous amount of your own time and expertise doing the things any publisher does -- and hey, that's awesome, and I think your books look great. I've run 'em at the top of these forums, in fact, because I think they look great.

But no -- you aren't independently published unless someone else published you.

This isn't difficult.

If you published your own books -- even by means of your own publishing company -- you're self-published. If you publish your own book, that book is self-published. And there's not a damned thing wrong about that. Self-publishing can be enormously rewarding and satisfying for a lot of writers, otherwise there wouldn't be any point at all to choosing that route, now would there?
 
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scope

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Scope, just out of curiosity... You said that you have had books traditionally published, what made you decide to think about SP?

Over the years I've been fortunate to have had a number of books published by some 10-15 traditional publishing houses(major and midsize). Some sold well and others so-so. Overall, I really don't have anything negative to say about any traditional house with which I've had contact as an author, ghostwriter, or project director.

So, to your question -- why am I thinking about self-publishing? A few reasons.
First of all I want to learn first hand all I can about SP. I want to get to know the houses and the people who run SP houses, and how they do so. I want to judge the advantages and disadvantages of SP verus publication by traditional houses. I want to evaluate, not only rely upon the opinons of others, anything I judge to be negative, positive, problematic, etc. And since I write to earn my living, I want to find out if it's logical to assume that a writer could assume that to be a possibility--and if not, why. I can say as I write this that SP sounds great if in doing so I can accomplish what's important to me. But I think the only way I can find out is to approach SP in an objective manner & dismiss what I've read about same and take into account what I know is true about traditional publishing. So I'm ready to invest some time and dirty my hands. And I believe I have the perfect manuscript for the SP market. It appeals to a well identified, easy to reach niche market. I think the book would sell about 5,000 copies a year for a number of years,which amount I think would be acceptable to a SP house but not all that exciting and marginal to a traditional house publishing it in a traditional manner.
 

scope

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If someone else (not one of the big six, but still an independent, actual publishing company) paid for your books' production and distribution, you're independently published.

If you picked up the tab for your own books, you're self-published.

I couldn't agree with you more, and I really don't understand why so many find it so difficult to make such a clear differentiation.
 

zpeteman

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The point is that self-publishing is an improper descriptor of what I do. My books are published under the umbrella of independent press that's composed of a lot more people than just myself, and the press is only a small part of a greater organization. I don't own it. I do help administrate it. Did the press pay the cost of the publication? No. Did I? No. Readers did--in advance.

The most accurate descriptor for my situation is "independently published" and so that's what I use. The publishing world is changing and so must its terms.
 

MacAllister

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Actually, it's really not all that complicated. Did you decide to publish your own books, or were they reviewed and green-lighted by the other people involved in the company, before that decision was made?

Did the press pay the cost of the publication? No. Did I? No. Readers did--in advance.
That's actually more than a bit disingenuous. Who did those readers pay, and how and by whom was the decision made to publish your own books? Just because the model may be a little more convoluted doesn't mean it's a whole new paradigm.

In 2009, you wrote:

I'm independently publishing my novel and not because I failed to publish it traditionally. It was on submission with some major houses, it got some no's and the more I thought about it and looked at the business side of it, the more I leaned toward going my own way. So I told my agent to stop submitting it. I hired an editor, I commissioned cover design and typesetting, and I started shopping for a printer.

The realization I came to was that I didn't have any need to be validated by going the traditional route. What validation is there to be had from an industry that repeatedly demonstrates a notable inclination not toward good literature, but toward its opposite. I didn't care to get an advance that I'd most likely never earn out, and I didn't care to make a razor thin profit on what books I did sell.

So I set a budget, I treated it like a business venture and I made sure that I could make back the cash I put into it. I don't need to sell 50,000 copies now to pay for the publishing, I need to sell merely a few hundred. It just makes sense. The caveat is that I was in a position to put the whole thing in motion, I have a platform of sorts, I have avenues of marketing, I know artists, and an editor, and can make the connections I need to in order to get things done.

There are even solutions to the distribution issue. It's not as hard to put all these pieces together are some would have us believe. The hard part is putting it all together in a way that's professional and putting it together in service of a work that is worth the time and investment.

Many writers aren't able to be objective enough about their work to know whether such a move is worth their time and energy. It's tricky but, like others have said, I think it all comes down to your definition of success. For me, success means I put out a quality piece of art that a reader is happy to display on his bookshelf, and I do so with without losing any money. If I make money, that's great, but making money isn't the goal.


A. S. Peterson
TheFiddlersGun.com

You know what? That's self-publishing. And you seem to be rocking it, and good for you. And I DO think your books look terrific. I think you're a really good example of people self-publishing in really smart, carefully-researched ways.

But it's still self-publishing. It's really, trulio, not something new and different.

And I totally get that you don't like the term. You've said so, yourself:
It'll be for sale at RabbitRoom.com, and I'll be fighting the same battle as every other "self-publisher" (hate that term, hence independent publisher). [emphasis added]

After talking with the folks at Ingram though, I'm hearing that distribution isn't as far-fetched a possibility as is commonly believed. That remains to be seen however, and even distribution itself isn't terribly helpful if the book isn't making it into catalogs and being pushed to stores by sales reps.

I've got a few tricks up my sleeve. Time will tell.

But there's nothing wrong with the term, though. It's precise, it's helpful, and it's accurate. And renaming a rabbit a smeerp doesn't magically make the rabbit into a different animal.

How on earth can we give people accurate, helpful, real information about self-publishing, if we're going to pretend -- and encourage them to pretend -- that they're doing something else?
 
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zpeteman

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That's actually more than a bit disingenuous. Who did those readers pay, and how and by whom was the decision made to publish your own books? Just because the model may be a little more convoluted doesn't mean it's a whole new paradigm.

Not disingenuous at all. Reader's paid the press, the press paid the printer, distributor, etc. The decision to self-publish was mine. The subsequent decision to publish the book as the first (official) title of the (independent) Rabbit Room Press was made by a number of people who had to review and greenlight the book. Did I help found the press? Yes. Do I still work for it? Yes.

I can see this discussion is going nowhere if you think that "self-publishing" describes what I've done more accurately than "independent publishing". If we can't even agree on the definitions of basic words like "accurate" and "precise" then what hope of understanding more complex issues?

This is off topic anyway.
 

MacAllister

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Self-publishing describes rather exactly what you've done. The Ingrams listing for your books has them tagged as self-published, too. (I can't link, because it's not a public URL). Renaming the process doesn't magically make it into a different process.

And I'm completely baffled at why you'd insist on pretending that your self-published books are something else entirely, and expect all of us to pretend along with you -- especially in a self-publishing forum, in a thread about "What I Love About Self-Publishing."
 
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Old Hack

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Ah...AW Self-pub forum. How I used to love you.

Scope: I too assumed that your questions would later be used to fuel an argument against self-publishing. If that was not your intention, then the only reason I can think of that it came across that way is that there's an air of defensiveness around these parts lately, because...well, I'm not sure why. But it's not pretty.

You assumed that Scope's questions were going to be used to fuel an argument, and you're wondering where this "air of defensiveness" is coming from? I thought that Scope was asking for clear information about self publishing, based on others' achievements. This could have been a brilliant opportunity for self-publishers to show what could be achieved: instead it's descended into a bickerfest.

Mods--maybe I'm way off base, but the impression I'm getting from the way that you step into discussions is that you guys are more than willing to tell anyone who is open about the fact that they self-publish to "tone it down," but not so willing to do that to those who traditionally publish. Now, It's possible that I'm being overly sensitive. After all, in a different thread, I was "rebuked" for comments I made, when the person who I had commented in response to was not, and I felt the tenor of both posts was equally..."snippy."

There's a lot going on behind the scenes (by way of reported posts, modly discussions, rep points, PMs and so on) that you don't see, so it could be that your concerns have been addressed, but for various reasons it's all been done privately. Or it could be that we've missed it. If you ever feel that we, as mods, are being unfair, you just have to send us a PM stating your case. It's always possible that we've made a mistake: but if you don't tell us your concerns, we won't know about them.

What I am seeing, as this part of AW gets busier and busier, is a huge increase in the amount of misinformation posted here. I won't allow that to stand, no matter how unpopular it makes me: it would go against my values, and it would go against AW's central rule of Respect Your Fellow Writer: being respectful involves being honest and forthright, and not allowing your associates to be misled. Even if the truth isn't something that people want to hear.


I'm going to be taking an extended AW break...

I'll be exiting, then, at least for awhile.

I'm sorry to see you go. You're welcome back any time.



Many of the promo/marketing/being seen problems are also symptomatic of E-publishing or very small-press publishing. Several years ago, B&N used to be more flexible/open to small press books or books printed via POD into their stores, but too many people pulled a "bait and switch" where they ordered books they never intended to pick up in hopes that it would appear on the shelves and attract a reader, that B&N was losing money on these non-returnable print copies. B&N changed their policy and a lot of small e-presses that had fledgling print programs died in the cradle, so to speak.

B&N changed its policy there because it was losing money as a result of those tactics. If the publishers concerned closed down as a result then their business plans must have been very flawed. It's not acceptable for one business to thrive by tricking others into buying their products.

To be fair, there's much of "big 6" print publishing that loses *them* money, but they're bigger outfits and can recoup the losses from the hits they do make. :)

Actually, the Big Six tend to be profitable. Relatively few of their books fail to turn a profit, despite claims that are made that most of their books lose them money. That's one of the untruths that is often perpetuated.

But I think there's still a market out there of readers looking for lighthearted books about silly people doing silly things in the name of love. I'm looking for those people.

There is still a good market for romantic comedies. I'm a member of the Romantic Novelists' Association and it seems that every week someone gets a new deal. The genre is very much alive and well; but it's very competitive. At the risk of being blunt, I wonder if your problem is "silly people doing silly things in the name of love"? If your characters seem foolish to the reader they've going to struggle to empathise with them. Just a thought.
 

DoctorMandaBenson

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And AW is NOT a "rawr! Self-pubbing! Rawr!" forum. We're about education, and helping writers make choices based on real information, not just on self-promotion and POD/Smashwords/Kindle marketing BS. I don't want to hear another goddamned word from anyone who doesn't like being smacked in the face by the cold, cruel truth of some of the real drawbacks to self-pubbing.


Interpreting that you're either the board owner or a senior moderator, and with all due respect, I would like to challenge why the description for the 'Self Publishing and PoD' board has been changed to some derivative of your quote in bold. I've used these forums for a while as someone who is both self published and published by small independent publishers (i.e. ones that I don't own and have independent editors and selection processes). I don't personally care for the silly posts claiming that self publishing will inherit the earth and agents and editors can go and die in a fire. Neither do I like the other extreme when people come here saying everyone who self publishes is a narcissistic hack with no career prospects, who can't write for toffee and labours under the delusion that self publishing will make you a millionaire. But they are just opinions, and providing the posters don't attack anyone personally I don't see what makes them inappropriate to post on a board about self publishing. I've got useful information off these fora despite them, and I daresay others have too.

I take no issue with forum moderators putting reasonable conditions on posters, such as not swearing, not being abusive, or not discussing topics inappropriate for a young audience, but I would also assert that when a person creates a forum for the general public to use and the general public does use it, the community is largely responsible for the shape of the forum as it follows. Having moderated forums myself before, I'd say it was unwise to try to dictate what loyalties and opinions people are allowed to take into a discussion on a forum. Thanks for your time.

As an unprofessional aside, I have a disused forum left up from a test I was running for a private group. If people want to use that to argue about self publishing in and discuss semantics about what constitutes indy- and self- publishing, I don't have a problem with them going there. http://tangentrine.com/forum
 

shadowwalker

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I'd say it was unwise to try to dictate what loyalties and opinions people are allowed to take into a discussion on a forum.

I've also moderated forums (own or co-own a couple) and I honestly don't see any of the mods trying to dictate loyalties or opinions. In fact, many of the mod posts bringing things to order also contain statements of support for self-publishing as a legitimate choice. But isn't it the role of a mod/owner to put a stop to the spread of misinformation? Isn't it everyone's role, really? This occurs on darn near every thread on this board.

I'm not saying that some posts haven't been right on the line (if not over it) when it comes to questioning some of the misleading or incorrect information - but really, the mods have been pretty lenient with all sides in this (and other similar) discussions. (There has been, you must admit, quite a bit of sneering from certain SP advocates toward commercial publishing and those who use it.)

Personally, I used to sneer at self-publishing myself, but through all of these discussions and earlier ones, I've changed my overall opinion. It's no longer a "knee-jerk" opinion, but I also see a lot of writers who could be led down the primrose path if they accepted as Gospel some of the things stated. And preventing that - or at least alerting people of the possibility - is exactly why so many are posting here. I don't believe any of us like to see a fellow writer make decisions without knowing as much as is possible first.
 

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Why can't we all just get along?

Why can't we all just get along?

It seems that every thread about self-publishing (no matter how innocuous the title and opening posts) descends into the same petty arguments.

We're all writers. We're all on the same side. We are not in competition with each other. We all want the same thing (readers). How we go about it doesn't really matter. I'll say it once more, we're not in competition with each other.

I have neither self-published nor been traditionally published. I would like to do both, which I think could bring me the biggest amount of readers, if done right (which is why I think Amanda Hocking's move was so smart).

If anyone wants to read an even-handed article by a writer who is doing both, I recommend this piece (contains swearing).

Now, play nice, people.

Dave
 

zpeteman

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The Ingrams listing for your books has them tagged as self-published, too.

This is nonsensical. Ingram doesn't make such distinctions and doesn't distribute what people typically think of as "self-publishers" (except through Lightning Source). In order to set up distribution through them, we (as an independent press) had to submit a minimum of ten titles for consideration and approval (only one of which was mine).

We are not a member of IPS (Ingram Publisher Services) if that's what you mean, because IPS is reserved only for publishers doing minimum sales (through Ingram) of around $250,000 per year. We fall under their wholesaling arm, as do most other independent and micro-presses.

I browse this forum primarily because I exist in the grey area between the self-published and the commercially published and have first hand experience in how what initially began as a self-publishing venture has not only been successful but has grown into a much more robust publishing model. I typically see a lot of mis-information and myth here and in other forums like it and I do what I can to provide actual, real-world, information that will hopefully be helpful to someone.

I don't care to be dragged any further into this fruitless debate, so this is my final post to this thread. My apologies to the original poster.
 

AP7

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It's your board, and you can do what you like with it, including banning certain terms. However, you can't change popular language, no matter how much it may bother you. Indie Author is an accepted term and essentially synonamous to self published. Google "Indie Author" and see what you find. Writers Digest selling "The Indie Author Guide." Indie author sites. Indie blog sites. Banning a term that is widely used everywhere else on the planet strikes me as heavy handed and downright silly.

Huffington Post: "Meet Mega Selling Indie Author Amanda Hocking"

Forbes: "If an Independent author can make big money, what's the point of publishers?"

Business Insider: "Amanda Hocking is the best selling Indie writer..."

digg.com: "Independent Author Amanda Hocking signs deal..."
 

ios

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Actually, let's please knock off this inaccurate and misleading nonsense of "indie authors" right now.

Not here. I get that everyone is suddenly using "indie" instead of "self-published" all over Twitter or the Kindle boards, and frankly, I don't care. It's still just wrong, inaccurate, and a litte dumb, and we aren't going to do it here.

Is there perhaps an area where this rule about the indie label can posted? There are probably new members all the time and they won't automatically know this newer rule.

The same for pro-self-publish part of this sub-forum. If it isn't supposed to be all pro, then perhaps a friendly warning that is highly visible every time a person clicks on the sub-forum would be of help.

I'm not being snarky--I'm just hoping that maybe something highly visible will help people, new and old, follow your rules more closely.

Jodi
 

Old Hack

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Ios, I'm working on a set of guidelines which I hope will put an end to some of the questions and a lot of the bickering which goes on here. Give me time: I need to get them right.
 

ios

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Ios, I'm working on a set of guidelines which I hope will put an end to some of the questions and a lot of the bickering which goes on here. Give me time: I need to get them right.

Thanks, I truly appreciate the efforts the owners/moderators put in here to make this a great place. And I apologize if my post put some undue rush or push on you. I did not mean that. It was just an idea off the top of my head. I look forward to seeing what changes occur :)

Jodi
 

zegota

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I don't really have any skin in this game, but I'm going to go ahead and toss out that the idea of being an 'independent' author means you have to have someone else supporting you makes me chuckle. That's like saying only married women can be considered 'independent.' But I guess it's true that phrases sometimes have meanings that contradict the meanings of the words taken by themselves.
 
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