Don’t Confuse Independent Publishing with Self-Publishing

by Judith Briles – The Book Shepherd


Indie, Independent and Small Press Publishing Are So, Soooooo Different from Self-Publishing, Vanity Presses and Pay-to-Publish “Publishing”

I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a zillion times: yes, dear author-to-be (and those already published), there is a difference between self-publishing, vanity presses, pay-to-publish, a small press, and independent publishing. Don’t mix them up. Don’t get confused.

Use Wikipedia as an initial guide:

“The terms “small press”, “indie publisher”, and “independent press” are often used interchangeably, with “independent press” defined as publishers that are not part of large conglomerates or multinational corporations. Defined this way, these presses make up approximately half of the market share of the book publishing industry. Many small presses rely on specialization in genre fiction, poetry, or limited-edition books or magazines, but there are also thousands that focus on niche non-fiction markets.”

Did you read that? One-half of the market share of the book publishing industry! Do
you understand what it says/means? It means most authors today whose objective is to be successful create a small or independent press. They create their own “imprints”—publishing houses only on a mini scale. Authors find that books breed books, more will come. As a small, independent press, all can be published under their publishing house.

“Small presses should not be confused with “vanity presses”. Vanity or subsidy presses usually require payment by authors, or a minimum purchase of copies.

Small presses make their profits by selling books to consumers, rather than selling services to authors or selling a small number of copies to the author’s friends.”

Vanity presses and the “pay-to-publish” crowd often prey on the would-be and naïve author. It’s a maze out there and it all there hype about creating books for a few hundred (to sometimes thousands of dollars) sounds ducky when the right jargon is pitched at you. Avoid. Avoid. Avoid the likes of Author House, Author Solutions, and their offspring and kin. Publishing predators.

“The majority of small presses are independent or indie publishers, this
means that they are separate from the handful of major publishing house conglomerates, such as Random House or Hachette. The term ‘indie publisher’ should not be confused with ‘self-publisher’, which is where the author publishes only their own books.”

The small press, indie or independent publisher IS NOT THE SAME as self-publishing … which is what vanity press is all about. There is not the commitment mentally, financially, even spiritually, that those who create the Vision for themselves as authors do who support their Passion to carry the book project through and are enveloped with the Commitment of their time, energy and money. Many who get sucked into the vanity, pay-to-publish and self-publish routes do it because 1) they don’t know better; 2) they’ve been bamboozled; 3) they don’t think/know there is another option; 4) they think that this is a way to start out with minimal moneys, not knowing that they, in turn, become a money pit for the company they sign up with. You own it all, from the ISBN to the rights to do what you want and with who you want to work with.

Do yourself and your book a favor. If you want to start small, while you learn about publishing along with what to do and what not to do, use either CreateSpace or Lightning Source as the “tool” to get your foot in the door. Both are POD-print on demand operations; both have the bells and whistles beginner authors need; both have windows to get your book into readers’ hands. When you are ready to transition to your own imprint or another option, you won’t be held hostage. Always a good thing.

Share your thoughts!

4 responses to “Don’t Confuse Independent Publishing with Self-Publishing”

  1. Geri says:

    There is no question, you need to do your homework! One of the gifts of the internet is that you can get information and stats on just about anything. The self-publishing community is very generous with their advice on everything to do with self-publishing. We have many different avenues of publishing represented with our B.R.A.G.Medallion Honorees. I am sure some are more thrilled with their choices than others, but sometimes it is hard to extricate yourself once you make the commitment so be sure to ask the questions.

  2. James David Ellen says:

    That very informative explanation was invaluable to me, and I plan to study it carefully. My historical novel, “Bloody Mountain,” is still underway. It is closely based on a true gold rush era event. I’m sticking to the facts, and almost all of my characters actually lived in history. Call me Dave, David, or ManyMoose.

  3. Derek Birks says:

    I would echo the recommendations in this blog piece regarding using CreateSpace or Lightning Source. Self-publishing is very time consuming but rewarding if you take it slowly and don’t get either overexcited when you sell a book or depressed when you don’t. Take the long view.

  4. Plum McCauley says:

    I actually don’t have a problem with Vanity Presses charging for “extras.” I also think that Outskirts Press, the self-publishing company I used, does a better job at book production compared to some of the books I’ve seen out there. My book “It All Started with a Bicycle” looks very good; the typeface, both interior and exterior, is beautiful; the paper is substantial; the publishing information at the beginning of the book looks identical to that produced by traditional publishing houses. Given how skimpy other self-published books often appear from some of these other independent sources, I’m thrilled that I chose the route I did.
    A book has always been for me a physical artifact as well as a set of abstractions conjured up in language. If you care about the physical book, think carefully before you decide that “you can do it cheaper.”
    In addition, the rights are mine–at least that’s what it says all over the paperwork. And the price is nothing compared to what Vanity Presses used to cost in the old days–back then it was truly thousands of dollars, with no creative input whatsoever. I’ll most definitely be using Outskirts again for the physical copy of my next work, which is coming out initially in strictly eBook format–yes, because of cost.

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