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Thursday, May 15, 2014

What should self-publishers call themselves?


My first book was published by Doubleday in 1977. My second was published by a tiny publisher about 20 years later. I didn't like the books or my earnings.

In 2008 I formed Silver Sands Books, intending to publish exactly one book. Publishing is addictive, and I've published about 40 books so far.

At first I called myself a "self-publisher," or a "self-publishing author," or an "independent self-publisher." Someone else in the same situation calls herself a "publishing author." Others like "entrepreneurial author" -- a particularly awkward and un-revealing term.

The worst term I've heard yet is "artisanal publisher." What does an artisanal publisher do? Does he chop down trees and carve type out of the logs and then wipe them with homemade ink and press them against parchment?
  • A publishing technology or business process should not take a paragraph or a page to explain.
  • There is no need to invent a new label if an existing label does he job.
  • Publishers are supposed to communicate, dammit.
The term "self-publish" and its variations have been taken over by the companies that used to be called "vanity presses," "subsidy publishers" or even "author mills" -- so the label can be confusing. A while ago a well-known self-published author told a new acquaintance that he was a self-publisher. The other person misunderstood and said, "how much do you charge?"

If an author uses the services of a "self-publishing company," is the author really engaged in self-publishing?

If an author forms her own publishing company, is that the same as paying Outskirts Press or Xlibris to do the work?

Even "indie publishing" has been co-opted -- by the Author Solutions brands.

Now I'll say I'm a writer, publisher, author -- or "author and publisher." Benjamin Franklin and Bennet Cerf were authors and publishers, so the description works well, even though I'm not in their league. I have one business card that identifies me as a publisher and another one for me as an author. Cards are inexpensive business-builders and I can afford to have several. I get mine from VistaPrint.


No one seems to care about the business mechanism behind my books. If anyone asks, I sometimes say I'm one of the owners of the company that publishes my books. I don't have to explain that the other owner is my wife -- not Bain Capital or Warren Buffet.



I've written and published books that help self-publishers. My newer books -- aimed at the same audience -- don't use that term. 

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