Friday, June 29, 2012

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 over 20 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."

The term "self-publish" (and its variations) has 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.

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 aimed to help self-publishers. My new books -- aimed at the same audience -- don't use that term. 

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