Monday Musings: Indie Publishing & The Lexicon of Doom
As you would expect of a grumpy bulldog, I’m not big on the euphemisms. I say I’m fat not “chubby” or “pleasantly plump.” I say black not “African American” or Indian not “Native American.” I say midget not “little person.” In part because I’m a grumpy bulldog and in part because no one calls me a “European American” or “Germanic American” or any shit like that, so why do I have to tiptoe around eggshells for them?
Anyway, this is going somewhere. There’s a movement out there to refer to self-publishing as “indie publishing.” For instance on Twitter I follow the “Indie Book Collective” that’s made up of self-published authors like Mr. Pagel’s favorite, Rachel in the OC. The idea behind this is to make self-publishing sound classier like indie movies and indie music. After all, America is all about independence, isn’t it?
Except I think “indie publishing” is misleading. There are actual independent publishers. Those would be the publishers who are not Random House or the other Big [However Many] in the industry. Books published by the small presses are the real “indie books” not Rachel in the OC’s self-published opus recycling “I Love Lucy” scripts.
Does it really matter? I think it does. The euphemism is designed to mislead the consumer. As I said, “indie” sounds a lot classier than “self-published.” Self-published sounds like I’m some crackpot who went to Staples and Xeroxed a bunch of pages and stapled them together. On the REM early years greatest hits disc, Michael Stipe tells a story about a guy who had boxes of a self-published book called “Life and How to Live It” in his house; the books were only discovered after the guy died. That’s how people think of self-publishing. Indie publishing makes it sound like I’m the literary version of Quentin Tarantino or Kevin Smith or something. Which maybe I am! (Southwest Airlines would make me buy two seats on their planes too, though when I rip them in a Tweet no one would care.)
Is there really a difference? Yes! In true “indie publishing” there’s someone else to do the editing, the cover design, and so forth, just like the big publishers. With self-publishing I’m doing it all myself. Or maybe I’m conning some friends to help me or buying a package from Lulu or Createspace or whoever. The point being that in self-publishing the only quality control is my standards, whereas in truly indie publishing there’s someone else to help filter out the shit. It’s called self-publishing because I’m submitting it to Lulu or Createspace or Kindle mySELF, with no intermediary.
So let’s cut the bullshit. Rachel in the OC, you’re self-published. So am I. Wear that label proudly. Or not. But quit trying to pull the wool over people’s eyes and taking away from the truly independent publishers. Maybe if enough people start calling themselves self-published it can become a good word, like how gay people adopted “queer” as their own and turned it from a slur into a common word.
Wednesday: Who’s got the touch? The Nab!