In my last post, I discussed the misleading appropriation by self-publishing conglomerate Author Solutions (parent company of AuthorHouse, iUniverse, Xlibris, and Trafford) of the term "independent publisher."
The flip side of this is the growing tendency among self-published authors to call themselves "independent authors" or "indie authors." I don't know where this term came from, or who originated it; but I'm seeing it a lot these days (Google it to see what I mean), and, stickler for precision that I am, it bugs the crap out of me.
If you are a true self-publisher--if you've handled every aspect of publication on your own--then yes, you can accurately call yourself an independent author, in at least one of the senses below. If, however, you've used a POD self-publishing service, here are three reasons why the term won't fly.
1. It's inaccurate. You didn't publish on your own. You hired a service to publish for you. If you've used a print-on-demand self-publishing company, you've granted it a limited license to your work, you've chosen from a pre-determined package of services, you're dependent on whatever distribution the company provides, and you probably don't own your ISBN number. Also, since most self-pub companies reserve the right to discontinue publication for any reason, you don't fully control your work's availability, and since most pay a royalty, you don't control its income, either. In other words, you are not independent.
2. It's redundant. In the larger sense of being independent contractors rather than employees, all authors are independent, unless they're doing work-for-hire. This is true whether they've scored a contract with a large commercial publisher, have gotten an offer from a non-advance-paying small press, have fallen into the clutches of a dishonest vanity publisher, or have bought a publishing package from a self-publishing service.
3. It's a euphemism. Giving something a different name doesn't change what it is. What's wrong with "self-published," anyway? (Whoops, don't answer that--you might have to admit that self-publishing actually does still carry a stigma.) If you're proud of having self-published, why not call it what it is? If you're ashamed, why do it to begin with? Euphemisms are of help to no one. All they do is make things more confusing.
I do realize that I'm fighting a losing battle in pointing out these contradictions, and I fully expect that, like "traditional publisher" a decade earlier, "indie author" and "indie publisher" will become the terminology of choice among those who don't know better, who wish to pretend, or who fear to offend. None of which, clearly, are me.