I have a newbie question here.  I am working on self-publishing my first book on Createspace.  I think that is called Indie publishing.  What is the meaning of Indie publishing?  Is that the same thing as Vanity publishing? Indie publishing has a nice name to it but is it just a different word for the same thing?  

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Joanna Penn did a nice blog post about this http://www.thecreativepenn.com/2011/12/09/self-publishing-indie-aut... .

Hope that clarifies things.

After reading the article, I wonder if the term "indie" is mostly a matter of opinion - based on authors who don't go the traditional publishing route. The writer of the article says that indie authors usually own their own ISBNs (which implies that some do not), and Amazon and Smashwords are distributors, not publishers, so authors who use them to publish print books and ebooks are indie authors, because the only middle-man is a distributor, not a publisher. So, actually, an indie author is one who does not have a publisher. (Off topic: In addition to Amazon and Smashwords, I also published ebooks and print books with Lulu, so now I'm wondering if Lulu is a distributor or publisher. Their website says it is an "open publishing" platform, whatever that means.)

The article also talks about indie publishers, such as small to mid-size independent publishers, or really, anyone who buys ISBNs for authors and publishes their books, usually under a name that they created. I wonder if they must trademark the publisher name?

Personally, I think it is a great article with a clever viewpoint. It made me think about what "indie author" means (or could possibly mean) and what owning an ISBN means. And, now, I'm even considering becoming an indie publisher someday, because it sounds like something I could do.

Overall, I think that because "indie author" is a new term, people are still trying to figure out exactly what it means. Someone must have come up with the term because they were tired of the stigma associate with self-publishing, and now, people are trying to figure out the difference between the two.

In short, indie and and self-pubbed are beginning to be used interchangeably, but the strict definitions are:  if you publish yourself through Amazon, Smashwords, etc., you are self-pubbed.  If you use a vanity (small independent) publisher, you are indie.  Call yourself whatever you wish.  I agree Indie sounds better.

Hi Tracy,

Indie publishing is when authors publish their manuscripts as ebooks with online e-publishers, use a print-on-demand company or publisher for print books (such as CreateSpace), or do both. There are no upfront fees; rather, the company/publisher/e-publisher takes a small percentage of the profits from each book/ebook that is sold. Print-on-demand companies/publishers print your books as consumers order them. Indie publishing is an affordable and convenient way to publish.

Self-publishing includes the two methods of indie publishing, but also includes publishing print books with a press. With the press method, authors have to do all the editing and formatting themselves, or hire someone to do it. Authors deal directly with the press. Authors have to buy a certain number of books from the press (which requires a large sum of money to be paid upfront), and the more books that are purchased, the cheaper the price of each book. Authors must then hold on to all of the books, and market and sell them themselves, or hire someone to do it which can be expensive. Whether the authors sell all of the books they purchased or not is another issue. Many authors buy too many copies and get "stuck" with extra boxes of books.

A vanity publisher uses the press method and charges authors upfront for the service. The amount authors pay the vanity publisher is usually more than when authors go directly to a press, because the vanity publisher serves as a "middle man" and charges extra for the service This is not a recommended way to publish a book.


I think Christine has explained it pretty well but there is one point she didn't mention: who registered your ISBN number? I'm not a legal expert but here's my understanding:

If you use createspace and accept their free ISBN number, then they are the publisher of record. You'll have to change ISBN numbers to move to a new printer (I think). Anyone looking at your listing will see "CreateSpace" and know  that you are "self published." Many won't care; some reviewers do.

If you buy your own ISBN numbers, then you or your company is the publisher of record.You can do whatever you want, print that book anywhere, anytime etc.  By legal definition, you are now "indie published."

If, heaven forbid, you go the vanity route, then the vanity press is publisher. A friend has done this and now has to buy her book from the publisher at the price they set!  THEY OWN THE RIGHTS TO HER BOOKS! This varies with vanity publishers but be very, very careful.

Before anyone asks, yes, you need a different ISBN number for the softcover edition, kindle edition, hardcover etc.

I use the free ISBN for my books and did not consider the ISBN factor in relation to what type of author the person is. When an author uses the free ISBN provided by CreateSpace, what type of author would they be? And what about authors of ebooks which have an ASIN? If you don't know the answers to these questions, that's okay :) I just thought I would ask, since you seem knowledgeable about ISBNs.


Regarding "what kind of authors would they be." They'd be much better writers if they bought their own ISBNs.  Seriously, I think the only real difference is how obvious your "self published" status is to those who look at such things.

The ASIN is the Amazon Standard Identification Number. It is assigned by Amazon for their internal use.I don't know if you must have an ISBN number or not.

Whether you buy your own ISBNs or take CreateSpace probably has more to do with ego than anything else. 

In my defense, (my ego is sensitive), Stearman Press LLC is planing on publishing the Saga of the Ellen Jane series (4 - 5 books) as well as several books from other authors. I also have a SciFi series that I want to work on.  It only made sense to buy a block of numbers.

Technically, I'm not self published as I don't  own a controlling interest in Stearman Press LLC. (The fact that I'm sleeping with the CEO does not in anyway influence her decision to publish my work.)

There are some great resources on the web (including Inoa's link above); There's also the user's group on yahoo that discusses this topic: http://finance.groups.yahoo.com/group/pod_publishers/.

Wouldn't it be nice if writers could focus on writing and let someone else deal with selling the books?


Apologies to Iona for the typo.

Based on what you said in your two posts, authors who buy ISBNs are called indie authors (and are also self-published authors), while authors who use free ISBNs are only called self-published authors. Is that correct? And, are there any other authors that would be called "indie authors"? If so, which ones?


I'm sure someone, somewhere has defined all these terms but I think it all comes down to which way the money flowed to get things started! (Doesn't it always come back to money?)

If someone paid you for the right to publish your book, you're "trade published".

Otherwise you're self published and free to create your own title.

Personally, I think "indie" should be reserved for publishing companies and businesses. Of course, in the publishing world it is an euphemism for "small".


I mostly agree. After reading Iona's article and participating in this discussion, I think that having your own ISBN and using a distributor instead of a publisher has a lot to do with if an author is "indie" or "self-published." Indie authors are, after all, independent entrepreneurs.

What about authors who still publish on their own using printing presses? They need an ISBN for their book, but they don't use a distributor, because they are the distributor. I think that would make them even more of an independent author.

I am simply trying to figure out a clear explanation for Tracy - and myself, since the term "indie" is fairly new in my vocabulary, and I'm curious - so that we, and others, can learn and better understand what it means to be "indie."

Thanks for helping me to understand better and for your information about ISBNs.

Vanity press is an old term from before ebooks, the Internet, the rise of Amazon, the death of Borders, and all the other upheavals that have overtaken publishing of late and seem likely to make its future look considerably different than its past.

In the old days, it was possible for authors to pay to have a bunch of copies of their books printed. They typically did this after they became discouraged about selling their work to a traditional publishing house, and the do-it-yourself option was dismissed as "the vanity press" because the chances of making a profit on all those books you just had printed were pretty close to zero. Barring exceptional good luck, there was no effective way to distribute or promote them, so the only benefit the author reaped was feeding his own vanity. He could show the printed book to family and friends and say, "Hey, look, I'm an author." The vanity presses were notorious for misleading prospective customers to believe that they WOULD be able to get their books into bookstores and sell a bunch of copies.

Now, of course, things are different. We do have ways to produce, distribute, and promote books without the participation of a traditional publisher, and it is indeed possible to make a significant amount of cash that way. When this enterprise is approached in a sensible, businesslike way, it would be inaccurate and a slur to call it vanity-press publishing. So we refer to indie writers and self-publishing instead.

But there probably (I'm not an expert in this field) are still operations around today that we could justly call the vanity press. If a packager or printer changes the writer an exorbitant sum to help get a book to the marketplace, that's sort of the same kind of rip-off that the old vanity presses were based on.


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