What is an Independent Publisher?

October 20, 2010

In Robert Gray’s recent blog post at Shelf Awareness’s Fresh Eyes Now entitled “The Optimistic Stochastics of Indie Publishing,” he suggests that the definition of “independent publisher,” (or “self-publisher” or “self-published author,” or “author-publisher” or “do-it-yourself publisher”) is growing more blurry by the second. Perhaps, Gray posits, the industry needs a new lexicon to adequately distinguish between the myriad of segments of “publishers” that were responsible for the million published books in 2009.

He goes on to say, “But lately I’ve been thinking about indie presses and the challenge inherent in producing quality, professional work on a limited budget. This has in turn led me to wonder what our precise definition of an “independent publisher” is now at a time when self-publishing, e-books, POD and an ever-increasing number of other options are available for almost anyone to publish–or at least print–books.”

“What is an independent publisher?” asks Mr. Gray.

  • An independent publisher can be a self-publisher, author-publisher, do-it-yourself publisher, or “traditional” publisher.
  • An independent publisher can be brand new or in business for decades
  • An independent publisher can have 1 title or 10,000+ titles
  • An independent publisher can work out of his/her home or a high-rise office building
  • An independent publisher can have 1 or 500 employees

What sets an independent publisher apart is his/her commitment to publishing as a business. Along with that comes the dedication to publishing excellence, which includes creating and delivering to the reader professionally designed and edited products—whether 1 or thousands of titles, whether via POD, offset or digital, whether on an e-reader, iPad or smartphone.

The beauty of independent publishing is that in the end, size really doesn’t matter—nor does the technology used to produce the content nor does who the author is. What matters is the independent publisher’s focus on his or her publishing business—that blend of sales, marketing, editorial,  production and promotion that serves as the launching pad for publishing success.

How do YOU define an independent publisher?

3 responses to “What is an Independent Publisher?”

  1. Nora Nielsen says:

    I found this to be very helpful as a new self-published author.
    I of course followed the route to become my own publishing company. But I find the marketing a little daunting!
    I must keep in mind I am me representing myself! and I use a pen name so I feel like I have a split personality!


  2. Ron Reis says:

    Unfortunately, your answer tells me nothing since it tells me everything. According to you, independent publishing can be any type of publishing. So, what does that mean? The way I see it, it is all about self-publishing–pure and simple.

  3. Tricia Wagner says:

    I agree with the comment by Ron Reis. Sounds like self-publishing that is trying to sound credentialed.

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