Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell You’re an Indie Writer

books lined up

When you are an indie or self-published writer, you come across a strange phenomena.  Should you tell people you are not traditionally published unless they ask?


For several decades, self-publishing was referred to as “vanity publishing.”  Vanity publishing was when a writer would pay to have their books printed in limited runs, and they would then try to sell them.  The vanity aspect comes from the stereotype that self-published authors were people who were not good enough to be published by a major publishing house or were hipsters who were too good for the publishing world and wanted only limited copies of their books. 


Modern self-publishing is quite different.  Self-published authors are not under contract with a publishing house, but now, this is mainly because they choose not to be.  By self-publishing authors maintain all artistic control over their work from the cover, to the formatting of the book, to the content.  There is no interference from editors or agents telling them what to write next or what to stay away from.  Some writers do fit the stereotype and self-publish because they have been rejected repeatedly by the industry, but most authors choose it for the freedom and the profit margin, which is often better than what the major publishing houses are willing to give.


Sadly the stigma of self-publishing being an act of vanity still exists mainly because most people don’t realize how common self-publishing is with sites like Amazon, Lulu, or Lightning Source.  After publishing The Earl of Brass, I have found myself holding back when someone mentions the publishing process.  I’ll skate around it by nodding and saying that it was a lot of work and took a while to get ready.  When I have mentioned it was self-published, people who were enthusiastic suddenly deflate, as if the book lost its worth because it wasn’t chosen by a major publisher to be printed.  Because I am new to this phenomena, I am still unsure how to respond to it, but I think the best way is to have people read it, hopefully enjoy it, and then say it was self-published.  That way, they realize it wasn’t self-published because the quality was poor but because I wanted to do it that way.  As I explore my experiences in this endeavor, I will create blog posts about what the process was in publishing in paperback and ebook form and how I prep my books for publication.  If there is ever a topic anyone wants me to explore, just leave a comment or message, and I will try to write a hopefully helpful post.

The Earl of Brass is on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, and Book Depository

6 thoughts on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell You’re an Indie Writer

  1. I always lead with, “I’ve written three novels and published two of them.” If folks ask further, I tell them I’ve self published. If they ask why, they’re either not familiar with publishing in general, or they’re still under the impression that gatekeepers are needed to protect readers from bad writing (pretty sure they can handle themselves. They’re smart. They read). So, I usually say, “That’s the way the industry is headed. Why would I want to give up a lifetime of rights to my novel just to see it collect dust on a bookstore shelf that might not be around in 5 to 10 years?” 😉

    1. I completely agree. That’s basically the route I have been going. I start with saying I published and am working on the second one now. If they ask, I give more info, but it’s hard to explain to people who see self-publishing as “vanity press” even today. It’s much easier when they don’t know anything about publishing.
      This post was sparked by a recent incident where we were doing class introductions (grad school), and after a middle-aged woman in my class said she was published by a small press, I later said during my turn that I was an indie writer who was recently published. For the rest of our time together, the professor asked her about publishing and her books while he didn’t even acknowledge that I said anything. Not sure if he wasn’t paying attention or if it was industry prejudice.

      1. My vote would be on the latter. I trust academia will need to be dragged kicking and screaming into the future when it comes to self publishing. 😉

      2. Definitely. I know a very select few who are more receptive to indie/self-publishing, but the rest do not see the merit.

    1. Definitely going to show this tidbit of information off. I’ve read part of this information. It’s rather amazing how publishers take so much of the revenue. Why not cut out the middle man? I honestly think I’m doing as well as any traditionally published nobody author with only one book. Most authors don’t start making a decent amount until they’ve published several books, and it’s definitely true. I have no regrets about self-publishing; it’s my schedule, my creation, my aesthetic.

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