I am so happy to introduce, Anthony Lee Collins, as today’s guest blogger! He’s a great friend and talented author, and I was so happy that he accepted my offer to become a guest blogger!
First of all, a big thanks you to Emerald for hosting this guest post. I’ve been thinking of writing about this subject for a while, and it seemed right for it to be here because it was Emerald who gave me the idea. Then, right before I could ask if she’d be interested in a guest post, she asked if I’d like to write one. (Of course, I said yes. 🙂 )
I’ve been self-publishing since 1990, and I’ve always called it “self-publishing.” And a lot of people still talk about “self-publishing,” but I’ve noticed that Emerald calls it “Indie” (for “independent”), as in this post. I started to wonder if they were two different things, or if the terms had just changed. For example, if you published a novel by yourself when I was young it was called “vanity publishing,” a term you don’t hear much anymore.
When I started self-publishing, there weren’t a lot of people self-publishing prose fiction. A lot of people were doing self-published “mini-comics” (black and white, photocopied, in various sizes: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mini-comics), and I believe it was quite common for poets to put together small volumes like this as well. But you can’t self-publish a whole novel by printing it on letter-size paper, folding it over and stapling it.
Well, you can if you do it one chapter at a time. So, that’s what I did, creating little monthly chapbooks of A Sane Woman. That project was not finished at that time for two reasons: 1) Even charging a dollar a book, I was losing money, and 2) I discovered the possibility of getting my writing to people online (on dialup BBSs – the web didn’t exist yet). So, I switched over to that new medium.
I’ve continued to use the term “self-publishing,” both because I’ve always used it and because so many other people seem to. But I don’t think it’s really accurate for what’s going on now. When I was publishing A Sane Woman back then, I was writing, editing, proofing, laying out, copying, folding, stapling, and mailing. I did everything but draw the covers. That’s self-publishing, obviously.
But today, if you’re writing, getting assistance (professional or otherwise) with editing and proofing, hiring a cover artist, having books manufactured by Lulu or CreateSpace, and getting them sold in some form by Amazon or Smashwords or whatever, that’s not really DIY (for “do it yourself,” as we used to say).
At that point, you’re really doing the exact same thing that the major publishers do, in competition with them, and that’s “independent.” For example, that’s what “independent” meant for small movie studios in the 1990s when they became a major force in Hollywood, including the “The Year of the Independents” in 1996 when four out of the five Best Picture nominees at the Academy Awards (including the eventual winner) were from independent studios.
The big-time “self-publishers” today have much more in common with Miramax and Fine Line than they do with the way I was publishing A Sane Woman all by myself in 1990.
Bio: Anthony Lee Collins has been writing fiction for over forty years, and he has been self-publishing in various forms for over twenty years. His first novel, A Sane Woman, is a mystery story. His second novel, U-town, is a gritty, urban, magical realist story. His blog (at www.u-town.com) has been up for six and a half years and is updated once a week. The posts are focused on writing, movies, Robert Altman, and Thomas Pynchon, among other subjects.