Naming Myself, sans Animosity

In the evenings, Mr. Aniko and I cook dinner together. As the ingredients come together to form our meal, we share the stories of our days. We talk about work, about things we overheard, about the strange dude who always dresses like he’s planning to hike Mt. Everest and is never, ever sans black-rimmed goggles. We also discuss things we’ve read. It should come as no surprise that I read a lot about writing and publishing. One question I brought to a recent dinner-prep discussion was, “Does the term ‘indie writer’ confuse you or anyone you have spoken to about my writing career?” Mr. Aniko paused by the stove, wooden spoon in hand. “No,” he said. “Why?”

I gave him a quick recap of Jonathan D. Allen’s riposte to Sarah LaPolla’s assertion that calling myself ‘indie’ “only confuses people who want to self-publish and pisses off actual independent publishers.” According to LaPolla, the term independent is reserved for small presses, and that authors who follow the publication route I did with Stolen Climates should refer to themselves as self-published. That is not a new definition of either of those terms and, in fact, is not really interesting. What is interesting is that LaPolla’s main point in her post is that  there needn’t be animosity between the big publishing industry and those of us who go it alone. Yet in something that reads more like an afterthought than a legitimate part of her argument, LaPolla writes “AND STOP CALLING YOURSELVES INDIE [sic caps].” In both content and delivery, the phrase comes across as calibrated to provoke.

I don’t harbor any ill-will towards traditional publishing or agents or the entire money-plex that is publishing. I choose to publish my books myself, not out of desperation, but because I do not want to take the traditional route. I am not tired of waiting to get an agent or a contract – those aren’t things I even want.

No. I want full creative control. Independent self-publishing gives me that.

I don’t view myself as stigmatized, held-back, unprofessional, impatient, bitter, in a civil war with legacy publishing, or any of the other terms LaPolla uses to characterize some sub-set of non-traditionally published authors. I would like to think that if LaPolla knew my work, my ethic, and my honest dedication to the craft,  I would be one of the independently self-published writers giving her hope. Her hope, however, is ancillary. As a writer, I don’t want my words to confuse anyone:  not other writers, and certainly not potential readers.

Is it confusing when I say I’m an independent author?

I take full creative risk. I take full financial risk. I am an entrepreneur. I am sole proprietor of a legally recognized LLC that handles the business aspects of publication. I am a manager, contracting out and coordinating cover design, editing, beta reads. I choose to create something maybe only five people in this world will ever truly love, and I do it because I believe in my vision. I work weekends. I write in the pre-dawn dark. I skip lunch dates, happy hours, picnics, and movies – both to save money to put towards my editing fees, and to buy myself more time to write. I don’t ask anyone for permission to bring my dream to the world. I decide for myself. In every way I can see, I am as independent as the singers and the film companies that fly the indie banner. Independent isn’t an industry term that legacy publishing can demand I relinquish as if I am impersonating a small press. In fact, I am a small press; my LLC exclusively publishes works by Aniko Carmean.

You can call me what you want, but I’ll call myself indie.

In the very lengthy and active comments column, Sarah LaPolla acknowledges that maybe the term is changing. I quote her,

“I’m getting the sense that the “self vs. indie” label is one that’s currently in transition, and that I just haven’t made the shift yet. Like many others in the business who were only familiar with the traditional definition of “indie,” I probably won’t come around to it for a while. “

LaPolla isn’t alone. Big media of any type is not keeping up. That’s why we see indie artists producing break-out hits like The Guild web series and best-seller books like Ania Ahlborn’s Seed. Yes, both of these examples have led to contracts, but they started as people following their own dream, and working outside of the confines of their media tradition. The independents are agile in their response, and understand that the audience isn’t “out there,” but here – right here! – interacting on the web. Authenticity, agility, and direct human access to the audience are changing the shape of entertainment. Unlike LaPolla, I wouldn’t characterize this as civil war. I call it revolution.

16 thoughts on “Naming Myself, sans Animosity

    • Thank you, Margret. In general, I don’t like labels. The problem is, though, that we can’t communicate without them – at least not in any efficient way. Not that there still aren’t misunderstandings, of course; language can only ever approximate the truth of what we try to express. Still, if there is labeling to be done, and it pertains to me as an individual, I prefer to be the one to decide what to call myself.

  1. This is a great post. ‘Indie’ is short for ‘independent’, a word that no one person or group has ownership of. You are about as independent as a writer can possibly be. Therefore you are an indie writer.

    The ability to keep full creative control over one’s output is, I think, one of the best things about indie writing. That is also why many writers are now beginning to think of self-publishing not as a last resort, but as an attractive option in its own right. The world doesn’t need more formulaic blockbusters. It needs writers who are passionate about what they do and place their personal vision and their desire for excellence above purely commercial concerns.

    • I agree with you wholeheartedly, Mari. I don’t view self-publishing as a last resort, nor do I see it as a compromise or a “giving up” of something else. Publishing is something I will only do if I have full creative control, because this isn’t my job, it is my legacy.

  2. Seen this one batted around a few times. I think you are definitely independent (for more than just writerly reasons :)), but I wonder if you are in the minority in the fact that you didn’t get tired of waiting for an agent, contract, etc… I know there are many self-published authors who feel like it is definitely an “us vs. them” situation. I’m actually going to briefly touch on this in my blog post this week (it’s my blogoversary!).

    I can’t remember who said it, but I like the points about “indie music.” That certainly has the feel of how I would consider myself as a writer. Also, I think it was Jaye who talked about the verb vs. adjective usage. Something along the lines of being an independent author who self-published. And a fine point about your LLC. I’m an S-corp, so I’m a small press too. Awesome.

    Paul D. Dail
    http://www.pauldail.com- A horror writer’s not necessarily horrific blog

    • Happy Blogoversary!

      I loved Jaye’s definition, Paul. I thought it was creative and, once pointed out, entirely self-explanatory. I think there’s a word for that… genius? :)

      I might be in the minority. I honestly don’t know. I never considered publishing until I knew I could do it my way. Okay the full disclosure is the over the course of a five year stint of writing short stories, I did send out a whole seven submissions to short story magazines. I did that because, back then, there was no other way to get read and because I felt a lot of pressure to “prove” I was a writer. Short submissions were way more hassle than it was worth, turn around time was terrible, and my stories were always sent back with nice comments saying to send another story. My odd little story-children just never fit in. So I stopped trying to make them. :)

      Hooray for our small presses! I didn’t list mine on the copyright page for Stolen Climates, although I think I will for future books. I was new, and had read some commentary that people felt like indies doing that were trying to dupe readers. I realize now that’s silly. I’m not duping anyone by acknowledging that a small press publishes my books. Ah, the controversy!

  3. I called myself “indie” from the moment I decided to self pub. I was quite surprised that there was any controversy over the term. Last I knew, there was no ownership over adjectives.

    • Unless copyrighted, language is in the public domain. It is fluid and dynamic and fey as anything. People like to grasp, to try and keep things the same because they are comfortable and known, but our words – and the controversies around them – show us the changes that are happening despite the grasping.

  4. Loved this post hun :)
    Every writer must find the path that is truest to who they are…you have and that is Success. Success is in turning your dream into a goal and then turning that into completion. You are an Indie in that you are truly Independent.

  5. Yep, just want to check in and add my voice. You know how I feel about the whole thing – and I love this post. You pretty much sum up the place that I’ve finally found after so much time in my “ambition room”. Thanks for this!

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  7. Signs, signs, everywhere signs, blocking up the scenery, breaking my mind, do this don’t do that, can’t you read the signs. Why, as a society, are we so obsessed and compelled to label everyone and everything? You know what Aniko, you’re a writer. And a damn good one. ‘Nuff said.

    • I agree, the labeling is a problem, especially those labels that are given to us by others. There is a great deal of power in words, and names might be the most powerful words of all. If I have to have a name or a label in order to communicate an idea of what I am to others, then I at least want to pick the names and labels I’ll use.

      I appreciate the vote of confidence in my writing, Hunter. It means a lot to me. Thank you!!

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