At first glance, Indie Publishing (independent publishing) used to be more widely mistaken as self-publishing, (or “vanity” publishing) and was looked on as an egotistical endeavour, or as an amateur writer’s desperate desire to see their words in print. Indie Publishing was far too often mislabeled as “vanity projects,” yet the two are quite different.
Vanity publishing rears its ugly little head every time a writer resorts to paying a sum of money to a publishing company in order to ensure their book gets published. Often the production costs, promotion costs, distribution costs and marketing costs are “split” between the author and the publishing house; whether it is an equal split or not is highly suspect, and so are the publishing houses who partake in this type of publishing. More often than not vanity publishing is termed “subsidy” publishing, in order to make it seem more acceptable and to give it a more “positive” facade. In reality it is highly frowned upon and is considered to be in very poor taste within the literary field. It can destroy a writer’s reputation faster than almost anything.
Indie Publishing on the other hand is much more of a challenge and is viewed as a viable and respectable option. After taking on this challenge a couple of times myself, I honestly and truly believe that there are two MUSTS for anyone who considers travelling this road. First, you have to be at least half nuts, plus you have to be completely passionate and diligent about the quality of your work.
Why are these two things MUSTS? Simple, unlike subsidy publishing, when it comes to Indie Publishing, you – the author – are completely on your own. YOU are responsible for everything – and I do mean everything! Besides the writing, (which in the grand scheme of things is the easy part,) you are responsible for all the financial aspects of the venture. You’re responsible for handling the production, the marketing, the promotion, the distribution and so on. If the book’s cover looks funny it’s YOUR fault. If there’s a typo on the title page or several throughout the book itself, it’s YOUR fault again. You have sole responsibility for each and every microscopic detail; and whether you succeed or fail – it all falls on your shoulders! You have no counter part to share the blame with; your finger can only be waved in front of one person’s face – YOURS! When you consider the singularity of it all, it is easy to see why “Independent Publishing” is such a fitting term.
So, why do I Indie Publish? It has much to do with a realization I had several years back……
When I was a young child in grade school, I loved the concept of books. I loved going to my school library and looking at all the books on the shelves. I’d read the titles on their spines. I’d hold them in my lap and flip through their pages. I also liked buying books and would join book clubs. Yet when it came to actually reading them, I would get through extremely few. For years I wrote this off as just not liking to read – a weird quirk in my personality. After all, it wasn’t that I couldn’t read. I just found it tedious and laborious. All through school and college I only read what I had to in order to complete my courses. Even with that I averaged high B’s and low A’s grades; yet I often wondered what I would have achieved if I had “really applied myself.”
There was also a strange contradiction in all this which I felt extremely uncomfortable with. While I “hated to read,” I loved (and love) to write, and because I loved to write I effortlessly received top marks in all my English courses. Yet I was constantly reminded that “all good writers love to read” and “in order to be a good writer you have to read; to be a great writer you have to read everything that you can get your hands on.” – That certainly wasn’t me, and for years I felt embarrassed and ashamed of this flaw in my make-up.
Then one day, I was at my computer reading the posts of a writers newsgroup on the net. I had been reading a nice while when my husband commented that I had been doing a healthy bit of reading this way as of late and that I actually seemed to be enjoying it. I paused to ponder what he had just said and I soon realized that he was right.
Upon this revelation, I next wanted to know why. I picked up a book which was laying on my desk and placed it on my lap. I looked down at the book, looked up at my computer screen, looked down at the book, then back up at the computer screen. Suddenly, with a slightly horrifying chill, I realized something that I should have known from day one. More incredibly, no one else had ever realized this either – none of my teachers, family, friends, etc. – no one! What I realized at that moment was, that for me, reading is an accessibly issue.
What do I mean by that? Here’s the scoop. I was born with a physical disability known as Cerebral Palsy. This condition affects my coordination and fine motor movements. In order for me to read a book, the only way which I can hold it steady is to put it on my lap. With a book on my lap, I have to look downward while reading it. This causes neck strain – which it would for anyone. In addition to the neck strain, there is the challenge of turning each page individually. For this, fine dexterity is required, which I don’t have. Also, if a book has any tension in its spine, the pages will not stay open. They will flip back or forth to a point where there is a break in the tension.
Yet on a computer, (especially with the advent of e-books, Kindle, I-pads, and so forth) these restrictions disappear. Pages are turned with a click of a mouse or the scroll of a screen. There is nothing to be held open and the text is directly in front of you.
Still, I realize that even people such as myself do enjoy and want the physical contact of “real” books, – something concrete which can be picked up, shown around, and displayed on shelves.
With this insight, it became of utmost importance to me that my books accommodate as many readers as possible. I now mostly publish in the e-book format, but when designing any physical books, I deliberately try to steer away from some of the conventional trappings which make many books inaccessible to those with physical limitations. I purposely set these publications with a slightly larger print (to accommodate those with visual limitations,) and I use the magazine size format so that the publications will lay flat on a table, for someone who has difficulty holding books open.
After living with a disability all of my life and after working within the disability field for more years than I care to remember, I am greatly aware that in many situations “wording” is important in portraying a positive attitude and image about disabilities. For instance, when describing someone who has some sort of limitation, it is much more acceptable to say “a person with a disability,” rather than saying “a disabled person.” It is much more favourable to put an emphasis on the person, not their disability. Another example would be, that among many people who have disabilities, (at least among the many that I know,) there are words which take on different connotations than they normally would to most people. If you asked the average person if they thought there was any difference between the words “help” and “assist,” you would likely get a reply of no. Yet to those with a disability, there is a big difference. In the disability field the word “help” has far too often been used as a condescending term – it’s root lifted from the word “helpless.” Yet the word “assist” implies that a certain act originates with the person who is not physically able carry out the needed act on their own. The use of these two terms can also vary depending on the situation and the relativity of closeness in a relationship. For instance, my husband, my sister, my close friends can and do help me. However, in an attendant care situation, the attendant would assist me, because it is a more “professional” relationship.
Taking these types of issues into account, it is very hard for me to imagine being able to find a conventional publishing house who would take all of these types of issues into consideration. Understandably so, the primary goal of a conventional publishing firm is to publish their books in the most cost effective way possible and sell them to the biggest mass market possible. It is highly unlikely that they could, (or would even want to,) take disability matters into consideration. Yet I feel adamant about doing so.