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What’s YOUR Definition of Self-Publishing? [Discussion]

Indie publishing. Vanity press. Subsidy publishing.

Many throw around these terms when referring to certain self-published work (and services), but what do they REALLY mean?

In Is Self-Publishing Really Vanity Press?, @JohnBetcher writes:

The answer lies in the quality of the product. Can anyone get a really lame piece of writing POD printed and onto Amazon? Sure. “See my book? It’s in print.” That’s Vanity Press.

But if you have really worked, and you have some writing talent to go along with your work, and you’ve engaged any help you need to make a great finished product, well . . . that’s a whole different animal. That — in my mind — is “self-publishing.”

As a reply to John’s post (and our RT of it), @StephenTiano wrote:

…the problem with all the self-published books that sell less than 100 copies. I mean, are they all well-written and about things that people would like to read but just poorly marketed? Somehow I doubt that. Because if they’re poorly conceived and poorly written, then that is vanity publishing.


Simply bringing up the term “vanity press” can certainly spark differences of opinion, so we want to hear from you!

  • What’s YOUR definition of self-publishing?
  • How is it different from (or similiar to) vanity press/publishing?
  • How has the meaning of these terms changed over the past ten (or twenty) years?

We look forward to a great discussion! Please leave your thoughts in the comments below.

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  • bex

    To me, self publishing is what I do. I am writing a novel and instead of waiting till I have a finished manuscript and going the traditional publishing or vanity press route, I release it to the world on a website. It’s completely free, and I maintain a regular posting schedule of one chapter every other Wednesday.

    I do this because I like the immediacy of web fiction and I like the one on one interactions with my readers and fans. I also like being in complete control of my story. I write and edit every word myself, and I am free to make the chapters or the book as long as I want to, with no pressure to cut out passages or to cater to certain storylines.

  • What Bex does is self-publishing. [nods]

    I self-publish. I write, create the covers and format myself.

    I select where to distribute, at what price,and whether or not to distribute via POD – and I never pay for ‘extra’ services. I pay my editor, who I chose myself, and I might pay the $39 to upgrade to CS’s ProPlan for POD versions. I’ll pay for ISBNs.

    In short, aside from distribution points. I basically handle everything to get my stories out. =)

    But I won’t pay for ‘vanity publishing’ services.

  • Richard

    A book’s publisher is whoever owns the book’s ISBN, i.e., the publisher of record. It doesn’t matter who wrote the book. If you wrote it, then you are the author, not the publisher. But if you own the book’s ISBN and you wrote the book, then you are a self-publisher.

  • My definition of self-publishing follows the same lines as those who have responded. I write, have editors (two awesome English teachers!), have a cover artist (thanks JD!) and I use Createspace to get my ISBN, printing done and the expanded distribution (the $39 that Scath mentioned above) so that my work can be available in stores and other places.

    When you have to do the work that would broken down into various sections of a large publishing house, and your own capital finances what you do, I would consider those signs of being self-published.

    I also agree with Bex too. If you write and publish to your website (or other online location) then that also fits the definition of self-published.

    Self publishing is different than vanity press/publishing in that vanity press/publishing charges you to publish your work. Now, usually that means they include the services of editing, cover art creation and some type of distribution. These would include such places as Lulu.com, Iuniverse.com and AuthorHouse.com.

    Not sure how the meaning has changed over the last 20 years because I’m only 31 so I only know about how it works currently.