Last week I wrote a thing about 25 steps one might take to become a proper professional-grade self-published author, but in that post I expressed a little distaste for the term “self-publisher,” and somewhat inadvertently coined a new term: “author-publisher.”
I’d like to unpack that and defend it a little bit.
“Self-publishing” as a term is one I’ve never really liked.
A couple-few reasons:
First, it’s already got a stigma from the guys who printed their own books 10-20 years ago and tried to sell them at farmer’s markets or on their Geocities pages. (I had a guy at an eyeglasses place in the mall push a free copy of his Young Adult Softball Jesus subgenre book — self-published, obviously. It was one of the worst things I’ve ever tried to read. Ironically, I think if I had read it all the way through it would have burned out the eyes that needed eyeglasses.)
Second, it’s clunky in the mouth. Aesthetically, I just don’t like it.
Third, it says nothing about actually writing a book. One supposes that the “self” part makes it implicit, but given that the problem with self-publishing is (or at least was) the failing quality of the material, I feel like we should have a term that explicitly states that first you gotta write a professional-level book. More on that in a moment.
Fourth, “self” is very misleading — the best self-publishers make use of Other Smart and Instrumental Humans in the process. Cover artists and editors and copy-editors and author-wranglers and liquor store employees. Self sounds like you’re doing it all alone. DIY! Except not.
Here’s why I diggit:
First, it sounds like RPG MULTI-CLASS. I’m a warrior-mage! A rogue-monk! A drunken-sorcerer-bard-waitress-wombat-jockey! Author-publisher sounds like you’re buying points in both of these professional classes and you can wear the weapons and sigils of each house.
Second, it’s more accurate. You are both an author and publisher. Why not emphasize both?
Third, I like hyphens.
Fourth, while author is a bit of a pretentious term, hey, fuck it, I think we could use a little pretension. Maybe it’s a word that raises our noses up a little. Maybe it sets a higher-bar to counter the idea of just click publish no really just do it who cares if you wrote the literary equivalent of a Target bag full of old poop-heavy toddler diapers fuck the gatekeepers dude just fling that up onto Amazon man and let the sweeeeeet money come rolling in.
So, there you go:
Use it. Abuse it. Discard it. Bury it in a shallow grave by the train tracks.
But I like it.