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a program of The Indianapolis Public Library Foundation

Defining Self-Publishing: Why the Indiana Authors Award Asks for Self-Published Writing Samples

During Indiana Authors Award nominations season, some of the questions the Library Foundation and the Award panel hear most frequently are, “How can I tell if a book is self-published?” and “Why do nominations for self-published authors have to include a two-chapter writing sample?”  Today, we aim to answer those questions, starting with “what, exactly, is self-publishing?”


What is self-publishing? 
Self-publishing, put simply, is a publishing model in which an author pays for the cost of producing, marketing and distributing their book. Unlike traditional publishing, in which the publisher takes on these costs and responsibilities in exchange for a share of the profits and control over the finished copy, self-publishing allows authors to maintain full legal, creative and economic control over their books. Additionally, self-publishing allows authors to publish any work they wish, whereas traditional publishing houses often decline to publish books due to the volume of submissions they receive.

Both self-publishing and traditional publishing are great options for writers who want to share their work with a wide audience, and many authors choose self-publishing for the freedom it allows. 


What counts as a self-published novel? 
A helpful rule of thumb for authors is: if you paid for the production and distribution of your work, and if you didn’t need a literary agent and editor to get it published, the Indiana Authors Award panel probably considers you to be a self-published writer. 

Some examples of self-publishing companies include, but are not limited to:
• Amazon
• AuthorHouse
• Blurb
• Book Surge
• CreateSpace
• Dog Ear
• Infinity
• iUniverse
• Lulu
• Outskirts Press
• Publish America
• Tate Publishing
• Trafford Publishing
• Wheatmark Book Publishers
• Wordclay
• Xlibris
• Xulon Press

Some publishing houses, such as Mascot Books, call themselves “hybrid publishing companies,” offering more support than most self-publishing platforms but still allowing authors to retain most of the control over their work. For the purposes of Indiana Authors Award nominations, the Library Foundation recommends that books produced through hybrid publishing be treated like self-published books. 


Why do I have to submit a sample of a self-published author's work to the Award panel?
The answer to that is simple—the panel needs to read and review the work of writers who are nominated for the Indiana Authors Award. When a traditionally-published author is nominated, the panel can generally request review copies from the publisher or bookstores, but when a self-published author is nominated, it can be harder for panel members to get their hands on his or her books. The Library Foundation and the Award panel ask that nominations for self-published writers include a two-chapter sample of the author’s work to allow for easier judging and review. 


Self-published or not, make sure to nominate your favorite Indiana writers for the Indiana Authors Award. Nominations are open until March 16, 2018.