There is a debate within my group of writing friends as to what exactly self-publishing is “really.”  For the most part we have decided that we would use the standard working definition of self-publishing as “anything done by the writer, without a company who works with them, and the writers use their own money.  The writers have the main control, own the ISBN, and can pick and choose what they want to use for help.”

This is a good working definition in our minds.  That is until someone asked this question if we were to publish a book with say a subsidy press (read vanity press) are we self-publishing or not?

Well, we went back to our main definition, and this is our answer: no.

This seemed come as a bit of a shock to this person.  It might come as a shock to other writers, but if a writer reads the definition we came up with it does not fulfill all the requirements of self-publishing– at least by our definition.

We broke it down, and decided we would use iUniverse as a way to look at the definition.

1) You pay for packages, this does fit our definition.  So it is self-publishing in that regard.

2) iUniverse owns the ISBN, and we can not really pick and choose what is in the packages, but we can certainly add on the anything we might need.  In this case editing services, or a editorial review.  After much debate this was where we felt the definition was not correct.

See, it is all in the definition.  If we has only defined it a bit more generally, then yes, iUniverse does fit the definition of self-publishing.

Except, we also would need to think long term, without good content we might make some money, but it would probably be something small and not worth what we needed to make a profit.  In reality self-publishing is about making a profit and having the good reviews from people.

What would you say is self-publishing– how would you compare them to each other?