There are a couple publishing terms that some people use interchangeably and that can be a tad confusing. “Self-published” is pretty clear. It means you published something yourself without the aid of a publisher of any kind. But what does “indie” mean?
For a lot of people, “indie” is the same as “self.” In other words, they use the term “independently published” to mean they published their book independent of a publisher. Maybe they use “indie” because it sounds less like vanity publishing. Maybe they use it because the film industry uses it, too, to good effect.
But then some people use “indie” to mean “small press.” In the same way some indie films are still produced by small production companies rather than a solo crew going out to make a movie whether anyone will want to see it or not.
An independent press would be one that doesn’t rely on a huge corporate machine. Just like an independent production company would have no studio ties. It goes to distribution, too—an indie publisher may not have wide distribution for its books, nor does an indie production company usually have wide distribution outlets for its films. Which is why you have to go to that one weird cinema to see them. (Or, in the case of the publisher, that one INDIE book store to find their titles.)
I don’t think there’s any right or wrong label here. I’m not going to say, “You’re using it wrong.” I do prefer clarity and specificity when writing or speaking, so I generally will use “self-published” and “indie published” separately rather than lumping them into one ball. But the truth is, we’re all trying to get our words out there. We have a common goal. We’re not stepping on each others’ toes; we’re marching forward together.
So if you’re self-published but prefer to use “indie” for whatever reason . . . I’m not going to tell you not to. I can now call myself a “hybrid” author, which is kind of fun. (That’s the term for people who have been both self-published and then also published by a publisher—of any stripe.) Bottom line, though, is that we’re all writers. Authors. Wordsmiths. Nothing in the world is made better or stronger by dividing it. Let’s not use labels to weaken ourselves. Let’s be one powerful force in the world, a force in which everyone counts, no matter how they distribute their words to the world.