You form a band and put out a record yourself, well, you’re indie. You’re doing it your way. Put out a film, you’re a DIY filmmaker, an independent artist, a guy who couldn’t be pinned down by the Hollywood system. You self-publish a book, and the first thought out of the gate is, “He wasn’t good enough to get it published”.
I’m reading a lot about self-publishing at the moment, mainly because of the above site. (Chuck Wendig is both a traditionally published and a self-published writer who has some very useful and forthright insights on both processes.) I share everyone else’s snobbishness about it, but I can see that things are changing, and the line between traditional publishing and self-publishing is a lot more wobbly than it was. Also, according to several articles I’ve read,* self-publishing can actually be more lucrative than traditional publishing, certainly more immediately lucrative. I’m not trying to write for a living – thankfully – but if I were, I’d be thinking hard about this. Of course, that only applies if you have or can find a market. The actual process of publishing a book is no longer the problem; convincing people to buy it is. And that applies even if it costs 99p, because there’s too much choice out there. I won’t bother downloading even free texts these days unless I think it’s worth it.
I suspect we’re in a period of transition, and in five years’ time self-publishing will either be totally normal and on a par with DIY film-making, or the goalposts will have changed so completely that the term isn’t even being used any more.
*See this suggestion to self publish and submit to traditional publishers simultaneously, and this: “I had seventeen different novels in six different genres under five different pen names in the mail at the same time to over eighty editors.”