Let’s be honest here: writers want to be published. We want to see our names in print and receive a (preferably fat) royalty cheque that finally recognises all the hours we spent labouring over our creative work when everyone else was getting “a real job”. We want our stories to be read, our poetry to change lives, and our names to be synonymous with Literary Accomplishment. (Or some of us might just want a movie deal and some fast cash on the Popular Fiction circuit – come on, the thought hasn’t crossed your mind?)
There is an element of prestige around being a publishedwriter. I must admit, when someone tells me they’re the author of XYZ book I have instant respect for them … and then when I look into it and discover it’s a self-published book … my opinion of that “author” … wavers.
Now, I know that revelation will cause a few gasps and startled cries of “No! But … !” so please hear me out …
You see, for a long time self-publishing was considered to be … well … vain.Fun fact: Benjamin Franklin and William Blake churned out their own work, and Virginia Woolf published her own books, too. So when I suggest that self-publishing is lacking in prestige, I say so because … well …
There are a lot of preconceived ideas around self-publishing. I am being absolutely honest when I say that I have been terribly against self-publishing and have equated self-publishing with self-absorption. (They don’t call it vanity publishing for nothing, right?) So, factoring in the efforts of Virginia Woolf and William Blake (and many others), when did the prestige of being a published writer become exclusive to writers published by a publishing house? I’ve had my say on doing it right, so now I want to address the attitudes towards self-publishing. They are, undeniably, changing – my own attitude included.
I was involved in the self-publication of a book in 2009 and have since opened my eyes – and my mind – to the world of self-publishing. Needless to say, my opinion of self-publishing has changed (phew!) and I know of some excellent books that have been self-published, and I feel bookshelves are richer for them. I’m working on changing the assumptions that underpin the negative perception I have of self-published writers; I’m a lot more open to reading self-published books now than I was two years ago and I’ve had some pleasant surprises. I’m also eager to read the abundance of self-published work now available in ebook format because it a) is cheap; b) can be surprising; and c) could be me one day.
I enjoy the blogs and creative works of a lot of self-published authors with a cheer of “good on YOU for having the courage to get your book out there” (and a pang of jealously because I’m simply not that courageous)! I’ve been spending a lot of time perusing the options for “one day when” I get around to writing a novel I’m prepared to share with others and self-publishing is certainly looking like a viable option. Is there still stigma attached to self-publishing? Was there ever stigma attached to self-publishing or was I just led astray?
It’s a lot easier to self-publish these days; you have marketing tools at your fingertips to advertise your ebook and promote the print-on-demand service for a reasonable cost, and there are many platforms available to the writer who is prepared to put in the extra work and be a publisher, too. With the more readily available facilities to self-publish comes tougher competition for attractive cover designs, properly edited work, and an overall semi-decent novel to stand out above the crap and compete with the bestsellers.
I used to feel intimidated by published writers, but now it seems that anyone can be a published writer … and while there are some prime examples of terrible self-published books, there are also great novels that might not have been accepted by a publishing house yet have made their own way into the world – and into the hands of those who need it. There are many resources available to the writer who wishes to self-publish – so many that there’s no excuse to not doing properly. The stigma of self-publishing is being challenged by an increasing awareness and acceptance of self-published work and self-publishing success stories.
When it comes down to it, I’ve read bad books and I’ve read good books. I’ve also read books that have been seriously amazing – should it matter how those books were published? Wouldn’t it be better for a writer to have prestige based on the quality of their work, not on how it was produced and presented to the world?
I am curious to know what others think on this subject. With the very rapid popularity of ebooks has come a dramatic increase in self-published work; what do you think when you see the words “published author” in someone’s bio?
Is the prestige that has been associated with Published Writers transferable to Self-Published Writers, or is it exclusive to writers with publishing houses writing the royalty cheques?