I’m over at the Catholic Writers Guild blog today discussing the “Stigma of Self-Publishing.”
I am the self-published author of four books. Three of my books are currently on various bestsellers’ lists on Kindle. My second novel, In Name Only, won a Gold Medal in Religious Fiction in the 2010 IPPY Awards (the first Catholic novel to win this award). It has been #1 in its category for nearly three months (dropping to #2 for two weeks when my third novel Stealing Jenny took over the #1 position). Stealing Jenny is #2 in one category and has been in the top 20 of four other categories for three weeks. In the past year, my books have been downloaded by tens of thousands of readers. And yet, when I recently asked a local Catholic newspaper if they would write a review of my latest book, they replied, “We don’t review self-published books.”
Another time, I attended a large “book fair,” where hundreds of authors set up tables and sold books. There were other self-published authors at this event. At first glance, however, it wasn’t obvious that I was a self-published author. My books had professional looking covers and book trailers. I sat beside a published author who began conversing with a prospective reader. “Did you self-publish your book?” the reader asked. “Oh, no, I would never have done that. My books are published by a reputable publisher.” She would never have stooped so low as to self-publish. Ouch.
Self-publishers have come a long way. Years ago, authors who took the “vanity” publishing route were rarely taken seriously and they rarely sold more than a few books.
That attitude has improved in the seven years since I published my first novel, although many professionals in the publishing industry and some traditionally-published authors continue to have a bias against self-published authors and books.
I believe part of the reason is because self-publishing is so easy nowadays that just about anybody can do it and the quality of some self-published books is poor. Some naive first-time authors think they can do it all. Some newbies think that they are great writers and don’t “need” an editor. Novice authors often think they can design their own cover without any sort of advice from a visual designer. I have seen more than a few self-published books in my capacity as reviewer for Catholic Fiction.net in which the quality of writing was so bad I won’t even review it.
Another reason there may be a negative bias toward self-publishing could be the belief that self-published authors wouldn’t be able to get published by a traditional publisher or that perhaps they have already been rejected. This may be true for some self-published authors. But consider the case of self-published millionaire, Amanda Hocking who was rejected by traditional publishing houses and who is selling 100,000 books per month on Kindle.
On the one hand, I understand why some newspapers, magazines and websites need to have a blanket rule in place for self-published books (since there are many poorly written self-published books). On the other hand, I have also read extremely well-written novels by authors who self-published: Elena Maria Vidal, Gerard Webster, Christopher Blunt, Krisi Keley, Regina Doman, to name a few.
Although self-publishers have come a long way, we have not arrived yet with regard to “stigma” of self publishing. Despite the stigma, I don’t believe I would ever go the traditionally published route. After self-publishing four books (with lots of assistance) and after having 100 percent of the control, it would be hard to give my books to a publishing company. For me, it would be like giving my baby away to someone else to raise.
The stigma and negative bias of self-publishing will likely not disappear completely. However, if self-published authors continue to publish quality books, sell to thousands of readers and raise the bar for self-published books, it will hopefully lessen the stigma.
To learn more about self-publishing, I’ll be giving two chat presentations at the Catholic Writers Conference Online in March: Self-Publishing and Kindle e-books.
Copyright 2012 Ellen Gable Hrkach Images purchased from iStock