Why Do We Still Feel Embarrassed About Self-Publishing?

By on December 9, 2020

Self-Publishing has been an option for authors for decades now. Yet, for some reason, there is still a stigma that surrounds it. 

There still seems to be a lingering attitude that if you self-publish your book, you are not a ‘real’ writer. Or that you have failed in some way. People tut and mutter and say unhelpful things like ‘well, anyone can self-publish these days.’

While this is technically true - it massively undermines and undervalues the mammoth effort it takes to write and publish a book. It also dismisses the significant fact that many, many authors, including those who have enjoyed previous success via a more traditional publishing model, have actually chosen to self-publish. It is not something we are forced into as a last resort, but rather, in many cases, a smart and purposeful business decision. 

Self-publishing stigma - what exactly is it?

The stigma is based around the fact that the quality of self-published books has become lower the more accessible it has become to do so. There is a huge divide between publishing houses who have to invest lots of time and money into printing and publishing their books (and therefore must be quite sure they are profitable) and vanity publishers who can get their books out and available to the public for next to nothing. Arguably the latter therefore don’t have a vested interest in the quality or saleability of the book. 

What does it mean to produce a quality book?

There are many elements of a book that might make it good quality. The content, the editing, the layout and design, and many more factors all come into play. But another, and arguably, more important factor, is personal opinion. 

Bestsellers are bestsellers for a myriad of reasons. If you are an avid reader, you’ll undoubtedly have struggled through some well-known and celebrated books thinking, ‘what is this drivel?’ You might have found yourself in heated (but highly enjoyable) debates about the merits or pitfalls of some of the books you’ve read with others who feel the exact opposite. 

Essentially, quality is relative. We cannot deny that if an individual writer takes it upon themselves to write and edit and format their work, it has less chance of being entirely professional and error free. However, this shouldn’t mean that people view the entire self-publishing industry in this way. Many writers take the time to have their books professionally edited and cover professionally designed. 

Those who can land a traditional publishing contract have an army of people behind them taking care of perfecting and polishing the work. However, this doesn’t necessarily make all published authors great storytellers. 

The inherent bias remains that lower quality work emerges from the self-published market. Readers are more likely to trust the vetting process that occurs when a publishing house takes on new work and are threfore more likely to buy it. For self-published authors, it is up to their connections, their marketing plans, and their sheer determination to try to secure a decent number of book sales. 

With publishing houses generally publishing fewer than ten new titles a year, it is no wonder that authors have turned to self-publishing as a more viable option to see their work in print. With far lower commission rates, the ability to control the final product, and being able to take one's own destiny into one's own hands make the self-publishing route genuinely appealing for many. 

Plenty of authors produce exceptional quality work and select to self-publish. These independent authors need to be free of the stigma, the embarrassment that seems to surround self-publishing. Luckily, this does appear to be changing. With the emergence of successful self-published authors such as E.L. James, Amanda Hocking, and Andy Weir, both authors and readers can trust that good work can come from this market. This is a great thing - because there is no reason why writers who self-publish their works shouldn't feel the same sense of excitement and pride to see their books in print as those who are traditionally published are so encouraged to do.

bethany cadman
Bethany Cadman - bethanycadmancreates.com

About Beth Cadman

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