Does Self-Publishing Mean Second-Rate?

Does Self-Publishing Mean Second-Rate? by Diana Anderson-Tyler

 

Hello, inklings!

I hope you and your writing projects are going well!

A few weeks ago I wrote that one of the perks of traditional publishing is that there is less prejudice, meaning that in general, traditionally published authors have more credibility because their books have the approval of the industry gatekeepers, namely agents and editors. I wanted to delve further into that topic today and hopefully assure you that being self-published doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a lesser writer than traditionally published authors.   

There’s a good reason for the negative stigma surrounding self-published books. The truth is, there’s a lot of rubbish being published by writers who either a.) don’t know what they’re doing, or b.) don’t care too much about professionalism. Unfortunately, bad editing, horrendous covers, and bland, poorly written content are common with self-published books.

There was a time, six or seven years ago, when one could churn out a book overnight, upload it to Amazon, and receive decent sales despite the book being, shall we say, amateur. Self-publishing was like the wild west and many of the first pioneers found success because, well, because there wasn’t much competition.

Times have changed. There are now nearly a million self-published books published every year. Now that the indie space is much more crowded than it used to be, it’s infinitely more important that we make our books as professional and high-quality as possible. Readers should be unable to distinguish between our books and a traditionally published book, which means things like our covers, interior layout, front and back matter, and product descriptions should be up to snuff.

Before I go on, I feel the need to say that self-publishing isn’t something to be ashamed of. Just because there are a few bad apples that perpetuate negative stereotypes about the industry doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be proud of our work and excited to share it with others.

 

Self-publishing quote via Diana Anderson-Tyler

 

I admit, for a while I was reluctant to self-publish because I thought self-publishing was just for writers who haven’t made it in the traditional publishing world. But I was also fed up (my agent broke things off with me after my first novel didn’t sell) and wanted nothing more than to get my baby into the world, which I did in 2015. I’ve since learned that there are many authors who choose self-publishing over traditional publishing, for all the reasons I gave in this blog post. Indie authors like Joanna Penn, Lindsay Buroker, Nick Stephenson, and Hugh Howey, to name a few, are all super-successful indie authors who choose to remain indie, despite publishers’ interest. (If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right?)

More and more frequently, I’m hearing traditionally published authors (like Brian McClellan whom I listened to on the  Science Fiction and Fantasy Marketing podcast  and Michael Ridpath on The Creative Penn podcast) are jumping on the self-publishing train because of the freedom and autonomy it offers, as well as the higher royalties.

Here’s a detailed look at why many traditionally published authors are becoming increasingly disenchanted with their publishers.

 

“This new era of publishing is one where authors have a meaningful choice. What that choice is will depend on the author, the territory, the genre, and multiple other issues which will vary across every different situation.” – Harry Bingham

 

Other indie authors are being approached not just by Big 5 publishers, but my major TV and film directors. UK thriller author Mark Dawson has a TV deal for his Beatrix Rose series. Indie authors A.G. Riddle and mega success Hugh Howey have also been snatched up by studios after the successes of Andy Weir’s The Martian and E.L. James’s Fifty Shades of Grey. Mr. Riddle’s Departure series was signed up by Fox-based producers Steve Tzirlin in a six-figure edeal, while Mr. Howey’s dystopian sci-fi novel Wool was snagged by Ridley Scott (Alien, Blade Runner, Gladiator) and 20th Century Fox.

It’s sad to say, but despite the success of indies like the ones above, there still remains the prevalent opinion that self-publishing means second-rate writing. For example, many book critics exclude self-published works in their review policies. Many conferences don’t include self-published authors on their panels or invite them to speak. I heard Joanna Penn say on a recent podcast that she’s been made to feel inferior at a few conventions. And not surprisingly, most literary awards won’t bat an eye at self-published novels.

I understand why this unfair treatment is occurring. The wild west of self-publishing has produced heaps of low-quality literature. Anyone can publish, after all, and no gatekeepers means all manner of content – the good, the bad, and the ugly – gets through. I’m optimistic, however, that as more writers become more educated not only on their craft, but also on how to package and promote their products, the negative stigma will be erased, and the line between traditional and self-published will continue to blur.

The availability of self-publishing advice has and will continue to play a key role in this stigma shift. Entire support industries have sprung up, offering everything from editing services to design and marketing support. The indie author community is incredibly helpful and supportive, advising newbie authors through Facebook groups, online forums, podcasts, blogs, courses, webinars, and YouTube videos. If you haven’t yet plugged into the community, I encourage you to do so! Here are a few podcasts that will get you started. I also recommend thecreativepenn.com for all things self-publishing.

As for me, I hope to be a hybrid author someday, that is, an author who both self- and traditionally publishes. Even if I never get another agent or get published by one of the Big 5, I’ll be proud to follow in the footsteps of indie giants like Dawson and Howey and produce the best books I can. It’s an exciting time to be an author – nothing and no one can stop us!

I’ll be back soon with another post all about what to do to ensure you have a topnotch self-published book. Until then, please feel free to reach out to me with any questions or comments. I am happy to help in any way I can! You can tweet me @dandersontyler or email me at contact@dianaandersontyler.com.

 

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