Friday, June 1, 2012

For Whom the Stigma Tolls

What’s the one big thing keeping writers from self-publishing? Besides some feelings of overwhelm about exactly how to do it ... let’s face it: It’s still the stigma of it all.

We would all love to have a big (or small) publishing house’s name on the spine and back cover of our books. Why? Credibility. Prestige. It means that someone respected in the industry thought our work was good enough to share with the masses. It signifies quality; after all, doesn’t that publisher’s stamp of approval mean that it belongs in bookstores with other great books, assuring there’s an audience who will love it?

Whilst all of the above may be true, we as writers know that traditional publishing does not a guarantee nor a bestseller make. In fact, most – if not all – marketing, book tours, and the like now fall to the author anyway, even with a big (or small) house contract. There’s no assurance of subsequent book deals; the royalties are low; even editors are growing sparse. And we won’t even talk about the fact that the writer typically has little to no say in the cover or interior design of their book ... hmmm.

Indie (or self-) publishing is looking better and better for writers ... and yet the stigma remains.

Well, perhaps hearing these words will help:

The stigma is fading.

Let me say it again, a bit louder in case impact is lacking.


An article published two weeks ago in the Huffington Post titled Sticks & Stones: The Changing Politics of the Self-Publishing Stigma by Terri Giuliano Long for sheds some light I think you’ll enjoy basking in.

Whilst I recommend the entire article for its details and fascinating new statistics, I’ve digested the highlights into bite-size (chocolate-covered if you prefer) pieces for your (time-crunched) consumption:

  • Bookselling This Week just reported that brick and mortar booksellers are making it easier for self-published authors to garner coveted shelf space in their stores.
  • Most people buy a book for one reason: they want a good read. Assuming the book delivers, they don’t care who published it; many don’t even notice.
  • With greater flexibility and lower overhead, self-publishers can afford to sell their e-books for a fraction of the price charged by large publishers.
  • “The idea that all self-published books are sub-standard is erroneous,” says literary agent Jenny Bent, founder of The Bent Agency in Brooklyn, New York.
  • Naomi Blackburn, founder of the Sisterhood of the Traveling Book, a 400-member Goodreads book club, believes self-publishing has opened the door for new voices and given readers a far greater selection.
  • Nowadays, indie titles regularly crack—even top —the NY Times and USA Today bestseller lists.
  • No, gorilla-size sales figures do not guarantee the quality of an indie title, any more than huge numbers indicate the quality of a conventionally published book. The numbers do suggest that readers see value in indie books and they’re purchasing indie titles in droves.

  • Sometimes [with indie titles] the lack of quality is immediately evident. “A cover that looks childish, out of date, or amateurish often speaks for the story it houses..." (a good reminder not to skimp on hiring a professional.)
  • Readers can use their social networks to find fab indie titles. They can also peruse reviews on reader sites like Goodreads, ask their friends for recommendations, or rely on reviews posted by a favorite book blogger.
  • For the most popular current titles, readers can check the IndieReaderList Where Indies Count,” a list of the top 10 best-selling indie books, updated weekly.
  • No question, traditional publishers play an important role in the publishing world. Still, for better or worse, the days when they were the sole gatekeepers are behind us.
  • Today, rejection by traditional houses says little about a book. “Some wonderful books [are rejected] for various reasons—nothing to do with quality,” says Jenny Bent.
  • Self-publishing platforms can be used to market out-of-print backlists.
  • Authors are drawn to its flexibility, the ability to publish within their own time frame, or out of a desire for artistic control.
  • Self-publishing can be a practical way to build an audience.
  • By self-publishing, emerging authors can build the fan base necessary to attract a traditional publisher for their next work.
  • Other authors, long-timers as well as newbies, feel they can make more money on their own.
  • Mindful of their increased scrutiny, self-publishers take full advantage of the myriad professional services available to authors. Indies hire experienced editors to copyedit and proofread, and they employ professional designers for their cover and interior.
  • POD printing has gotten so good that, to the typical untrained eye, print-on-demand books are virtually indistinguishable from books printed on an offset press.
  • As with indie musicians and filmmakers, indie authors bring new life to an evolving industry.
  • Today, readers have access to a wealth of funny, poignant, brilliant voices of talented new authors from around the globe—voices that, just a few years ago, might have been silenced by the old guard.
  • The opportunity to self-publish—to publish their books their own way—has given both emerging and established authors more freedom than ever before.
  • Indie publishing is here to stay. And the publishing world will be all the richer for it.

Stigma? What stigma? The times they are a-changin’.

Write from the heart,

Stacey Aaronson is a professional Book Doctor who takes self-publishing authors by the hand and transforms their manuscripts into the books they've dreamed of—from impeccable editing and proofreading to engaging, audience-targeted cover and interior design—rivaling or exceeding a traditional house publication.

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