How Self-Publishing is Perceived

The other day I googled ‘publishing industry perception of self-publishing’ because I was curious. I wanted to know if my choice was pissing people off – it’s always good to know when you’re offending the industry you hope one day to be welcomed into and one which you, ultimately, respect. After reading some truly horrible things I immediately wrote this post but then left it a week so that I could calm down a bit – never write angry (it’s still a pretty angry post tbh).

The last thing I want to do is piss off anyone in the publishing industry because I’d like to have my current novel traditionally published (because of the type of book it is I’d feel better knowing I had a publishing house supporting my words). So, please, don’t hate me, this is just my opinion. LOVE ME PUBLISHING INDUSTRY, LOVE ME.

Here goes…

I chose to self-publish because, after three rejections (way lower than the 32 for my previous novel), I went to a talk led by a literary agent. I spoke to her afterwards and asked if publishers were picking up YA dystopian fiction (she’d just been talking about what publishers were buying and what they were looking for), and sadly, they were not. Realising this and speaking to my Mum, who was adamant I shouldn’t wait for the approval of the industry and that I should do it myself, I chose to self-publish. I’d been toying with the idea for over a year, after 6 years of writing with nothing being read, I wanted to have my work out in the world. And that is nothing to be ashamed of or sneered at. I put so much into my book, not just in the writing of it but into the whole package and I will forever be proud of making the unpopular choice of doing it myself. I refuse to accept that my work isn’t worth reading, that I don’t have something to say, and I want that to be the message of self-publishing. But, you know, edit.

When I did my google search I came across this article, which made me want to talk about how little value is given to people who self-publish. I mean, shit, if you’re willing to put your hard earned dolla on the line for your passion than you gotta be really serious about this stuff.

Here are my responses to some of the quotes:

“I think self-publishing is a terrible idea for serious novelists (by which I mean, novelists who take writing seriously, and love to write).” I MEAN, COME ON. I take my work and writing very seriously and I am not an exception within the world of self-publishing; YALC was, in part, proof of that. Self-published writers love writing and they do care about the quality of their work.

“You are going to be marketing for a living.” Actually, I’m a receptionist for a living. I write and I also do some marketing. Maybe not enough but it’s definitely not my entire days work.

Asking if we’re “desperate egomaniac with no thought for other people?” (in reference to self-promotion) I cringe at this kind of self-promotion, I’d rather not tell people I’m a writer and make them feel obliged to read my work. It makes me hive-y. Also: rude.

“The vast majority of indie authors have tweetstreams that are 90% adverts, perhaps a reflection of the fact that they must spend 90% of their time marketing.” I’d like to see the statistics backing this up. My tweets are usually about my boyfriend and the stupid crap he does. I once wrote a series of tweets about a potato and it doesn’t feature at all in my book.

“Gatekeepers are saving you from your own ego.” This is so offensive. I can’t even…

Actually, I can. Making the assumption that self-published authors just upload a first draft onto Amazon after only taking 2 months to write (although, *sigh*, I have read something like this) is just so damn rude. I’ve been writing for years. My first book was TERRIBLE and that’s why I DIDN’T publish it myself. I/we are not idiots, thank you very much. I accept, there are a few but that’s why you read reviews before you buy a book. Readers aren’t stupid, they can tell when someone hasn’t put the effort in.

“You’ll find it hard to make a good impression if the first thing anyone saw from you was that wonky cabinet with sticky drawers.” (That’s the metaphor they used for a badly put together book).  I’ve read some brilliant self-published books that are the complete package, you wouldn’t be able to differentiate them from traditionally published works. And, let’s not forget, there is some terrible crap that’s been traditionally published, the self-pub industry doesn’t have the monopoly on dross.

“You risk looking like an amateur” This is probably the quote that offends me the most because I do hear this a lot. We’re perceived, too often, as ‘amateurs’, which really angers me. Strictly speaking, I suppose that, yes, we are ‘amateurs’ but that doesn’t mean our work is and that’s the implication. We may be amateur by not going down the traditional route but that isn’t to say the work is. I’d like there to be more of a distinction when the term is used. The article then goes on to discuss the expense. Yes, it was expensive for me to self-publish but I chose to spend my savings, it doesn’t have to cost a lot, if anything – read my post on it here: 4 Steps for Editing your book for Free.

“(Publishers) can get physical books into real bookshops” – as can we. A bit of research could have helped here. If you want to know about how you can read this post: Print on Demand for Self-Publishing (basically what it says is that if you have an ISBN and a paperback you can approach independent bookshops and even the big boys like Waterstones).

“For those who prefer orchestrated backing to blowing their own trumpet.” Again, rude. I feel like I’ve already made myself clear on this topic so I won’t bore you with it again.

Let me first debunk a myth – I did not do this to get rich and I don’t believe the majority of self-pub authors did either. Some do strike it rich – good for them! They believed in their work, they took a risk and it paid off. However, as a creative person I know I’m probably never going to make any money. It is our curse as a people. No, I’m not okay with hardly making any money but I am accepting of it. I didn’t believe going into this that I’ll become rich overnight (because I can make higher margins, see this post for how much). I’m not naive and I don’t believe all self-pub authors are. Because someone decides to go against the perceived ‘right way’ of doing something doesn’t mean their work is worth less. They should be applauded for the bravery they showed in choosing to do it alone and for committing to their passion. It’s hard enough to make it in creative industries without people condemning you for sticking your neck out.

What I think makes self-published authors so wonderful is how much they care about their work. How much they’re willing to put on the line, how far they are willing to push themselves for their story to reach their audience. If an artist sold their paintings at a market stall you wouldn’t berate them for trying to make money off their creations instead of trying to go through a gallery. If a singer recorded their own album and busked on the streets to sell it, you wouldn’t condone them for their initiative. If an actor wrote and starred in a play at a fringe event they wouldn’t be told they were egotistical, they’d be judged on their work alone, not that they chose to set their own terms. Self-published authors are doing the same thing, so why do we get criticised for publishing our art ourselves?

Disclaimer: My books are proofread, my blog posts are not. If there are typos/mistakes it is in no way a reflection of my books. 



5 thoughts on “How Self-Publishing is Perceived

  1. These are all pretty old arguments against self-publishing, and they’re been nicely dissected many times. So, knowing how much BS is involved in criticisms of self-publishing, why in the world do you still want to be loved by mainstream publishers? I edit until I’m blind and burned out. My ego tells me I’ll never be good enough, rather than I’m so great the whole world should be loving what I write. Once I learned about self-publishing, I completely dropped those old-fashioned dreams about finding a publisher some day. I’ve never looked for an agent and never will. I write for the few who like my kind of writing, not for the market. I’m not looking for a career or fame, or buckets of money. You can’t get any more old-fashioned that that, I suppose, but technology lets me do it on my own terms. Just remember that “being” published means never being able to do it on your own terms. And don’t let what “they” think get in your way.


    1. To be honest, I love both and I think both have merits. This was just me wanting to defend self-publishing because, even though it is more accepted now, there is still a stigma.

      I wish you all the best with your work, it’s always nice to connect with other self-pub authors!


      1. And there will always be a stigma that we have to defend against because of this:
        “The family story you’ve always meant to write, that set of poems you penned as an angst-­ridden teenager and the history of your local sports club – if you think there’s an audience waiting on your words now is the time.

        “Self-publishing has never been easier – or cheaper – and hundreds of us are taking the opportunity to tell stories that in the past would not have made it past a publisher’s rejection tray.”

        From an article just posted on The Passive Voice.


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