Tuesday, 7 April 2009

The first commandment - there is no stigma to self-publishing

In many ways this debate is already tired. Some writers will never take self-publishing seriously. For others the “stigma of self-publishing” isn’t an issue that figures on the radar. For me, it’s a non-issue in need of swift despatch.

Here are the various strands I have come across against self-publishing – in the “stigma” vein – there are all sorts of arguments based no marketing difficulties, but those arguments are for another week (if you have more please add them – this isn’t meant to be a white elephant hunt):
It’s just vanity publishing under another name
No one will take me seriously if I self-publish
There’s no professional editing or design, so my book will look amateurish
Even if that’s not the case, other self-published books are amateurish and I’ll be lumped in with them
Bookshops won’t stock my book, so I’ll lose a massive chunk of my potential market
Anyone can do it, so the fact my book’s in print doesn’t actually mean anything

The standard response you here – so and so did it (usually G P Taylor or the like) – are particularly vapid, so it’s no wonder people aren’t convinced. That doesn’t show there’s nothing iffy about self-publishing. Just that a few remarkable people have risen above the iffiness. Most of us aren’t remarkable.

So here are my response to each point in turn
1. I’m not sure why there’s a stigma to “vanity publishing”, unless you’re just repeating point 6. The only real objection is that vanity publishers rip writers off. True. Many do. So don’t use them – do your research, just like you would if you were starting any business (this is a column for people who seriously want to get ahead with their writing, not people who just want to see themselves in print), find a good printer, and use them. Not going through your business plan properly is no one’s fault but yours.
2. I’ll deal with bookshops under point 5. Readers I’ve spoken to don’t care less who publishes the books they read. If they’re buying a new author they want a good cover, a good pitch, and a gripping opening. To this extent the stigma is in the head of writers – not readers.
3. Just because a publisher isn’t doing this for you, there’s no reason your book should look any more amateurish than those you see on the shelves. The printers you end up using will do the same things publishers’ printers do. If you don’t feel happy doing your own editing and design, you can outsource these tasks. Don’t self-publish your book until it’s ready. Be as professional in your approach as you’d expect a publisher to be. Join writing groups, get feedback, work with professionals. Thin seriously about joining a writers’ collective so you can pool knowledge about professional practices.
4. See point 2.
5. No, a lot of bookshops won’t. That means you’ll have to look at new ways of marketing. It is hard work. But that doesn’t give it a stigma.
6. Before you decide HOW you want to get published, ask yourself seriously WHY you want to get published. Do you want to see yourself in print? Then it doesn’t really matter how you go about it if you are happy with the end result. Do you want recognition of your worth as a writer? If, to you, that means having the publishing world take you seriously, then self-publishing isn’t for you. Do you want to try and turn your writing into a business? Then choose the method that gives you the best chance.


  1. Hi Dan, best of luck with your projects.
    I came across a couple of links I think you may be interested to read. Two of them are from Eoin Purcell - editor with Mercier Press in Ireland. He's given some considered thinking to self-publishing and its ramifications. Interesting stuff. I recommend it.
    All the best, regards.

  2. Thank you, Haarlson - long time no see - didn't you write after Goya?