I did an interview in November last year, just after the release of Passing Place, in which I got asked the question “Would you say there is a stigma to being self-published?” Of all the questions I was asked this one, and my answer has created the most comment from other writers, and readers alike who read the interview. Most of the feedback has been of the positive kind, though it did raise an eyebrow or two and a couple of negative responses.
One going so far as to point at my response was ‘Naive and symptomatic of the malaise that self-publishing has created within the industry.‘ Which if I am perfectly honest, I am not entirely sure I even understand as a criticism.
My answer at the time was as follows:-
“Yes… I hate people saying ‘My friend Mark has self-published his second novel…’ because I know that people tend to think we self-publish because we cannot get a publisher. This is seldom the case and generally, people have their own reasons for going down a self-publish route. There are lots of great Indie authors out there and, lets be fair about it, some dross. There is plenty of dross printed by traditional publishers as well. On the whole traditional publishers want books they know will sell, rather than something that is a risk and would sooner publish another James Paterson, which is a carbon copy of his last novel co-authored by someone else, who actually did the writing, instead of publishing someone who may not sell. They want genre and they want tight lines. There are a lot of very good books that have sat in publisher’s slush piles for years and then never get printed because the author loses the will.Anyone who self-publishes put their work out there, they deserve more respect than to be dismissed as ‘just self-published.”
My view has not changed.
Having read a few emails on my opinion, a few of them telling me what my view is which was a strange idea in of itself, I think it is maybe wise to expand on my view. Not least because the original reply was in an interview, and written with a certain degree of wit about it rather than clarity. Also, it gives me a chance to respond to the criticisms some had of this small portion of the interview.
Firstly, just to be entirely clear, I stand by every word I said about James Paterson (which was actually nothing about him or his writing, just his publishers ethic’s ). This is in response to someone saying I was deriding the writer because I am jealous of James Patersons and his success. To be clear then, yes I am, because I would love to make my living by writing books, I am not sure I would want to do it by sticking my name on books others have written but he because the big name he is the hard way. My point was merely that the publishing industry, perhaps unsurprisingly, more inclined to publish books they know will sell with minimum effort from themselves. James Patterson books, just like J K Rowling, Stephen King and dozens of others will sell simply because of the name of the author. Which is the reason James Paterson’s name gets flung on to books written by ‘with Joe Bloggs’. I would prefer the publishing industry to work a little harder with unknown writers, but at the same time, the big sellers make the industry the profits it needs to invest in first-time authors, it’s just the way it is.
I also stand by my own reasons for choosing to self-publish.
1/ As much as I enjoy genre fiction, I do not want to write a book about Harold Potter, or 50 shades of brown, or dusklight. I don’t want to only write one particular brand of science fiction or a book someone will recognise as inspired by xxxxx .
2/ Once I have written that first book, I want to go and write something else entirely. Not be tied into a series deal where I have to rewrite my first book again…
3/ I only want to write, what I want to write, this is not my day job, it does not pay my bills. Sure that’s the dream, but until then I will stick to doing what makes me happiest as a writer. While keeping control of everything.
In common with most indie authors I know who self-publish, I have never actually tried to get a publishing deal. I have submitted the odd short story to magazines but never submitted a novel to a publishing house.
Why? You ask…
Because I did not have to. Nor did I want to.
I am sure that had I submitted Cider lane it would have sat in a slush pile. Unless I was very lucky to say the least. Even rejection letters are hard to come by. Luck, and just finding a publisher willing to take a punt on a virgin novelist, is a rare combination.
I do however hate the label, ‘self-published’ I vastly prefer the word ‘indie’. Perhaps this has a lot to do with my love of the alternative music scene…
There is some dross out there, but the majority of ‘indie’ writers work hard and try to put out the best work they can, and are more interest in the work than the money. Lots of them are producing interesting stuff, thrilling reads, and really different stuff you would not get in the mainstream publish factory.
I am not saying they deserve to be read, each reader must decide for themselves what they read, but they deserve the same respect as those who publish through publishing houses. The same amount of hard work goes into the writing. They have to work harder in some cases to have their books edited, work on proofing, and typesetting and everything else that goes into publishing a novel. My good old writing iceberg is all the bigger for the self-publisher…
There is a lot more I could have put on my iceberg, but you get the point i am sure.
The days of pure vanity publishing are long gone. Though there are still companies out there willing to ‘Publish your book for this small fee…’ Which I would recommend being avoided like the plague.
Easy said when your day job is in IT and your tech savvy, but there is a community of writers out there often more than happy to help the novice self-publish themselves.
My two novels represent about six years of work between them, to have them written off as unworthy because of a stigma attached to the self-published is both insulting and says more about the ones doing the writing off than the writer.
My original interview can be found here
Further reading, just because I like this article by DW Smith from way back in 2010 here