Self-publishers: do we still need to explain why? Post at Authors Electric

This time last year you might remember a certain note of monomania on this blog as I geared up to launch my novel. And perhaps creative chaos as I grappled with covers, blurbs and serialising the darn thing.

But I’d also been conducting a less obvious campaign – months of careful preparation to keep my credibility as I self-published my novel.

At the time it seemed necessary; a year on I don’t think we’re so stigmatised. That’s what we’re discussing in my post on Authors Electric today.

(Thanks for the pic BohemianDolls)

Tell me – there or here – what’s changed in indie publishing? Are we more accepted in some quarters of the publishing world? Where do we still have to fight harder to be recognised as quality writers?

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  1. #1 by Sally - aka Saleena on July 20, 2012 - 9:52 am

    Hi Roz,

    There is more acceptance of indie publishing now, at least among readers, but the stigma still remains among traditional publishing and press. So you still won’t get a look in for the major newspapers or literary reviewers, for instance.

    • #2 by rozmorris @dirtywhitecandy on July 20, 2012 - 7:34 pm

      Hi Sally! Traditional publishing is an interesting case. Publishers and agents actually know that a significant minority of the writers they reject are actually very publishable indeed, and if they got in front of critics would get a good write-up. From what I’ve seen in the industry they’re less able to keep up the pretence that all self-published authors are ‘slush’.
      The reviewers are still a problem – as you say. Because they don’t see the way publishing decisions are made, they still seem to think that all the worthwhile stuff somehow gets through the official channels.

      • #3 by Sally - aka Saleena on July 21, 2012 - 9:00 am

        Exactly. And unfortunately, this makes getting formal reviews one of the biggest hurdles for those who self-publish. But I’m sure this will change eventually. It’ll have to. :)

  2. #4 by Stan R. Mitchell on July 20, 2012 - 6:44 pm

    Increasingly, there is less need to defend it. And in a few years, there will be no need, because I’m not convinced the big publishers will still be around.

    Big name writers abandon their ranks on a nearly weekly basis now. And soon, that will turn to a daily basis.

    Authors analyze the world with their brains, and while many of us struggle with math, we’re (as a rule) not stupid. And we communicate. Somewhere, in a high office building in New York, you can hear a clock ticking and feel the fear in the room.

    • #5 by rozmorris @dirtywhitecandy on July 20, 2012 - 7:38 pm

      Stan, this is what I’m thinking too – and the big publishers definitely are feeling the fear. Agents too, because publishers are trying to circumvent them by going to Amazon indie bestsellers directly.

      • #6 by Stan R. Mitchell on July 20, 2012 - 7:42 pm

        I do feel for the agents — or at least most of them. But at the same time, one could argue the agents have been in bed with the publishers, when they should have been fighting for the authors.

        Actions have consequences.

        • #7 by rozmorris @dirtywhitecandy on July 21, 2012 - 7:23 am

          I think the agents are going to have to become publishers, of a sort. They frequently pick up work that turns out to be too original for the market and leave the author with no choice but to self-publish. Although these days it’s now a more positive choice, the point is these books still cleared an important hurdle and if the infrastructure was right they could get a head start if they were promoted openly by the agents. That would be good for the agents in the long run, as their clients would gain recognition and reputation.
          Most of them are very reluctant to do this, though. Last year I was thinking the agents would be more secure than publishers, because there would always be new rights to exploit, but now I’m not so sure.

  3. #10 by mreuther on July 20, 2012 - 8:48 pm

    If you’ve been
    writing for years only to have so many of your manuscripts rejected, you can only hope that Indie Publishing is gaining inroads.

  4. #12 by Pam Stucky on July 21, 2012 - 7:54 am

    Ha, I am having such bad luck trying to comment! Tried commenting at the blogspot post via my phone, and the captcha wouldn’t work. Then tried on my laptop, and the commenting ate my comment! LOL! Why? WHY??

    So I’ll try again here, see if I can recreate my brilliant prose!

    What I wanted to say is that I don’t feel the need to explain *why* I self-publish, but I do feel the need to give “the disclaimer.” That is: “Oh, you’re an author? Are you published?” “Well, yes, but I’m self-published, sooooo…”

    I do think the stigmas are quickly disappearing, thank goodness. What’s more, while some readers refuse to read self-published books, many readers simply don’t care who published it so long as it’s a good story / book. I do get frustrated sometimes about self-published authors who put out shoddy, careless work, as they make it all the more difficult for the rest of us to gain the respect we work so hard for. But I’ve decided the best and only thing I can do is write and produce the best books I can. The rest will sort itself out.

    Also, I’ve found a lot of reviewers willing to review indie work – enough that I haven’t made it through them all yet! Check out http://www.tinahunter.ca/links/ebook-reviewers/ and http://www.theindieview.com/indie-reviewers/ and http://www.stepbystepselfpublishing.net/reviewer-list.html.

    I love the control I have over my work, and while it may be true that self-publishing chose me before I chose it (I had hoped to go the traditional route), now I’m quite glad to be here!

    Thanks for the article, and best wishes to all for much success!

    Hitting “submit” and hoping this works … :)

    • #13 by rozmorris @dirtywhitecandy on July 22, 2012 - 9:03 am

      Pam, thanks for persisting with the comment!
      Yes, I get annoyed with unprofessional presentation too – for the same reasons. If we make our books look like traditionally published books, we stand far more of a chance of being judged purely on the content – which is as it should be.

      Thanks for those links. I’ve been working my way through Tina Hunter’s but I didn’t know about the other two.

      And I agree about this brave new world! We have control over how our books look, we are responsible for our own body of work and for taking it in a direction that suits us – and we’re among other good people who are doing it too.

  5. #14 by Tony McFadden on July 22, 2012 - 10:06 am

    We’re about a decade behind independent movies and maybe 5 years behind indie music as far as acceptance is concerned, I think. Less need to justify. In fact, compared to this time last year, far less need to defend.

    Of course, “defending” implies some shame in what you’re doing, so in reality, there is absolutely no need to defend self-publishing.

    • #15 by dirtywhitecandy on July 24, 2012 - 8:31 pm

      I think we are lagging behind at the moment, Tony, and acceptance will come. But it’s so easy to self-publish at the most basic level that it will be harder for quality indies to prove themselves for a while.

  6. #16 by Paul Mason on July 24, 2012 - 8:50 am

    I felt myself ‘hailed’ in a way by the comment about presentation, it being something I’m rather monomaniac about myself. I hate Lulu, for example, because their guide actively encouraged (last time I looked at it) indie publishers to make their work look amateurish and inept.

    But actually my feeling on this is close to Stan’s. I don’t think the big publishers won’t be around, though. I think it’s a bit more complex. Just as the last 30-40 years have seen so many mergers, I think the next step will be (if it hasn’t already happened) to transmedia. HarperCollins will be even more of a connected branch in the News Corporation tree, and the same phenomenon will spread.

    I also think, and this is more contentious, that there will be steady movement away from the monolithic concept of the novel which is, after all, a fairly recent cultural fixture viewed against the history of human culture production. I’m not saying the novel, as a form, will die. I’m just saying that perhaps the time when it defined the pinnacle of what writing could aspire to may be behind us.

    It may be that the self-publishers who thrive will be the ones who grasp this quickly and ride the wave (though there will always be room for niche work: I have to say that, as I am about at nichey as you get get).

    • #17 by dirtywhitecandy on July 24, 2012 - 8:35 pm

      Paul – great to see you here! I didn’t know that about Lulu. If I’d seen that I’d be biting my desk.
      Death of the novel? Fie on thee! Joking apart, though, you’re right that we’ll see more narrative artforms – after all, Dave’s been making inroads with his critically acclaimed Frankenstein for iPad. And he dallies with graphic novels too.
      I do happen to like novels a lot, though…. and I’m probably not the only one here who’ll say that.

      • #18 by Paul Mason on July 24, 2012 - 10:40 pm

        As I suggested, I also love novels. But then, I love books made out of paper, too. And all sorts of other old things. I don’t think you have to abandon your tastes to embrace, or even love new technology, just recognise it for what it is, and what it does best. A lot of my research at the moment is into participatory culture and transmedia (and that’s despite not being on either FB or Twitter), and I think they provide models pointing to the sorts of thing that may emerge. I do see the huge Berlin Wall of IP law as being something of an obstacle, though.

        Your ‘death of the novel’ comment reminded me of a tweet I saw about a well-known scholar of fans. He had declared the death of the author, the death of the text, and the death of the reader/audience. Who gets out alive?

        • #19 by rozmorris @dirtywhitecandy on July 26, 2012 - 8:46 am

          Bloggers?? :)

        • #20 by Dan Holloway on July 26, 2012 - 10:35 am

          That’s a very good point, Paul. To use a less well-trodden musical analogy, the electronic revolution in music led to a huge creative step forward through sampling and remixing that started underground and went mainstream. Yes, I’m not going to underestimate the huge debates raging over IP in music (this video on the history of the Amen Break is a great starting place http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5SaFTm2bcac), but the creativity unleashed by electronic possibilities have found an acceptable place in both the under and overground. My sense is that literature (possibly because we are now more IP conscious?) is really struggling to reach this situation. There is a flourishing underground – I’m not a transmedia buff but I know much of the alt lit scene, especially as it thrives around the hydrothermal vents of tumblr, and it’s incredibly exciting and vibrant but a lot of it plays completely fast and loose with IP. And yet anywhere close to the mainstream, the only debate we see is the rather crude one about piracy. My feeling is that many writers are simply unaware of what’s happening because it’s so new, but that a large number also still see this as a straightfoward question of black and white. We really need a judgment-free all encompassing and *mainstream* debate about what it is we want from our literary future, and our relative priorities

          • #21 by rozmorris @dirtywhitecandy on July 28, 2012 - 8:56 am

            Dan, you’re definitely the expert there. Personally, I’ve never found a better experience than reading – I prefer it to movies too. But my other favourite artform is installations – I love created spaces that become a playground for the imagination. No ‘story’ as such, and probably no performers. Just spaces, objects and sounds that let your brain do the work for you.

            • #22 by Dan Holloway on July 29, 2012 - 5:18 pm

              mm, that’s exactly it with installation art – and installation art is absolutely central to both my literary novels – as well as many of my stories. For me, galleries are magical spaces where the rules of “reality” become permeable and the laws of physics are suspended in favour of the laws of narrative truth

  7. #23 by David C. Cassidy on July 28, 2012 - 10:10 pm

    It’s been my experience that people don’t care where the work comes from, so long as it’s good work. I certainly don’t feel the need to explain to anyone why I self-publish. The reality for a lot of us is that it’s simply the only way. I’m proud of the work I put out there. As a professional photographer as well, I “self-pub” images all the time and have done so for years … to me, my writing is no different. I’ve read “published” books that are garbage. I’ve read “self-pubbed” books that are excellent. And vice-versa. For me (and for readers), the proof is in the pudding. If you put out good stuff, people will like it. If anyone rolls their eyes about me “self-pubbing,” I just smile and move on. No big deal. :)

    • #24 by dirtywhitecandy on July 29, 2012 - 9:01 am

      The parallel with photography is interesting. Other artforms came to indie publishing far sooner than writing did, so they’re more used to the ethos. Writers had the acceptance/rejection hurdle to get over, and also the stigma of ‘vanity’ press. But for most readers that’s disappearing. So long as we have ways to reach our audience and demonstrate that we have the writing chops, that’s all we need.

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