Lake Atitlan, Panajachel, Guatemala

“Reading and writing are acts of empathy and faith. Guard that trust carefully — in this rapidly changing business, it’s the only sure thing.” ~Erin Keane
"Write something to suit yourself and many people will like it; write something to suit everybody and scarcely anyone will care for it." ~Jesse Stuart

"A writer's job is to take one thing and make it stand for twenty." ~ Virginia Woolf

Thursday, July 31, 2014

A Post to the Self-Published: Get Over Yourselves!

I saw a tweet the other day about removing the "self-publishing stigma." The article it linked to mentions how until self-published books are considered for literary awards, there's still a stigma attached. Recently Publisher's Weekly published a report on self-published books and sales, and self-publishers all over the Internet were saying SEE, SEE, SEE-- IT'S ABOUT TIME and such things as they linked to the PW article.

Personally, I think certain of the self-published community need to get the chip off their shoulders. Quit trying to convince the world you are legitimate, like you are Michael Corleone or something. We know you are legitimate, you don't have to keep hammering it home to us with all the SEE, look at us, we are real writers and real publishers. We told you so, na na na.

Because every time you do this, it just shows how in your own minds you still don't feel legitimate. Otherwise why else would you constantly be bringing up this same issue? Seriously, people, let it go, because the topic is old news. There is no longer a self-publishing stigma, except in the minds of many self-published authors.

Everyone in the literary world really does accept your business model as highly effective and useful for those willing to invest the time, money and effort to publish their books themselves. Anyone who does not see it as a legitimate business model either is ignorant of what's going on in publishing today, or has a vested interest in ignoring and/or denying the reality of it. So they aren't the problem. You are.

As I see it, the only stigma is the lingering sense of "I'm not good enough" and "I don't deserve" that fuels this over-reaction to anyone who doesn't bow before the self-publishing world. Face it-- it's not for everyone. But it is most definitely for some. And those in any facet of publishing accept the fact. More than you know or than you choose to admit.

So yes, unlike Michael Corleone, you are now legitimate. Got that? It's not personal, it's business--so get over yourselves and go write more books.


41 comments:

  1. That rather amused me!
    I think they are legitimate. Never crossed my mind to think otherwise.

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  2. Well said. Everyone else has let it go.

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  3. Hi Karen - I like Alex' and Diane's comments ... so so true - get over it and get on with it ..

    and your last post about blogging was great .. cheers Hilary

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  4. Your post made me snort coffee! I totally agree. The only thing I'm more tired of hearing about than this, is the well-meaning (I think they're well meaning, mostly) self-published authors who nudge writers like me (still agent hunting, currently stuck in that 'almost' phase) to 'Reeeally think about self-publishing, because you're 'trapping' yourself into 'tradition' and 'holding yourself back by believing there only one way to get published'.

    I have multiple friends (successful, wonderful friends) who are self published, and the only thing THEY'VE ever said to me about it is 'If you ever decide that you'd like to explore this option, we're here for you, so use us :)' They know me, they get me, and they see both self-publishing, and traditional publishing as equally valid routes to getting published, differentiated only by the personal preferences of the authors in regard to how they, personally, want to get published.

    The self-published authors who go around seemingly convinced that those of us trying to get traditionally published are merely 'afraid' of striking out on our own really make me want to offer them a knuckle sandwich. I am fearless of being self-published, but I am not a business-minded person. I am not someone who ever wants to run their own empire, or organize events, or be in charge of things in general. I want to create things, and then be guided by someone who guides writers for a living on how to give those creations. Which means an agent, and traditional publishing. I WANT that. I'm not 'letting myself be trapped' by tradition, etc. So stop trying to convince me that I am.

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    1. Artemis, When you say, "I am not a business-minded person" you have nailed the essence of what self-publishing requires. It really has nothing to do with whether traditional publishers are good or bad, but whether or not a writer wants to also run a business, because it's exactly what going that route entails.

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    2. Exactly! I admire people who successful self publish. They have the ability to manage themselves as a business which, as Anne says below in her comment, is HARD WORK, even if you ARE business minded. Someone like me, well, while I *might* be able to manage things and make the endeavor successful, I'll never manage it as well as it could be managed, and I won't enjoy it at all. In fact, I'd probably end up putting the Xanax manufacturers out of business.

      Better for me to stick with securing an agent to help me navigate the daunting world of publishing, and leave the self publishing to those like Anne, who are able to navigate the world on their own, and maintain their success in a satisfying and fulfilling way.

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  5. I've always been proud of the fact I self-published. And with so many titles out, I can honestly say I work hard. I don't care what other people think.

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  6. I think that writers who self-publish are legitimate writers. There is a lot more work when self-publishing, but many have said it is so worth it. Great post, Karen.

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  7. I kind of agree with what you're saying. I don't think it's going away because there are some 'not very good' self-pubbed stuffed out there so there will always be critiques who use those examples to stereotype. It's kind of like the people who feel the need to defend romance as good writing. There will always be critiques and people shouldn't waste their time arguing with fools.

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  8. It's never occurred to me to join in all the bru-ha-ha about self-publishing - I'm having far too much fun travelling and then writing about it?

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  9. I was going to comment and then I read Hilary's comment above, so I went to read your post about blogging. I so agree that blogging is a two-way experience and I don't think I ever read a blog and left without commenting. I often wonder who are all those people who show up as visitors but left nothing for me so I can know who they are, did they like my post, did they not, will they come back and so on. As far as self-publishing goes, I would say go for it, get business-minded, and move on.

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  10. Although I have long since stopped trying to 'convince' people of the benefits of self-publishing and I'm happy for each to go their own way with whatever model works for them, I beg to differ that everyone recognises self-pubbing as legitimate - at least in the UK. There are still many professional writing organisations that fail to let self-publishers in the door, even if they have sold over a million copies, and there are still antiquated attitudes towards those who go it alone.

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    1. Tallie, The literary culture is one that has always moved extremely slowly, tied to longstanding traditions of hundreds of years. Your comment made me smile because Charles Dickens really found faster success and acclaim in the U.S. once publishers put his books out in periodicals, a chapter at a time. I wonder if the UK has even more attachment to the long held past literary traditions than does the US. However, I think the acceptance of self-publishing has come exceedingly fast, considering it is going up against the traditional literary culture. Kind of like paperback books had to do back in the day when they were considered vulgar.

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  11. LOL loved your post:) I almost feel guilty telling some people that I am going traditional--like it's taboo or something.

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  12. So I had to laugh when I read your post. I self-published my first novel back in 2009. Not only did I NOT feel legitimate, I was too embarrassed to TELL anyone I'd self-published. Therefore, I did little or no promotion and sold very few books (although an agent later picked up the book and attempted to sell it to a traditional publisher for two years--finally found an interested house, but the deal fell through). This time around, a small press picked up my book, and I'm still doing a TON of marketing for myself. Now, I'm thinking...what was the big deal about self-publishing? A LOT of people are doing it now. So I agree with you...get over it (and that's good advice for me too!)

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    1. Megan, Things have changed SO MUCH in publishing since 2009. It's like a completely different world now than it was then. I look forward to seeing what exciting innovations will come in the next 5 years.

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  13. I understand your point. Though the stigma (of unedited, unproofed books) is still there out in the general public.

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  14. "Get over yourself" is the sort of advice I think may apply to many aspects of living, not just publishing by self or others.

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  15. I have never heard of this "get over your self" image thrown to self-pubs. I read books by authors of both era's. The writing in the long term is whether or not the readers pick it up. I don't especially like all the books that are forced upon us. I like to find my own authors, whether they are selfies or with agent. Its the book that counts. I've read some really great books on both sides and some really awful books on both sides. To me there are no sides - just writers trying to get their books read. Karen, I would never have met you, if you hadn't left a comment on my Blog one day - I have always appreciated that. You do something many writers do not. You step outside your writer's box and actually are in contact with your fans on a personal basis. I admire that so much. You are a rare gem, girl. I totally agree with your quote " So much has changed in publishing since 2009. It's like a completely different world now than it was then" - I have no doubt YOU will be a very big part of the "exciting innovations" within the next 5 years - YOU'RE THAT KIND OF PERSON.

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  16. I self-published mostly for family and friends, never thought of it a as legitimate or not. I enjoy writing, do not expect to get more than enjoyment out of it.

    Read your bio. I like to use...'s a lot, don't know why...but this is for you...!!!!

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  17. As someone who once worked at a "real" publishing house, I enjoyed this post. The world of publishing has turned upside down and back again and is in a period of tremendous transition and we are living through it. Not sure where we all will land, and appreciate your observations.

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  18. I feel the same way as Terri whenever I say I want to traditionally publish my unpublished series. So many have told me (mostly self-pubbed authors), if your series is so good why don't you just self-publish it? But self-publishing isn't for everyone. I do plan on self-publishing a book or two in the future, but there are certain books of mine, like this series, that I feel would do better traditionally. And yes, self-publishing is legitimate, especially if the author is a serious writer who carefully edited their book.

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  19. There are probably some topics that will be written about and debated for years to come. Many sides to many issues inspire new approaches and different ways to talk about them.

    Lee
    Tossing It Out

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  20. I didn't know much about self-publishing until I started blogging; I didn't know that there were so many great writers out there who were publishing their own work. I think that self-published authors want recognition probably because it's harder (but not impossible) for them to get attention for their books than it is for traditionally published authors. But what you say is true: either way, their work is legitimate.

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  21. Hi, Karen, I came to your site from Julia Hones' blog. It looks like you are a traveler, too, as well as a novelist. I read your bio and really love the part about being a recovering exclamation point addict. :-) I'm following your blog now.

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  22. VERY good point! That actually goes for anyone who feels they are being discriminated against for any reason. The more you mention it, the more you call attention to it for those of us who don't even THINK about discriminating against you. With anything, acceptance happens gradually and it only happens because people don't talk about the differences between one group of people in another. It eventually merges to become one. If a self-published book is well put together, I don't even know or care how it was published.

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  23. Hi, Karen!!!!

    I've missed you! Sorry I haven't been by lately... LIFE... you know how it is... LOL.

    THANK you so much for your kind words and offer for help with the anthology. I am SOOOO sorry to hear about your sister... Cancer is horrible! I will certainly keep you posted. It is just in the beginning stages now, but we should get there very soon!

    Terrific point here! Artemis said it perfectly! You have to be aggressive and business savvy to make a big hit in self publishing. That's why I held off. I am more of a creator. I know I can do the self publishing thing, but time is precious to me and frankly I don't have THAT much time. Does anyone?



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  24. Well-said. If there's any stigma attached to self-publishing, it's caused by those who rush to self-publish without proper editing. And that's a real shame, too, because a lack of editing can ruin any book, no matter how good the underlying story may be.

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  25. This was an interesting post on the self-published community. It's going to be a while before all the changes settle into what's common. Then there'll be another transition and another. Publishing, like everything techi, is changing so fast, it's hard to keep up.

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  26. Oh Karen how I love this post! It's so not just about self-publishing but about so many others in life who spend too much time waving the Victim Card. As has always been the real truth, it's our WORK that speaks loudest.

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  27. LOL. I think the first key to self pub is taking yourself serious and counting yourself as legit. If you can't see yourself that way, you must not be. Anyhow, I totally understand. It takes many generations to overcome prejudices, and we're really still on the dawn of that transition, even 10+ years into it.

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  28. Awesome, powerful and inspirational post! Thanks Karen.

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  29. I agree, a lot of those comments come from feeling like we still need to prove ourselves. Time to get confident! :)

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  30. Dear Karen, the attitude of some self-published authors--as you so succinctly relate here--is one I myself had at a rather prestigious book store in St. Paul, Minnesota. I'd asked one of the managers if they would consider having me come for a reading and signing. She asked about my book--this was back in 1992 and Crown had published it. I felt very apologetic when I gave its title: "A Cat's Life: Dulcy's Story." In my mind I thought it was "just" a book about cats and so wouldn't fit the store. The manager seemed to feel the same and the look on her face was one of disdain.

    Later a friend who owned a publishing house spoke to her about my book and she invited me to have a reading and signing. Later she told me that up to that time, they'd never had that many people at a signing! Never again was I apologetic for talking about a book about a cat. I cringe to think what Dulcy thought of my lack of fortitude and my wimpishness and obsequiousness. Peace.

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  31. Ha ha ha! You are like a cold brook on a hot day - you wake me up! What you said could be also said about we Canadians, forever blah blahing about our unique identity! Get over yourself is my new mantra. Thanks dear person.

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  32. I agree about being tired of the soap box, but there is definitely still a stigma against self-published books in general. If your novel is self-published, it's not eligible for many prestigious literary awards and grants. There are great jobs out there for published writers as writers in residence and creative writing teachers, but to get these jobs you must be traditionally published. Self-published books don't "count" in the minds of the decision makers at these jobs. And, until recently, the most well-known and prestigious literary associations would not accept self-pubbed authors. That's just starting to change now, this year.

    I haven't published my fiction yet, but I've definitely come across readers--especially those who consider themselves lovers of fine literature--who turn their noses up at self-pubbed books and assume they weren't good enough to be traditionally published. That attitude definitely exists. They are behind the times, yes, but there's a lot of people who still feel that way. So I understand if the self-pubbed get defensive from time to time.

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  33. Love this post Karen!
    In my mind, "get over yourselves" applies not only to this subject, but also to some people in a general sense.

    I don't care if a book is self published, or from Random House. If it's good, then it's good, no matter how it got published.

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  34. Just read your comment, Karen, and was downloading, I thought, a sample of The Virtues of Oxygen...and accidentally bought it. Ah well. With your endorsement...and it does sound good. It got great reviews. So, I notice, did her The Watershed Year that also sounds excellent. Probably will do that one next month. Will tell you what I think of The Virtues. Hope things are well with you and Bruce. Of course we only post the upbeat things on our blogs and FB, etc. But life isn't easy. Jen has pain all the time, is often these days weary of life. I'm hoping I have the physical stamina to get us both to the temple next Wednesday...2 1/2 hour drive each way (gasp). Would so like to be closer to a temple, but...we needed certain things in Virginia that we couldn't get in Utah. Mixed blessings, as I'm sure you know.

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  35. you are so funny! This is so true! Publishing can be done so many ways these days. Whatever works for the individual. What kind of publishing does your company do? I'm beginning to look for an agent/publisher. I have a non-fiction book.

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  36. Harlequinn carried a stigma for years, but I don't think it stopped them from cashing their checks. You're so right about it all. Complaining about it just keeps it highlighted. Yes, there are disadvantages and advantages of any route chosen. As a writer, I just want to write. I'll leave the judgement to the reader.

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