One of the misconceptions of self-publishing is that it functions in a vacuum. While it’s true DIY authors have relatively unlimited creative freedom over both content and marketing, they do need some professional collaboration to make their output come off, well, professional, at least in appearance.
Once you put your work out there, it’s no longer a personal, private passion project. It’s a commodity. The separation between the two has been preventing many voices from acceptance into the rarified arena of professional publishing.
"Rock 'n' Roll Will Never Die"
The DIY digital revolution changed all that forever. Now it’s a veritable free-for-all. While basically all “legacy” publishing companies and even many small presses tend to regard self-publishing as the last resort for untested amateurs without the guts to compete in the traditional marketplace, it’s still claiming a rising share of the market. It can’t be simply ignored, not anymore.
But it can and is often dismissed by those that see it as either an illegitimate offspring of desperation and technology, or as a direct threat to their centuries-old monopoly on the market.
I shared an example of this elitism in my previous blog. Basically, a major profile and interview about my work was cancelled right before publication by the head of the magazine, because he decided he didn’t want to essentially “legitimize” self-published work with that type of journalistic “endorsement.”
Of course, the books that were the main subject of the piece were not self-published; this was an indictment of my body of work generally, because much of it is in fact independently published, as well as aggressively self-promoted. My few titles issued by small presses were not deemed enough to “redeem” my brand as an author.
This obstructionist attitude is par for the course. If you plan to self-publish, don’t get discouraged. But be prepared by bracing yourself for some serious heartbreak.
Even though you’re taking charge of your own career, you will still face a lot of rejection from the publishing establishment, including indie bookstores, ironically enough, that will refuse to stock your work, or bloggers that will refuse to review them, simply because you aren’t bringing enough cachet (or cash) to the partnership to make it worth their while.
The Buck Stops Out There
The majority of readers, on the other hand, don’t seem to care as much who published a book, or even who wrote it. They just want good stories, well told. That said, many self-published books do not deserve an audience, frankly, because they are indeed sloppily edited and poorly written. But the same can be said of books that have had the advantage of being vetted by an established company. In the end, it’s all quite subjective.
In fact, some DIY books succeeded despite these artistic and technical flaws. I won’t mention any by name, but critics were quick to pounce, especially when they became bestsellers (it’s much easier to dismiss books that don’t sell anyway). But again, that didn’t stop the public from downloading thousands and even millions of copies, with all profits going directly to the author, effectively denying the “middle men” (agents, editors and publishers) their “fair share” of the market value.
Personally I don’t see this changing any time soon, if ever. Self-publishers are still widely viewed as unqualified interlopers to be avoided, denigrated, and even obliterated.
This is the insider secret that really isn’t a secret. Amazon is basically in a war with almost all traditional publishers and distributors, since, for one thing, it’s seen as “enabling” so many authors to break into the market, circumventing traditional avenues. Indie authors are frequently casualties of this conflict, caught in the crossfire of a raging battle for dominance.
All most of us want is an audience for our work, the bigger the better, of course, but any platform beats having no outlet for one’s passion whatsoever.
Sure, many if not all books benefit from some editorial processing and objective tweaking before hitting the market. That’s only fair to the consumers. This is why, as an indie, you need to take this responsibility seriously, if you want to be taken seriously, at least by those you’re expecting to subsidize your dreams with their patronship.
As for the condescending attitudes of those that resent your independence, look at it this way: they’re dealing with some pretty harsh rejection, too, and hits them right where it hurts most: their bottom lines.
That’s how the business works these days. If you can’t deal with it, do something else. But progress never accommodates caution, nor does it reward cowardice.