Today, Blake Atwood is writing a guest post about his journey with self-publishing, AND I’m over at his blog – http://www.blakeatwood.com/ with five pieces of wisdom about my self-publishing process and driving a stick-shift. But before you head there, check out Blake’s wisdom below. It’s good stuff.
Whenever I talk to someone new about my book, I become like a first-time attendee at an AA meeting:
I’m exuberant while talking about my book, but I say that last phrase without looking the other person in the eye. The words “self-publisher” barely escape my lips, said in such a whisper that I’m fairly certain some people think I’m an “elf-publisher” and only release Christmas-related titles.
When these conversations happen, I spend an inordinate amount of time considering how I can talk about my book without fully disclosing that it’s self-published. People undoubtedly ask, “Who did you publish with?” I quietly answer, “I self-published,” but shame sours my words.
And I hate this about me.
Self-publishing is not a badge of shame, a concession to defeat, or an easy route to writing a book. (There are no easy routes.) As technology enables lone individuals to craft, create, distribute, and market their own books, self-publishing is an incredibly viable means to see your book live, or even to pursue the high calling of a writing career. Furthermore, it cuts in half the amount of time it takes for your words to get to market, as well as providing better royalties to authors. (There are a number of better benefits to self-publishing, many of which I cover in “Why Should I Self-Publish?”)
So why the shame about self-publishing?
Because there’s still a stigma attached to it, despite this stigma ebbing with every passing day and every new Hugh Howey-like success story. I assume that the general public still considers self-publishing to be an also-ran, a runner-up, a “You tried hard, but your writing wasn’t accepted, so now you’re self-publishing” kind of issue. My shame stems from that assumption. I simply don’t want friends, family, and online connections to think I’m a hack writer because I self-published.
Let’s look at three reasons people may equate “self-published” with “wannabe writer.”
1. A majority of self-published books are terrible.
Yes, an immense amount of self-published drivel exists. However, an immense amount of traditionally published drivel exists too. Just think about that one novel you read in high school that you still remember because of how atrociously bad it was. (Return of the Native anyone?) So, being lumped in with bad writers can’t be an excuse. Whether you self-publish or traditionally publish, you will belong to a group where other bad writers live and move and somehow have their being.
2. Self-publishing is the easy way out.
Anyone who thinks this has never written a book. Although technology makes publishing easier, there still remains an immense amount to learn in order to create, distribute, and market a book product that people want to buy, read, and share with their friends. Self-publishing is by no means easy, even though the general public may think it’s as simple as typing a few hundred words a day and uploading your file to Amazon. Self-publishing, like the craft of writing itself, is hard, hard work. The general public will not understand this, but you should take pride in the fact of a job well done through consistent hard work.
3. Your writing wasn’t good enough to be chosen.
Some may assume that a self-published author’s words simply weren’t engaging enough to attract a traditional publisher. What this really means is that the author’s book may have been passed over for a number of reasons: the publishing house doesn’t pursue that genre, an agent doesn’t think there’s a market for that particular kind of book, there’s no room in their current catalog of books, etc. Regardless of the answer, and they can be legion, being accepted by a traditional publisher means that a few people like your book well enough.
In my humble opinion, it takes more courage to release a self-published book because you’re essentially pitching your book to thousands of people. Let the court of public opinion tell you whether or not you’re a good writer. Don’t wait on the publishing powers-that-be to tell you if you’re a hack writer or not. Do the best that you can with the skills and knowledge you have, then release your book six months after you’ve written it. Amazon, GoodReads, Kobo, and iBooks will then tell you if a market exists for your book, if your writing is engaging, and whether or not there’s room in the world for your particular point of view. (Hint: there is.)
Your book may flop or it may fly. Regardless, at least you haven’t wasted six months to a year waiting to be accepted by one or two people. Instead, you’ve come full circle through the cycle of self-publishing. No matter the success of your book, you’re ready to start on the next one because you’ve learned so much in the process. And that process, if you’re a writer through and through, is addictive.
I’ll make a deal with you. The next time I tell someone about my book, I’ll declare its self-published nature with a loud and clear voice, my eyes boring holes into theirs. If they seem to balk at those words, I’ll ask further questions to see what they really think about self-published books, then I’ll set them straight as to the error of their assumptions.
If you’re self-published, or are considering going that route, I want you to do the same. Together we can sway the court of general opinion one reader at a time. Declare yourself a self-publisher with head held high, then hand them a copy of your book and ask them to decide for themselves whether your book deserves to sit alongside any other in their personal library.
Instead of allowing “self-publishing” to be a source of shame, let your written words be your pride.
Now it’s your turn: have you experienced this kind of hesitancy when talking about your self-published book? How did you handle it?
Blake Atwood is the SELF-PUBLISHED author of The Gospel According to Breaking Bad and currently blogs about writing and self-publishing at BlakeAtwood.com. Sign up for his email list and get The Self-Publisher’s Checklist: 33 Essential Questions to Ask Yourself Before Self-Publishing as an immediate download.