Is self-publishing stigma still valid, or is it now nonsense?

Somebody once told me there was a stigma attached to self-publishing. Before I was told that, I had not felt any stigma or considered it to be a barrier towards DIY publishing. In fact, I was rather excited about the whole idea.

Stigma, in my experience, is what you feel depending on who you are talking to and what position you feel you have in relation to society. People don’t always intend to stigmatise independent authors, and how they decide to buy books is based on their definition of what constitutes a good book and this does not have to simply be the case of who the book was published by. Sometimes it is whether the reader has heard of an author or publisher, which makes the reader assume the books must have quality, either because of a well-known author or publisher was involved with its creation.

However, sometimes stigma is intentional, and it can make independent authors feel as if they are shunned or that nobody will accept them or their books because they were published independently. Behind the cloud of raw emotion the independent author may feel, there are often many reasons why people stigmatise others. Sometimes it’s by older-generation writers, who never had the chance or freedom to self-publish their writing as we do in this age; or those involved in the book business who were happy with the way books were published and refuse to adapt to the changing landscape of publishing, where unfamiliar authors crop up all the time in what could be seen as a disorderly system. Some authors who are traditionally published could be forced to compete with numerous independent authors for their readership, and they may be bitter about this.

What form does stigma take? In person, stigma can involve people ignoring you, acting as if you are not there, showing you the “cold shoulder”, or being abrupt with you if you politely ask them a question about books in general. Online it could involve a series of negative reviews that don’t appear to be constructive, triggered by jealously or with the aim of crushing the competition so that only group-approved books become successful.

In my three and a half years as an independently published author, I have not come up against nearly as much stigma as I have friendly competition from other independently published authors. There are book-zones I am wary of, which aren’t typically as accessible to independent authors, and if I was going to approach one of these zones I would have to be more careful. On that same note, when promoting yourself, you should always be careful with your approach regardless.

Is self-publishing stigma still valid, or is it now nonsense?

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About Alex James

Alex James is a freelance editor, proofreader, author and book reviewer who has a passion for science-fiction and fantasy! His writing focuses on the themes of alienation and empowerment and is inspired by his experience with Asperger Syndrome. Other sources of inspiration include Star Wars, R Scott Bakker, Isaac Asimov.

2 Responses to Is self-publishing stigma still valid, or is it now nonsense?

  1. Tracy Falbe says:

    I think you’re correct in that some people who work at publishing companies feel that their special realm of importance is threatened by self publishers. Those who hold the keys to a kingdom don’t want to see people tunneling under the walls. As for readers, many people simply want to pick out a book that sounds interesting and don’t care about its origin. Another portion of people will automatically attach a stigma to a self published title because they dislike seeing people do things for themselves, especially without the permission of others. This bold action reminds them that have not tried to do anything and triggers jealousy. In my experience, there are always people who will put me down for pursuing a dream instead of doing nothing.

    • Alex James says:

      I agree, it is a shame when people don’t like doing things for themselves and castigate those who do. Proactive authors, however they happen to be published, should be applauded because they are an inspiration! The real shame is that by excluding authors they spread their negative vibes, and add yet more tension within the industry, which consequently means authors will build defensive walls and this silly and childish “I’m not speaking to them” attitude will continue. None of this helps readers navigate the book-world. I think if you shun other peoples’ success, you reduce your chances of having similar success.

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