Self Publishing Stigma?

As I browse many self-publishing blogs and lists, it’s clear that there are varying viewpoints on self-publishing. Most self-publishers seem to see it as a business and publish with the intent of profit. That’s my motivation for every book I write or simply publish for someone else. As a one-person business, it’s critical that I handle every step as efficiently as possible, and that’s why I use POD (print on demand) printing. I handle all the writing and publicity on my books and use Createspace solely as a POD printer. On the books of others, I handle the layout and print file creation, but Createspace handles the printing and the fulfillment of all book orders leaving me free to do what I enjoy while still selling books.

The question is, does this process still involve a stigma? It would be great if the answer were no but, in spite of the ever growing popularity of self-publishing, it’s still viewed negatively by many. A good friend of mine still seems pessimistic about self-publishing even after publishing his book. I helped him publish, and the book turned out quite good even though it isn’t selling well because he hasn’t done any marketing. He is appreciative of my publishing help and the quality of his book but still seems to view self-publishing as a stigma. At dinner recently, after complimenting my wife on her children’s book, which I published in 2007, he said she needed to find a traditional (real) publisher to market it successfully. I know he meant well but, as publisher of the book, it bothered a little. Since it was high praise for the book and a wonderful evening, I avoided starting a discussion about the merits of self-publishing.

Obviously, my friend believes a traditional publisher would do things with my wife’s book that we didn’t do, perhaps not realizing that traditional publishers do little marketing for books by unknown authors. After a few preliminary actions, they turn it over to the author to market alone, unless he or she is famous. It’s true that traditional publishers have contacts with Bookstores across the country to place books quickly. What is also true is that all books placed in Bookstores are returnable if they don’t sell promptly, a serious problem for authors who receive advance payments.

I was learning when I published my wife’s book, and we both learned fast and worked hard to get her book noticed, including sending out press releases, contacting media, and conducting book signings. Because my wife is a retired educator, we went even further and collaborated with a reading specialist to create a Teacher’s Guide, which we made available for download to teachers at no cost. We followed that by contacting every school librarian in the state about the book and the Teacher’s Guide. We did manage to sell quite a few books, but it has never been a big seller. I don’t believe her book, “Lottie’s Adventure: Facing The Monster,” suffered because it was self-published.

Perhaps a professional publicist could have done more with it since I was just starting out at the time and lacked publicity experience, but another publisher was not the answer and still isn’t. As long as even some who self-publish continue to view it negatively, self-publishing will face a stigma. Nevertheless, if professionally done, self-publishing can equal and even exceed traditional publishing and some, admittedly few, self-publishers have already become millionaires and famous, in some cases receiving substantial offers from traditional publishers because of the fame. As I write this, there are four Smashwords, self-published ebooks on the New York Times Best Seller list. So, in spite of the stigma, it would seem that the most important thing about a book is still the quality. If it is informative or entertaining and well marketed, who published it isn’t important.

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