Remember one of my first articles I ever did? It was exactly one year ago to this day and it was called Self-Publishing: A Reviewer’s Perspective. While I didn’t exactly say self-publishing was a terrible thing that was ruining literature, my feelings about it were generally negative.
So, first off, let me say I’m sorry.
I’m sorry for judging self-published writers before I really knew what self-publishing involved. I’m sorry for judging self-published writers based on my very limited experience reading self-published books and a few big media incidents. I’m sorry that I jumped to conclusions and pretty much lumped all self-published authors together.
You’ll probably be wondering how I came to my new perspective on self-publishing. Let me say it wasn’t easy and it’s certainly not easy to admit on your public blog that you screwed up. But it’s the right thing to do. So here’s sort of how I changed my mind:
1. I read some amazing self-published books.
Before I wrote my piece I had very few good experiences with self-publishing in general. From reading books with tons of mistakes to watching self-published authors explode at reviewers who gave them bad reviews, you could say I had only seen the ugly side of self-publishing. That’s why I didn’t exactly support, but didn’t exactly dismiss the possibility of self-publishing having a good side. I just didn’t have the experience necessary to see the good side.
In the past year I’ve started reading a lot more self-published books and I found some great ones. Prophecy of the Most Beautiful by Diantha Jones, There Comes a Prophet by David Litwack and Starlet’s Web by Carla J. Hanna, just to name a few. Part of what helped me come to this stage of acceptance was reading awesome, well proofread and well-written books like these. The other part is that I realized no publisher would have even considered publishing these. Some of them are too unique and have unconventional stories, others are books that don’t conveniently fit into one category and thus could never be marketed easily.
And you know what? It would have been a terrible shame not to read any of these simply because I lumped all self-published authors together.
2. I actually spoke to a wide variety of self-published authors.
In a psychology class I took I learned that one of the most effective ways to end prejudice towards certain groups is to expose the prejudiced person to that group more frequently. It’s hard to hate something if you put a face to it. That’s why it was so easy for me to completely dismiss self-publishing as an absolute last resort: I didn’t really know that many self-published authors.
But then I started interviewing self-published authors and saw the reasons why they self-published. Some of them submitted their books to every publisher in the entire country and others just wanted to have control over the entire process. As a blogger, I can completely understand that. Here on The Mad Reviewer, while I generally stick to my book mandate I do occasionally stray from it if I feel like it. I might do a post about my vacation or on my birthday every year I’ll rant about something I feel passionate about but isn’t book-related. I love being in control; I completely understand how authors might want to control what their book cover looks like because some traditionally published authors get horrible book covers. It’s just little things like that that it’s nice to have control over.
Talking to self-published authors and hearing that some of them had been trying to get published for 10 years before they decided to self-publish really changed my viewpoint. I mean, most of these authors were great writers who should have been published in the mainstream. I’d read their books and loved them, but publishers either didn’t see the value in them or didn’t see a market for them (not that the two are mutually exclusive).
3. I learned more about the self-publishing community.
I’ve had some really bad experiences with self-published writers, but 99% of my experiences have been good. Obviously not all self-published writers are crazy people that will attack you online if you give them a bad review.
What I didn’t realize for a while is that the self-publishing community really, really hates when one of their own presents a bad image to the media by acting out. One entitled writer attacking a reviewer reflects badly on the whole self-publishing community. I applied that to my own life: what if one person in Saskatchewan was an alcoholic and suddenly everyone in Saskatchewan was perceived as being alcoholics? That’s not even a very good comparison because there are far more self-published authors than there are people in Saskatchewan.
As a reading public, we need to stop judging self-published authors by the loose cannons. One person going crazy shouldn’t ruin it for a generally well-behaved and supportive community. That took a long time for me to realize, but I’m definitely glad I did. It’s absolutely not right to judge a whole group by a few people.
In general, I’d say that the reading public is starting (very subtly) to shift toward something like acceptance toward self-publishing. Will it ever be on the same level as traditional publishing? That’s hard to say. There will always be the lemons in the community that ruin it for everyone else, but I think self-publishing is getting better. By ‘better’, I mean that there are way more resources out there for self-published writers and far more ways for them to get the word out.
We’ll know self-published books are mostly accepted when self-published authors are able to submit their books into big name awards like the Nebula, Newberry or Booker Prize. Will the mainstream accept self-publishing? In time, perhaps. For now, although I’m a relatively small-scale reviewer, everyone out there in the self-publishing community should know that you have one convert. Maybe in the future there will be more.