For many years, self-publishing has been viewed as a tool for authors who couldn’t sell their work to traditional publishers for a myriad of reasons. Perhaps the work wasn’t good enough or the genre they wrote in was a hard genre for a publisher to sell. For whatever reason, self-publishing was a last-ditch effort made by those who wanted to see their work in print but couldn’t get through the traditional publishing obstacles.
With the advent of the e-reader and the competitive royalty rates provided by companies such as Amazon, Barnes and Noble and many others, self-publishing has changed the publishing world. Some may not say for the better, but others would beg to differ.
I came into self-publishing merely by accident. Call me ignorant, but at the time I finished my first book in December of 2011, I didn’t even know what a query was. I had no idea you needed an agent before you could get a publisher. I didn’t even know people could upload their work to e-reader platforms and actually sell them. I didn’t know, because I never actually thought I’d write a book.
Once I finished the manuscript, I had no idea what to do with it. I never intended to turn writing into a career. At the time it was a hobby I did because I loved to write. I wanted to give the manuscript to my mother as a Christmas gift, but soon all the rest of my friends and family wanted to read it. I researched online to find the easiest way to distribute it to all of them without having to use my own money to print them out, when I came across Kindle Direct Publishing. I researched everything about it for days, learning all about the traditional publishing route vs. self-publishing. At the time, I myself even thought self-publishing was a last resort. But since I had no intentions of getting the book published, I went with it. I uploaded the file to Amazon and notified everyone I knew wanted to read it via Facebook. I made the book free for a few days and had almost 5,000 downloads. After a week, reviews started coming in and it lit a desire in me that I didn’t even know was there. All I could think about was writing more, so I began my second manuscript, Point of Retreat.
Each morning I would wake up and look at my sales numbers. I remember calling my mother once the book was no longer eligible for the free promo and yelling, “I made six dollars today! Six people bought my book!” It was so surreal that I had put something out there and people were actually enjoying it and writing to tell me about how much they enjoyed it. It was like living a dream I never even knew I had.
After a few months, word of mouth spread and my self-marketing skills were put to the test. I wasn’t a big fan of shoving the books down people’s throats, so that was hard for me. Instead, I took to blogging and saw a huge response each time I would post a blog. I decided to use my blog as my marketing tool, offering giveaways and posting blogs every few days. After only five months of the books being for sale, they both hit THE NEW YORK TIMES bestsellers list.
Taking into consideration that it was never a goal of mine to see my books on shelves or have them printed by a publisher, I can’t say that I ever let the stigma of self-publishing bother me. Sure, there were comments I would see here and there from people stating they wouldn’t read the book simply because it was self-published, but I felt that mind-frame was their loss, not mine. I have read a lot of self-published books that I’ve enjoyed and for readers to limit themselves simply because they’ve had a bad experience or can’t let go of the stigma, they are only limiting themselves.
I read one comment from a reader on a blog who stated that self-published books were the “backwash” of literature. I found this sad because, while this reader may have had bad experiences years ago when this may have been the case, many reputable writers are now choosing self-publishing over traditional publishing because it gives them more control and better royalty rates.
I never check if a book I’m about to read is self-published or published. To be honest, most of the time I don’t know the difference if the quality is good. And that’s the key…self-published authors are offering a service to readers in the same way that traditional published authors are. A good editor, cover designer and good formatting are keys to help readers let go of the negative stigma associated with self-publishing. When a self-published author doesn’t take pride in their work and just slaps a book up for sale that isn’t even close to being ready for publication…it reinforces the notion that self-published books are of a lower standard.
As a writer, I will always remember that as much as I view this as a hobby…readers are forking over their hard-earned money to read my work and I should respect that fact by putting forth my best effort.
I appreciate and respect both self-publishing and traditional publishing, as I have different works under both aspects of the industry. I have had a great experience with traditional publishing and a great experience going at it on my own. It’s my hope that soon the stigma of self-publishing will be long-forgotten and the focus will be on the writer and the story, and less on the means in which it is produced.
I, personally, don’t have a preference between the two. I make choices based on each manuscript that I write and how I feel that manuscript can best reach the readers. And as for the reader who still believes that self-published works are the “backwash” of literature, I hope they realize that not everyone is looking for the finest sip. As an author, I don’t write to impress the elite or even to educate or inform. I write to simply entertain. As long as there are still readers who want to be entertained, I will be writing, no matter the way in which I choose to publish.
Colleen Hoover. Writer. Mother. Ninja. Wife. Avett Fanatic. Hardcore Realist. Author of the New York Times Best Selling, SLAMMED.
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