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Sidestepping The Stigma Of Self-Publishing By Colleen Hoover

Sidestepping the Stigma of Self-Publishing by Colleen Hoover

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.

Not anymore. 
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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This Post Has 40 Comments
  1. What a great article! Thank Colleen!.

    I think that it is sad that there are people out there who will not read self-published stories! I have to say, that one of my absolute all-time favourite books is self-published (it just happens to be a Colleen Hoover book, but that is beside the point). Many of my acquaintances would be raising their eyebrows at this comment coming from me, as they are confused about my stand on this point. I WILL read self-published books, but I prefer to read ones that are actually available in paperback. I like having the actual book – even if I do read it electronically. Sadly though (for me), not all self-published authors go down the track of having printed copies available – maybe that is something you should consider if you are self-published (thanks Colleen for being a printed self-published author).

    I could not agree more with the comment “A good editor, cover designer and good formatting are keys to help readers let go of the negative stigma associated with self-publishing.” As someone who does editing, copy-editing, proof-reading and formatting for a living, I find it completely distracting if I am reading a story with errors. For me, it ruins what could have been a perfectly good book. I don’t feel good editing is such a hard thing for a self-published author to achieve – if you cannot afford to pay a professional, find a friend who is good at that type of thing, find a skilled fan that would be happy to lend a hand, find a random person on Goodreads if you have too. There are many people out there that would be happy to help you out! I feel the same about a good cover too. I know finding someone to create a cover for free wouldn’t be as easy as proof-reading, but there are a lot of people out there that do not charge a lot. Have a look around on the internet – you don’t need to go to a full-time, professional designer to get a good cover, there are many people out there that are skilled and doing it as a part-time job, hobby, or even students – all of which may be able to create a cover at a reasonable cost – a cover that actually reflects your story, and makes people want to read it! (yes, we all judge a book by its cover).

  2. It seems like Colleen is also so successful at doing this on her own because she can get personal with her intended readers. She comes across as down to earth, reachable and funny as hell! Commenting to her directly and not a publishing house or agent is crazy fun. You become a die hard fan when you believe your author reads your comments and not just going out to the universe.

  3. Great post! I’m wondering if you had a big online presence prior to your first book? You said you told people about it on FB then had 5,000 downloads – that’s a ton!!! Good for you. Happy for your success and thanks for sharing some of your insider knowledge of the indie world 🙂

  4. Thanks for this post, Colleen. Slammed is one of the books that inspired me to really consider writing and self-publishing a novel. I appreciate your willingness to be open about your experience. So happy for your success!

  5. Thank you for posting Colleen and congratulations on your success that continues to grow! Self publishing and marketing is a difficult task, much more difficult than I had imagined it would be, but it is a learning and growing experience that continues to enrich my life. It seems that everytime I feel doubt I see a post like yours…and that tells me something, to keep going! I started with one book and now about to finish the third. The way that creativity begins to flood one’s mind involuntarily is astounding! Best of luck to you and I can’t wait to read Hopeless! 🙂

  6. I agree with you that the best way to discount the stigma is that authors who self published take the time needed in producing a good product for their readers. Also looking at this as a career, a profession, not as a means to make a quick profit.

    Thank you for sharing, I will say that one of the roadblocks for many is not the lack of desire to produce a good product, but possibly the lack of means…Are there free or discounted avenues for those that wish to take care and produce a good proudct, but their budget is small?

    1. Thanks, jkb. I actually did not hire an editor for my first two books, as I had no intention for things to go the way they did. I do now, though. I learned the hard way and believe that a quality cover and good formatting/editing is a must.

  7. Colleen, congratulations on writing fabulous books and your success! I am a big cross-reader, traditional and indie authors, I don’t care, I just want a good story. I will say, there is something I love about that edgy fresh indefinable quality that indie authors bring to the table, but I have always loved indie music and indie movies…

  8. I’m old enough to remember when self-publishers would spend thousands of dollars for printing, only to watch boxes of books moldering in the garage because the marketing tools just weren’t readily available. However, I’m young enough to be open-minded to the ways the internet has changed the world and the way we disseminate information (Shout out if you remember Gopher and 28.8 kbit/s!).

    I’ve purchased trad published books that were trash and loaded with errors and indie published books that were wonderful reads.

    But I think one of the greatest advantages of ebooks is for those of us who are dyslexic. For whatever reason, we (or, at least, a fair number of us) seem to be able to read eInk easier than physical print. Enjoy physical books, but won’t be giving up my eReader any time soon.

  9. I really enjoyed this article, thank you so much for sharing. And I am in total agreement with putting your best quality work out there, no matter how it’s published. Never settle for mediocrity, is what I’m always saying to anyone who will listen, lol. Like any job, we need to take pride in the quality of writing we produce, and that includes editing and proofing and presentation. Thanks for an awesome post!

  10. This question comes for JJ Toner over on Facebook:

    How can I get reviews of my eBook posted to Amazon before the book has been released? Colleen has over 4,000 reviews of her latest book on Amazon and it’s not due for release until May!

    1. Yes, Ali. There isn’t a way to get a book reviewed on Amazon. My paperback was signed with a publisher, so the reviews are actually for the ebook. I released two books early last year and they don’t have near the number of reviews as Hopeless does, and it’s only been out two months. I think the reason for the substantial number of reviews on that one is because it sat at #1 on the Amazon kindle store for three weeks and sold more books than my first two.

  11. Since Im moderating – Ill tackle a few until Colleen can stop by.

    Feather – if you dont do select, ometimes you can get book to go free by getting amazon to price match others – but its no guarantee

    Lisa – biblicrunch (miral is a speaker later today) is a great resource. They vet professionals like this, you set a budget and upload project you need done, and they match you with someone they trust.

    Others – NOt sure what Colleen would say but Colleen’s book is awesome and is very high quality. Sometimes hitting list is a matter of timing but she has a great following of loyal readers.

  12. I’m still getting that look from others when I say I self-published. My first book released last month and the going is slow, but it’s going. The reason I decided to go it on my own was simply because so many agents said my story wouldn’t sell because the hero is a professional football player.

    You said you offered it for free, so I’m assuming you did the KDP Select option. Have you found that worth the exclusivity Amazon requires for the first 90 days?

    Melanie Macek

  13. Thanks, Colleen,
    I’m looking at self-publishing in a different light now. I would also like to know how you got from Kindle to the NYT list.

  14. You know, something I’ve noticed about self-pub or indie titles is that they usually have more passion behind them. It’s evident the author is still in love with the story. They haven’t been beaten into shaping it for “publishing molds”. This shows through the prose, and it leaves me thinking–often, even when stories aren’t as fine tuned, they are better books.

  15. “A good editor, cover designer and good formatting are keys to help readers let go of the negative stigma associated with self-publishing.” So true! Thanks for a great post. I hope more and more readers come around and that authors who Indie publish remember that the quality of their product impacts not only their reputation, but that of Indie authors as a whole.

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