The following was written in response to a query as to whether there was a real stigma attached to self publishing.
One has to question the “reason” behind the stigma of self publishing before taking it to heart I think. If the person making the statement believes that a self published author can never be deemed acceptable by the traditional publishing industry, then they are clearly mistaken. The bottom line is that if an author is selling well, then traditional publishers will be interested in signing them up for a book. Big publishers are not in the business of turning away marketable commodities.
However, it is harder for a small press author to get their works in front of a consumer long enough to get a sale, but it certainly isn’t impossible. I also consider the question of stigma one of pre-conceptions by an industry which revolves around taking someone else’s creation, and turning it into a marketable product. The very concept of small press and indie press companies flooding the marketplace with titles is a frightening one to them. It creates “confusion” in the marketplace, and removes a measure of their control over the industry. The more potential and existing authors who take this path, the less metaphorically hungry and desparate authors are willing to take a “bad” initial deal to get in the door.
The problem for the traditional publishers is it breaks up an ages old industry paradigm of patron and appreticeship, and lets individual authors potentially skip ahead of people who have been paying their dues for decades. I’ve had this discussion with a frequent New York Times selling author who exhibited an extrodinary amount of bile over the concept that someone might not do it “the right way” like they did.
Can traditional publishers help improve the work of an author, and promote their books to success in spite of them? Yes they can. Do traditional publishers have a lock on the global marketplace? Not anymore. Frankly speaking I don’t begrudge the traditional publishing model their methods or processes, but I have also accepted it is not way I want to pursue publishing. I’d rather sub-contract out any proofing, editing, design, etc. on my works and keep the publisher and author cut of profits for myself.
Is self publishing the way to make a small fortune? Certainly if you start with a large fortune it is, hehe. The creator simply has to consider what works best for what they want to achieve. Realize that rich self supporting authors either start from a position of celebrity, or create one through a publishing company as one of their top 1% of sellers. The rest get by on the scraps either way.
I was then queried on LinkedIn by a member where I had posted this response asking me to tell him a little bit more about Myth/Logic Press and my personal life. I sent the following message:
My company Myth/Logic Press is a sole proprietorship in the state of West Virginia with myself as the owner and only employee. My company website is http://mythlogicpress.com and consists of a blog used to promote my publications. Currently I have two novels of a fiction series in print since I formed my company one year ago (I’ve been working on those novels longer of course).
I started by wanting to be a writer as a young boy who loved to read fiction. Then I went to college at the University of Illinois where I studied Rhetoric, History, English, Classical Civilization, Astronomy, and Aviation. After I received my bachelor’s degree in Rhetoric, I looked for the first full time job I could get. I ended up working for an agency under the Department of Justice just because I needed the money to pay back my college loans.
One thing I also learned while getting a creative writing degree from several professors who had made a carreer of teaching writing, and an advocation of creating literary art. The writing business was dog eat dog back in the 1980s and early 1990s. There was no room for new talent that wasn’t either connected, famous, or extrodinarilly lucky to get a chance.
Thus I settled into my work-a-day job as a cog in the US government churning out documents as an analyst who makes a fairly decent income at it now after 19 years. Then about five years ago I started watching the new trends in self published creators in various fields becomming more successful than the “vanity press” authors of previous decades. People were starting to make money at it even if they weren’t becomming rich or the next major internationally known author.
I also watched the backlash which seemed to come from the established media industries such as newspapers, tv, film, and book publishing as web based content started drawing more and more attention away from traditional media sources. The gates had broken open, and it was possible to reach an audience in spite of traditional media resistence to the concept of independent content, and creator ownership.
In 2007 I started typing my first novel, and began writing my second novel in 2008. My second novel got finished first, and I published it in December 2010. My first novel has just gone into print in July 2011.
Right now I have no illusions of ever being a Stephen King, Tom Clancy, or even Sara Palin. They have celebrity, major marketing machines, and established reputations on their side. However, that doesn’t mean I can’t write the kinds of stories I want to write; invest my own time, effort, and money into them; and try to make enough of a profit to make it a legitimate success.
An unnamed author who has had several works on the New York Times best seller’s list over the years alluded to my personal efforts as “masturbatory” because I wasn’t doing it the traditional way. He also proclaimed without having seen a single page of my work that it couldn’t be “real writing” unless I was selling as many books as him, and making the kind of money he did at it. Personally I imagined that I smelled bitter fear and anger, and knew that self published authors were striking a blow against the old guard.
What was the fear? That creator owned content which they had sacrificed the ability to enjoy due to signing their metaphorical soul away to the big concerns in exchange for wealth and fame was finally becoming a viable model. Sure it had surfaced a decade earlier in the comic book industry, and in the web, but now it was also showing up on the major print retailers like Amazon.com.
Frankly like many other times in my past I had a gut feeling that the time was right to explore an opportunity which may or may not become something big for me. The opportunity to make a success of my boyhood dream on my own terms without selling my soul to a soulless process. I have no one else to blame for my failure if it happens, but I also get full credit for any success I manage to achieve.
Personally I’ve had a great learning experience already which I feel has made the attempt worth while. I still haven’t gotten to that break even point, but most small companies don’t in their first few years of operation. The only options I see are to quit with my tail between my legs, or to continue on the course I’ve set, and hope to find the new world.
I hope this helps.
Kelly R. Martin