Why is there so much stigma around self-published authors, and yet a self-recorded musician is praised as a creative entrepreneur? Any fledgling, unsigned musician with “Garageband” can make a demo and post it on MySpace. No one looks down on them for doing so; in fact, many great bands have started out underground, collecting a following before signing a record deal.
It isn't just bands who are allowed to self-produce; writing and producing your own short film is considered cool. Self-publishing the novel you've given five years of your life to is considered pathetic.
Why does writing have to be legitimized by a publisher while music and movies are allowed to be independent? Is writing so hallowed that it takes finding a golden ticket to be admitted into its league of glorious prose?
What makes writing so special?
I once thought that self-published work must be inferior, just as many people still believe; if the book was any good, it would be bought by a "real" publisher. Now that I am a “real” publisher, I’ve discovered that the reasons people self-publish are far more complicated than they couldn’t find a publisher. Many writers love the control self-publishing gives them. The author makes all of the decisions and keeps all the earnings. She decides how the book will look and how it will be marketed; for control nuts, it's the only way to go. Others might dream of being discovered by a big publishing company, but rather than sit around and wait for that day to come, they self-publish their book and start finding readers. Many self-published books are just too niche oriented or controversial for a publisher to be willing to take a risk on. And sometimes the book really is just plain awful, but the author believes in her book so much she is willing to stake her life savings on it. You have admire that kind of dedication.
After publishing Laura Fogg’s book, Traveling Blind; Life Lessons from Unlikely Teachers, I decided to write a hand book for people interested in starting their own press. I self-published What You Need to Know to Be a Pro: The Start-Up Business Guide for Publishers, because it seemed ridiculous to ask someone else to publish it for me, like I was ashamed of the work my own press produced. But self-publishing my book groups me with self-published authors, which in the hierarchy of the book world, drops me to a lower status, regardless of the fact I am one of those “real” publishers. Does starting my own press and self-publishing my book make me a loser, or an entrepreneur?
If I had started a band, I’d be a punk rock star.