In Defense of Self-Publishing

It’s been about a month since the release of No Perfect Time, my first venture into publishing on Smashwords. Rather than going the traditional route of pitching an idea to an established publisher, I opted to put everything together myself.

I briefly touch on my reasons for doing this in my podcast episode about the book, among them being that I wasn’t sure that any publisher would be interested in this type of book from anyone other than an already established figure. But I’ve also long been curious about the process of publishing a book myself: not just writing it, but being more hands-on with editing, formatting, cover design, and so on.

Thankfully, Smashwords has a pretty straightforward process for all of this. Pieces of it can be a little cumbersome (their formatting mechanism gave me some headaches), but overall I enjoyed doing it and it won’t be my last time going this route.

Unfortunately, self-publishing still has a stigma that surrounds it. Some see it as the route of those who aren’t good enough to be picked up the traditional way. Others point out the poor quality of many self-published books, either in substance or in formatting and assume that they’re all like that. So this stigma is self-inflicted and reinforced by those who don’t give nearly enough attention to quality.

I do think that self-publishing is still a worthwhile endeavor, for writers and readers alike. There are many diamonds out in the rough, and the search for them is worthwhile.

Consider, for instance, that some of the most beloved and often-read books were self-published. Books like The Tales of Peter Rabbit, The Martian, A Christmas Carol, and Paradise Lost were self-published. Some authors who self-publish have managed to make writing their career due to the success of doing things themselves. These are high quality books rather than the slapped-together junk that reinforces self-publishing’s reputation.

That slapped-together junk, by the way, can be found in any medium. For every Stranger Things and Orange is the New Black on Netflix, there are a dozen TV shows on that streaming service with awful stories and terrible acting. For every Marvel blockbuster and Best Picture nominee, there are so many more low budget straight-to-DVD movies in the dollar bin at Wal-Mart.

And yet at the same time, people in these other media are celebrated when they do things themselves. Music fans don’t shy away from indie labels or albums sold through Bandcamp or Soundcloud if they like what they hear. There are entire festivals dedicated to films made outside the big studios. The stigma doesn’t stick to independently made music and movies the way it seems to stick to books.

If we can take the time to separate the wheat from the chaff in these other areas, then self-publishing deserves the same consideration.

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