We’re just as published as you are.

Today I came across a post stating that self-published writers can’t really say that they’re published, because self-publishing is so “easy” and doesn’t require the same amount of work that goes into traditional publishing, and only writers with books published by traditional publishing houses can ever have the “PUBLISHED” label slapped onto their foreheads. As a self-published writer, I have to say that I was a bit miffed (okay I was more than a bit miffed) and indignant. To think that all this time I’ve been calling myself a published writer only to find that I’m actually not according to some people. My eye twitched.

I guess it’s easy to look down on self-published writers because they might not know what the process entails. But we are published writers. We are also editors, proofreaders, cover designers, marketers, campaign managers, e-book designers, social media experts and publishers.

Sure there may be some (well alright, many) people who don’t put any effort in their novels and publish them the moment they’ve finished writing and putting together a careless cover, but that doesn’t mean the rest are like them. During my time on WordPress, I’ve come across people who revise their work three, four and even five times, agonizing over every single detail and losing sleep to try and make sure their work is as perfect as can be. Many can’t afford editors or designers, so they have to do all the work themselves. It’s an exhausting and emotionally draining process, to say the least, because self-published writers control every aspect of their way to publishing, thus any mistake will ultimately come back to them.

Just because we’re self-published doesn’t mean we’re lazy or that our work sucks. “If you really want to be taken seriously, you need to go down the traditional route,” they say. But really… it’s easier said than done. These days it feels like traditional publishing is about being in the right place and at the right time, or about writing what’s currently popular in the market. There are so many agents and publishing houses out there, but yet it’s become increasingly difficult to land a publishing deal.

With so many people writing these days (thanks to NaNoWriMo and other such competitions), agents and publishing houses probably need to be more selective. They probably pick out one author out of hundreds… and where does that leave the rest? Should they just keep querying all the time despite the possibility that they may never receive a single “Yes”, or should they try to self-publish instead?

It should be noted that self-publishing is definitely NOT the easy way out. We do not have a whole professional team backing us up. It’s just us and what little help we can get. It’s hard and time-consuming, but we do it because we want our work to be read by others. We’re not in it for the money, but rather for the satisfaction of knowing that we did it. We became published writers.

What’s your take on this? Has anyone told you that you’re not really published before?

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40 thoughts on “We’re just as published as you are.

  1. Getting traditionally published is basically a crap shot now. You are definitely right when you say right place right time. I also think this new YA storm that has hit is also making it more difficult for people who don’t write YA to get published. I don’t mean the YA is a good genre, I just mean that the public wants YA so that’s what agents are scooping up. However, I am seeing some agents on Twitter and on their own websites complain that they are tired of the YA books that have been written a million times over. So, maybe there will be a shift in the publishing industry soon, but not likely.

    • Ah yes, I’ve noticed that most new releases are YA novels… and these too are mostly about vampires and werewolves and other supernatural elements. I would most definitely prefer something fresh, but I wonder just how much influence agents have on these kinds of things. After all, they know what publishing houses want best. =/

  2. There most certainly is a snobbery out there – I have read self-published stuff that should never have seen the light of day–then I have read self-published stuff that is just excellent–and that is what you are talking about.
    I have also read stuff published by major publishing houses that should never have seen the light of day–thus it is a wash.
    Self-publishers have to be motivated and smart and quick and their own promoters–tell me what is lazy about that?

    • Yes! There are so many traditionally published novels that make you wonder how on Earth did their authors get publishing deals. It just doesn’t make sense to me. And there’s nothing lazy about that at all. If you’re going to be lazy, then you’re not a good author in the first place.

  3. OMG!!! I read this article yesterday. What a coincidence.

    I was furious to think that some people consider self-publishing not hard enough. You couldn’t have put it better!!! When I started writing, I never imagined the amount of work that needed to be done to be self-published. I was fortunate to have some skills in design and being able to get around Photoshop. I have designed my covers, edited my work more than I ever thought possible and you want to talk about work? Marketing the book, that takes time and work. I was lucky to find a professional editor for my short story that I could afford. Which, by the way, know that I think about it.. was it you that left the review? I think so! Thank you so much for that!

    • Yes, exactly! People think it’s so easy, but there’s a lot of work to be done in order to get a book out and actually get people to notice it and buy it. I just wish other people appreciated that more. And yes, it was me. You’re very welcome – it was a lovely story. =D

  4. The book industry now expects new writers to have an internet following before they will take you on. If you send in your work to the ‘publishing gatekeepers’ they will ask if you have had a good response/following online.

    This is why I can’t see how it is worth your time sending your work to them in the first place. If the real test of a good writer (even in the eyes of agents/editors) is whether or not readers on the internet have had a good response to your work, isn’t self-publishing the natural way to go?

    • That’s a really good point. How can one know what the response will be to their books if they haven’t already published something and shown themselves capable of promoting and marketing their book and gathering an audience? At least self-published have some experience!

  5. My friends have been really supportive of my self-publishing adventure, which is really great. I think the only time self-publishing *doesn’t* count as real publishing is if you’re one of those people who writes a book, reads it once to make sure there aren’t any glaring errors, and then publishes it without further ado. Real publishing requires time, effort, and quality — and if you fulfil those criteria, then your book is really published.

    • It’s great that your friends are supportive! And yes, I quite agree. Unfortunately, these people are the ones who give the GOOD self-published authors a bad name. =[

  6. Being self-published forced me to spend all day chasing after people who couldn’t care less, and that finally made me feel like I was constantly picking up that bar of soap in the prison shower, pardon my French. I had to give it up and start considering trad pub, but those self-pubbers who even enjoy marketing and sales remain objects of my admiration. The trad-pub snobs need to get their noses out of the air. If I ever become any kind of trad-pub name writer, I promise that I’ll speak out on this very issue, because my views won’t have changed.

    • Interesting analogy! I wish you good luck if you decide to pursue traditional publishing, and I really do hope you speak out on this debate, because more people need to be made aware that self-publishing is not really children’s play.

  7. Don’t forget it can get expensive to go the self-publishing route. And it’s certainly not a way to “get rich” with any kind of speed (despite the stories I’ve heard). I wouldn’t go any other way, though. Self-publishing just feels like a natural part of my writing process. I give birth to a story, I want to raise it until it’s ready to stand on it’s own in the world.

    • It is definitely expensive. If you want to make sure your book is of decent quality, you have to be ready to shell out some money. And that’s a nice way to put it! I admit that I’ve looked at my books as children too. =]

  8. I tried traditional for a few months, then said…forget this! Soliciting agents and reading one automated decline email after another was not exactly encouraging.

    Self-publishing is definitely hard work. The thing I like most about it is having complete artistic control over the project–nobody else telling me to change my title or my main character’s name. Now I don’t have to punch anyone in the face.

    • I know what you mean. I tried querying agents too, and ultimately the rejections become too annoying. I think agents sometimes tend to reject books that may be too different from the books in the market, which is ridiculous really.
      And I agree! I’ve heard that traditionally-published authors don’t have a say in many things, which must suck really.

  9. I completely agree. In a self-publishing option vs. traditional publisher, the author does all of the work. The writers that don’t put as much work into the cover design, format, editing, etc. is what gives self-publishing a bad name. But I am always proud of, and definitely interested in, reading works by a self-published author. I understand the work that goes into it. And many times, it can be more profitable than a traditional publisher of you are willing to, and good at, marketing yourself. Great post. :-)

    • And unfortunately that bad name has kinda stuck. I just hope that new writers take care to polish their book as much as possible before releasing them, because maybe then people will start regarding us as inferior. Thank you for the comment; I’m glad you like the post! =]

  10. Great post, Zen. We are certainly not lazy. Doing my own editing with only minimal outside help was agonizing at times. Formatting brought its own headaches. There are costs involved. It takes a lot of work to become self-published, and I admire all self-published writers.

    • Definitely not. I challenge any traditionally published writer to come and do the work we do then dare to call us lazy. And formatting is always an absolute nightmare! I still haven’t managed to get past Smashwords’ defenses!

  11. It seems to me that being picked my by a publisher is like rolling dice. I’ve read some terrible traditionally published books of late. What are those publishing houses thinking? This sounds like one of those high school clique groups and I wouldn’t want to be a member.

  12. Thanks for posting this, Zen. It’s a very interesting subject! Most traditional publishing houses are watching the self-published authors to see who rises to the top. They don’t have to do all the work anymore because it’s already done by the time they pick up a new author. Self-publishing in my eyes is like doing the hard yards (the apprenticeship)
    .
    I’ve self-published and also been published by mainstream publishers and I prefer self-publishing – it gives me a lot more freedom (and I actually see the money coming in which is always a plus!)

    • I’ve noticed that! All the bestselling self-published authors seem to be immediately snatched up by publishing houses.

      You’re right about self-publishing offering freedom. I’ve heard that you’re not even allowed to decide on your cover when you’re traditionally published. =/

      • No – they decide the cover.

        It’s a very interesting subject because I believe the agents are getting a little edgy. If the publishing houses can just ‘scoop the cream off the top’ agents may find it hard to continue they way they are.

  13. That’s just ridiculous. ‘Published’ means that it’s publicly available, which a book is, no matter if a publishing house made it available or the author him- or herself did so. Don’t let that kind of snobbish behaviour get under your skin. I think all self-publishing authors – the ones who really work for it and make their book(s) the best it (they) can be – are very brave and have to learn a lot and deal with a lot of very different things, and I admire anyone who goes through that process!

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