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Beating the Self-Published Book Stereotype

At the risk of being exceptionally un-PC, stereotypes often exist for a reason.

Before you jump down my throat for saying that, let me add this: Many of those reasons are more about the stereotyper than the stereotypee.

For instance, it might be jealousy or ignorance or exploitation behind the negative opinion. Someone is unhappy with their lot in life, they’re not properly educated about somebody else’s lot in life, or they want to degrade somebody else for personal gain.

Honestly, I think it’s normally the latter. We all want to feel better about ourselves, and it’s all too easy to do that at someone else’s expense. So there’s that.

However, when it comes to self-published authors (which I am) and self-published books (which I have)… there might be a little more to it than that.

I’m not saying I agree with all of it. I’d be a rotten or ridiculous hypocrite if I did.

All I’m saying is that I understand the criticism. Because there’s some serious validity to some of it.

Now, before I go any further, I have to clear one thing up. The notion that authors are only legitimate if they have a traditional publisher backing them is nonsense.

There are plenty of traditional authors out there who put out absolute drivel, after all. They’re in it for the money or the fame alone. Maybe both. Or perhaps they’re just too full of their own opinions to know how to back their beliefs very well.

Whatever it is, it shows in their writing nonetheless.

Even so, their writing does have a certain polished quality that so many self-published presentations lack. Hence this week’s Writing Challenge, perhaps better classified as a warning.


Don’t feed into the self-published stereotype.

Self-published books have a negative reputation in many literary circles, especially among traditional publishing crowds. While it’s often professional snobbery and/or territorialism at work, there are other reasons to be less than impressed by this new-school way of doing things.

It might not be inaccurate to say that most self-published books are poorly written, poorly edited, poorly formatted and/or poorly presented. That’s because their authors aren’t experts at those tasks. Which makes sense. But there are steps to take to appear much more like a pro.


That last line is the good news. The bad news is that it’s probably going to cost you some money.

In order to make sure that your self-published books are well-written, well-edited, well-formatted and well-presented… you’re going to have to involve other people. And other people usually cost money.

As I said in Tuesday’s post, I learned how to format and design my own book covers. And I did that specifically so I wouldn’t have to pay someone else.

But when it comes to editing, there’s no self-guided substitution available.

There may be a free option. If you’re a naturally good writer who’s a trained editor with a sister who delivers brutally accurate evaluations, you’re in luck. She’ll tear into your work like it’s her paid job – even though you’re not giving her a dime.

That’s the thing though: You need someone who will evaluate what you’ve got. Someone else. Someone who’s not in your head seeing what you think you put down oh-so eloquently and engagingly on paper.

No matter how open-minded and well-meaning we are, we’re all prisoners of our own perspectives to some degree or another. That’s why we need other opinions to help us polish what we put together. And when it comes to something as long-winded as a book, we need professional opinions.

That’s why most traditionally published books have at least a veneer of professionalism about them. Because they involve editorial input.

So if you want to play with the big boys in this regard, you have to pay up. Or at least beg your big sister to take pity on you and evaluate what you’ve got.

That’s how you defeat the self-published book stereotype. Either that, or you feed into it.



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