Self-publishing by any other name

A trend has developed when I talk about SARAH & KATY AND THE IMAGINATION BLANKETS with friends, acquaintances, and complete strangers.

The conversation usually starts something like this:

PERSON: Wow! You wrote a book? Is it for sale anywhere?

ME: Yeah, it’s for sale online right now through the CreateSpace store and on Amazon. I’m working to get it on local bookstore shelves, too.

PERSON: So who published it?

ME: I did.

PERSON: Oh, it’s self-published? That’s cool.

Once they hit the word “self-published,” their smile becomes a bit forced, and “That’s cool” is code for, “That’s not a real book if you’ve self-published.”

It’s true that self-publishing can be a hairy industry. There are no quality control measures to prevent independent authors from pushing unedited, poorly constructed material into the marketplace.

Self-publishing is the writing industry’s version of the digital camera. These days, everybody and their grandmother can say they’re a photographer because there is a low barrier to get professional equipment. Access to a camera doesn’t make a person a great photographer; likewise, the accessibility of self-publishing doesn’t make some a quality writer.

But I also happen to know a great many talented, artistic people who self-taught themselves to handle a camera pretty darn well. They don’t identify themselves as photographers, but the accessibility to the equipment created opportunity. They dabbled, and it led to great things.

The accessibility to self-publishing means we may have to shake the pan a little harder to separate the dirt and pebbles from the gold, but it also leaves the opportunity for more gold to be found in the literary market.

Still, it’s hard to shake the self-published author stigma. People hear the words “self-published” and equate it with “poor quality.” That is a hard mountain to scale, particularly for independent authors who hire professional artists and editors.

As I noticed the conversation trend, I started steering future conversations a different direction. Exhibit A:

PERSON: Wow. You wrote a book? Is it for sale anywhere?

ME: Yeah. I decided to publish independently, so it’s not available in bookstores yet, although it should be on local shelves soon. The easiest place to get it right now is through Amazon, or I have a link on my website you can follow to purchase it.

PERSON: Awesome. What’s the title? I’ll have to search for it on Amazon.

I’ve stopped namedropping CreateSpace, and I’ve adopted the word “independent.” For some reason, being an indie author is more acceptable than being a self-published author. Perhaps the rising popularity of the Indie Film Festival has lent legitimacy to the idea of being an independent artist of any sort.

Guy Kawasaki and Shawn Welch, authors of APE: AUTHOR, PUBLISHER, ENTREPRENEUR, are trying to get the phrase “artisanal publishing” to take off in the industry. I have to confess, the phrase has a certain glamour and prestige to it. It feels almost superior.

Traditional publishing? Through a major publishing house? Pshaw. I insist on artisanal publishing.”

On their website,, Kawasaki and Welch write:  “Artisanal publishing features writers who love their craft, and who control every aspect of the process from beginning to end.”

In other words, it is self-publishing.

But it’s all about the perception. Never mind that self-publishing, indie publishing, and artisanal publishing are triplets — carbon copy DNA with different names; people treat the phrases differently.

I tested the phrase artisanal publishing on an acquaintance. When asked what it meant, I replied it meant taking artistic control over all areas of book production. Because I am a magazine/newspaper designer by day, I said I wanted to infuse my own creativity into the book design as well as the writing.

That was the first time I was praised for my decision to self-publish.

It seems self-publishing, by any other name, would sound sweeter to the masses.

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3 Responses to Self-publishing by any other name

  1. trinitygrau says:

    I agree, it’s frustrating. Really frustrating. Especially when the book isn’t out and you’re a kid. If I tell people I’ve written a book they look incredulous or disinterested, as if they don’t think a book still in the editing process written by a kid can go very far.


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