About two months ago I finished writing my first novel. I'm not a writer, actually I'm a third grade teacher in the south suburbs. I never worked as an editor or for a publishing company or anything that has to do with writing, unless you include my vast knowledge of how to teach eight year olds to write a kick-ass five paragraph essay on wolves or penguins.
Once my novel was done I thought, "Awesome! I'll send this off to agents and I'll watch the offers (and million dollar contracts) come rolling in." Well, it didn't exactly go down that way. No one was beating down my door and calling me the next Emily Giffin (amazing women's fiction/chick lit writer). To be totally honest, I only sent my manuscript out to five agents. I don't like to wait, so I bailed on that method rather quickly. I decided to self publish my book, something I am proud of, yet it is also something I find myself defending rather often.
This is where the stigma lies. Self publishing, don't say it too loud, it's like dropping the f-bomb in front of your grandma. I pretty much hear crickets for several seconds after I tell people I'm self publishing. (Insert grimacing face or eye roll from said people.)
There are several reasons this stigma exists, but the main reason lies in quality. The advent of the Internet has made it feasibly possible for any jokester off the street to publish a book. Here comes the problem. High volume, but low quality.
In the 80's and 90's self publishing was known as vanity publishing. Right there says it all. Vanity, vane, loving yourself a bit too much. Call it whatever you want, it doesn't matter because a bad reputation is hard to shake.
People view a self published book as a last resort. Can't get a real publisher? Your work must be straight up crap. Not always true, but that is the view. This stigma hangs on due to bookstores, book reviewers and the press looking down upon indie authors.
Of course there are poorly done self published books, but on the other hand, there are some truly amazing indie authors out there. (Check out fellow Chicagoan and indie author superstar Dina Silver).
I hope that one day the stigma is squashed by more high quality submissions, but that is unlikely. I have chose to follow the path of quality over everything else in my journey to self publish. I have hired a graphic designer to create my cover, I sought out actual editors (not my aunt who loves to read or my sister in law who is a middle school English teacher), I have begged and cried and threatened my friends to read my book and give honest feedback. In addition to this, I have read, re-read, revised, edited again to the point of exhaustion, all in the name of quality. (I kinda hate my book now).
I know that quality is subjective, but I also that all these things don't make a great writer. A good editor is only as good as the author. I like to think that I have not only taken the steps to create something I can be proud of, but that my writing is of a good caliber.
That's all for now because I think I dropped the self publishing f-bomb enough. In closing, I urge you to take a chance on an indie author. You might be pleasantly surprised.