My Lousy Stigma


At the risk of repeating myself, I’m going to revisit this whole canard about self-publishing suffering from a “stigma.”

Over at The Forum That Shall Not Be Named, the usual suspects continue their broken record. One of these people purports to be a “professional writer,” but I’m skeptical. “When my novel is done,” she assures us, she will pursue the traditional publishing route, and would never self-publish it, lest she be tainted with the stigma of self-publishing. I got news for you, lady. You’ll never be published.

So now that I am committed to self-publishing Diary of a Small Fish (after all those nasty traditional publishers have ignored it for far too long – **sniff**), these warnings take on a new dimension of absurdity, which I will explain. But first – a commercial message:

Now then. It is indeed so that the digital libraries at Amazon, Smashwords, B&N and Apple are chocked with dreck. There is a clamor of noise out there in digital land, like singers auditioning for American Idol, peeling the paint off of Jennifer Lopez’s eyes, howling like sick cats. Do those singers diminish the quality of Carrie Underwood or Kelly Clarkson? (No wisecracks, please. I’m no pop music lover either, but talent is talent.)

A few more examples are warranted.

There is a stigma surrounding the game of golf, you know. So many players can’t break 100 and swing like broken windmills. Ruin it for the rest of us, so I don’t play golf any more.

Big stigma surrounding indie rock music. So many crappy bands out there. So I don’t listen to rock music anymore unless it’s put out on a major record label.

I don’t eat steak any more either, because the quality of hamburger at McDonald’s is so inferior.

And don’t talk to me about those Japanese cars! I drove a Civic once and had a sore neck for a week.

And finally, how about this one:

I’ve been told that as soon as my short stories appeared on Amazon, they went from excellent to lousy, just by being so close to all that dreck. Like catching a cold in kindergarten. You just can’t avoid it!

You see the absurdity of it?

The quality of someone else’s work doesn’t have any effect on mine. One might argue it makes it look even better. It certainly might make it harder to get eyes on the cover, but that’s a marketing challenge, not a “stigma.”
The definition of stigma is “a mark of disgrace or infamy; a stain or reproach, as on one’s reputation.” Is it a mark of disgrace or infamy that I put Diary of a Small Fish out there for people to read? Does putting that lovely cover and the words behind it up on Amazon and Smashwords and B&N stain my reputation? Do you feel reproachful toward me?
The very idea brings epithets to my mind.

44 Responses to “My Lousy Stigma”

  1. 1 Jamy Buchanan Madeja

    You are obsessed with this stigma issue. Just self-publish and be done with it. By the way, love the graphics on the cover.

    • It’s comin’ it’s comin’. And I’m not obsessed with the stigma “issue.” I’m lampooning it.

  2. I’d love to hear some of those epithets. Nice cover. Too bad it’s on a self-published book. 🙂

    As long as there are idiots who subscribe to the old “one bad apple spoils the whole barrel,” a little obsession is a good thing. Maybe someday it won’t be necessary.

    Yours in self-publishing fellowship.

  3. Okay, that there was funny, but it’s a great point…

  4. In my home, DOASF is a highly anticipated title. So this is exciting news.

    I saw Colin Hay last night. He once fronted a band called Men at Work. And he was dropped by major labels in 1991. When it happened he said, “what will I do now?” He decided he would play the guitar and sing and perform in small clubs, because that’s what he knew how to do.
    He has put out almost an album a year since, had movie soundtrack success, featured at thousands weddings during the couples’ “first dance”, and made Paul McCartney’s desert island mix.
    He had 250 people absolutely charmed on a Sunday night.

    If people like what one writes, they’ll find it. Self or major, they’ll find it.

  5. Way to go, Pete! I’m buying your book. Anyone who can write through the silliness of the worn-to-death arguments (thin as they may be) against self-publishing has my vote. Are you running for anything?

    • Yes, Sharon – my life. Thanks for the vote of confidence. If I ever run for anything else, lock me in a closet until after the election.

  6. A few chuckles and maudlin sentiment? Count me in!

    In all seriousness, I realized a long time ago that I’d never make a lot of money, so the “stigma” hasn’t frightened me too much. I honestly think those who still believe in that are afraid it means they’ll never make all that lucre they’d have raked in via traditional publishing — which of course would mean they were fooling themselves. But then again, people still buy lottery tickets too, even though they’re a tax on people who are bad at math.

    • What’s wrong with lottery tickets?

    • As a mathematician I always reckoned that the probability of winning significant money on the lottery (or football pools) was only very slightly altered by actually entering. Saving your money and hoping for a clerical error is a much better gamble.

  7. Embrace the stigma, Pete. Caress it. Tweak it.

    Excellent cover art.

  8. I can’t wait to see your book on Amazon. Love the cover, too.

  9. Hmm. I’m no longer sure who “the forum who cannot be named” is, who the usual suspects are, or who the female professional writer is. Nevertheless, I shall always be a fan of Small Fish. And I’m glad you’ve joined the ranks. Little in life has made me feel so empowered, or so pleased, as choosing to self publish.

  10. I feel tainted just reading this post from such a lowly writer who would even think to self pub.

    Oh, wait. No I don’t. Is it harder to find the gems when surrounded by so much fool’s gold? Definitely. Does it make the diamond any less precious because it was found amongst the costume jewelry? Not on your life.

    Good luck, Peter. I support my fellow writers–many of them extremely talented–no matter which path they choose.

  11. This is the second blog of yours that I have read, and I just want to know one thing: do you write like this in your book? Because I think I may be hooked…

    Yours with the fishes…

  12. What’s this business with the stigmata of self-publishing? Is that when you write until you bleed from the eyes, then promote your work until all your acquaintances bleed from the ears?

  13. As a reader I can’t honestly remember EVER checking to see if a book was indie or TP before reading it. As for quality, I’ve abandoned one SP book this year because of poor quality but I’ve read several more that have been great reads. The quality of the writing is not determined by the publisher – after all, look at the number of books that have been turned down multiple times and subsequently because bestsellers. The quality of the writing is determined by the writer. Publishers deal in sales and I’m convinced they will publish absolute dross if the sales will be good and ignore the mos well-written novel in the world if the numbers aren’t good.

    As for the lady on The Forum, I can certainly guarantee one thing: I will make a concerted effort to avoid her book IF it is ever published. I believe writers need to be open minded in order to accept new ideas, be willing to accept feedback etc. The posts I have seen have convinced me that any book would be full of facts she is sure are true and is too stubborn to consider may be otherwise and any reviewer who doesn’t like the book will probably be boiled in oil…

    • Donna states it better than I could. Well said. I love the line, “I believe writers need to be open minded in order to accept new ideas, be willing to accept feedback etc.”

  14. I love the cover and the humor you had here. BTW- in my youth I did break 100 on the golf course.

  15. The so-called stigma of self publishing is prejudice, in the literal sense. It’s the prejudgement of your work by someone who’s never read it. Like all forms of prejudice it’s wrong and illogical and yet, like most other forms of prejudice, that doesn’t stop it from happening.

    When I hawked my book around local bookshops, the first question was invariably “is it self published”. I think there’s more prejudice in the book trade than there is in the general public. Your average lay-reader will neither know nor care whether a book is self published. Their typical selection criteria include knowing the author (no hope for us there, then), recommendations from friends or (maybe least common) browsing in a bookshop. In the latter case, having an attractive cover helps but your book has actually got to _be_ in the book shop in the first place. That’s where the prejudice comes in. I got the distinct impression it was easier to be taken seriously by book sellers if you were at least with a small or indie publisher than if you had done it all yourself.

    On Amazon it probably makes little or no difference. Most users won’t be able to distinguish the self published from the not. But, like it or not (and I don’t) I believe there is still prejudice against self published works in the book trade.

  16. 27 Sian

    Think of ‘that forum’ as a drug, old chap. What you need is a twelve step programme. It’s not good for your blood pressure, you know.

    Sean (!)

  17. Distance is what is needed here. We’re all too close to the issue to be able to be objective. At the moment there is definitely a whole novelty thing going one both with self-publishing and ebooks and that needs to calm down. Give it a few years. At the moment there is just too much of everything out there. Undoubtedly there are books of quality being independently published but more crap than there ought to be – it’s just too easy to get into print. I won’t bore you with the list of famous names from the past who financed their early ventures into publishing. In time strata will form. This happened with traditional publishers – hardbacks, paperbacks, pulp editions – and this will happen again. There are enough people out there to satisfy all tastes. What does worry me is the fact that next to no one appears to be self-publishing anything that isn’t a genre: what happened to good ol’ General Fiction, let alone Literary Fiction?

  18. 29 Rick

    I am not a published writer or even a writer per say outside of my own little world. I use to think I wanted to be but due to one bad rejection when I was younger, gave up on it. My wife however is a writer. I have watched her struggle with this decision for quite awhile. I may not know much about the industry but I did find out in her ventures is that even most traditional publishers want you to a bunch of the leg work for marketing and to and promoting your own book, seems to me that you are almost self publishing even with a traditional publisher.
    Being a certified computer tech, I can say that I come across the same arguments in my profession. Fly by night, self taught computer guys are out there giving advice and being paid for it as if they were experts. A lot of certified people in my profession look down upon this and bad mouth them constantly. I for one however figure if they were smart enough to learn what I know on there own, and the work do is good, then why do they need a piece of paper that costs them a few years salary to get, if they already know it?
    My point is, that there isn’t a profession out there (with the exception of medical and scientific) that doesn’t have self taught employees. To me I see no difference if the knowledge the employees have is the same. The only major difference is one paid for the knowledge and one didn’t.
    This same theroy can apply to self publishing over traditional, if the final product is the same, what does it matter how it was published? Yes you are going to get a lot more crap out there, but at the same time, I have read some crap that was published by traditional publishers as well.
    I said to my wife while she was debating this “Do you think harry potter would have been any less of a good story if J.K. Rowling had self published over traditional?” Of course not,,a story is a story. Sure she had help with the marketing aspect of the story and the managing of the movie rights etc… but the story still would have been the same either way.
    My final point is this,,,remember,,they said television would kill the radio, and yet here it is still going strong. People are afraid of change and unfortunatley the internet has changed us as a society, like it or lump it! 10 years from now this topic will probably not even be talked about, as self publishing will have become a mainstream thing to do!

  19. Points well made. The chatter is just the sound of old world wheels grinding. That’s not to say self pubbing is going to take over. It’s just going to thrive.

    I’m wearing my stigma proudly ( and plan to wear more. I hope it will float above the Idol wannabees one day. But then again, maybe it’s not good enough.

    Here’s the thing. I started writing in earnest on 6 May, and went live on 3 September with 45,000 words of edited (I paid) short story goodness with a catchy cover (I paid). I’m getting feedback from readers – people who’ve paid for my work. It’s scary and it’s marvellous. If I’d gone “trad”, I’d still be waiting in another three months for my first rejection letter if I was lucky.

    For the reader? Choice! The thing that does irk me is glowing reviews of crud written by friends of the author. Easy to spot if you read all the reviews – the one star reviews come along soon enough.

  20. Damn iconoclasts, what do you know??

    (nice post) 😀

  21. I’ve had three literary agents try to sell my memoir without success. Rather than leave my fate as a writer in the hands of others, I self-published.

    You’re right on in what you say not letting others affect your writing. In that vain, I refuse to sell my ebook for $0.99. I sell my book for $9.95 because that’s what it’s worth.

    Please checkout my blog:

  22. 37 Malc

    Paul Fenton is alive! Excellent news. I’m glad I came.

    Every time I’m alerted to a new Morin Digestive, for the ten or so seconds needed to log in and glean the gist of it my tail wags, yes, wags, at the thought that maybe, finally, he’s done the deed, burnt his darned bridges, and announced that Diary is available (at last) for purchase. These brief moments remind me of Ben Affleck in Good Will Hunting. Remember? Picking up his smart but stuck-in-the-mud buddy to go to work….

    Yada, canard, yada, stigma, yada, OK, here we are: third paragraph, he’s ‘committed’ to publishing it. Uh-huh. Sounds more like a memo-to-self than a signed contract. Ah well. Morning Pete. Hop in. Let’s go. Maybe you’ll spread your wings tomorrow.


    • Hi Malcolm, long time … was I thought to be dead? Hasn’t been that long, has it?

      And how can you doubt Pete’s resolve? He has a cover. A cover!

  23. 39 Malc

    He sure does. Best cover yet. Hope it sticks. Good ole Pete. I picture him now, twirling his grandpappy’s hickory putter, gazing across that personal Rubicon of self-publishing. Wondering how many more weekly blogs to post before getting his feet wet… Decisions, decisions.

    You still in banking, Paul? … Wife OK? … Kids? … Dog? Shacked up in London? Or Canada? Timbuktu? … Did you publish Punchline? Say, what’s your email? (I’m on If you are in town you gotta come for a sesh. Great crew. One Wednesday a month: k.o. 1600, Lamb & Flag, Covent Garden.

  24. Love the post. Love your writing. I did a piece once on “Self-publishing Is Not a Dirty Word!” Just wish more people would get it. I’ve made more money in six months of having my book on amazon & B&N than I did in six years of having five cookbooks traditionally published. (well, maybe not really – but close enough to make me a huge fan of s-p). Keep speaking the truth Pete – lots of folk are listening to you!

    • I saw your B&N post on LI, Anne – excellent news. You’ve got a great title and killer book cover, too. I think that has a lot to do with the success. It just LOOKS like a fun read.

  25. Enough with the stigma. Readers will be grateful you published this highly enjoyable book. Good luck!

  1. 1 The Write Rants » Some Excellent Points About the “Stigma” of Self-Publishing…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: