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Why it's not cringey to self-publish your own book

Pushing back against the stigma of self-publishing

By Bri CraigPublished about a month ago Updated 20 days ago 5 min read
Top Story - May 2024
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Why it's not cringey to self-publish your own book
Photo by Ruffa Jane Reyes on Unsplash

Let's talk frankly for a minute.

When many of us writers first dreamt of "being a writer" what we saw in our fantasies was probably something glamorous: a clambering agent, a traditionally published book, and perhaps even a red carpet debut for the movie adaptation of our bestseller. Very few of us initially imagined the perhaps less-glamorous world of self-publishing.

There's reasons behind this. Self-publishing wasn't as prominent when we were kids, but also, traditionally published bestsellers are what we are used to seeing in media. But even when we grow into ourselves as writers, some of us still feel the tug against the self-publishing world, and some folks may even feel as though they are giving something up by self-publishing.

And I'm not here to debate traditional versus self-publishing (maybe another time). But I am here to talk about the stigma of self-publishing and how it gets internalized by writers, because I think self-publishing is a wonderful avenue and tool for writers. So let's chat about it.

Disclaimer: I have self-published a book. But I have also had plays and poems published traditionally. So I have some sense of both spheres.

By Thomas Franke on Unsplash

Stigma #1: Anyone can self-publish

You've heard this before — or something like it, "Anyone can self-publish." It's meant as something that is at best, belittling, and at worst, derogatory. There's a coded understatement here: if anyone can self-publish, why is it so special that you did it?

I think we see this often — that people undervalue creative pursuits because "anyone could do that." I've lost count of the number of people who have told me that they always had a book inside them. But every time someone has told me about their writing I've always offered the advice of:

"Life is short, you should write that book."

Self-publishing is accessible — and I don't want to pretend that this isn't a wonderful thing. I don't understand why accessibility has to lead to devaluing. What's wrong with nourishing our little creative spirits? Why do we have to gatekeep storytelling — one of the oldest and most valuable pastimes of the human race?

It's hard to write a book. Otherwise, everyone who has ever said, "I've always had a book inside me," would have instead told me, "I already wrote the book inside me."

But even if everyone wrote and self-published books — isn't that a good thing? Shouldn't we as writers always champion the creative spirit? Shouldn't we all rejoice that someone else has dipped their hands into the waters of storytelling and found refreshment?

Every story is a unique glimpse into the life and mind of another, and I for one, will never be mad that self-publishing made it possible for more stories to be told. We don't need to create an environment of creative scarcity to appreciate the creativity around us.

By Dewang Gupta on Unsplash

Stigma #2: Self-published books are lower quality.

I've often heard self-publishing framed as a 'way to make a quick buck' by girlboss/grindset types. The idea being that it is simply so easy to pump out a book and sell it for that sweet, sweet "passive income." This helps contribute to the idea that self-published books are passionless and made to be cheap harbingers of money.

And I won't pretend like that doesn't happen. There are certainly folks who throw a first draft into a self-published book or worse, use generative AI to write the book for them. As I mentioned, this is an accessible form of publishing, so there are no barriers for entry — not even a spell check.

But I think the answer here is to lift up the voices of self-published authors who are putting their all into the craft. I think that amplifying those who are dedicated, careful, and passionate will slowly lift the stigma. Because I've read some damn good self-published works. And those incredible authors have changed my perspective on the genre entirely. They are the reason I have chosen to self-publish myself.

So let me take a moment to practice what I preach, and point you to some of the self-published authors who changed my mind:

  • Marissa Lete - Echoes
  • Stephen A. Roddewig (fellow Vocal creator) - A Bloody Business
  • Claire Fraise - They Stay
  • Sophie Johannis - Traces

But if you need a few "big names" to be convinced, here are a few famous writers and their self-published works:

  • Stephen King - People, Places and Things
  • Rupi Kaur - Milk and Honey
  • Margaret Atwood - Double Persephone
  • Andy Wier - The Martian
  • Mark Twain - The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
By Raghav Gupta on Unsplash

Stigma #3: The elephant in the room

But as a writer who loves the accessibly of self-publishing and knew that wonderful self-published books existed, I was still hesitant to self-publish my own work. And that's because of a less discussed third thing, the elephant in the room...

I wanted to be chosen.

I wanted an agent or a publishing house or an editor or somebody to say, my work was good. My work was worthy of being published.

Because for me, the scariest part of self-publishing is that I had to believe in myself. I had to do it without the external validation of someone saying I wrote something special. I'm normally a private and slightly anxious person, so the idea of putting myself out there with no assurance felt embarrassing, and yes, cringey.

I've gotten a little more confident after self-publishing my first book. But if I'm being honest, as I stare down the June release date of my next book, I still find myself falling back into the pitfalls of uncertainty, wishing that a magical fairy would flutter down and gift me with a better sense of confidence.

But this is something that has been unexpectedly liberating about the process of self-publishing. If I had confined myself to traditional publishing in search of external validation, I would have never learned how to trust myself as a writer. I would have always written for what I thought others wanted, rather than writing for myself.

Both of my books are a bit experimental: The Wailings is a horror novella told completely out of order; and my upcoming book, All the brooding flowers, is a poetry book laced with hand-made paper collage artwork.

I never even tried to traditionally publish either of these titles because (a) I didn't want to, and (b) I didn't think that traditional publishing was best for these pieces. I was worried that these books would become something else in my efforts to make them "palatable" for the traditional world. So I chose to believe in myself and my creative choices, no strings attached.

Self-publishing helped me learn the hard lesson of valuing my own work, and taught me the beauty of intrinsic motivation and creative control. And so, for the first time in my short career as a writer, I put the chips on me. And regardless of where I go from here, I will always be a better writer because of it.

~

Thanks for reading!

And if I've piqued your interest in self-publishing, you can read more about my process for it here:

PublishingInspirationAdvice
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About the Creator

Bri Craig

Bri Craig (she/her) is a variety pack writer. She enjoys writing poetry, webcomic features, humor, short stories, and personal anecdotes. Basically, neither of us will ever know what will be posted next!

Let's connect! More about me here.

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Comments (30)

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  • Kayleigh Fraser ✨4 days ago

    I have just been through this journey, and I couldn’t agree more. This was a very affirming read 👌🙏🤍🌟

  • Anna 16 days ago

    Congrats on Top Story!

  • Robyn Little18 days ago

    I just published a book and honestly Amen!

  • Joe O’Connor19 days ago

    This was a great read Bri! Honest, open, and showing insight when discussing why self-publishing feels like a backup option to so many. I really enjoyed the mix of personal reflections mixed with thoughts on the industry and writers in general. Just checking, for “accessibly of self-publishing” - did you mean accessibility? Hoping for the best for All the brooding flowers!😊

  • Gerald Holmes19 days ago

    Thank you for shining some light on this subject. Congrats on a well deserved Top Story

  • Andy Potts19 days ago

    Self-published a couple of books a few years ago. Was fairly happy with the outcome, but found the need to self-promote a bit draining. I'm not great at doing that anyway and probably needed to do more with it.

  • Krysta Dawn19 days ago

    Some of my favorite books are from self-published authors. Sure, not every self-published book is a winner, but neither are traditionally published ones. I think having a more accessible publishing model gives voices to people who might get overlooked by publishing companies. After all, Harry Potter was rejected 12 times, proving publishers don't know everything. Great story and congrats on top story!

  • BrettNotGreg19 days ago

    Congrats on your top story! 👏

  • angela hepworth19 days ago

    Some great points here!!

  • Accept my warm congratulations.

  • Caroline Craven20 days ago

    The points you make have literally made me rethink everything I thought I knew. Great stuff. And thank you.

  • Phil Flannery20 days ago

    Thanks for sharing your views on this. I have little knowledge of self publishing. I did write the story that was inside me but there is this big elephant that stops me taking the next step. I have given it to people to read for feedback but I only hear the sound of crickets. It plays on my confidence. My wife likes it. I feel it needs tweeking, but I don't want to lose the feel of what I first produced.

  • Congratulations on your top story . Self Publishing has been in the back of my brain as of lately . The price to publish on Amazon is very expensive with an agent .

  • This was fascinating, and written honestly. You made fair points. I don’t think self-publishing should be demonized. Ultimately, it depends on a writer’s goals. It’s great for creative freedom. But my reason for being against it for myself wasn’t mentioned. Reason being, I’m passionate about the marriage of art and commerce. I want just enough creative control… but I also want industry people helping me polish it to industry standards, because I want commercial success. Expert opinions help with that. These editors KNOW what works. So for me, it’s about finding that collaborative balance. Knowing where to submit to, who would “get” me and what I’m going for. But that’s just been for short stories, not publishing houses. I’m not there yet. As you so aptly said, not just anyone can write a book! Your books sound amazing, btw. I shall hunt them down.

  • Christy Munson20 days ago

    Congratulations on Top Story. I haven't yet self-published but I am leaning in that direction. I second the points you've raised and think you're right on all of it. Thanks for giving me so much to think about. Great read!

  • Hannah Moore20 days ago

    I'll be completely honest. I wasn't going to read this. But I was holding my phone as a torch and this was Infront of me....and it was really valuable, I wasn't going to read it for all those reasons you outline, and I hadn't even recognised them in myself.

  • Paul Stewart20 days ago

    Oh, Congrats on Top Story...So glad Stephen nominated this and hope it gets more views and love!:)

  • KJ Aartila20 days ago

    Excellent! Very good and valid points - and I really do agree that accessibility should be celebrated, not denigrated in all aspects of life, but is painstakingly obvious here how it seems to reflect a negative light. Nive work!

  • Back to say congrats on the TS

  • Kendall Defoe 20 days ago

    I have self-published one book of poems ('Ripe') and sold it to friends and coworkers, but I don't think I could go through that again with the fiction and essay work. But I like your list of the ones who did self-print: Mark Twain! I had no idea... Rupi Kaur? Wish she never got started...

  • Thank you for this! I've never been ashamed of being self published, but it is great you are cutting through the stigma of it. I loved how you noted that self-publishing calls for a higher self-confidence in your work because you don't have someone telling you it's good. You have to decide that for yourself. Such an excellent point to bring out. Congrats on the Top Story!

  • Belle20 days ago

    Love this!! I have a friend who self published at 21, and I thought it was so amazing! But I think she was underwhelmed by it. I love trying to break the stigma of self publishing. Also, Stephen King self published?! Amazing!

  • Matthew Fromm20 days ago

    Thought I commented on this originally, but I suppose not. This was a great guide and well deserved top story

  • Shirley Belkabout a month ago

    So proud of you!

  • Esala Gunathilakeabout a month ago

    Nicely done!

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