Is the Self Pubbed Stigma Fading?


A recent post in the Guardian states that “For a long time, going the DIY route repelled critics, publishers – and readers.”  Tell us something we don’t already know!  “But”, states the post’s author, Ben Galley, “as its successes accumulate, so the shame falls away.”

IndieReader was founded in 2009, way before self-publishing had any kind of cred, back when the first few success stories–Lisa Genova’s Still Alice and Brunonia Barry’s The Lace Reader, were being touted in The New York Times and Time magazine with the same incredulousness usually associated with the spotting of a Yedi.  Then came Amanda Hocking and John Locke, the founding members of what is affectionately called the Kindle Million Club – writers who shifted seven-figure quantities of ebooks.

Says Galley, “The brutal truth is that when you can publish anything, people will do exactly that. The market was flooded with indie literature and, sadly, a large percentage of it was substandard. Bad editing, awful covers, and mediocre content were rife. Advice was scarce, the methods many and varied. It was an exciting time, but a muddled one. Just as self-publishing was trying to shrug off the mantle of vanity publishing, it earned itself a new reputation – for low quality. Lo and behold, the self-publishing stigma was born.”

IR would argue that the stigma was in play way before that, but when it will end is more the subject that IndieReader is interested in discussing.  And while Mr. Galley sounds hopeful, we’re not so sure.  We can, however, agree with his conclusion: “As publishers are beginning to demonstrate with those six and seven-figure signings, it’s increasingly short-sighted to ignore the indie author.”


The Wake, Paul Kingsnorth’s crowdfunded novel which was written in an invented form of Old English, is not the type of book to be picked up by a traditional publisher, let alone win the inaugural book of the year prize at the Bookseller industry awards (the book was also long-listed for the 2014 Man Booker prize, the Folio prize, shortlisted for the Goldsmiths, and won the Gordon Burn prize).

The Bookseller industry award, which recognizes the publisher as well as the book, went to both Kingsnorth and Unbound, the crowdfunding publisher which released The Wake last year. Set in 1066, the novel tells the story of guerrilla fighters who take up arms against the Norman invaders in the Lincolnshire fens. It is written in a re-imagined version of Old English after Kingsnorth found that modern English “didn’t fit” the world he was creating.

According to Kingsnorth, The Wake has sold more than 7,500 copies in hardback to-date [take note, indie authors, paper books do still sell], and over 18,700 ebooks.

Says Bookseller’s associate editor Caroline Sanderson, “What stood out about The Wake is what it proves: that publishing is now so creative and fleet of foot that anything is possible. Moreover, it is a shining example of a 21st-century book: both a beautiful, traditional object that is a pleasure to possess, and a publication that came about through the power of online crowdsourcing.”

Added Kingsnorth, “This book only came to life because of the innovative publishing model developed by Unbound, and I’m really pleased to see that model receiving recognition. The Wake was published by its own readers, and for me this award recognises the cheering fact that innovative publishing methods can help challenging novels to succeed in a supposedly difficult digital age.”

Amen to that.

And speaking about crowdfunding, you may want to check out IR’s posts which highlight successful campaigns here and here,  more on how crowdfunding works here and also a recent interview with Orna Ross (of Alliance of Independent Authors) and Joanna Penn (of the here.


Publisher’s Weekly reports that Dutch plane crash survivor Annette Herfkens has offers from publishers in France and Germany for her originally self-pubbed 2014 memoir, Turbulence: A True Story of Survival. After surviving a plane crash that claimed her fiance’s life, the Dutch author went on to endure eight days in the jungle of Vietnam. Presumed dead, her obituary made it into local newspapers.  The book is being sold by the 2 Seas Agency, which is handling world rights on behalf of Meulenhoff-Boekerij in the Netherlands. Rights have sold in Vietnam.


Forbes contributor Jay McGregor recently posted part two of his three part series profiling several authors who chose to self-publish and the results of their work.  The one standout success story was British author, Mark Dawson, who McGregor found, “makes hundreds of thousands a year from his self-published novels.”

Dawson attributes much of his  success to “his marketing prowess, a self-taught skill that has propelled his sales…”

In fact, “Dawson spends hours reading, analysing, building relationships with readers and fully immersing himself in his marketing techniques” and “spent months reading about advertising and listening to marketing podcasts before he properly dived in.”

Not surprisingly, Facebook is central to Dawson’s marketing strategy. The social network is, as he describes it “the most powerful ad platform I’m using right now”. But there’s a lot more to marketing your work on Facebook than simply uploading the ad and hoping for the best. As he quickly discovered, you need to have an understanding of traditional marketing disciplines.

Want to read more of Dawson’s advice? You can find it here.


This week’s IR’s “The List Where Indies Count”, featuring the top ten list as of May 11th, 2015, features a great variety of titles to keep you occupied while sitting on your hammock poolside.

Titles are compiled on Sunday for Monday’s post, culled from The New York Times, USA Today and Amazon best-seller lists.