Stop Treating Self-Publishing Like It’s a Dirty Word

On Instagram and the Curiouser Author Network, we asked two questions: Why do you want to self-publish your book? Why do you want to pitch to traditional publishers?

The answers are what I expected them to be.

Self-publishing = control.

Traditional publishing = validation. 

Before I tell you what I think, take a look at the responses:

Why do you want to self-publish?

“More creative control. Also, I decide the dates of my releases.”

“Because it’s not necessarily about landing the big book deal. For me, it’s more about seeing this work, this labor of love, become something real and tangible that can be shared with others, under your conditions.”

“I believe I can reach the people who need my book better—I believe I know who they are and understand why they need my book in a way a traditional publishers can’t.”

“I had a message I wanted in hands right away, not years from now. And I wanted complete control—yep, control freak. My goal was for my book to be used as a ministry to help, not to make a bunch of money. This way, I can give it away however I want.”

“Because I didn’t want to spend forever waiting for a publisher to maybe publish my book, and I wanted to retain complete control. I am also in the position of having a nicely paying full-time job, so it’s not going to kill me if I don’t sell 20,000 copies.”

“I choose to take the self-published route because it’s my story, I know how to tell it, and I want it printed on my terms. There’s no rejections, no stalling on circulation.”

“I believe the readers need to determine what’s good, not the publishers. Besides, I write dark, and publishers really hate dark unless you write like Stephen King.”

Why do you want to pitch to traditional publishers?

“Distribution, editors, and backing.”

“Validation and distribution.”

“Because I am not extroverted enough to sell my own book. I need help!”

“I want to be published traditionally because I think it would be awesome for people to read my book. For my book to be in stores with a lovely cover on it with a lovely book smell to it. It’s always been a big dream to me to publish a book and I have high expectations for myself to get myself to that point.”

“Because anyone with some money can self-publish. And most self-published books suck. You gotta have chops to be traditionally published.”

“Because traditional publishing is the true badge of successful writing. Of course you want your story published and read by others, but when someone else finds your story worth reading and sharing, that’s the real deal.”

And then there were the in-betweeners:

“I self-published because I did not want to be censored or have my work altered, but of course now I would love the assistance of a publisher along the lines of advertising and such!”

“Not all traditional publishing is the only way! I was indie published and have my series in LA under negotiations for film by management. If you love to write, there should be no boundaries. Go publish any way you can.”

“My thoughts are, I would love for a traditional publisher to consider my book, but I’m not waiting around for them. I self-published, and my book is doing great. I have faith that one day a traditional publisher will see that.”

“First, I want to say that I fully embrace both sides of the equation. But I’ve been a reader for many, many years. And I’m talking books every week. And I let Target and Walmart dictate what I read. Just like NBC and ABC used to dictate what I watched. But we know how that has evolved. To publish a book and actually find readers outside of your neighbors, you had to go traditional. That’s not the case anymore. There’s a place for both. But indie is an ever-changing world. Resources are out there for indies. Editors and designers and distributors. And I don’t believe your desire to publish a book should be determined by Walmart wanting it on their shelf. Because at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what route got the story into the readers’ hands. If they loved the story, then that’s all that matters.”

So what does all this mean? It means that times have changed, and self-publishing is not what it used to be. For some reason, we keep going around believing that we aren’t a real author until HarperCollins or Penguin Random House says so.

“For a long time now, self-publishing has been dismissed as an act of vanity—mainly by frightened executives in publishing houses, who hold up terrible examples of self-published works and say ‘See? This is why we exist.’” —Hugh Howey << successful indie author

Do you want validation as an author? Then write a great book worth talking about.  

Do you want wide distribution? Get book ambassadors—loyal readers who fangirl over your book and tell the world about it. If you wrote something amazing, why wouldn’t it be all over the place?

Do you want editors? Gee, I know one.

Do you want the true badge of successful writing? Your readers are the badge.

You can either keep embracing the negative stigma that self-publishing is for “couldn’t get a publishing deal” authors, or you can go against the flow.

You can write what you want when you want. You can find your niche of readers who are obsessed with your book. You can have the control. You don’t need a traditional publisher to tell you how great you are.

Stop treating self-publishing like it’s a dirty word. It can be better than traditional publishing if you do it right.

[Note: I am not against traditional publishing, and I never will be. I'm against the attitude that in order to be worth anything as an author, you have to be traditionally published.]




An expert editor, seasoned writer, and author-centric marketer, Shayla Raquel works one-on-one with authors and business owners every day. A lifelong lover of books, she has edited over 300 books and has launched several Amazon bestsellers for her clients. Her award-winning blog teaches new and established authors how to write, publish, and market their books. She is the author of the Pre-Publishing Checklist, The Rotting (in Shivers in the Night), and her novel-in-progress, The Suicide Tree. She lives in Oklahoma with her two dogs, Chanel and Wednesday.