Thursday, July 1, 2010

"Stigma..." It's Such a Nasty Thing

Indie publishing might be making waves and splashes in the big business world of publishing, but so many still won't let go of the stigma attached to self-publishing. I'm taking it upon myself to quit using the term "self-published."  No, not because I don't like it or because it means a bad and dirty thing.....No. It's because it still has the stink of stigma attached to it.

Let me expound. I was a fairly successfully published author by one of the bigger traditional, lesbian publishing companies, Bella Books. Yep, they are approved by the MWA. Imagine that. I requested and opted out of my contract. I had decided to independently publish my own books. It was MY own decision to break my contract with a well-established, traditional press.

For those who don't know, I write the Brenda Strange Supernatural Mystery Series. Bella Books published the first three books, THE BURNING OF HER SIN, TANGLED AND DARK, and THE MISSING PAGE, in trade paperback (I now own the rights and have published them as eBooks available in Kindle at Amazon).  The second book, TANGLED AND DARK, was reviewed and featured as a recommended read in the mystery community's highly praised magazine, Mystery Scene. The column was the Small Press Review by Mary V. Welk.  It was an honor to be featured in the Holiday issue #87, 2004 with the honorable Tony Hillerman on the cover. Mary Welk is sadly no longer doing the column. Betty Webb has taken the mantle.

What is my point in all this? I am still writing the Brenda Strange Mystery Series. I am a better writer since TANGLED AND DARK got recommended in Mystery Scene Magazine. What has changed is that I am no longer part of a traditional publisher. I am an indie author. My latest Brenda Strange book, XIMORA, is as good or better a book than TANGLED AND DARK. It was edited by the same editor that did the work for Bella Books. But my own publishing imprint, Black Car Publishing, published it. Mystery Scene Magazine refused to accept my book for consideration to be reviewed because I am an independent author. Their policy is to not accept independently published books. It made me very angry. I couldn't understand why an author is stigmatized by the mere fact that she chose to independently publish instead of give away her rights to a publisher. What difference does it make?  Mystery Scene didn't know how good my  new Brenda Strange book was. How could they.....they refused to even consider it. Just several years ago, I had one of my books recommended and reviewed in their magazine. And now, because I opted to take control of my writing future, my fiction must have gotten worse than before....not even worth a look at? It doesn't make sense and it is unfair. Why adopt such a broad and negative brush toward indie published books?  Maybe if I'd hidden the fact that Black Car Publishing is my own imprint, I'd have gotten the review. Why does it have to come to that?

Time to wake up and realize some very good work is being published independently. Continuing this practice of discrimination smells of prejudice and something worse. I don't want to point my finger only at Mystery Scene Magazine. I love the magazine and sometimes can afford to buy an issue here and there. They aren't the only ones who need to come into the light of the new publishing paradigm.


L.J. Sellers said...

I sympathize with your situation! I suspect the magazine is trying to protect itself from an onslaught of books from self-published authors who do not have a history of mainstream publishing.

I think this stigma will go away, especially as more and more authors realize they can make more money going it alone, especially with ebooks. Fortunately, most readers don't care who published the book. If they like your work, they'll support you.

Anonymous said...

Sigh...been there done that. After 10 books, 5 awards, sub-rights sold to Harlequin, an audio book company, a large print company, I still have the same problem. I'm not sure I agree that it will "go away", as L.J. says. As if it weren't hard enough to get reviewed, it's now hard to get on a panel at a conference. It was easier 12 years ago when I started publishing and less than 1,000 mysteries were being published. Today it has exploded. I can understand reviewers not having the time to read everything but to only pick the books from familiar top name publishers does get frustrating. I, too, have heard from readers who say they don't care who published the book. One can only keep on keeping on.

SandyT said...

Sigh...been there, still doing that. After 10 books, 5 awards, sub-rights sold to Worldwide/eHarlequin, large print to Ulverscroft, audio book to Books in Motion, I too am finding it much more difficult than 12 years ago when I started publishing. Back then there were less than 1,000 mysteries being published. A few years ago it was close to 1,800. Can't even guess what it is today. I can understand that reviewers don't have the time nor are they given the amount of space they used to be given in order to review more books. They seem to only pull the books from the well known companies. Not sure I agree that the stigma will go away. Today I can't even get a signing at my local Borders and even some mystery conferences won't give self-pubbed authors a spot on a panel. And don't even get me started on MWA membership rules. A lot has changed in 12 years so I, too, have made all of my titles available also as eBooks through They put it into every eBook format for every toy you can think of. One can only keep on keeping on.

Patty G. Henderson said...

Hi, LJ,

Thanks for the comment. Right now, the publishing industry is in flux. I'm not so certain the stigma will ever go away. Maybe long after I'm done writing. LOL. I can only hope that the eBook revolution stays alive and viable and not just go back into the closet like it did years ago. Although with the Kindle, iPad, Sony eReader and BN's Nook, I get the feeling eBooks are here to stay and will continue to command attention.....and indie authors.

The question is, will print reviewers, magazines, etc. continue to turn their backs on indie published authors? Already, there are authors choosing to not publish in print at all and go straight to eBook without a publisher. And some of these authors have been through the traditional press grind and are now doing it on their own. Will their books be turned away because they are now not with their publishers but publishing independently? Will magazines like Mystery Scene and others refuse to review a Jack Konrath book because he decides to indie publish the book? Jack was a very heavy hitter in mystery circles. He's indie publishing now. Hmmm.....

Patty G. Henderson said...

Hey, Sandy,

Like you, I am not certain if the stigma of negativity associated with the term "self-published" will ever be wiped away. I don't ever use the term anymore. Independently Published is more my style of thinking. The thing is, I think I remember asking MS Magazine whether they would be interested in a column for Independently Published mystery books and I got that response. There are some really established names in mystery and other genres now choosing to publish independently and bypass the publisher. My question is whether these once published, more well known authors will now be shunned since they have chosen to publish on their own? Thanks for your comment.

LM Preston said...

Yes there is a stigma attached to this, and it amazes me how much folks in the writing community hunt and peck for 'self-pub' authors. Although, I'm published under a company owned and operated by my husband, who's owned several businesses. We also have an editor and proofreader on board, he constantly has to justify how we produce our work. It's funny though, when I was younger I read, purchased and devoured tons of self-published books by African American authors that toured the college campuses and churches to sell their book. Heck, I even still have some. Then I was a consumer and loved that fact that an author was promoting their own business and their books. Now as a writer I realize that that stigma is mainly a prejudice within the industry. Funny thing is, I've met many small press owners that started out publishing their own works and grew into publishings others. As with me, our publishing company started with me and hope to publish others and even that has been challenge by those who hate Indie Publishers. It's sad that it comes to that, but it's just the way it is - for now :-D