Well into the last century, there was a certain stigma attached to being born illegitimate, supported in no small part by the insensitive moniker of “bastard”. Fast forward to today’s world of publishing and we, the indie authors, have become the illegitimate bastard children seemingly no one’s proud to acknowledge, if we believe anything Dr. Jim Taylor has to say in his article, “Are Self-Published Authors Really Authors or Even Published?”, which appeared in The Huffington Post on September 30, 2013.
The following is an excerpt from Dr. Taylor’s article:
At the same time, the self-publishing industry has allowed anyone with a computer and a small amount of money to call themselves authors. Not long ago, I read a fascinating article in the New York Times (unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find it when I did an Internet search) that questioned whether self-published authors should be called published authors. Rather, the article suggests, they are book writers who have their books printed. There is, I believe a significant difference between authors published by traditional houses and self-published books in that the latter lack the processes that we can count on to ensure a minimal level of quality, both of content and style. … And self-published book writers seem to know too. Whenever I meet someone who tells me they are an author, I always ask who their publisher is. If they hem and haw, I know they self-published because they also know that their state of authorhood lacks a certain legitimacy that comes from having a traditionally published book.
While Dr. Taylor’s article does touch upon a few self-published authors like Amanda Hocking and E.L. James, both of who have achieved phenomenal success as indie authors, he then states that they’ve gone on to sign contracts from established publishers. Reading between the lines, his comment suggests that in signing these contracts, their “authorhood” presumably attained that certain legitimacy that had thus far eluded them.
It seems that the author of that piece sorely neglected to consider that segment of the indie author population who aren’t the break-out superstars, but rather the mid-listers and below mid-listers dedicated to their craft, dedicated to increasing their presence as authors, dedicated to building a loyal readership by publishing good-quality books; those indie authors that are proud to be authors – and are reaping the rewards of their considerable efforts, both in sales and in loyal followers. Do these authors feel, in their state of “authorhood” that they lack a certain legitimacy that can only come from having a traditionally-published book? I wonder if signing a contract gave Amanda Hocking, who had sold more than 1.5 million copies of her self-published books, a certain legitimacy when her first traditionally-published book came out? Does signing on the dotted line of a contract lift the alleged stigma of illegitimacy?
Let’s examine it from another perspective. Does it matter to a reader that the book he or she has chosen is by an indie author or a “legitimate” author? Will that reader engage in the story any differently?
Weigh in, everyone. Let’s hear your views…