Stigma Dis, Stigma Dat… Whatever

Note: This post was originally scheduled for October 2014. It didn’t post to MailChimp, so I’m posting it again now. I’ve revised the original post so it’s up to date.

Hey Folks,

Received yet another note today from a friend about the “stigma” of self-publishing. What a bunch of crap. There, I said it.

Not only is it a bunch of crap that there’s a “stigma” in the first place, but it’s an even bigger, smellier bunch of crap that anyone who calls himself or herself a writer cares either way. Writers write.

Self-publishing (indie publishing, not going through a subsidy publisher) is just another way to get your work to readers, period. That’s all it is. And if you tell a good story, someone out there will want to read it, period.

Look, if you’re a fiction writer, either professional or aspirant—you know, a person who actually puts new words on the page—and you’re serious about your writing, do yourself a HUGE favor and swing by the website of my unintentional mentor, Dean Wesley Smith. You’ll find it at

While you’re there, please be sure to click the Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing tab and read some of the ridiculous myths we’ve all bought into over all these years.

Now just so you know, Dean is no slouch. The guy has had over 100 novels published with “traditional” publishers since the late 1980s. He goes almost strictly indie now.

One other thing—if you truly are serious about your writing, check out the Lecture Series tab on Dean’s website as well. His video series on Heinlein’s Rules is absolutely essential. It’s $75 and easily, EASILY worth several times more that. Think of it as an investment in your future. Seriously.

Dean’s wife is Kristine Kathryn Rusch. You can find her website at

Kris is the only person in history to win a Hugo award both as an editor and a writer. She’s had hundreds of novels published through traditional publishing, and now does tons of stuff in indie publishing. You want to see a work that literally defines the definition of accomplishment? Check out her Retrieval Artist Series.

Those of you who still feel there’s a “stigma” attached to self-published books, listen up:

Self-publishing doesn’t make a book bad anymore than traditional publishing makes one good. It’s the writing, nothing else.

And because I’m in a good mood, I’ll tell you something else: YOU are literally the worst judge of your own writing. When you’re editing and polishing and rewriting because you think it’s boring or bad or needs to be “punched up,” that’s because it’s in YOUR voice.

You are with your voice 24/7, so OF COURSE it sounds boring or bland or bad to you. But to other readers, it will sound unique— Well, if you don’t polish all the good off of it before you finally submit it or put it up for sale.

A little factoid for you—did you know before WWII there were NO traditional publishers?

That’s right. Only self-publishers and the pulps. There were no trade paperbacks until the late 1940s, but people (even writers, who are getting severely, I mean SEVERELY screwed by the big publishers) seem to think traditional publishing predates the printing press and is the most wonderful thing since that same old clichéd sliced bread. Ugh.

Oh, Dean is also the first person in history to create a monthly magazine (Smith’s Monthly) that contains a complete novel and several short stories and all of the work is his own. Quite an accomplishment.

Stop by and take a look. Maybe it’ll clear away some of that “stigma” for you. Seriously.

‘Til next time,


I am a professional fiction writer as well as a copyeditor. For details, or just to learn what comprises a good copy edit, please visit Copyediting. It costs less than you think.

If you’d like to get writing tips several times each week, pop over to my Daily Journal and sign up. In the alternative, you can also click the Pro Writer’s Journal tab on the main website at


3 thoughts on “Stigma Dis, Stigma Dat… Whatever”

  1. Harvey, there is so much more to this mindset, because that is what it is. Negativity becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy–remember that one from Psych. 101? If someone is determined that self-publishing has a stigma, then that person has an excuse not to write, not to polish his/her craft, and not to try. (). A serious writer will care.

    Drift by any online site where you can sample free books or eBooks, and you’ll see what I mean. Just because a person can publish, should he/she? However, there is the matter of trash in, trash out. Your writers, those who have worked closely with you and others who care passionately about the craft, these writers (real writers) who follow Heinlein’s Rule will not publish trash. There is a tremendous amount of traditionally published writing out there that I will not read. The writer in me screams out in pain at each insult to the language… and I’ll set the book aside, return it to the library, or put it in the donation bag. These are the big name, traditionally published authors, mind you.

    Allow the water in the harbor to rise. Don’t let negativity pull you down into the sludge around the shore. Write quality writing and don’t fear publishing it, however is best for you. What I do caution writers is this: beware where your dollars go. I have some stories that will make a strong man cringe, about writers I’ve worked with who have poured multi-thousands of dollars into what are little more than scams. If it’s your money, use it wisely. Jerry Simmons, a former NYC publisher who now calls Arizona home, has much advice on this for authors. He supports self-publishing, but “let the buyer beware.” And I support these fine writers too.

    Thanks for letting me have a rant to start my day.

    • Hi Michaele, I agree with everything you have to say, but at the end where you’re telling authors to “let the buyer beware,” if you’re talking about subsidy publishing, I absolutely agree. However, subsidy publishing is NOT self-publishing. That’s another bit of education we need to fling out there. Problem is, so many will just let it drop. That’s why I’m getting out of the business. If some fool (sorry, but that’s what it is) want to pay iUniverse or AuthorHouse or any of the other subsidy publishers, that’s fine. It’s their money. When I talk about self-publishing, I’m talkingn about true self-publishing, in which the writer becomes publisher, sends his/her work to Smashwords, Amazon and (in the case of longer works or collections) CreateSpace (all of which cost NOTHING) and then moves on to writing the next story.
      Unfortunately, most of them won’t listen. They don’t know quality instruction when they hear it, and they wouldn’t know good writing and attention to craft if it walked up and slapped them. They write only to mark something off their bucket list or they think a handful of short stories or a novel make a writing career. Ugh. I just can’t handle them anymore.
      So if they want to throw thousands of dollars at those scam organizations to make themselves feel like writers, that’s fine with me. More power to them. Deep down, they know they aren’t, and even if they don’t, tomorrow I’m gonna wake up and write the next story. 🙂

      • And I meant to say, sorry to get back to you so late. Today I was gone all day teaching a day-long intensive to a group of serious, actual aspiring professionals who, I believe, got a great deal of information for their money, a true investment in their career. 🙂 Great, great fun!

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