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Increasingly it feels like self-publishing is becoming more accepted in the publishing environment. But as authors, we still come up against the stigma in the general public, even if those readers couldn't tell the difference on a book sales page.
In today's article, author and coach Corrina Gordon-Barnes tackles the issue of what is considered real from other people's perspective and how we can deal with that.
A man and I are chatting in the conference tea break. We know each other from a while back and now he asks what I’ve been up to the last couple of years. Proudly, I share how I’ve published my first book and how much I enjoy receiving feedback from happy readers.
He’s impressed, interested, engaged. Until he clocks that I’ve chosen the independent publishing route. Then, his face falls.
“Oh, I see. It’s not real publishing then.”
I’m indignant, offended. My mind’s question: who says it’s not real? And, what makes something “real”?
I’ve had a similar response to my marriage. It’s rare, but it has happened, that someone hears I’m married to a woman and feels the need to clarify:
“Oh, you mean a civil partnership. Not a real marriage.”
I’m interested in what’s happening when someone feels the need to to diminish the real-ness of someone else's experience. The desire to insist on a dictionary definition, or an outdated distinction; to preserve the sanctity of a concept – whether it’s heterosexual marriage, traditional publishing or some other institution.
What’s the basis for drawing and protecting these boundaries?
If we return to my book, all the copies were printed by a company which also prints some of Stephen King’s novels, as well as Oxford and Cambridge University text books – same ink, same paper. Writer colleagues who’ve won publishing contracts have lamented that the editing of my book is sharper than the half-hearted or rushed job that was done on theirs. (I hired an excellent professional editor and copy-editor, after extensive research and personal recommendations.)
If a book that ends up in your hands looks the same and feels the same as any you buy in a book store, if it can also be bought online and at live events or ordered from libraries, and if it gives the same level of educational or entertainment benefit to the reader, what’s not “real” about an independently published book?
A few differences I’ve noticed are that
a) I’ve learned some great new project management skills
b) I’ve been 100% in charge of content and pricing
c) I’m the one earning the publisher’s percentage, as well as the writer’s royalty
In my marriage, you’ll spot the same joys and challenges as with any couple. Shared dreams, laughter, financial budgeting, intimacy, family holidays and division of household responsibilities: who’s going to take out the bins (me) and replace the light-bulbs (her).
(A few differences: we can share clothes, stand in line chatting in the same toilet queue, and have plentiful sex without fear of an unplanned pregnancy.)
What makes your book “real”?
Your book, your perspective, your dream, your business, your fear, your spiritual beliefs, your relationship – who decides what’s “real” and what’s not?
So if you find yourself on the receiving end of negativity, appreciate that it usually comes from a lack of knowledge and personal experience on the part of the critic. Rather than feeling hurt and taking their comments as rejection, stand proud and be excited: here comes an opportunity to educate one more person about how viable independent publishing really is.
I’d love to hear in the comments: when has anyone told you that something you cherish isn’t “real”? How did you respond? How would you like to respond?
Corrina Gordon-Barnes is a self-employment and marketing coach who enables service professionals (editors, designers, translators, coaches, massage therapists etc) to find clients and earn a healthy living.
She is the author of Turn Your Passion To Profit: a step-by-step guide to getting your business off the ground.