Are self-published authors really authors? | Grammar Factory Publishing

Are self-published authors really authors?

Last week Dr Jim Taylor published a blog post on Seattle PI where he debated whether or not self-published authors are really authors (and whether or not they are really published, for that matter).

From his post:

“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.

The publishing houses are certainly not beyond reproach as judges of worthy literature. There are many books published by the houses that are critically panned and sell few copies. Yet, despite their warts, the publishing industry does serve a valuable role as an initial arbiter of literary quality (however flawed it may be). Books that are accepted by a genuine publisher go through a rigorous (though obviously imperfect) multi-layer vetting process that includes an agent, an editor, several outside reviewers, an editorial committee, a sales and marketing committee, and often the publisher him or herself.”

He concludes “until self-publishing has proven itself, I’m going to argue that there is a difference [between] publishing and self-publishing and between authors and book writers.”

While I agree with Dr Taylor that traditionally-published books are rigorously vetted (though that doesn’t always ensure great quality), self-published authors who are serious about creating a quality book can create great self-published books, and those authors have every right to call themselves “real” authors.

Yes, anyone can type up 50,000 words in Word, create a cover in Photoshop, buy an ISBN and have their book printed using a service like Blurb. And anyone who does that shouldn’t expect their book to stand up against professionally published works.

However, someone could also type up 50,000 words in Word, review and refine the draft until they’re satisfied, and then have it reviewed by industry experts, or people who are in their target audience.

Once they’ve done the preliminary review, they can hire a professional, qualified editor to look at the content, structure, language, tone and more. While their book is being edited, they can also hire a professional graphic designer to design a polished front cover, back cover and spine.

Once the editing is completed, they can work with their designer on the internal page layout, or typesetting.

And they can work with a printing company that has experience in printing books like the one they want to create, which can provide guidelines for their typesetter and cover designer, and which can explain the pros and cons of various formats. The printer should also be able to provide at least one proof copy, so the author can give everything a once over before printing a full run.

If a self-published author goes through this process, their book will have been vetted to the same extent as a professionally published book by the time it goes to print. It will be a professional publication, and the author will have every right to call themselves a real author.

Royvia - September 14, 2019

Great post.

Royvia - September 14, 2019

Great post.

Candy - November 20, 2019

Thanks for sharing this info, I really liked your storytelling

Amie Cooper - February 18, 2020

I’ve been thinking about this a lot this week. If someone writes a book, edits it, re-edits, adds illustrations, designs a lovely cover, and then manages to get stunning reviews in magazines and glowing reviews from enthusiastic (non-family) followers, then yes, they deserve to be called an author. The way the system is set up now is based on snobbery and greed. A fireman might have an extraordinary memoir that he’s written, but if he can’t circle the country, hitting morning shows to talk about a three page synopsis, it’s a sham. Yes, I did write a memoir which got fantastic reviews in music magazine, and so many moving letters and emails from teenagers who told me my book was their favorite and it changed their lives, because they could completely relate to my experiences. But if I didn’t make enough money, it doesn’t count. Well, self-published authors who dove right in without understanding the ridiculous publishing rules, who thought the beauty and humor and insight of the book was more important than the cash you got, know this: you are authors. The Establishment might want to deny you that, but don’t let them. And after you have objectively edited your book to your satisfaction, rejoice! Too bad the reCAPTCHA doesn’t work very well.

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