The Digital Revolution has Removed the Stigma Attached to Self-Publishing: True or False?

For the past five years, the gurus of self-publishing, from J.A. Konrath to David Gaughran, have trumpeted the good news: the Digital Revolution has "leveled the playing field between authors and publishers", the stigma attached to self-publishing is a thing of the past. It has been consigned to the dustbin of History.

Valerie Macon (see AP post about her nomination

 here)
And suddenly, an article in the New York Times two weeks ago come as a reminder that this may not be the case, that the stigma attached to self-publishing is lingering on, like a mold you can't get rid of. One poet, Valerie Macon, recently nominated to the position of State Poet Laureate by her state governor (Gov. Pat McCrory of North Carolina)  resigned.  She was possibly forced into leaving the job, nobody knows for sure, but the fact that she is a self-published author seems to have had something to do with it. She wasn't deemed good enough for the post...

In many ways, this is a curious story: it is linked to that very American system of state-sponsored (and even county-sponsored!) poet laureates that was started back in 1937, presumably as a way to salvage poetry from oblivion. See the full NYT article here.

That article has more to do with the number of State poet laureates today in America (45) than with the fact I'm highlighting here, no doubt because the NYT reporter considered it a minor point, as she put it, "just another chapter in the long-running debate over whose standards should rule the art form".

Ms. Macon's position however is fully reported and I quote: "In her letter of resignation, she said that people didn’t need 'prestigious publishing credits or a collection of accolades from impressive organizations” to read or write poetry.'"

"Prestigious" publishing credits? Indeed, self-publishing does NOT provide those, nor "accolades from impressive organizations"; all the famous prizes, from the Man Booker to the Pulitzer, are closed to self-published authors.  One presumes she is referring to poetry prizes, of which there are an extraordinary number, both at the international and national level (see here).

It is however of note that she did not make her poetry available on Amazon. You might say she is a "pre-digital" writer who probably believed that self-publishing outside of Amazon no longer carried any stigma thanks to the "Amazon effect". In her case, the Amazon effect apparently didn't work its magic.

Should one conclude that the stigma attached to self-publishing hasn't yet gone away?

I'm afraid the answer is yes. However, things are moving in the "traditional" publishing world, there is some hope, a little light at the end of the tunnel: recently, the Library Journal has started something called SELF-e for self-published authors. If  your book is to their liking, they will share it with some 500 libraries in the US (see here). I checked, but unfortunately, for the moment, the offer is limited to US residents. So if you live abroad as I do, forget it!

It's a small step, but to paraphrase Neil Armstrong on the Moon, a "giant leap" for self-published authors. Maybe the beginning of the end of that damnable stigma? Let's just hope it won't take as long as it is taking man to go back to the Moon!




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