Has Self-Publishing Made Everything a Bit…Sterile?



by Phoebe Quinn

Six year-old me dreamed of seeing my name shining on hardbacks in the window of Waterstone’s as the latest bestselling debut author. Twenty-seven year old me has altered the dream slightly to a single webpage with the all-important average customer rating hovering between 4 and 5. It’s less enchanting, but more practical.

I came across the phrase ‘authorpreneurial’ recently, and I still don’t know how I feel about it. On the one hand, I like the idea of authors taking full control of the process, sourcing their own editor and cover artists and beta readers. It makes the process so much more than just writing then handing it to some publisher who may or may not massacre it in the name of profit margins (if it gets there in the first place).

On the other hand, it has bred a new strain of writers and authors who are successful, but… there’s something missing: the person.

The writers and authors that make me feel uneasy about the whole thing are the aggressive marketers. Sometimes they sneak into my Twitter feed and, on discovery, are swiftly unfollowed. Their whole persona is geared around sales and advertising, spamming links to their ebook constantly with no original or funny or thought-provoking content.

I understand the need to promote your book. But if that’s all you do, you come across as one or more of several things: 1) selfish, 2) money-obsessed, 3) almost robotic, or, the worst, 4) insincere. It puts me off buying your book because I don’t believe you enjoyed writing it or that want to integrate with the online writing community. It makes me believe that you write to sell.

Obviously, I self-promote. I schedule a few tweets a week (never more than two a day, and usually only one) to keep old posts coming up on my Twitter timeline so they don’t get lost. Until I publish, posts are all I have, and of course after I publish I’ll be promoting my book a little. But I try to keep my social media a varied mix of self-promotion and my own inane ramblings that, even if they’re boring or not to everyone’s taste, are, at least, genuine.

As well, there are blog posts that give me the same crawling feeling as self-help books do. They’re usually the ones that have ‘you’ in the post title. Why your blog is putting readers off, and how you can change it. Or, X things/quotes/whatever that will change your writing for the better. Or, the worst ones, XX things you are doing wrong as a writer.

They all follow the same principles as negging: they put you down, then promise to build you up again, if only you’re willing to put the effort in. Which means, read my blog post and it will benefit you more than it benefits me.

Like hell it will.

Self-publishing, like most things, is a double-edged sword. It gives everyone an equal footing and gives the world a wider variety of literature – which can only be a good thing. The downside is that it turns some people into a one-man publishing house, sucking our all their personality in favour of blog stats, royalty figures, and clickbait headlines.

There are plenty of authors whose personality comes through on social media – J. K. Rowling, Neil Gaiman, Louise O’Neill, and Matt Haig are some of my favourites because they are unrestrainedly themselves. They’re also all hugely successful and don’t necessarily need to self-promote – but consider that I don’t particularly like Harry Potter and have only read the first four books, yet J. K.’s social media is one I always enjoy reading.

The author is a significant part of the product that people are buying, which I think can get lost in the desire to be out there and noticed. There’s a lot to be said for being human.




Guest post contributed by Phoebe Quinn. Phoebe is a writer of fiction with a collection of short stories to be released in 2016.

22 thoughts on “Has Self-Publishing Made Everything a Bit…Sterile?

  1. Thank you for this post. You address a very valuable point. It is a given that in today’s world, authors do need to self promote. However, credibility is critical in one’s support and to panhandle your product without dignity has a negative image. In this day, image is important.


  2. Amen–shameless self-promotion really doesn’t do much good for anyone, let alone the person doing the promotion. It’s annoying and like those stupid ads on Facebook. You visit a site once and that’s all the ads you get for months. Sucks. Staggering the promotion’s a good idea, and there’s nothing wrong with writing a regular blog post and making a little tag at the bottom about your book, That way it’s not terribly intrusive and a little bit of promotion people can give or take.


  3. I’m at a loss for how to self promote. For years I was perfectly happy to not tweet. And now, since I’m trying to get people to read my work, I find myself tweeting links to the stories I put up, but I make a point of not tweeting anything else. It’s probably a losing strategy, but the problem is my work is completely different from my day to day persona. I’m not an introverted person. Not in the least. Just totally different than my work, and to be honest with you, my work is a lot smarter than my dumbass one liners. So it’s kind of a weird position to be in. To tell you the truth, I really hate that I have to use twitter.


  4. Great post! For a reviewer, nothing turns me off more than mass marketed tweets promoting a book. It’s a shame because the story could be fantastic but as you said it’s too aggressive.


  5. One of the things I do NOT like about self publishing is how badly edited some books are. I have many author friends I follow on FB (I do not tweet). They are real friends who I talk to and send boxes of treats to and one put me in her book!!! I enjoy them greatly. One of them went from a self publishing writer with dogs to a top seller for Amazon and is now publishing thru them (or however it works!). He still has dogs! There are a great many of my friends who promote with parties and what not. I often avoid those, mostly because hovering over a computer to ‘get’ that cool dragon figurine is not what I like to do all day. Even if I would love the cool dragon!


  6. Absolutely could not agree more, to be honest. I dislike authors who do that, immensely. Authors whose personalities are appealing, and who write content that is thought provoking because they are doing it to express themselves, are those whose books I am enticed to read. And am certainly not disappointed when I do. Great post, I hadn’t thought of authors in terms of their personalities before. Some authors write so well that one feels half in love with them themselves!


  7. I think it can be really difficult for self-published authors to “create” their personas. Social media has taught us that only the funniest, wittiest, or most insightful people will have huge audiences of followers. In the absence of that kind of personality, a lot of people’s social media profiles turn into spam cannons. You’re right, though; authenticity is the key. If only I was brave enough to try Twitter 😛

    Btw, I think it’s good that you limit your promotional posts on social media. The general rule for social media marketing is 80-20, so only 20% (or less) of your posts should be promotional.


  8. There have always been authors like that. Thankfully, in the grand scheme of things, there aren’t all that many of them, they’re just loud, and that’s what the ‘off’ button is for! 😀


  9. Nice post, Phoebe. Guess none of us should discount the importance that a personal touch and originality can bring to our endeavour. And yes, I too find it odd when authors whom I follow only come up with these promotional tweets and nothing else. You can be real and frank on Twitter too. Why not do that?
    Thanks again for the post. God bless. 🙂


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