Maybe It’s All About Prestige

Blog 21 applause 2Here’s another post in my blog series about a first-time fiction writer choosing between traditional publishing and self-publishing. I’m in the middle of discussing some non-financial considerations that might go into that choice. This post is about whether an author will acquire more prestige by publishing her manuscript with a traditional publisher or by self-publishing.

I’m going to take a wild guess and say most people will instinctively decide that traditional publishing offers an author more prestige. However, I want to analyse this more closely.

My friend, the Concise Oxford English Dictionary, defines “prestige” as “widespread respect and admiration attracted through a perception of high achievements or quality”. (As an interesting aside, the word “prestige” has its origins in ideas of illusion and conjuring a trick.)

So, an author can acquire prestige through a perception of high achievements or quality.

Considering achievements first, an author achieves something considerable just by completing a book. I get this validation all the time when I tell people about The Case for Killing and False Guilt. And, if readers really like the book or it sells well, the author will be perceived as having accomplished something significant. This creates at least some prestige, which exists whether the book is traditionally published or self-published.

But what about prestige from “a perception of … quality”? Here I think there is a difference.

Many people view a book that is traditionally published as meeting a basic quality level. This is because the publisher, together with the author’s agent if she has one, acts as a gatekeeper. And this perceived quality level is whether or not the book finds any readers.

However, while perhaps less and less the case, many people don’t perceive the same guarantee of quality in a self-published book. And, in fact, the quality of self-published books varies significantly.

From the perspective of quality, therefore, a self-pub author is less likely to acquire prestige when her manuscript is published than a traditionally published author. She may acquire prestige based on the quality of her book if enough readers endorse it. But for this, readers must discover the book, which may or may not occur and certainly will take time.

Next week, I’m going to take a break from blogging because it’s Labour Day and I need to plan my promotion of False Guilt. Next post: September 7.

Thanks to my good friend, Peter Fischer, for his artwork.

Copyright © 2014 Peter Fritze

Buy The Case for Killing here (Canada) or here (U.S.).

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