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From what I have researched anybody can self-publish. So it is an easier route than traditional publishing. However, since anyone can publish, that means even poorly written novels can be published.

In general, do authors who have gone the traditional publishing route, respect authors who have self-published a well-written work, or are they looked down upon?

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    If you write a story that touches the heart of hundred of readers, they will respect you even if they don't want to.
    – alex
    Jun 10, 2017 at 8:00

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If your book is both well-written and successful, people will eventually judge it on its merits, not its publishing method.

However, people who haven't read your book will probably have significantly lower expectations for its quality if they know it is self-published, and this in turn will make it harder to get people to read it in the first place.

Self-publishing success stories are almost always stories of successful salesmanship --the quality of the writing has a secondary impact.

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The short answer is no, authors who self-publish are not respected in the writing world. However, the very wording of your question reveals part of the reason why not.

Your question asks about RESPECT from two groups (1) The 'writing world' and (2) 'authors'. This is indicative of the academic biased psyche of a typical aspiring writer. A 'normal' person wants financial reward over respect. The 'respect' you speak of is the same respect you sought from your school-teacher and your peers.

"Well-written" is a peer-review and rejection term it's not particularly high on a commercial publisher's agenda. The writing of Dan Brown, Stephanie Meyer, or EL James is generally considered to be awful. James Patterson is pretty terrible too . . . he doesn't even write his own books. Publisher's are 'for-profit' companies who profit on volume, they've no interest in publishing 'good books' they seek authors who's personal stories can be sold.

Once upon a time publishing was an expensive business and only publishers could publish. This enabled publishers to dictate what was published. Any author who possessed the finance to publish his own work (vanity publishing) was frowned upon - How dare he circumvent us, the gatekeepers, this work is unapproved!

I have been to third base with major publishers on more than one occasion. "Well-written" was never an issue. "We want to market this to teens so can you remove the masturbation scene." "We love this story but we are concerned about the number of children killed."

The digital era bought commercial publishers a whole new set of problems - anybody could publish at virtually no cost. Amanda Hocking was the original self-publishing queen. Sales of her ebooks reached 10,000 copies per day. The publisher's problem is that under normal circumstances an author of her standing was offered around 7% of the cover price. Hocking through self-publishing was earning 70%. It took a £2,000,000 advance to get her out of the self-publishing business.

But this story is not new. We recognise the plot from the music industry. The Internet and MP3s decimated the recording companies. Literature is just a little slow.

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    We want to market this to teens so can you remove the masturbation scene. Yeah, if there's one things teens hate it's masturbation. Aug 16, 2017 at 15:57
  • Killing children and masturbation, was this a delete scene from Star Wars E3? Apr 6, 2021 at 17:00
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I think as long as the published work is of quality it shouldn't matter which route it took to get to the page. The simple fact is that you can't please everyone. If I were a published author and went traditional and someone else made more money self publishing, I'd perhaps wonder if I took the wrong route, and vice versa. But publishing is really the means to the end that most authors seek, as Surtsey rightly points out, in getting your work sold to make money. To me it doesn't matter how it gets there as long as it gets there.

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In general, I agree with Sursey's asswer.

I just wanted to add my 2p; self publishing lacks the nuclear weapon of publishing: MARKETING.

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  • (I'm very late to this question) I have several friends who are traditionally published, none of whom received any (or very minimal) marketing from their publishers. As I understand it, they market proven writers via a few super releases a year on which they blow their budget. New trad published writers are expected to market themselves, just as indie writers have to. Except indie writers do it for 70% of profit while trad publishers do it for 7%. If you're considering trad publishing, I think you'd be disappointed to find there's no nuclear weapon garnering attention for your book.
    – GGx
    Jul 26, 2018 at 17:46
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While I appreciate that the question was asked years ago, It is worth pointing out that many authors have had good to significant success with self-publishing in recent years. It does take a lot of work and personal financial commitment to deal with things like copy editing, cover design, internal layout, manufacture and distribution.

If you want to both write and sell your book you will need to get an army of volunteers and hire some professional help too. Finding volunteers isn't as difficult or painful as you may suspect if you put the work and effort into building a community around yourself.

Several services and tools have arisen in recent years to support the self-pub route for authors.

These include the more obvious ones like:

and others to provide a marketplace for you to promote your offering.

Community and communications tools are crucial when creating a home for your supporters and fans, a couple of the more popular options are:

Plus building the community out requires investing time to hangout where your natural audience is, engage with them, share your vision and dreams for your own book, get them excited about it and wanting to be involved in making it a reality. Facebook, Reddit, etc., and in person events like conferences and conventions provide you the space and opportunity to seek and develop your community.

All of that should tell you that there is a lot of work required to publish your book following the self-pub route.

If you are prepared to put the work in, if you can build your support network, if you are prepared to have fun and make new friends you can become a highly respected and commercially successfully author.

A few examples of authors who have made this work include:

  • Brandon Sanderson
  • Michael J Sullivan
  • Matthew Wolf
  • David Estes

In each case the authors have either had to build a community of supporters to help them design, develop and run the campaign to promote and sell their books, they have also needed significant support to deal with manufacturing and distribution.

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