Reducing Bias Against Self-Published Authors

Monday, June 12, 2017

The Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA) has been championing independent publishers big and small, self and otherwise, since 1983. That’s over 30 years of advocating for indie voices in the traditional publishing industry. Over this time, we’ve seen a thing or two. 

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Recent changes in the publishing industry, for example, have created enormous opportunities for self-published authors. It’s now possible to produce a professional quality book outside of the Big 5 conglomerates. Unfortunately, however, this opportunity has come at the cost of a deepening divide between how traditionally published and self-published authors are treated. Too often, IBPA has noticed a bias against self-published authors, independent publishers, and hybrid presses when it comes to choosing titles or authors for book review consideration, book award contests, association memberships, and inclusion on independent bookstore shelves.

There is no reason for this bias. While it’s true that not all books are created equal, when they are, it's important that the industry treats them as such.

That’s why IBPA’s Advocacy Committee recently published an Industry Standards Checklist for a Professionally Published Book – a two-page document developed to support independent publishers and self-published authors, but also to urge an industry in flux to acknowledge that books ought to be judged on their substance rather than their business model.

If used appropriately, the checklist gives both authors and book industry professionals an at-a-glance method by which to gauge the professional presentation of a book. The goal is that the checklist becomes a future guide that reviewers, contests, membership associations, and bookstores turn to when deciding which authors merit consideration.

I had the privilege of discussing the checklist with other industry organizations during BookExpo in New York City. I met with the American Booksellers Association, the Authors Guild, Publishers Weekly, Foreword Reviews, and many more. I’m glad to say the reception was warm. The industry professionals paying attention know they’re missing quality books by using gatekeeping tactics attached to business models. They just haven’t figured out how to consider these books without opening the flood gate to unprofessionally produced content, as well. They seemed to appreciate that the checklist is a needed first step toward figuring this out.

Today’s independent publishers and self-published authors represent a diverse array of voices and backgrounds, often speaking about specialized issues that are marginalized by larger presses, often because their books are being judged on the traditional publisher's business model and not on what matters—which is the content of the books. Just as publishers, self or otherwise, are responsible for producing books that adhere to industry standards, the book industry as a whole is responsible for creating an environment that allows for equal evaluation of all published works.

IBPA has pledged to help reduce bias against independently published books with the Industry Standards Checklist for a Professionally Published Book. You can download the checklist now.


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Angela Bole

Angela Bole is chief executive officer of the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA), the largest book publishing association in the U.S. serving independent publishers and self-published authors. IBPA’s mission is to lead and serve the independent publishing community through advocacy, education, and tools for success. IBPA’s vision is a world where every independent publisher has the tools and knowledge needed to professionally engage in all aspects of the publishing industry.