Guest Post: “The Self-Publishing Catch-22” by M.D. Presley

Today, the BiblioSanctum is excited to help spread the word about Sigil Independent, a new writing guild started by a group of self-published fantasy authors including many Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off (SPFBO) alumni like Phil Tucker, Dyrk Aston, inaugural winner Michael McClung, and several other semi-finalists from the previous year.

The following is a part of their mission statement from their website:

“Like it or not, all self-published authors carry with them the stigma of being a self-published author. With the newfound ease of self-publishing, the traditional gatekeepers no longer hold utter sway and any individual with an idea, internet connection, and fifteen minutes for an upload can call him or herself an author. As such, many self-published books now inundate audiences with errors and amateurism the traditional gatekeepers never would have allowed.

However, as Mark Lawrence’s Self-Published Fantasy Blog Off has demonstrated, there’s also a lot of untapped talent out there in the self-published Fantasy realms, often catering to subgenres traditional publishers aren’t interested in. These self-published authors operate on par with their traditionally published peers but lack the means to achieve audience awareness as they endeavor individually. 

To overcome this, SIGIL has formed a guild of like-minded self-published Fantasy authors intent on utilizing traditionally published best practices to ensure our audiences receive the best possible self-published product.”

Needless to say, it’s amazing that SPFBO continues to inspire initiatives like this, and one of Sigil’s founding members, M.D. Presley, has very graciously written us a guest post to help kick off their outreach. If you can, please give them a look and show your support by checking out other fun things on their website like this personality test or download a free sampler book to get to know their authors. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this post by Mr. Presley!

by M.D. Presley

There’s a famous saying among screenwriters in Hollywood: “You can’t sell a script unless you’ve got an agent, and you can’t get an agent without first selling a script.” This little logical conundrum isn’t entirely accurate, but it does touch upon the truth that no producer wants an untested product.

The same catch-22 exists for authors as well in that, to get readers you need reviews, but to get reviews you need readers. But this paradox is compounded exponentially for self-publishers because we carry with us the stigma of being self-published. Because the author in question did not go the traditional route it’s implicitly understood this was because they could not make the qualitative cut.

Don’t believe me? Go check out your favorite book blogger and check out their review policy. Chances are it will contain some variation of this refrain “we do not accept self-published novels.” If the blogger is particularly open minded, it will include this addendum “we do not accept self-published novels unless we are already familiar with the author.

And therein lies the rub: Self-published authors cannot get noticed by book bloggers unless they’ve already been noticed by said book bloggers. And being that word of mouth is the biggest driver in readers giving a new novel a shot, self-publishers are already several steps behind when it comes to launching a new book.

But one aspect of this interaction between authors and book bloggers/ reviewers bears greater scrutiny: What separates an unproven debut novel from a traditional publisher from an unproven debut novel from a self-publisher? The answer lies in the seal of approval of the publisher itself: If the reviewer knows and likes other novels from the publisher, it is expected that any new novels will be of equal quality.

Novels under a traditional publisher share a brand of quality, one that we at Sigil Independent seek to emulate. Although made up entirely of self-publishers, many of which you’ll be familiar with if you follow Mark Lawrence’s Self-Published Fantasy Blog Off since we sport many finalists in our stable, we at Sigil Independent retain full control over our works. In fact, Sigil members pay no dues since we’re not a business by any means.

Instead, we’re a guild that aims to create a shared brand of quality; if you’ve already enjoyed at least one of our authors (and honestly, you probably should have already if you regularly follow fantasy book bloggers), you can expect that our other authors are on par in terms of quality. If you’ve given one of us a shot, you should probably see if any of our other nine authors are your cup of tea.

To aid audiences in discovering some of the best self-published fantasy out there, we at Sigil have issued a FREE 500+ page book containing samples of all our authors. And to make matters more interesting and connect readers with the book they are most likely to enjoy, we’ve set up a little questionnaire in the form of a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure story in the prologue (so, for goodness sakes, don’t skip the prologue!) which will immediately take you to the sample that will hopefully spark your new interest in self-published authors to help break that insidious catch-22 cycle.

Other quizzes, author bios, and freebies can be found at our website, We can also be found on Facebook at Sigil Independent and Twitter @sigilindie.


A Texan transplant living in California, MD Presley isn’t nearly as clever as he thinks he is. With a background in screenwriting, he fled to publishing with his flintlock fantasy series when the reality of Hollywood got to be a bit too much. A founding member of Sigil Independent, he also blogs weekly at the not-so-creatively-named and tweets on occasion @md_presley.

And no, he’s not related to Elvis. Thanks for asking.

33 Comments on “Guest Post: “The Self-Publishing Catch-22” by M.D. Presley”

  1. This is a wonderful idea! I admit to being hesitant about self published works, especially if I’ve never heard of the author but there really is fantastic talent out there in the self-pub world!


  2. There are plenty of us out there who DO read self published books. In fact about 90-95% of what I read is not by mainstream authors and most bloggers I know are happy to read Indie.


  3. What a great idea! I’ll admit I’m one of those bloggers who does not read self published novels. I was burned badly early in my blogging career when I read nothing BUT SP books. But I’m glad there are bloggers willing to take chances on unknown authors. Hey, sometimes traditionally published books disappoint me, so you never know!


    • Yes, there have been spectacularly disappointing traditionally published books! Thankfully, that has been quite rare. The good news is, I find even self-pubbed books in general have seen an improvement in quality overall. And maybe I’m also getting better at choosing them, reading samples before picking them up, etc.


  4. I must confess that taking part in the SPFBO has really helped to open my eyes to self published authors and I had been watching the news about Sigil on Twitter. I think it’s a great idea.
    Lynn 😀


  5. I’m definitely pro self pub and I hope to discover more authors after checking out the free samples. My aim is to review lesser known authors and use recommendations to connect readers with new books and new authors. Hope to add more soon!


    • Yep, and knowing that the pub has a high standard for quality (including editing, covers, etc.) helps too. Which is why I’m hoping Sigil Independent takes off, I know all the authors involved take quality VERY seriously!


  6. I don’t know if I have read any self-published books, so I’m guessing I probably haven’t. But I have read books by certain publishers that had tons of spelling and grammar mistakes, so just because they have a publisher doesn’t make them better!

    Great post! Thanks for sharing this 🙂 I will go check out the site for sure!


  7. That’s a very important point that self-published books will inevitably have a much wider scope in terms of genre, sub-genre and niche. The down-side is of course that the range of quality is also far greater. It’s fantastic what Sigil Independent is doing. Just as indie films need a film festival to reach folks, self-published authors need a “festival” or platform to break through the clutter of modern society. Would be great to see a book festival for self-published authors! Team up with some micro-brewery and have a jolly old time quaffing ale and listening to readings. Erm, sorry, think I am getting carried away here…


    • Yes, I like that self-published authors and small indie pubs can cater to niche tastes, because I know plenty of awesome books are overlooked by traditional or large publishing houses simply because they think something “won’t sell”. But as plenty of success stories have shown in the past, traditional publishers don’t always have it right! 😀


      • Being British, every time I see the word “pub” I instantly assume we are talking about beer. Took me a minute to realise “indie pub” meant “indie publisher” and not some groovy ale-house. Just took a squizz at your gaming blog by the way. Wow! is all I can say. Very slick! I am such a luddite when it comes to tech. Anyway, thanks for the reply and have a good day.


  8. I like a lot of Sigil’s authors and support self-published when I can. I will admit though that before I started judging for #spfbo I was skeptical about picking up books that weren’t trad-published.


    • I was the same way. In that sense, SPFBO really changed the way I looked at self-publishing. Of course, in the year our blog took part in the event, we also had to sift through a lot of stuff that didn’t pass muster, but in the end there were still plenty of gems that stood out.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. This is awesome, thanks for sharing this. It’s nice to see something like this, so that hopefully self- published authors get a better shot and readers can discover their work!


  10. Whoa, this is such a cool idea! I’ll admit that I used to be somewhat prejudiced against self-published titles, but in recent years I’ve been introduced to SP authors who’re insanely talented. It’s just a matter of finding them! A resource like Sigil will be invaluable for that, I think.


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