Self-publishing, for all of the criticism it still receives in some circles, is one of the many examples of people using their ambition, ingenuity, creativity, and drive to achieve a personal – and even professional – goal. Self-publishers utilize every creative skill they possess (or, if they don’t have a particular skill, find and pay experts) and spend weeks, months, or years creating, designing, and marketing their work. They become a one-person small business.

So why are self-publishers still being derided on influential blogs by influential people?

I have a theory that it has something to do with the shifting understanding of the American Dream.

During an episode of Oprah I watched last year, Oprah said she was very grateful. She had been allowed to live the American Dream: she was once poor, and now she’s rich.

She went on to say that the majority of Americans believe they can “have” the American Dream. And then an expert on her show said 85% of these Americans are incorrect – they will NOT achieve the American Dream, because they won’t experience financial wealth.


Then, nor were, I suspect, the first immigrants who came to America – and who were filled with hopes and dreams of a different future – benefiting from the “American Dream” if they didn’t end up living in mansions with six cars in their six-car garages.

They must have cursed their decision to come here when they ended up living in a one-bedroom apartment, instead.

They must have been, like, so disappointed? Maybe even ready to turn right around and go back home to their oppressive countries, where wearing something like a cross could result in the worst kind of persecution. Who cares if you’re allowed to wear a cross if you’re not wearing it while sweating pure pleasure in a ten-person hot tub overlooking the world you’re quite sure you own? What good is having the opportunity to get an education (or express a personal point of view, or pray to your own god or not believe in a god, or start your own business, or get paid a reasonable wage, etc.), if you can’t do it in the hottest, trendiest, $2,000 jeans?

Here’s how I see the progression (for lack of a better word) of the “American Dream”:

American Dream #1: “The Original” (images 1 – 6)

American Dream #2: “Revised” (images 7, 8 )

The American Dream #3: Today (images 9- 14)

The new “American Dream” ideal – dangerously infecting our youth (and, sadly, grown-up) culture – seems to also have infected a portion of the writer community.

In that particular community–the one that steadfastly maintains self-publishing is for hacks–“success” is not defined by creating, working, learning, striving, and producing something of quality. Rather, “success” is only achieved if the highest tier (traditional publishing) is reached.

Kind of like how you’re only living the “American Dream” if you’re rich.

I don’t know – maybe it’s just me, but it seems like the time has come for something of a re-evaluation.

A reminder that whatever a person’s ultimate goal – be it to have the tannest skin in all the land, the most diamonds in one ring, a taco stand, or just enough money to support a passion (and maybe, someday, be able to afford a silver Mini Cooper S) – it’s not the end result that defines the American Dream, but the opportunity to work toward whatever is desired while living a life of relative freedom.

And if opportunity and freedom is what it’s all about, then I’d say a lot more than 15% of Americans are actively living the American Dream. It’s probably closer to 100%.

Self-publishers, while probably fantasizing about a traditional publisher (the everyday man’s big house and six cars), should be no less respected for their individual efforts and smaller-scale success than should the family down the street running their own bakery with just enough customers to keep it going.

Image sources:




Join the conversation! 1 Comment

  1. It don’t mean a thing if you ain’t got that bling …

    Excellent point about how “the American dream” has changed over the years. With respect to the self-publishing, I’ve recently seen several articles by people who should probably know better (like Stephen King) bemoaning the decreasing influence of the traditional “gatekeepers”, such as big publishing houses, who separate the “crap” from the “quality”. I’ve picked up (and put down) a sufficient number of big-publisher books that were crap to consider this a specious argument at best, and one probably based on the self-interest of those making it. I was a little surprised to see King say it, though, as he’s usually very open to helping and promoting new writers. I guess he feels they need to be vetted first by someone in the club.


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About Kris Tsetsi

Kristen J. Tsetsi is the author of the novels "Pretty Much True..." and "The Year of Dan Palace" and the short fiction collection "20 Short Stories," all published under the name Chris Jane. Website:




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