Discussion: Self publishing

I usually don’t accept works from self-published authors to review. The reason why is because there is simply too much published work for me to read, why spend time reading a self-published author’s work. However, recently I’ve seen many discussions about how the publishing world is changing and self-published authors will become more popular and powerful in the book marketplace. I’ve started becoming more open to self-published work, though I’m still VERY picky when accepting, or even entertaining the idea of accepting self published work. 
However, I’ve come across a few (which will be reviewed here) that have impressed me. Not all self-published authors are quacks, and not all of their work is crap. It makes me wonder if these arguments stating that self-published authors and their work will become serious movers and shakers in the book marketplace has some very real points that should be analyzed. 
What do you think? What’s your opinion of self-published work? Do you think it will/is becoming a really important part of the book marketplace or do you think self-published books will always be published-books ugly stepchild? 

8 Responses

  • Reese M.

    I came to the decision last year that I would no longer take self-published work for review. In my own (admittedly, limited) experience, reviewing self-published work can be something of a minefield.

    I hesitate to give a blanket reason that "all self-published work is not good/not well-written", etc. It's not really that. I have only reviewed two self-published works and it was kind of a painful experience.

    Both I reviewed were not all that well done. I'm sure they have their fans, but it just wasn't for me. Because one of them was a referral from my mother-in-law, I found myself in the unenviable position of not liking the work, but not wanting to hurt anyone's feelings. It was a suicide mission.

    The other one I accepted I did because I didn't really pay all that much attention. The author did a nice job "selling" it to me, and so I took a chance. It was only after I received it that I realized it was self-published. The good thing that I got out of it was having to write a diplomatic (but honest) review of his work. My "I no longer accept self-published work" appeared in my review policy directly after that experience.

    Beyond that, I have observed some rather extreme cases in which the author was severely offended by well thought out, but ultimately negative reviews. We all heard about that one author who basically labeled all book bloggers (or "non-professional" reviewers) as less than interested in giving a well-written review. It was plainly obvious that because the bloggers in question didn't enjoy her work (and in my opinion anyway, gave very good reasons as to why that was so), the author felt attacked.

    Now I don't know if that was a function of the author being self-published. I have a feeling that there are plenty of authors who get published in the more "traditional" fashion that can be equally over-sensitive. But after seeing that (and a few others which I cannot immediately recall), I became very guarded. My blog is very small in comparison to most. The last thing I need is to have an author take severe offense to an honest (but not mean-spirited) review from me. I'd like to keep this writing thing going and actually gain an audience over time.

    But I don't know. I do still feel that self-published work is a good thing overall. I think anything that drives an interest in reading, no matter what the material, is ultimately good for the book business. It's good for the marketplace because it can offer a lot of variety that people might not normally see.

    As for the ugly step-child thing…that might be difficult to shake off. Just as there are lots of people that champion self-published work, there are a lot of people that rail against it. Both sides can be a little too evangelical on the subject, and as long as that continues, self-published authors will have a bigger hill to climb to be accepted. If each side gives in a little (champions of it admit that not all self-published work is gold, and opponents to it give self-published work a chance), then progress will be made.

    In the end, I just feel that if a writer is going to put themselves out there, they need to understand that there will always be someone that doesn't like their work. I'm sure I've had visitors to my site that think that I totally suck as a reviewer. There is always room for improvement.

  • Biblibio

    I think part of the problem with self-published book is the lack of any strong editor. Obviously, many publishers have let slide a lot of excellent books (assuming they would have no market, make no profit…) and not all self-published books are necessarily crap, but the process of publishing includes a lot more than just printing and marketing the book.

    For me, a poorly edited book (self-published or not) is a clear turn-off. In my experience, books published through an organized publishing house have far fewer errors and editing mistakes. Then there are the writing tips editors give, ones that can make or break a book. It's for this reason that I tend to avoid self-publishing – not because I think that the book hasn't been "vetted" properly, but because I feel it hasn't undergone all of the necessary editing stages, one of which can be found at the publishing house.

    I think that if the editing process is removed from the publishing aspect, there's no reason self-publishing should remain that "ugly stepchild". There will always be readers who prefer the officially published books because they feel they've been better vetted (again, not a sentiment I share but one I recognize in others), but I think that gradually, particularly with the rise of self-published eBooks, readers will become more and more accepting of the high quality self-published books.

  • Curmudgeon

    my wife is a type setter in a print shop and recently charged a thousand dollars to print 100 books so capital and confidence is required. The average book sale is 180 books. I have no Idea what the marketing costs would be. I have an in and I can't afford it. Hope I'm not discouraging any of tomorrow's Hemmingways. Just make sure it's your best.

  • Heloise

    Another thing to consider is that there's self-published and self-published: One of the reasons why I recently went and got myself a Kindle is that more and more established authors are self-publishing their older, out-of-print books as e-books – C.J. Cherryh is doing it, Walter Jon Williams is doing it, as are Gwyneth Jones and Lisa Goldstein, among quite a few others – this is a form of self-publishing that's certainly not to be scoffed at.

    As for works that have never been regularly published – I tend to be skeptical there, too, but don't avoid them on principle – if I find them positively reviewed by someone whose tastes I share and they look interesting, there's every chance I might give them a shot.

  • ediFanoB

    It does not matter how the book is published. There are so many channels today. What counts is to find the raisins. And that takes time. That means it is a lot easier to pick books from established publisher than self-published books. There is a saying: No risk no fun. Means we should give self-published books an opportunity from time to time – hoping we pick a raisin.

  • Mihir

    Hey Sarah

    Its good to hear that you are becoming more open to self-published books. I have found quite a few good books in that group. And as is the case with published books, there's always the good with the bad. I for one will always like to have the option of self-published books. Its also good for the authors whose books don't fit the current publishing mould.

    Again there are going to be more of the bad books for every good one. But to be able to discover a David Dalglish or Tim Marquitz or B. Justin Shier, I don't mind a thousand bad books being published at the same time.


    PS: Hope Motherhood isn't taking too much of a toll on your reading time.

  • rasanaatreya

    I'm getting ready to publish my book, but it is an unusual arrangement – I'm separating out digital rights from print rights. A local publisher gets my print rights, while I retain the digital ones. Even before I approached the publisher, I had my book critiqued and edited. I've also hired a graphic artist to do my cover. To say that my book is of inferior quality merely because it is self-published – I don't think I'm going to buy that argument. Check out some of the newer books by mainstream publishers. Not only is the editing atrocious, they don't even seem to have used proof readers. You might not like my story, but I can say with confidence, the quality of editing is way better in my book.

  • A Shadow Falls

    I agree with rasanaatreya. I've helped a friend publish his epic fantasy novel on Kindle. It was written over three years ago and has since been edited and proof read to bring it to a point where it was suitable to bring to market.

    The result is that Kindle sales are ticking over happily with limited marketing and no-one is requesting refunds, which is trivial as Kindle allows refunds for any reason within 7 days and is still relatively easy after that. In addition to that we've had happy readers asking when the next book will be available.

    I agree that having the giant machinery of traditional publishing vetting works probably gives a better signal to noise ratio, but I think that discounting all self published works is short sighted and I'm glad to see you're coming round to self published works.

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