A caution against self-publishing, with links…

I have a side job right now where I review “indie” books, which mostly means self-published books, although some small-press books are also thrown into the mix. Reading on average one self-published book a week for the past several months has made me very pessimistic about the quality of self-published books in general. In fact, it’s pretty insulting to readers, some of the dreck that’s being sold to us in these days of instant self-publication. A book may be a piece of art, it may be your baby, but it’s also a product that is being sold, and readers deserve a professional product. I view my little reviews as something of a public service, either a message to the author that the book was not nearly ready for publication, or if that’s not something the author wants to hear, then a message to the reader to beware.

It’s not all bad news. Self-published nonfiction tends to be better quality than fiction, I think because nonfiction is more likely written by a professional in his or her field. When it comes to fiction, though, I have a hard time recommending any of it. Of all the books I’ve reviewed, I’ve only given an unqualified recommendation to books published by a small press, which had obviously received the attention of an editor, a copyeditor, a designer, and a cover artist.

Based on my forays into the world of self-published books as a reviewer, I’ve developed a prejudice against them as a reader. Whether that’s fair or not, it’s the natural result of being exposed to so much amateurish self-published writing. I can assure you that I’m not the only reader who is rapidly learning never to touch a self-published book. I would caution any new writer to think long and hard before choosing to self-publish. For a small subset of writers, self-publishing may be a good way to build a readership and maximize profits. However, most writers won’t be able to distinguish themselves in the rapidly expanding ocean of self-published books out there, and they may be putting their work out for judgment before it’s mature enough.

For further reading, here’s a small collection of links about deciding whether to self-publish:

Finally, if you decide to go the self-publishing route, make sure that your command of spelling and grammar is impeccable. Readers should not have to read your book with a red pencil in their hands. And please, I’m begging you, learn the difference between passed and past.

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3 thoughts on “A caution against self-publishing, with links…

  1. That is why (serious) indie authors hire editors (developmental, line and proofreaders). We also hire professional book cover artists and we focus on marketing efforts. And there’s a lot of crap written by traditionally published authors out there (I caught some horrid grammar errors in a few trad books already) , though I will agree, the shit wave is mainly composed of indie works. But usually, their first chapter will be absolutely horrible, and this is how I know to put that book down.

  2. Agree completely. Professionalism shows. But it’s still hard to distinguish yourself from all the dreck, especially if readers become more jaded so they won’t even give a self-published book a chance.

  3. Yes, that’s what I’m afraid of – I’ve found a few good self-published stories, and an awful lot of dreck. I’m still trying, still checking out self-published books (Amazon’s Look Inside first chapters are helpful), but I could see myself shutting down on self-published entirely (at least, self-published first novels/stories). And that would be sad, because I’ve found some really good ones.

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