The Compulsive Reader: Reading Rants: Self-Published Novels in the Digital Age

Friday, September 9, 2011

Reading Rants: Self-Published Novels in the Digital Age

Normally, I don't read self-published novels. I have it in my review policy that I don't accept them, the reason being that for the most part, they just aren't as good as the books I see published by actual publishers. However, when a YA author whose work I respect asked me to review a novel self-published on Amazon and Barnes and Noble, I gave it a shot, and found that I actually really liked it. You can read my review of that book, Helper12 by Jack Blaine (pseudonym to protect author's identity), here.

Reading and enjoying Helper12 got me to thinking .about my philosophy regarding self-published work, and made me wonder if I need to revise my stance. In the digital age, it has become very, very easy for anyone to self-publish work, especially on Amazon or Barnes and Noble. And with the popularity of e-readers (and the ridiculously high cost of many published e-books), the potential audience for self-published e-books is wider than ever.

We can argue that self-published works are of lesser quality than other books--I've heard people say that "those sorts of books are self-published for a reason--because no one else will buy them." But you have to wonder if that is always the case. We've all heard stories of how hard it is to find agents, sometimes how poorly authors are treated by their publishers, and how some famous books (like Eragon by Christopher Paolini) were first self-published before going on to find a home and fame with a big publisher.

And with e-publishing looking more attractive financially (Amanda Hocking reportedly made millions on her self-published work before signing a deal with Macmillan) and more established, published authors (like Jack Blaine) turning to self-publishing, you have to wonder if everything you always thought about self-published books is changing.

Here's what I think it comes down to: we stick with books that are published by a traditional publisher because they have more of a presence when we look for books, and because we have this notion that traditionally published equals a standard of quality. We hardly ever pick up self-published books because we would have to go looking for them (and when there's so many published book vying for our attention, we hardly ever do), and there's this idea that they aren't going to be well-written.

Here's what I think we ought to do: remember that sometimes publishers will put out books that aren't very good. It's not exactly their fault...sometimes they sell really well, and publishers need money so they can continue to publish the awesome books we like too. And there are times (sometimes more often than you think) when you stumble across a great self-published novel that you really liked. (Helper12!)

So, maybe our perspective needs to change a little bit...what do you all think?

Check back tomorrow for an interview with Jack Blaine about self-publishing versus going with a traditional publisher!


Nicole said...

I agree. I've only reviewed a handful of self-pubbed books (and I'll be fair; I didn't like any of them, but that's because the editing needed some work - the only downfall with self-pubbed!), but I'm open to them. I don't think reading a book should be based on where it came from; decide on whether or not you like how it sounds!

Pam Steinke said...

Not being terribly familiar with how publishing works...I never really thought about it until I became a Librarian and started blogging about what I read.

I've always cruised Amazon looking for things that appealed to me and if they were $.99 then I figured I wasn't really out anything but some time. I have a much easier time putting down a $1 I don't care for than one I've spend $25 on. Know what I mean?

Anyway, it was with this in mind that I discovered Hocking and Jamie Maguire and SL Naeole, all three have become favorite authors for me.

My attitude is and will continue to be, if it appeals to you, read it, regardless of who published it.

LinWash said...

I was the same way until I book a Kindle and discovered so many authors who chose to self-publish over submitting to traditional publishers. You intrigued me enough about Helper12 to try it on the Kindle.

Gina @ My Precious said...

I welcome self published books on my blog, as long as the subject matter falls into what I like to read. If the book doesn't sound good to me, I don't accept the review request. I guess I pretty much handle them in the same fashion I would as if I received a publisher review request.

Currently, I am reading a book called "The Tower of Parlen Min" by Matt Xell. He's a self published author and a self taught writer from a country where he didn't have access to writing schools. I am so impressed with his ambition and desire to write a book that he gained all this knowledge on his on and then went even further and self published his book. Its action packed, seriously creative and a really great read, though it is very LONG! :-)

I guess I started wanting to read self published authors when I discovered Amanda Hockings books. She amazed me with her writing and I thought,geez maybe I should give all these self published writers a chance. I just may find a diamond in the rough.

Anonymous said...

I'm trying to be more open to self pub books too :P but its not always easy to be open minded.

I think I'm afraid they are going to have tons of mistakes and lack editing or something. :P

On the other hand, I really wanna read Helper 12 after reading your review.

Unknown said...

I'm keen on reviewing self-published books because I think its important to give new authors as much support as possible. I also like the idea of trying something new that other people might not have read yet. I do, however, only accept physical books (not e-books) partly because that's what I prefer to read but also because its just too easy to self-publish an e-book.

Vicky Alvear Shecter said...

This is a tough one. I like to put into the guise of "quality control." A traditionally-pubbed author has had SO MANY people editing their work--agents, editors, line-editors, proofreaders--that I feel I can expect a certain level of quality. Self-pubbed books often do not have that level of scrutiny and it shows. When my book-buying budget is tight, I'm going to choose the one that has a greater likelihood of being of higher quality.

Rebecca Herman said...

I very rarely read self published books. I bought a couple by an author who self published the last couple of books in her series so readers can read the ending - her books were not a super popular genre and did not sell well enough, so her publisher decided not to finish the series. But except for situations like that, I do not buy them. They are just too expensive in print to take a chance on, nd I hate ebooks, which are the only cheap self published books.

Anonymous said...

I haven't really looked at many self published books. For some reason, I tend to lean towards negative feelings about them. I've wondered about the editing process of them, though and if they are edited well. I might have to look at some in the future, though!

Liss Martz said...

I agree. But there are some books that kept me wondering, why are they published? And I've read other self-published novels that worth to be published, but they didn't gave it a shot. I don't think that if a book is published professionaly is going to have quality (Some examples: Fallen series, Tris and Izzie, Halo..) Plus, self-published novels cost less, sometimes, even at 99 cents. So, I think we all should read sometimes self-published books.

DiscoveringHawaii said...

My self-published Driving & Discovering Hawaii books for Oahu and Maui & Molokai have sold 250,000 copies...yet no mainstream publisher will touch them. They are updated whenever I go back to press and sell wonderfully year after year, but my distribution is very lacking. A mainstream publisher would rather take a chance on novels that end up in the remainders bin, rather than take on my very successful guidebooks? Yes. I have contacted every major publisher and literary agent repeatedly for over 12 years now, and no one even bothers to acknowledge my communications, let alone consider my books. Self-publishing is a necessity in a world where publishers and literary agents turn their backs, even on proven material.