Let’s Discuss: Self-Published Books

I am a traditional publication sort of girl, but not because I’m anti-indie or self-published authors. It’s just what I’m used to, what I feel “safe”  reading. But for the past few years, I’ve made myself try new things. I went snorkeling despite my fear of the ocean, I hiked up a mountain despite my fear of heights, and recently, I picked up a self-published book from NetGalley despite my reservations.

This isn’t the first time I’ve ventured into reading something self-published. I’ve read a few before, but my number isn’t too high. Despite this, I understand the draw of self-publication. You maintain all the rights to your book, there aren’t as many middle men, and you don’t have to deal with the intense (and sometimes unfair) competition in traditional publication.

However, as a reader, I’m always apprehensive to pick up a self-published book, and more than likely, I’ll only read it if it’s free.

For the reader, self-published books are risks because they might not have been looked at by a professional. This might sound snobby, but there’s no quality control in self-publication. Anyone can do it.  And while that can sometimes be a good thing, it also means readers don’t know if the book has been edited, if the plot’s remotely well-developed, or if it’s essentially Twilight fanfiction. Ultimately, if we look at a book as an investment of our time and our money, then that self-published book is hardly a safe bet.

As I mentioned, I recently started reading a book I received on NetGalley. The story sounded interesting, so I went for it. Within a few pages, I knew I wouldn’t be able to finish it, but I continued on in the hope that it might get better. Spoiler: it didn’t. I gave it a few more chapters and eventually decided I wouldn’t finish it.

So what was so bad about this book?

It desperately needed an editor.  This may not bother everyone, but as someone who taught writing and grammar for a living, it was pure hell. I had this intense urge to mark this book up with my red pen and give the author a big fat ‘F’ on his/her report card. Maybe I’d even suggest a remedial grammar class. Yeah, it was that bad.

The first error was in the opening sentence. By the end of the first paragraph, I had lost count. The writing was riddled with dangling modifiers and misplaced commas, and the writer was heavily dependent on sentence fragments. And yes, I know this is a stylistic choice, but when they are used frequently and unintentionally, it ceases to be a choice and becomes a mistake.

The book wasn’t just a victim to poor grammar. The sentence structure was so odd that it was difficult to follow what the author saying. It was written in AP Style (and not even correctly) when fiction tends to be written in CMS. This isn’t a big deal, but it was rather jarring. And finally, the main character was flat. When she spoke, her dialogue felt unnatural. When she made decisions, her motive was unclear. There just wasn’t anything there.

In the end, the scraps of a good story were there but the execution wasn’t. I know this isn’t true of every self-published book out there, but how do you find the good in the pile of not? Do you take the plunge and buy, or do you go with that book from Random House?

Let me know if you have any opinions on self-published books or if you have any experience with self-publishing in the comments below. 🙂

12 thoughts on “Let’s Discuss: Self-Published Books

  1. I Read, Therefore I Blog says:

    Interesting topic. My starting point is that I won’t review them – I have it set out on the info page for my blog. There are a few reasons – mainly that I have so many books to read as it is that I don’t have time to read self published ones too. Plus I know of bloggers who had bad experiences of self published authors reacting badly when they didn’t get a favourable review and although that obviously isn’t true of all self published authors, I’ve seen enough to know that I don’t want to use emotional energy on it happening even once.

    Now all that said I have read and reviewed a few self published books since I started my blog in 2006. Some of them I bought because I had seen the writer somewhere and liked what they had to say or followed their blog (which is how I read Blood, Sweat And Tea, a memoir that got turned into a comedy-drama on Channel 4). The alternative is when someone I know has bought me a self published book because they think that I will like it. The hit rate on that has been 50/50 although not for quality reasons so much as the genre not being my thing.

    Quality wise I will say that most of the self published books I have read have needed an editor – sometimes basic spelling and grammar but mainly because the plot needs a prune or the pacing needs to be tightened or the characterisation needs to be sharpened up. To be fair I have read commercially published fiction where all those points hold true (and I am critical of them for those reasons) so I don’t think that is specific to self published authors *but* if you are picking up a book blind then you have more confidence that it won’t be so much of a problem.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Megan says:

      Thank you for the thoughtful response :). Yeah, I don’t usually review them either, but I was trying to be open minded (though obviously I’m not reviewing this book because I couldn’t finish it).

      That’s true. I still think you’re less likely to see as many problems in traditionally published books than self, but even those publishing companies are ran by humans.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. shalini says:

    I don’t bother about the publisher, if I am offered a book I will read it unless it is a genre I am not keen to read at the moment.
    So I am okay with it. They might need editor and proofreader, but if the basic story is good, I am okay with it.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Lola says:

    I have read some fantastic self-published books over the last year. There is no excuse for bad editing though, even when you’re self -published. Most self-published books I have read were polished and you could not really tell the difference from a ‘properly published’ book. I think I have developed a soft spot for self-published books, because I have read some gems!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Lola says:

    Mostly these have been books where I have been approached by the author. I only accept books that actually sound like I want to read and I have had wonderful experiences with them. Not all, but mostly…

    Liked by 2 people

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