In a recent scan of the Goodreads forums, I saw a post asking why more people don’t read self-published authors. The comments that were left in response were overwhelming (I want to say close to 400!). There were strong opinions there, some slight condemnation of SPA, and some truly incredible ideas.
Until I self-published my own novels, it never even occurred to me to seek out others. I read new authors based on reviews that intrigue me. The more reviews, the better. I want details! If I’ve never read your work, I have zero confidence in it. A dozen informative reviews will tell me if it’s worth my time. Once I’ve decided it could be, I want a sample. Amazon’s Look Inside feature is great. Typically, I get at least a twenty page preview. That’s enough to tell me if the writing is competent and if it is, I’m going to make a purchase.
I never considered myself a book snob. I didn’t care how something was published. Why would I? A book is a book. Some are good, some are bad. Obviously, I’m quite happy with my own self-published work. If I can churn out a great story without a major publishing house backing me, I knew others could do the same. Under that assumption, I began to actively seek self-published titles.
Here’s a couple things I learned:
1. Self-published books can be hard to find. If you have Random House behind you, chances are your book was released with a flood of reviews, enthusiastic blog posts, and (perhaps) a handful of preordered copies already paid for. People have heard of you. They’re talking about your book. They’re already excited about the world you’ve created.
SPA’s are often the only member of their publicity crew. No one has invested in them, so no one cares. They fight for reviews, beg bloggers for attention, and give away more copies than they sell (at least at first). When trying to find a self-published title, I often have to search specifically by title AND name. I won’t say these books are hidden, just that they are rarely suggested.
2. Self-published books are not always of a quality suitable for publishing. I’ve found typos in New York Times bestsellers, but they can be more prevalent in a self-pubbed work. Though there are certainly self-backed authors willing to spend the money for a professional editor, there are just as many who are not.
While I wouldn’t go so far as to say these writers taint the image of all SPAs, they aren’t helping the cause. A book, no matter how it is produced, should adhere to a certain standard for readability. If yours doesn’t, you will not get positive reviews, bloggers will not sing your praises, and your work will not achieve significant sales.
It’s an uphill battle for the SPA. In order to get the word out, you have to skirt the line between persistent and pushy. Some authors speak of nothing but their book. Read it. You’ll like it. So and so read it and they had this to say… Try out this excerpt. What do you think of my cover? Have you read my book yet? Did I tell you about my sequel?
This gets old fast. I’ve blocked people for this crap. It’s annoying. Yes, you have to promote…but you can and SHOULD talk about something else sometimes.
I got off track here. I’m going to go ahead and blame that on the fact that in the past two days, I’ve gotten a total of nine hours of sleep so I could wake long before the sun came up and spend my days apologizing to random people for not having enough Hello Kitty alarm clock radios to accommodate their Black Friday shopping splurge. Such is the retail life…
I’m sorry. I did it again.
My point was simply that the reason self-published authors don’t get the attention traditionally published authors do has as much to do with quality as visibility. Those of us who are willing (even eager) to read top-notch indie work will have a hard time finding new titles. It takes more effort, a bit more screening, and who wants to spend that kind of time when it’s so easy to pick up whatever Pocket Books is pushing?
So…not that you asked, but that’s my answer.