An Interesting Question

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.

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9 Responses to An Interesting Question

  1. beetle22 says:

    As a book review blogger, poorly edited work really annoys me. Chances are, this wasn’t your year 10 schoolwork for Mrs Ludowitz’s English class, so why are there errors scattered through it? Irrespective of cost/accessibility of editing for the self-published, I think writers should be serious about spelling, punctuation and grammar and uphold standards; by having errors throughout your work, you’re just saying to your reader “I don’t actually care about my work, so don’t you worry about it either”.

    • elletodd says:

      When I first started querying bloggers to review my novel, I found it very frustrating that so many automatically refuse to read self-published titles. Now, however, I get it. Though many quality works (and hardworking authors) suffer for this, it is understandable.

      Thanks for reading!

  2. I would agree, although I can say that after you have read the same chunk of text for the 15th time, occasionally an error might slip through. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t check, re-check, and then check some more…I just know that not all errors are the result of carelessness.

    • elletodd says:

      Absolutely true. The occasional error is found in even traditionally published works. The problem is when they’re on every page…and the author is of the mind that it doesn’t matter. I can (and do) ignore a handful of issues. It’s not a big deal, and doesn’t pull me out of the story. Quantity counts…

      Thanks for commenting!

  3. datmama4 says:

    My hubby is currently reading the fifth book in George R.R. Martin’s series, and he keeps telling me of the typos and errors he’s finding. Some are obviously missing words in a phrase that may have been changed in an edit, but at least one of the errors so far is just plain ignorance and lack of fact-checking (a man is described as a chandler, “the one who makes barrels,” when in fact, a chandler makes candles and a cooper makes barrels). Though anyone can have errors slip through, I tend to hold the publishing houses to a higher standard, because they’re supposed to have more than one editor going through the books—a little different than the same person going through a manuscript multiple times.

    Anything else I’d add would simply be repeating you, but I will say that I hope the unskilled SPAs are quick to fade into the background as the good ones prove their worth.

    • elletodd says:

      I think they do. People can be harsh, and readers do have standards. A book that was rushed to publication will suffer the wrath of those who feel their dollars were spent on what’s basically unfinished work.

      I know publishing houses have scaled back on the resources they devote, especially to mid-list authors. They promote less than they did, and there are fewer copy editors checking the work. I wonder if they understand they are not only encouraging a lack of standards, but closing the gap in the mass of differences between traditional and self published works…

      Glad to hear from you!

  4. Pingback: Let’s Give Them Our Support! | The Sunshine Factor

  5. Yep, I agree with what’s been said above. I recently gave my 2c on the issue of S-pubbing [ http://danielionson.wordpress.com/2013/11/19/self-publishing-or-revolutions-are-good-but-smell-bad/ ], if you’re interested.
    Daniel

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