Discussion Post: Self-Publishing

So it's been a while since we've had a discussion post, and I have something I want to discuss:

Self Publishing

I recently accepted a query to read a self published book. This is something I never do. But the author was so nice, and her query was a personal e-mail to me (rather than just a "Dear Reviewer"), and the book sounded really interesting, so I said yes.

And when I was about 75% done with the book, I updated my goodreads status like this:
There is a reason I don't usually agree to read self-published books. *sigh*
Which instantly flew to twitter for the world to see.

*facepalm* *facepalm!* *FACEPALM!*

Almost immediately I got an e-mail from the author saying she was so sorry I was unhappy with her book.

Did I mention *facepalm*?

I immediately wrote her back a FAR too long e-mail discussing why I had said what I said. I'll summarize for you:
What I said has nothing to do with your book at ALL. I feel awkward writing reviews for self published books, because I don't feel like it's fair for me to compare them to a HarperTeen book or a Little, Brown book or a Simon & Schuster book, etc. Books from those people have whole TEAMS devoted to making them the best they can be. Self published authors have only what they can find themselves.

Therefore, do I write a review that says "This could have been good with an editor or some reshaping" or do I just say "this was bad"? Will you ever go back and write a 2nd edition? Is this book final? How much editing did you do before you published? How did you know when it was ready to be printed?
And then I realized: actually, I know virtually nothing about self-publishing. Do you guys?

How do you feel about self published books?

Would you ever self publish?

I asked the author if she would be willing to answer some of my questions on this issue. I haven't heard back from her yet, but do any of YOU have questions? What would you like to know about the world of self-publishing?

All review content © Enna Isilee, Squeaky Books 2007-2010


  1. I've only ever read one self-published book, and I wasn't impressed. I think you either have to be really good at what you're doing, or have the sense to know when to get some outside help (with editing, for example).

  2. I would never recommend it or do it. Too busy to write out all the reasons why, sorry. Send me an email on Friday or so if you want to hear it.

  3. I recently accepted a self-published book for reviewing, too, and it was so full of problems that I could barely get through it, that a little help from an editor could have easily fixed. I think there are so many approaches to self-publishing that you almost have to interview the writer before you read the book to get a sense of what you are getting yourself into. What's the goal of the book? How long did it take to write? Did you get anyone to proofread it for you before publishing? What is your educational background, especially on the subject you are writing and on the proper way to write a novel? Are you seeking to republish this book in the future with better quality and/or under a publishing company? Dang, I should write my own post about this.

  4. I think the tricky thing about self-publishing is that while it seems like a great thing ( so that anyone who writes can be published), it does take a team of people to make a book as great as it can be. So, while publishing something on your own gets it out there..... it's not always as polished.

    And, self-published books often don't get professionally reviewed (like in Publisher's Weekly, Booklist, Library Journal, etc), so it's difficult for the books to get into library collections.

  5. I don't like self publishing. At all. Unless it's like a family history book or something.

    The thing is, sometimes those who self-publish do it because they can't find a publisher. Which means that their book maybe wasn't that great in the first place.

    Lots of people write books. Not every one of them should get published. Only the really great ones.

    Thus, the publishers filter through the good and bad ones and only the good ones get published. Self-publishing has no filtering mechanism, so it's risky.

  6. I never thought I would like self-published books when I first started blogging but I have been proven wrong. Some of my all time favorite books are actually self-published. I think it all just depends on the book and the author. Some authors have more time to put into their books and it does show in self-published books. I hope you won't completely count them out in the future.

  7. First, read POD-dy Mouth (http://girlondemand.blogspot.com/). It's a little out of date but still really relevant.

    Self-publishing has both good and bad aspects to it. Some authors have gone the route of self-publishing and come out on top, with an agent and publishing contract as one of the big houses. But this is like getting discovered by writing fanfiction. I wouldn't hold my breath. The people that were able to garner enough attention from publishers are those that had the funds to market the hell out of their books. And that take a lot of money and time, of which many authors don't have.

    Self-publishing is also good if you're super niche (read: your chances of publication are super slim, even with a fantastically written book) or you're looking to publishing something for friends and family only.

    The main thing is, self-published authors need to know where they stand in the grand scheme of things: a step above an unpublished writer, if that. Basically anyone with a computer can upload a document to the likes of Lulu, buy an ISBN number and self-publish. ANYONE.

    While the self-publishing area does have its benefits, it's more often than not a dumping ground for the jaded writer. A lot of the people that self-publish do so because they feel they've been slightest by agents and publishers and will make it big via other means. They're also exceptionally desperate to see their names in print. At least they haven't gone the route of PublishAmerica so they're still ahead of the game but a lot of what's out there in the self-published world is probably best left to a trunk. Just check the stats on POD-dy Mouth's website. They agree with me.

    The chances of you getting what's basically of first draft of a manuscript with a self-published book is exceptionally high. The errors are egregious, the writing usually needs a ton of work and really, there was a reason why it was rejected by the mainstream to begin with.

    Self-published does not equal published. It never will. No, it's not fair to judge the likes of a self-published novel against a professionally published novel but a lot of these self-published authors need to understand that what their putting out there isn't publishing material. Give me something that can at least resemble something I can find at a book store and you might have me. But don't give me a spell-checked first draft and expect me to love it. That's not going to happen.

    You'd have just as much luck finding a truly amazing story on fanfiction.net as you would in the self-publishing area. Yeah, they're there but you're going to have to wade through a lot of shit before you find it.

  8. I am definitely anti-self-publishing, from both a reader's and a writer's standpoint. For one, in my experience, self-published books weren't picked up by an agent or a house for good reason. Now, as with any situation, there are exceptions. However, that's my experience.

    As a writer, despite all my frustrations and how upset I get and how many times I can ask, am I just not good enough, maybe that's the truth. Maybe I'm NOT good enough.

    Why should I pay someone to publish my book when it's something that you should get paid FOR?


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