The simple truth is that the quality of most self-published books is terrible. And unfortunately this fact is bringing down the entire culture around self-publishing, as people don’t trust a self-published book is any good. At the same time, you can find people reading a book and saying, “I can’t believe this is self-published,” both happy to have discovered something new and lamenting the fact that so many prospective writers have to resort to self-publishing when ignored by traditional publishers.
Getting published is enormously difficult – mainstream publishers aren’t very adventurous and choose “marketable” books, and small presses – which are more adventurous – don’t have the money to put out a large number of books a year. In this climate, self-publishing makes perfect sense.
The Literati’s View
The main people who complain about the value of self-published books are people who might scoff at the value of certain mainstream writers as well. A writer like Dean Koontz himself would not proclaim himself to be writing “literature” but he is hugely successful. A number of self-published writers are those who are attempting to write Koontz-style thrillers, so by nature they are not heavy literature.
If there’s any complaint about many self-published books it’s just this: they are unsuccessful attempts at mainstream books, rather than more literary books that were too experimental or too genre-bending to find a traditional publisher. What happens with the writers of these types of books is that they don’t consider self-publishing, as self-publishing has a bad rap and reputation. If self-publishing were to become a valid route for all writers then self-publishing would shed some of it’s bad reputation. As time goes on, and there are more success stories, like Frank Daniels or Will Clarke, the more self-publishing will be seen as an important and legitimate part of the publishing world.
Of course, this mainly has to do with fiction self-publishing, as there are numerous self-publishing success stories for non-fiction titles and ebooks. Non-fiction just doesn’t have the same stigma as fiction titles, and generally non-fiction does not have to be as well-written – or its writing deficiencies are not as glaring. The reason that self-publishing has such a bad rap is because of the quality of self-published fiction.
As it says in the Self-Published Review’s brief manifesto, one of the major purposes of this site is to improve the culture surrounding self-publishing. So listen up authors: the only way to improve the state of self-publishing is for authors to take care with every book they put out. Don’t just publish because it’s free – because you can. Put some extra money and time into the book to get editorial criticism and creating a cover that doesn’t shout out “self-published.”
Every bad self-published book damages the reputation of self-publishing on the whole. So be honest with yourself: did you get all those rejection letters because editors and agents are small-minded or because the book truly needs a lot of work? If you’re going to expect readers to sit down for hours with your book, you should take the time to make the book as polished as possible.