Nathan Bransford, Author


Thursday, September 29, 2011

Have You Ever Read a Self-Published Book?

"Capitvated" - Adolphe-Alexandre Lesrel
There is so much talk about self-published books in the writing-o-sphere.

But have you actually read one?

Poll below - please click through to the actual post if you're reading in a feed reader or via e-mail.

Also, your further thoughts requested in the comments section. Did you like the self-published book you read? Would you read another? Do you only read traditionally published books? Etc.






288 comments:

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CjEggett said...

Early days I know, but I think we're likely to see a ratio of 6:1 of people talking about self published books compared to those who've actually read them.

Amber said...

I read both regular published and self-published. In fairness, usually even the clean self-published books suffer some issues with typos, formatting, etc. But I am a very avid reader, and if the storyline looks interesting, I am more than willing and able to overlook those things. Heck, even published books have them, though it will be less frequent, to be sure.

Buzz Bernard said...

I've read a number of self-published books, both fiction and nonfiction, mostly by friends and acquaintances. Sadly, none has been the quality you'd expect from traditionally published works. These days, I try to refrain from reading such books.

Melissa said...

I read a self-published novel with a horse-related theme once (a subject guaranteed to interest me).

It was horrible.

Every once in a while I'll do a "look inside" on Amazon and/or read the reviews, but both inevitably turn me off.

I haven't purchased another novel, and really don't plan to. When I shop for novels I look inside at the publisher, and if I don't recognize the name, I google it. If the book is self-published, it's a major turnoff.

Sorry, but I think gatekeepers are a good thing.

Nobilis Reed said...

I read self-published books when it's an author I know and trust.

Candice said...

I've read many self-published books. Whether self-published or not, I always download a sample before buying, so I rarely have buyer's remorse.

John G. Hartness said...

Probably 2/3 of the books I read are self-pubbed. As a self-pubbed author, I'm sure that the fact that I'm more attuned to that world than the average consumer has a lot to do with it, but I have found quite a few self-pubbed authors that I really enjoy, like J. Carson Black, Michael Sullivan (no longer self-pub), Jason Letts, David Dalglish and others.

It helps that they're frequently cheaper than trad-pubbed authors.

Mr. D said...

Although I've never read one, I would if someone I knew recommended one as being a great book.

Barbara Kloss said...

What a great question...I'm very curious to see the results. Thanks for running the poll!

M. E. Patterson said...

As a self-published author, I suppose I'm a bit biased on this subject, but I've read a bunch of self-pub so far. Some of it I've found seriously lacking in terms of quality (both of prose and formatting), and suffering from failures of the writers to hone their craft properly. On the other hand, I've also read quite a few that are solid, well-written, expertly-plotted, and nicely-paced. From my vantage point, the self-pub field looks a lot like the world of websites... there's a lot of crap out there, but there's also some amazing stuff that wouldn't exist without a more open platform.

Gregory K. said...

I've read a lot of self-published books. I've liked a lot, too. In general, I've preferred the non-fiction books (everything from how-to types to in depth on a particular niche/piece of history). I've only read fiction (both YA and for adults) written by friends, so I'm biased (mostly good. One where I didn't have any idea what to say to the author!). I've read a lot of self-pubbed picture books. In general, they have fared the worst but even there, a few folks do it very well.

In non-fiction, I've noticed much more "professional" looking manuscripts over the past few years, too. People are spending more time looking at the form, not just the words. A good thing, I'd say.

Joanne Huspek said...

I actually will BUY from vanity presses just to see 1. what the writing is like, and 2. what the quality of the book is like. Even big house publishers will put out books with typos. It's interesting. Some get a definite thumbs down, just because the paper is crummy. Enjoying a physical book is more than just reading a good story. I like pleasing typefaces, nice covers, and I like to see to read acknowledgments and book notes.

Scooter Carlyle said...

I review self-published books and have not had very good luck. Every book that has been submitted to me for review has been far from ready. There are good ones out there. I hope to find one soon.

Nick said...

All of Paul Tompkins' books are self-published. Granted I've only read two but both were quite excellent, especially Pay As You Play.

Never read a self-published novel though.

Crystal said...

I have read and enjoyed several self-published books, attempted to read and left several more, and truly appreciated one.

I've probably read around twenty self-published books, and the only one that was top quality was No Shelter by Z. Constance Frost. Several others were of traditional publishable quality, although not top quality.

I do feel like it is more likely that a book will be well polished when it has been traditionally published, but I've run across some doozies that made me wonder what the editor was smoking. And I've read some self-published gems that, had they had someone with experience to help the author polish it up, would move from decent to fabulous.

No matter how a book is published, good writing and excellent story telling will win out. Not every well written story will receive the attention it should, and some clunky ones will receive more attention than (we think) they ought - but that's the way it's always been. The growth of self-publishing won't change that.

Karen Stivali said...

In the past year I've read several self-published books. The quality of the writing varies much in the same way as the quality in the writing within published books. In the books I read there were no more or less typos than I generally find in published e-books these days. The main difference I noted was that the cover of the one paperback self-published book I purchased was not very good quality---not the image, which was fine, the actual COVER---the ink melted on my hands while I was reading.

Simon Haynes said...

Yes, I've bought a number of 99c self-pubbed ebooks. In each case I checked 'read inside' for a page or two, and I also skimmed the reader reviews to make sure they weren't all five-star fakes.
In the past I've bought printed self-pubbed books from authors I know and trust.

The Walrus said...

It's a mixed bag. There's no guarantee that even an edited, industry published author isn't going to produce an execrable read; just look at the collected works of Dan Brown. The problem with self-published isn't so much the quality of the writing (though that varies wildly) but the lack of professional editing which, no matter how good the writing may be, tends to make reading frustrating.

Cas said...

I've read a self-pubbed book, but I have never paid money for one. All those I read were free (through Feedbooks) and none captivated me enough to make me want to buy more from the author.

lotusgirl said...

I am very selective about which self-published books I read. Generally I only go for those written by friends. I only have so much time for reading and don't want to slog through something that is not well written. I'm more likely to enjoy traditionally published works because they have had to get past a lot of people to even be out there. At least some people like it and have worked it over. There's no guarantee that I'll like it, of course. I also rely heavily on reviews and recommendations.

Cherie Reich said...

I've read quite a few of them, since I read and review self-published books on my blog as well as traditional books. The majority I've enjoyed reading. Some were fantastic. Others weren't. You can really tell the ones who treat self-publishing like a business and work hard with editors, cover artists, and in formatting. I do often read excerpts before buying or agreeing to review from unfamiliar authors no matter how they're published, though. Reading time is unfortunately limited, so I've found I'm getting picky on what I do read.

In the end, I think you have to judge books individually. No matter how they're published there are good ones and bad ones.

Ren said...

I stopped reading self-published books back when that hack Charles Dickens came on the scene. The nerve of that man, thinking he nance about, recklessly farming out his self-published wares to an unsuspecting public as if he hadn't a care in the world! No, I prefer to have my literature filtered through the layers of corporate second-guessing, thus protecting me from having to wade through the morass of the masses.
Or, if you'd like me to provide a more serious answer, yes, I love self-published fiction. I find that the odds of having an enjoyable read increase substantially when I'm not taking out second mortgages to pick up the books. Besides, at their roots, all books are self-publishedJust my two cents.

Alexia Purdy said...

I read a lot of self pub and traditional. I find the self pub cheaper and way more satisfying! I definitely will read more self published authors. They are highly imaginative and provide interesting stories and get the stories and sequels out faster which is awesome for a waiting reader. The quality is definetly much better nowadays and people should check it out.

Chris said...

I've read two, both published by personal friends. One was excellent. The other was... not so much excellent. I do think self-publishing is more viable an option than it has ever been, with the proliferation of e-readers, but there is still the question of how to find the good books amid the miasma of awful ones. I intend to stick with "conventionally published" books exclusively, except when someone I trust calls my attention to an especially outstanding self-published work.

A side-note: my boss, who is a published novelist himself, persists in referring to self-published books as "unpublished" books. I'm sure many would take offense at that, but I do find it sort of amusing, in a prickly way.

Michelle Davidson Argyle said...

Yes, I have. I even wrote one. :)

Ez said...

I've read half a dozen self published books this year, but I never ever just pick one up cold. They are always recommended or from someone I follow via blog or twitter...etc.

Rosemary said...

I've read traditionally published and self-published and found gems (fantastic story, spot-on editing) and duds (lame plot and characters, poor editing) in both. Self-publishing just needs time to grow and develop their own gate-keeping system to weed out the truly amateur writers.

catriona said...

I've read some self-published books, but I generally find them disappointing -- the quality just isn't there. Yes, traditionally published books generally have mistakes too, but self-published books tend to lack the polish that comes from editing, proofreading, formatting, etc. I'm not ruling out self-published books entirely, but I approach them with caution.

JJ Wylie said...

My view as both author & reader: http://blog.jjwylie.com/2010/11/self-publishing-suckage-regret-of.html

Roni Loren said...

I've read one self-pubbed book but it was by an author who was also published traditionally so I already felt confident in her writing.

I'm still wary of buying self-pubbed books in which I have no experience with the author. I think the people who are best positioned for self-pubbing are those that have already built up a fan base with their traditionally pubbed books first.

I think there is still a lot of value in having "gatekeepers". So I'm much more likely to buy something pubbed by a traditional publishing house or one of the digital-first publishers than I am self-published stuff.

Michelle Davidson Argyle said...

Ok, I read the questions I'm supposed to answer. Yes, I've liked many of the self-published books I have read, and I do keep reading more of them. Most of them, however, are by authors I already know. I'm not sure if that makes a difference. I have a feeling it might because I've never bought a self-published book (that I'm aware of) just by browsing on Amazon or wherever and purchasing it. It's always been through my network channels that I've discovered the book/

Terry Odell said...

I confess I gravitate toward back list books or established authors, but I've read a lot of new-to-me independently published books (or at least samples--the boon of the e-book stores).

As with traditionally published books, some are good, some aren't. Anyone self-publishing who intends to survive needs to understand the value of an editor.

I started a free indie book last week and couldn't believe how amateurish it was -- yet it had over 50 5 star reviews at Amazon. People are looking for different things in their reading matter. My book club reads "good" books, traditionally published, yet half the members think they suck while the other half loves them.

Terry
Terry's Place
Romance with a Twist--of Mystery

Anonymous said...

As a freelance editor, I've not only read many self-published books, I've made professional contributions to the field. Most of the manuscripts and finished volumes have been truly unique, many have been of high literary quality but quixotic in some way that made it evident why the big publishers wouldn't expect enough sales (e.g.cross-genre). Some have gone to press with a draft that still contains an annoyingly high incidence of typos and errors--but, of course, I am a particularly critical reader in that regard!
I am currently reading a wonderful self-published novel, _Dorchester Avenue_, by Fred Contrada. It's a Massachusetts book, set during the bussing riot/psychedelic era, and a lot of entertaining reading for the price.

Jamie Manning said...

I don't discriminate...if the blurb or synopsis sounds appealing to me, I'll give it a shot. A recent self-pubbed I read was CRAWL by Vincent Kale. Adult horror at it's finest if you ask me, so I'm all for self-published books!

Sarabeth said...

The self-published books I have read share a common issue--lack of conflict. I've yet to read a self-published book that made me recommend it to someone else.

Ailsa said...

I would actually have no idea where to find a self-published book. I buy my books from places like Waterstone's, and local indie bookshops. Perhaps these books are there, and they just don't jump out at me enough to pick one up and read the back? I don't know.

As for self-published ebooks, I'm not really a big ebook reader (although I'm reading them a lot more often now!). When I do buy one, it either has to come recommended to me from a review on a book blog that I trust.

Interested to know where other people do find self published books.

4ndyman said...

I have read self-published e-books, but I've never paid for one.

Mieke Zamora-Mackay said...

I read a self-published self-help book. It was difficult to read because it wasn't edited. The message she was trying to impart couldn't break through the improper grammar and awkward sentence structure.

I have also read an e-book version of a novel that was published by one of those new POD indie publishers. That novel was pretty good, and I couldn't spot any differences between it's e-version formatting vs. other major publication's e-versions.

However, when a friend of mine showed me the actual printed book. It was clear that it's physical look (includes cover, typeface, formatting) wasn't up to par with books from the major publishers. That was disappointing to me.

That being said, I would probably read another e-version self-published/POD published book.

Leah said...

Yes, I've read several self-published books. The best of them (novels by Amanda Hocking and David Wellington) read like a rough draft of something that could eventually, with polish and care, become unspectacular midlist genre fiction. The worst were nigh-incoherent, internally inconsistent, and left me with little doubt why the author in question had failed to find a traditional publisher.

There's probably better self-pubbed fiction out there, but there's so much dross to get through that it's not worth my time to search for the gold.

Tim said...

smashwords.com is the place to go. I only read indie books these days.

Charlie Pulsipher said...

I've read several and been very happy with most of them, but I am picky when I choose them. Moses Siregar's The Black God's War is pretty good. I bought it because I met him and he seemed an intelligent and interesting guy.

I also just published my own novel. I've gotten good feedback so far and have only heard of two typos. I intend to fix those in the next couple days.

Ranae Rose said...

I've read quite a few self-published books. When I'm shopping for something to read, I look for a story I think I'll like and I don't really care who published it. Since anyone can upload a book to say, Amazon, for example, there are people who upload total crap without even trying to make it into something resembling a decent book. But honestly, between the cover, blurb and sample you can tell if something is one of those 'books' or not.

There are some really high-quality self-published books out there. For example, I recently read a self-puslished historical romance called 'A Bed of Thorns and Roses'. It was an AMAZING story. It makes some of the other books I've read recently look like drivel. And it wasn't just the story that was good - the formatting was perfect and I didn't notice a single mistake or type-o. Good self-published books are definately out there.

LTM said...

I've read several, and most were messy, messy. However! I'm reviewing a pretty darn good one on my blog today. It's from an *agented author,* which I think makes a huge difference...

anysia said...

A well written book is a food read no matter if it's a self published or published through 'normal channels'. I've read at least 10 by now & for the most part they have ranged from OK to biting my nails turning the pages.

kaitlyne said...

It was a niche non-fiction book published by a very well-regarded scholar on a topic relevant to a program I worked with. In fact, we bought several so everyone could read it.

Otherwise, there are a couple I've seen that I'd buy. Both are by authors I know personally and have direct knowledge of their writing abilities. Unfortunately, I also know writers personally who have self-published that I won't buy for the same reason. I don't want to read a book that isn't ready yet unless I'm beta reading.

Anyway, I won't read one unless it comes highly recommended from people I know. I don't like to read sample chapters (mostly because I'm the sort who finishes everything I start) and I make decisions based on covers and blurbs most of the time. I'm not going to risk that the writing isn't up to par, or that the writing is great but the story falls apart, etc. If it's recommended by people I trust, I'll consider it.

anysia said...

A well written book is a food read no matter if it's a self published or published through 'normal channels'. I've read at least 10 by now & for the most part they have ranged from OK to biting my nails turning the pages.

Kim Batchelor said...

I've downloaded an Amanda Hocking, if that counts. I have so many traditionally-published books in my pending stack that I don't know how soon I can finally get to the self-published market, although I'm interested in seeing what's out there, and like so many commenters, would like to find good gatekeepers of this market. I once bought a self-published book from an author at a B&N bookstore, took it home, took one look at it, and recycled it--very poorly written.

KathySkaggsPoet said...

I have, mostly books I've picked up at book fairs. Like other commenters, I found that the quality was often not up to par. Obviously, self-publishing authors need to work with a good editor, but the question is, If you're not a good proofreader/editor yourself, how can you tell if someone else is?

Michael A Tate said...

I've read two this past year and both were dreadful.

Ishta Mercurio said...

I have read three self-published picture books, all in almost-verse. As in, the authors (who were all there, promoting their books) thought their books rhymed really well, but they didn't, and the scansion was off, and they just really would have benefited from the eyes of an editor. I didn't buy any of them, nor did I bother to read them to my kids.

I have read the first three pages of a self-published novel, and I had to try REALLY HARD to make it through those three pages without grimacing, since the author was there watching me read them. There were run-on sentences, each paragraph didn't necessarily flow from the one before, there was purple prose, inappropriate metaphors, lots of adverbs... I was happy to put it down.

So I stick to traditionally published work.

I wish all the best to all writers. But I think it's important to make sure that what you offer people is of real quality before you stick a price tag on it and call it finished. I learned from speaking to all of these people that they had never had anyone other than friends and family look at it, and that they had chosen to self-publish after trying unsuccessfully to attract the interest of a traditional publisher. I want good things for those writers, but I want those good things to come from them having written a good book, and that only happens with lots of feedback and lots of discarded drafts and painful rejection letters. I want those writers to get feedback and get better at what they do, and self-publishing isn't going to do that for them. They need to take those rejection letters for what they are: signs that their book is not ready. And even though that kind of feedback can sometimes lead to hurt feelings, at the end of the day, it also leads to a better product, and to you having better skills as a writer. Who wouldn't want that?

Fiammetta Rey said...

I read Amanda Hocking's Trylle trilogy, which has since been picked up by a publisher.

I also read the fifth Marla Mason novel by T.A. Pratt, as well as the prequel. The first four books in the series were published traditionally, but the series was dropped after the fourth book, so he self-published 5 and the prequel. I also read his other novel, The Nex, which was self-published.

HopefulLeigh said...

I read a self-published novel a few years ago and found myself understanding why a publisher hadn't picked up. It needed more editing and the plot was rather predictable. I've read a few self-published nonfiction e-books and these were good- but I also know that the authors outsourced editors and other components of the process. It made a big difference!

Mira said...

Well, I'm not really sure how many I've read. I buy books based on reviews and recommendations, I don't look for the publisher, so I don't really know.

I did read Hockings trilogy and loved it!

Not to offend anyone but I suspect that some comments here (including mine) may need to be taken with a grain of salt - this is an extremely controversial subject (yay, Nathan!) and people may have some stake in the outcome.

For me, I agree with Rosemenay - it's very early days and people who are drawn to e-publishing are learning as they go. New systems to help people find new writers are already popping up, new systems of editing and formating help for self-published writers are also popping up, and I'm sure we can count on Amazon to figure something out as well.

Dave Royall said...

I have read "Footprints on a Secret Moon". Should the author, David Senechal, publisher another similar work, I would read that also.

Anonymous said...

I've read more than a few. Most are awful and written my people who don't know what they are doing. It's slush. I could give at least twenty examples but I wouldn't do that. But not all are awful, which is a shame for those authors.

I read somewhere that the only viable reason to self-publish...speaking in terms of money...is when an author can sell at least 1,000 books to make it worth while. And that's a conservative number. Otherwise it just doesn't make good financial sense...it's a waste of time.

Now, if an author is doing this for other reasons...and there are other reasons to self-publish...that's a different story.

Debbie said...

I've read two. The first could have used more than a bit of editing. Nothing could have helped the second one.

There's a reason there are gatekeepers, and it's not for typos..

Laura Pauling said...

I definitely read both. I download samples onto my Kindle of both traditionally published and self published and make my purchases based on the writing in the sample.

And this is more than just purchasing the books of friends who have self published. That should be your next poll. :)

Berinn Rae said...

I've read a few self-published novels and have found all lacking a good editing hand. I've been forced to become much more choosy in spending my $ on self-published books, always going for non self-published first.
I've also read self-republished backlist, and they were good.

Dasaya Cates said...

As a self-published, independent author, I've read many self-pubbed works. I agree that some are great, others not so much. I find quality books mostly because, frankly, I affiliate myself with quality writers, typically because I discover them based on what readers are saying. Some have quite a loyal following. Some don't want to be published via traditional channels, even though they know they have to work their butts off, because they prefer their current royalty structure. Thanks to those of you who are supporting us indies.

Leo Godin said...

I've read some good to great self-published books this year. The best is Seed by Ania Ahlborn. An Apple for Zoe is pretty good as is The Well by Peter Labrum. Also The Devil's Lair by David Wisehart is interesting. That is a fantasy book I enjoyed, but would probably never get published traditionally.

I did read one terrible self-published book that felt like an unedited first draft.

Elizabeth said...

Although the several self-published books I read contained typos and missed edits, so have more and more of the traditionally published books I've read lately. The self-published books were nonfiction -- essays and a guide to social media. They were fine. I've not read any self-published fiction yet but I would try it.

Jamie said...

I haven't yet read a self-published book, not because I'm opposed, but because of my already towering to-be-read pile. I'd absolutely pick one up, though, especially on a recommendation.

With all the observations about editorial issues and apparent lack of editing in self-published works, I wonder if freelance editors will find themselves in a new position of fame or importance in this ever-changing world. Knowing an author made an investment in the quality of their book would go a long way toward convincing me to give it a try if I were on the fence about it.

Sarah Billington said...

OOh. I'm certainly finding that interesting that so many people have read self published books. I imagine that two years - even ONE year ago the results would have looked significantly different.

I am one of the many who have read self-pubbed books, though not many yet cos my kindle carked it within 2 weeks of ownership. What I read - 1 could have used some editing but the other was polished and professional.

Kurt Hartwig said...

I was not wowed, but they were certainly comparable to some of the lower-end Officially Published Titles I've read.

Donna K. Weaver said...

I've read several of them and they ranged in quality of writing, but that can also be said about traditionally published books I've read. Only one was a disappointment, and that could have been style and expectation.

P A Wilson said...

Like traditional books, some are good and some are not great. I find my expectations of a traditional published book is much higher and typos drive me nuts but a self pub book can have a few typos and I'm not upset. \

Kate Scott said...

I've read "The Shack" does that count?

I've never gone out of my way to try and read a self-published book, but I don't normally look at who the publisher is when making my selections at a bookstore, so if a self-published book was done well (like The Shack)then, yeah, I'd at least concider it.

Lately I've been reading a lot more e-books. Most of them (probably all of them, actually) are also available in paper and are published in the traditional manner. But I do always look at the comp titles Amazon suggests to me after I buy a new e-book. If Amazon started recommending a bunch of self-published e-books, I'm sure I'd read a few of them.

Charlie Pulsipher said...

I also read two traditional novels in the past three weeks that were garbage. I found myself arguing with the writing.

"Why would he do that? It makes no sense. He's completely forgotten about his power he used three scenes ago."

Drove me crazy. I can't stand when writers have their characters do things just to move the plot forward, but feels false when you think of the character.

This was from a best-seller. There are problems on both sides of the gate.

There are many reasons we are self publishing now, not just because our writing isn't up to the traditional standards. Some are substandard, and I'm sorry that those turn people away. But, there are some truly talented writers who aren't able to be published because they write things that don't follow formulas, or they don't want to wait 3 to 10 years to see their name in print, or the publishing companies are offering tiny advances to new authors.

So...I guess I'm saying please don't give up on self published authors because one or two weren't great. Download our samples and decide before you buy.

mima said...

I've read a few self-pub'd books--PBs, memoir, fiction--and think all of them would've been better books with deeper revision and a professional editorial eye. As a writer, I know how much work it takes to write a worthy book, and I'm still working on my own mss to get them in shape to be considered by a traditional publisher. No insult meant to folks who self-pub, but very few, if any, of you will attract me as a reader. My pile of great pub'd books to read is epic as it is.

Christina said...

I've read several! They've ranged from excellent- Blake Crouch's "Run"- to good- Amanda Hocking's "Hollowland" and "Trylle" trilogy- to mediocre and downright awful. I read a lot of self-pubbed non-fiction that's almost always very good, quality-wise.

Honestly, it's not much different from reading published stuff. Especially in recent years, I've been shocked to see how many typos and downright bad writing get past editors.

Especially since we can read samples on both Amazon and B & N, it usually only takes a few paragraphs to see if it's decent or not.

Bethany Joy Carlson said...

I like reading self-pubbed on authonomy.com. It's unfiltered. I read a lot of crap that I laugh at, and then maybe one book out of one hundred is good. So I get to learn what not to do from others' mistakes, and I get to feel what it's like being an agent. It's like trolling the local clubs to find your new favorite indie band.

Heidi said...

A few, and most could have benefitted from an editor.

One book I read recently had some really great concepts and story telling, but lost my interest when the author rambled. I kept thinking it was a shame that she didn't pursue a traditional publisher, and get a good editor to help her tighten up her words.

But I do think, when done right, self-publishing can be a good way to get your name out there, and help build your audience for when you do go the traditional route.

The key words there are "when done right!"

Kate said...

As a freelance editor, I've not only read them, I've helped birth a few.

The best DIYs are handled in the same way that conventional publications are, with a close eye to quality. That means either hiring professional help or having the skills to produce edited copy, proper formatting, and fine covers.

There's a reason that conventionally published books require a year to two years to produce!

My biggest beef with self-pubbed books beyond poorly-written and badly-presented published drafts is when polished content is marketed with ghastly cover and sales copy. If you've hired help to polish everything else, don't shoot yourself in the foot with marketing glitches!

deborahjbarker said...

I read a self published novel recently that was superb. 'The Somebody Who" by Katie Gates. I had read quite a few well written blog posts by Katie before I bought the book and expected it to be of good quality. I wasn't disappointed. I also joined a writing review/critique group (Youwriteon.com) which allows people to self publish. I was reviewing badly written books, trying to see the story beneath the typos and grammatical errors and generally poor use of English. I was then horrified to see that these books were already available through Amazon.
Presumably, these authors did not want to wait for positive criticism before publishing. I did note that some had good reviews (friends/family maybe?) but I would have been disappointed if I was the one buying them!
I suppose there is both good and bad out there. I would not be put off reading a self published novel, I'd just research its author's previous work/blogs/websites first.
I have one further comment - traditionally published books often fall short of expectations because they are printed on cheap paper, the typeface is too small and the book crammed into a smaller format than would be expected. These books, to my mind, are as much at fault as any self published ones.
Good questions by the way!!

Anonymous said...

I have tried. Honest to Dog I've tried. Maybe I've picked the wrong ones to try but I can never get more than a few pages in before the typos, poor grammar, and maddening syntax make me scream in horror.

ginny martyn said...

I have read several self-pubs.

Hocking's books didn't bother me grammatically, but what she did to her characters nearly killed me.

I've read several traditionally published books that were more polished, but they were just as flat and boring as some of the self pubs I've read.

Carrie said...

I've read some self-published books. So far my opinion is mixed. I think there are people self publishing who define editing as making sure all the spelling and grammar is correct and others who define editing as making sure the story is the best it can be in terms of voice, character arc, and pacing.

Wendy Jane said...

I've read many self-pubbed books as of late. I put a few down. Most are now my favorite books that I recommend to others. There are some real gems out there. I no longer look at the publisher's name. They've come a long way and have earned a place on my bookshelf.

Jaimie said...

I've read several. I'd say it's about 50/50 as far as good/bad ratio. (And I'm incredibly selective to start, so factor that I rule out a lot of slush at the beginning.)

Amy said...

I've read several self-published books. Some were pretty good. I still read mostly trad-pubs though.

K.T. Hanna said...

Mostly, I read traditionally published books. But I do have a few friends who published when they got impatient and whose writing I know to be good.
Those I've read, enjoyed and would read more of - though I wished they'd just not given up and gone the traditional route.

I have tried to read more self pubbed books, but upon reading the first few pages I can't help but cringe. So I guess I only read what I know will be good.

Thank god for ebook samples.

Anonymous said...

I have read a few self-published books, but I am still cautious when it comes them. As someone said earlier, the books seem to lack the polish, the quality whether its in editing, cover art, or materials its made out of. Perhaps we even hold self-published books to a higher standard or we are more sensitive to the errors we find, knowing they did not go the traditional way, the "right" way as we have been taught and experienced through reading poor quality books in the past.
Hopefully with the changing times,we will see more and more authors, who chose to self-publish, strive for excellence in the art and craft of writing. And I think that is already happening...

Carmen Webster Buxton said...

I have read a few self-published book. I find that the first few pages will give a strong clue whether or not you will enjoy the book. Clumsy writing is worse than typos, and that shows up right away.

Jordan McCollum said...

I've read at least a few, most (if not all) by friends. Michelle Davidson Argyle's (who commented above) self-pubbed novella is the only one I recall paying for off the top of my head, and it was worth it.

The self-pubbed books that I've read in general are fairly good. Solid if not stunning. But most of them (Michelle's being an exception) could have used a good line/copy edit. But then, I'm reading a traditionally published eBook now that is trying very hard to be literary, but I think if they wanted to go that direction, they should have tried a little harder. It has a NUMBER of formatting errors (like a paragraph from the second chapter that appears no fewer than 8 times in the first chapter). It's turning me off the author and the publisher.

I will read more self-pubbed ebooks (in the middle of one now, and after that, another by an author I don't know personally but have followed online for a while).

Personally, I'm still hoping to go the traditional route in my career, but I'm more open to the idea of self-publishing than in the past.

D.G. Hudson said...

Yes, but not too many. I read several by an author I know in the Gulf Islands, and if the content of another self-pub interested me, I would read others.

Self-publishing is not something I consider a stigma; the deciding factor is content, good presentation, and subject matter. If I've heard the names of the authors on blogs, I'll probably give it a chance.

One never knows when one might be on that side of the fence.

However, I find more of the self-pubs in the indie stores. Big Box stores should carry more of the self-pubs, vented by their staff, even if they present them in a different section - who cares, as long as they get exposure.

Why must there always be a hierarchy of the better and the less-than? Perhaps self-pubbing could be considered as training ground for writers (those that can afford it).

I buy real books more than ebooks, and I'll buy trad books before self pub depending on the subject, title, and author background.

Lori said...

Sorry to say, I csn almost always pick the self-published even when I didn't know when I purchased. Mostly they could have used another edit. Not to say traditional are 100%. And yes, I'm sure i'll buy another, but prefer traditional.

James Harlan Harris said...

I've read several self-published Kindle books on writing, but still haven't read any self-published novels, electronic or print.

Thanks for the great blog, Nathan!

Cheers,
James

Cyndy Aleo said...

Yes, and more than one. :)

I think in a random sampling, you'll find a mix. Some of them -- probably even most of them -- will be books that just weren't ready for primetime. But then there are others that probably could have/should have been great traditionally published books, but either the agents or editors couldn't fit it into a neat little box that matched a B&N shelf tag, so it never got picked up. Those are the self-pubs that frustrate me, especially when they aren't selling like gangbusters as a self-pub either because the author lacks the marketing prowess.

Anonymous said...

I have *been directed to* countless self-published books. I've *started* very many of them. I've finished two.+ My numbers are far different for actually-published books.

+The most amazing books ever, self-published after agents returned with variants of "brilliantly written, but way too weird."

Rondi Olson said...

In general I don't seek out self-published books but I have bought a few written by friends and acquaintances to be supportive. They weren't bad and I enjoyed them but I did struggle to turn off my internal editor. Lots of telling was the biggest problem, also the excessive use of passive verbs.

None of these writers were attempting to break into the industry, though. They were writing for the love of it and self-published because they wanted to share their work with someone.

omnalcu said...

So...I guess I'm saying please don't give up on self published authors because one or two weren't great. Download our samples and decide before you buy.

I've only got so much time in the world. When self-publishers are batting 5% and traditional publishers are batting 60% or better, why should I bother?

Anonymous said...

I've read some self-published and small press books, sure. I've been reading ebooks since 1999, when back then we thought it was the "ebook revolution" with our Rocket Readers and Palm Pilots. Whenever I see "ebook revolution" now I laugh--it's like my young niece saying a while back that bellbottoms/midriff baring tops/pants are totally new fashions. So maybe this present revolution is one of huge scope and availability, but ebooks are nothing new. Electronic texts have been around since the 70s, I think.

ANYway, some self-published books are utter and complete crap. Some are meh. Some are golden. Just as with traditionally published books, where in almost any genre discussion circle you hear the words "I can't believe big name author/big name publisher published such crap!"

And there are ebooks from established, beloved authors with so many formatting and OCR translation errors they leave a permanent bad taste in one's mouth, especially at the prices we're expected to pay for them! So, to me, it doesn't matter WHO published the book.

You also can't trust most reviews any more since a few authors, as well as readers, will give a good or awful review at the drop of a hat (sometimes even in revenge!). But it's pretty easy to tell crap reviews from honest after a while, too, just as a prospector soon learns to tell fool's gold from real.

Finding ebook gold from unknowns--as ever--is a matter of panning, sifting, trying, luck. Don't give up after the first one or two failures. There is an entire treasure trove of fiction out there just waiting to be discovered.

Kristy Stewart said...

I've never read a self-published book, but I think part of that has to do with how I choose my books. When I want to be surprised, I go to a physical bookstore and peruse the shelves. I only buy online when I'm looking for something specific, and I only look for something specific when it's been recommended to me by a friend, when I've seen great reviews that piqued my interest (usually on something other than the site the sells the book), or when it's from an author I love. Traditionally published books are more pervasive in those channels. I have had a few self-published books brought to my attention (though not necessarily recommended), but none of them sounded particularly intriguing and they were in genres I don't usually enjoy.

The biggest hurdle I see for self-published authors comes down to making people aware of your book. Publishers have practice--and clout--when it comes to marketing and getting the word out. Self-published writers have to find a way to distinguish themselves and to tap into communities so recommendations can grow organically from one reader to the next. Then the sales can drive them up in the algorithms that will recommend their work to online perusers. Crappy books won't get recommended; good books will. But first the good books have to reach readers with communities that will listen to them. Right now there's no one in my community telling me I should read any self-published books, so I don't.

Belinda Frisch said...

I've read many indie novels and even released one of my own. Some stories are just meant for the underground and that suits mine just fine.

I am friends with a lot indies and most of them, like me, are first time novelists. I have a traditionally published text book, but fiction and non are night and day.

Many indies hire editors, but the editing is not as rigorous when you're both the customer and the client. The editors available are often freelance and part time which certainly affects things, too. Cash is definitely a factor for struggling artists.

Indie novels are great and often inexpensive. Follow the ratings. These are hard-working writers waiting for a break. I know some indie books are garbage, but so many of them are gold.

Margo Lerwill said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
K.C. May said...

I've read quite a few, actually. Some were terrific, some were pretty good, and some not so good -- just like traditionally published books!

When my publisher released me from my contract, I self-published the book, and it's currently doing even better in terms of sales and readership than it did when it was traditionally published.

Margo Lerwill said...

I am very hard to impress. There are many traditionally published books that never manage to catch fire with me. That being said, it shoudl not be a surprise that the vast majority of the self-published books I've read don't pass muster with me. However(!), I have been beating the drum HARD for Angelfall by Susan Ee. Best dark fantasy I've read in a long time. It delights me, as another self-published writer, to find someone this good in self-publishing.

Matthew MacNish said...

I *think* I'm reading one right now, and it's pretty good, but I'm not going to name it because I want to make sure it's actually SELF published.

Polenth said...

I've read self-published non-fiction. Often about niche subjects that wouldn't be worth a publisher getting involved in. Most have been local history, but there's one recipe book around somewhere.

I've also read free samples from self-published fiction, and never been inspired to actually buy it. If I did find a book with an awesome free sample, I'd be happy to buy it... but it hasn't happened yet. The quality tends to be very poor, so the chances of hitting that diamond in the sludge pit are pretty small.

John Philipp said...

I read a self-published book by Ken Coffman, sort of a Carl Hiaasen style fun drama. Liked it enough, I have read four more of his.

Susan said...

I've read several self-published novels, most recently, The Mill River Recluse, by Darcie Chan. Last I checked, it was on USA Today's bestseller list, and ranked #2 on Amazon. This is her debut novel, and I enjoyed it.

Several other self/indie pubbed authors I've read were previously traditionally published.

Honestly, I don't check to see who the publisher is before I download an ebook. If the title and cover art catch my attention and the blurb sounds interesting, I'll read an unknown author, no matter how he/she published--especially if it's offered at an attractive price. At higher price-points, I usually download a sample first.

Margo Lerwill said...

I'd be interested to know from the people commenting here how many are readers *who are not also writers.*

We writers have vested interests. Those of us who have tried self-publishing want to be able to point out great self-pub books as proof that the stigma is at least partially unfair.

Those who still want to go traditional need to believe that they are doing the right thing, that only hacks go self-pub.

Then we behave and comment accordingly.

I do notice the number of people who said they will only buy a self-pub book if it comes recommended to them. That describes the vast majority of all book buying, not just the selection of self-pub books.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I've read self published books, and I to may be biased because I've written one as well. It's the message in and of the story being told that's counts!
Peace,

Becky Mushko said...

(Disclaimer: I have self-published one book—albeit with part of the cost underwritten by an arts council—and vanity-published some collections of previously published stories and columns.

The self-published and vanity-published books I buy and read are usually from people I know or people I've heard do readings. The best ones tend to be memoirs or local history. If I'm not familiar with the author's work, I rarely buy their books. On my blog, I sometimes review self-published books I've especially enjoyed.

Anonymous said...

I've read a handful of self-published books. All had an interesting concept and the storyline overall was fine, but all had issues with pacing, dialogue that should be pared, and a lot of redunancy. They all had potential -- it was the execution of the concept that was lacking.

Ilima Loomis said...

Only because my friend wrote it.

Anonymous said...

I've started three, finished none. I had a real problem with one book being self-published.

This author showed me his first draft of a non-fiction work. I loved it and encouraged him to get it published. He had a great perspective.

"25 drafts later" - he shopped it to a few publishers who didn't take it, so he self-published. I read it again. It was barely changed from the first draft, and chapters still ended abruptly, thoughts not wrapped up, lines of digression never came back to the original thought -- in short, the book wasn't finished. I think it will suffer because of that.

And his font choices were a bit jarring, in combination.


The other book was basically a book of blog posts about the author. The third I just haven't had a chance to give much time to, yet. It's on my kindle, waiting.

I've also paged through a book or two of self-published poetry at the bookstore, but always felt the poetry was not written at a highly-skilled level, so again, not interested.

But I'm a very critical reader, too.

L.K. Rigel said...

Yes, I've read self-published books - more since I've published a few myself.

I've been an avid reader all my life, and I don't remember considering the publisher when choosing a book - unless I wanted scholarly commentary and notations.

I predict: As more people read more self-published books, more people will talk (and blog) about the ones they like. And then more people will read more self-published books.

Vinny said...

I've read a couple. I enjoyed them but there were some issues with typos and the writing that I can't help but wonder if a bit more editing would take care of.

Nancy Kelley said...

I actually own a website that reviews only self-published books, so I read quite a few of them. I also read self-pubbed works in genres we don't review--for example, mysteries and YA.

Since I work at a library, I'm surrounded every day by traditionally published works, so I read a fair amount of those as well. My conclusion is that the method of publication offers little indication as to the quality of the story. If a book is good, it's going to be good no matter who publishes it, and the reverse is likewise true.

As for formatting issues, those are certainly not limited to self-published books. I've read traditionally published ebooks that had random italicized passages, for instance. Even paper books are liable to have issues. One of the authors in my genre (Jane Austen fiction) blogged yesterday about an incredible gaffe on the part of her publisher. On page 298 of her latest book, it suddenly switches to another book by a different author.

The bottom line is this: Good books will be put out by authors and publishers who take the time to do professional work. Those can be found on either side of the indie/traditional line.

Danielle La Paglia said...

I've read both self-published books by Michelle Muto because I know her and I know how strong her writing is and they have a profession (aka traditionally published) quality to them.

I would purchase a self-published book for the same reason I purchase any book - recommendation from a friend or I liked the blurb and sample pages. I have purchased two other self-published books on recommendation and was not satisfied, but that happens sometimes with traditionally published books as well.

Tina Boscha said...

As a self-pubbed author, clearly it's in my best interest to read both. I do recognize that many self-pubbed works suffer from all the pitfalls many have already mentioned, and I worked by a** off to do the best I can without the help of a publisher, and it's anxiety-inducing to be a one-woman show. But at the end of the day, I wanted my book (River in the Sea) to be as indistinguishable from a traditionally-published book as possible.

That said, I have read many traditionally published works with typos, cliched characters, predictable plotlines, etc., just as much as I've read terrific trad-published books. It's gratifying to see more self-pubbed writers out there who are putting out high-quality work and demanding the same from others.

Mimi Hawthorne said...

The only ones I've read are two that came to life as self-published but then had success and were picked up by legit publishers. The Shack and The Lace Reader. I wanted to see whether the writing justified their being banished to self-pub world. In the case of The Lace Reader, I was desperate to get out my red pen. It had so much potential and could have been so much better with a good editor. With The Shack, I think conventional publishers had no idea how to market it, so they passed on it. Having said all that, I recently read two books by very successful well-known writers, and I thought the writing was terrible. How on earth are these people successful in mainstream publishing? And how did they get through all the gatekeepers?

Vera Soroka said...

Yes I've read a self-published YA book and I did enjoy it very much. It was given to me so I didn't buy it and I didn't know the author. I'll buy a book after I've read a bit of it and if I like it I will then buy it regardless if it was self-published or not. I think good editing is the key.

RetroKali said...

Wow, you really hit a nerve. :)
I think the self-published world is a lot like the blog world. Maybe 70% of the people out there either lack the talent, or skills to be writing. Some are downright garbage, some just need a little doctoring.
But there is a 30% that makes it all worth while. You just have to be willing to wade through all the crap. I read lots of self published books, the good, the bad, and the ugly, and am getting ready to self-publish my first book. Thanks for bringing up the topic! Love your blog!

SBJones said...

I have read a few self published books. They are no different than a traditionally published one for the most part. Sure it doesn't have a $5,000 cover art and there might be some editing issues. It's still a story. Both sides have examples of exceptions both good and bad so its a mute point to argue.

Having wrote and self published a book. I can go down to Barnes and Noble and see it on the shelf. Its available online at countless web sites. It sells internationally and I do book signings. What is the difference between my book and any other next to it?

It's like comparing a Dell or HP computer bought off the shelf vs one put together yourself from newegg.

Jan Cline said...

I usually read traditionally published books. However, the most recent self-pub book I read was very well done by WinePress. I would read a SP book again, but I do look at covers and endorsements before I buy one. I would consider self-publishing myself if that's what it takes to get my story out there.

mary-j-59 said...

I've actually read two. The first was badly edited and sloppily written - the stereotypical vanity project. The second was self-published by a woman I know after multiple rejections from agents and editors. Hers is a good story and as well-crafted as most of the "normally published" books I've read. It's "Bitter Tea", by Louise Gantress, and I reviewed it on amazon.

Bryan Russell said...

Only by writers I have known personally. I don't have time to keep up with the traditionally published books I want to read, let alone search through the endless piles of self-published books looking for something good.

Melody said...

Honestly, I don't know. I've read books that no one's ever heard of, books by publishers no one's heard of, but I don't know if they were self-pubbed or not. I've never knowingly read anything self-pubbed. I just read books I want to read. :)

Katherine Hyde said...

I've edited a number of books on their way to being self-published. Some of them (nonfiction) were pretty good; others were frankly terrible, and I couldn't help them much beyond correcting their grammar.

More recently I requested a review copy of a self-published novel I'd heard good things about. It made me sad, because it was a good story that had not been competently told. If the author had taken more time to refine his craft, with feedback from more experienced people, it could have been really good. But he assumed his rejections were based on subject matter and rushed into self-publishing, thereby missing out on fulfilling his own potential as a writer. This is the big danger I see in self-publishing.

Reagan Philips said...

I think this is a great topic. Thanks for bringing it up.

I have only read one SP book, but it was written by someone I know.

That said, if a book was recommended to me by a person, or non-person I guess (amazon, my dog, etc) familiar with what I like, I'd try it.

Gwen@ChewDigestBooks.com said...

I am a book reviewer, not a writer and have read many self-published books. Many have been good/well produced and edited, a few could use some help, and a couple have been real stinkers.

The gems are the ones that keep me coming back.

Gail Shepherd said...

I admit, I've only read one, and it was a friend's.

4RV Publishing said...

Some of the self-published books I've read were well-written, thoroughly edited, and formatted professionally. Others were terribly written, little or not editing, and looked completely sloppy.

Vivian

Scott said...

Have to admit, they've mainly been disappointments. The only reason I'd read self-pubbed work is that it's in a very narrow niche that I can't get enough of in traditional venues.

I'm hoping soon we'll start to see large-scale, accepted methods to rate the quality and content of books (and objective-- jacket copy and blurbs don't count).

Put Your Shades On said...

Yup, and I've written a few myself. I agree that some can be so sloppy and anemic that they're barely readable. But, conversely, I don't think the mighty gatekeepers are always that mighty. Savvy? Yes. Many times I think simply having a firm grip on the psychology of consumerism is what sells a book.

Lisa Lane said...

I've read several self-published books. While many of them are clearly self-published, either because of editing/formatting problems or just unpolished prose, I've read a couple of self-published books that have blown me away.

rebeccam said...

As a self-published author and a freelance editor, I know how important it is to pay attention to accuracy and quality. I do read other self-published books if they interest me and/or I know the author. It's hard to read comments about suspecting why a book wasn't picked up by a traditional publisher. There are other reasons for self-publishing -- it can be a choice in itself.

Gabryyl said...

A book attracts me, not a publisher. I have and will continue to buy any book that interests me. Some are self pub some are trad. I read them all. The 3 most recent I've purchased & read were all self pubs & they were wonderful. I just bought 2 other self pubs & 2 trad pub ebooks today.

N. Gemini Sasson said...

I read both self- and traditionally published books. What matters to me is that the writing style and story engage me.

Jesse said...

I read both but I review indie books for my columns. I have yet to find one that was so bad that I had to put it down. On the other hand, I've purchased some trad published books that the formating was TERRIBLE, that needed an editor really badly. When one of my favorite books was finally released in ebook format, I had to make note to someone at Random House about it. Hell, even Stephen King has had books released that were full of misspellings, formatting errors, etc. That old saw ain't working no more, kids.

Jenifer said...

Is there any distinction between the terms "self-published" and "independently published"? As an author who worked with a "hybrid" publisher, I don't feel comfortable saying I "self-published" because I had a team of 4 amazing, experienced, type-A people working on my book tirelessly who wouldn't stop until we all felt it was as perfect as we could make it. Yes, I compensated them for their services, but I also learned so much from their expertise; I can't say I published my book by 'myself'. I had an incredible copy editor, graphic designer, and talented artist, all overseen by my "publisher", who never failed to answer any question I had, and patiently educated me along the way on the process, production, and industry. My book from inception to print took over a year, and we never felt pressured to rush it, as it was important that we have a high-quality product that could stand on its own next to any other traditionally published picture book on my son's shelf. It is hard for me to be "lumped in" with those authors that choose to publish in an afternoon online with a credit card, with or without humans on the other end of the website. I have also seen some amazing self-published books at the BEA in NYC which really spoke to important issues not often found in the bookstore under traditional publishers. Sometimes I feel this comparison should really be between books produced with patience, care and attention to detail, and those just thrown together with an ISBN. It's a bit like comparing moms who stay home, and those that work outside the home--neither one is better than the other, the real distinction is which parent is more "connected" and present and involved with her family? Perhaps large, traditional publishers feel a bit threatened that there might be high-quality, marketable books out there that people need and love--which were produced without their involvement??

J. R. Tomlin said...

I find it interesting that you asked if people only read trad-published books but didn't ask if people only read self-published ones.

I would say the latter if I hadn't recently purchased ADWD.

Amber, how do you suppose those "issues with typos, formatting, etc" sneaked in with novels that were being self-published from an authors backlist. Or were you by any chance holding them to a different standard that the trad-published ones?

Obviously, I have a stake in the discussion being self-published, but the first novels I self-published were from my backlist. *shrug* And what I read, the 100+ self-published novels on my Kindle tells that story. Trad published are better? Not in my opinion and my spending dollar backs that opinion up.

Elin Gregory said...

I've read a lot of self-pubbed books. Some are as well presented as if they had been produced by Random House or Bloomsbury, others were laughable. But then I read a lot of traditionally pblished books and some of those are laughably badly editted as well.

A lot depends on the professionalism of the author and the standards they set for themselves. Some ARE professionals and produce work that would shine anywhere.

Glynis said...

This past year I have read more SP books than published. If a book captures my eye I will read it regardless of how it was produced.

Matthew C Wood said...

I've only read a handful of Self-Published books and they have varied wildly in quality. I think that having alternative outlets for authors to get their works into the world is a fantastic idea but, unregulated, it is likely that authors with great potential going 'indie' stand a good chance of being lost amid the deluge of 'get rich quick' writers who pump out low-quality works in a month or less.

There is definitely something to be said for gatekeepers, for the benefit of all who are truly serious about becoming published authors.

Dan Holloway said...

I've read many. A lot could do with being 30-50% shorter. A lot mistake beautiful writing for good writing. But I've read double figures full of real raw energy, tight writing and pizzazz

Michael J. Sullivan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michael J. Sullivan said...

As a publisher, I often look to well written self-published books as a source for finding new authors so yes I've read many ;-)
Robin Sullivan | Write2Publish | Ridan Publishing

David Murray said...

I read my first one, which had excellent grammar and good plot, but not much else--a waste of time and $1.99. Hoping that was unusual, I read six others and all are great, easily equal to any traditionally published book. Since the second one, I have read reviews before buying.

Robin Sullivan said...

OOps that previous note should have been made from my account - I was acccidently signed in as Michael.

Robin Sullivan | Write2Publish | Ridan Publishing

Gehayi said...

No. I've read a number of books that were Print-On-Demand by their publishers, and some manuscripts of children's fantasy that were later self-published, but no books that were self-published. This is largely because I don't buy books until I'm familiar with the author or until I've already read the book. I only know of one self-published author--Paul Marquette, author of the aforementioned manuscripts.

Kenner R. McQuaid said...

I saw one post that mentioned that traditional publishing serves as a necessary "gatekeeper" function. It's true in many cases, but remember that the "gatekeepers" are interested only in one thing: making money.

Jack Blaine said...

Read and written self-pubbed books. As many of the comments note, both traditionally published and self-published books suffer if there isn't careful editing and proofreading. But I've found gems in both lists.

Torre DeRoche said...

I worked hard to make sure my book would look like it'd come from a traditional publisher. I obsessed over every small detail.

Many don't even stop to question who published it, including The Atlantic who just published an excerpt from my book.

Brooklyn Ann said...

I have read a few self published books, but the best ones are those that you can't immediately tell they're self-pubbed.

Lucy said...

I've never read one, but if the packaging was professional enough and the author could actually write AND edit, I'd be willing to do so. Usually, however, all three factors don't line up together.

ED Martin said...

I'm currently reading one and forcing myself to continue. While it's not necessarily bad, it's not good either. The grammar is fine, and there aren't any typos, but the writing itself is mediocre - lots of passages of meaningless details and little in the way of character development. It's something that an editor - or even a good writing group - should've caught. However, as I'm currently editing my own novel, I might be hypersensitive to things the average reader might not notice.

Nanic Babic said...

I just read "Border Crossings - An Aid Worker's Journey into Bosnia" by Aubrey Verboven. What an incredibly rich, detailed and humane look into a corner of the Bosnian War. I have yet to find anything as gripping or accessible on this subject produced by mainstream publishers.

Judy Croome | @judy_croome said...

I'm reading more self-published books than traditionally published because they're more interesting and creative (they're not all clones of one another) and they're cheaper.

Yes, they are some duds in the ones I read, but that's no different to when I only read traditionally published books.

Judy, South Africa

Dana Strange said...

I read self published books a LOT lately. I read from the 'look inside' sample and can automatically tell whether I'll want to read the entire book. If there's no sample and the book is inexpensive or free and recommended by Amazon, I'll usually give that a shot, too. I'm rarely disappointed.

Ellen O'Connell said...

Since I'm self-pub'd myself, I see many interesting blurbs from other authors in the forums and give them a try. However, I never download any book, free or not, self or traditionally published without skimming the reviews and reading the sample first.

I'm a fussy reader and will abandon any book at any point if I stop caring about the story or characters. My guess is (have never kept track) I do abandon more indie books without finishing than traditional, but I don't think the difference in the percentages would be huge.

Kate Austin said...

I'm with others - I've read quite a few self-published books (maybe two or three dozen), and there are only two authors whose books I would buy again. What the rest of them feel like to me are those four or five books I have hidden away in a closet - practice books - never to be seen again. There are some good ones, but the lack of editing and the above problem means that I'm getting picker about them. Compared to traditionally published books, I probably read 1 self-published book to 20 or 30 traditionally (including e-pubbed) books.

Kate

J.C. Martin said...

I have both been pleasantly entertained and terribly disappointed by self-published books. Best way I've found of separating the wheat from the chaff is through word of mouth and friend recommendations.

Jaimi said...

Once upon a time, Hollywood could have asked a similar question: "Have you ever watched an independent movie?" We all know what happened there. Go mammals!

Ruth Madison said...

The worst book I've ever read was traditionally published.

I've enjoyed many self-pubbed books, I've disliked others. I have not found them to be that different from traditionally published ones of the same genre.

Ross Slater said...

Full disclosure, my business helps business authors to self-publish (or independently publish) their books, so I'm biased. The books we've produced we by and large very good books and would have been indistinguishable from those that any of the major 6 produced.

In fairness, there are many books published by traditional/royalty publishers that have been terrible with typos and other issues. There are just good books and not good books - oddly, there isn't even consensus on those points regardless of the publisher. Much like movies, tv shows, and music have different quality and audiences.

Let's focus on getting good work done rather than who did it under what structure. Yes?

Deborah Serravalle said...

I voted yes, however, it was a memoir that a friend wrote and uses in conjunction with her personal training business. I have never read a self-published novel.

Lillian Grant said...

I have only read one that was written by an author who is usually published by one of the larger e-publishers. She is a friend and I knew it had been professionaly edited and I usually enjoy her stories. It was a great read with nothing to draw me out of the story. I have read excerpts of other self published books but am not keen to buy them when they usually appear to be badly edited. As an wuthor head hopping, wandering body parts, bad grammar and typos make me want to get out a red pen and I find I can't get into the story at all.

Lani Longshore said...

I've read several self-published books, most by other members of the California Writers Club. Some have been very good, none was worse than the 700-page traditionally published historical novel that a friend insisted I read. I also reviewed a self-published cookbook for the local paper, and found it to be quirky but surprisingly useful. I stopped looking at how the book came to be - what matters is whether it's interesting.

Nancy said...

Yep, it was "The Artists Way" though I didn't know it had been originally self published. I also have read many cookbooks which are self published usually someone with a blog whose recipe's i already like. I also edited a self published book (and some traditionally published). Don't make the mistake of thinking all self published books have only the writer behind them.

Rita Monette, Writer said...

I've read both self and traditionally published books that were both good and horrible.

Sandra Stiles said...

I read and review self-published books quite often. I also am the author of a self-published book. I hate that people think those of us who have self-published have inferior books. I have read many that are terrible. I have also read many by traditional publishers that were not that great as well.

AM Riley said...

I have read a few self-published books that were polished and fun to read, but they were in the minority. Most were rife with typos, continuity problems, grammatical and spelling errors...etc etc. Ugh.

I have seen a few traditionally published books with the same problems, though.

Cheryll (Gabby) Ganzel said...

I am an avid reader and read ebooks and paperbacks both self-published and traditionally published. Self-published ebooks are inexpensive and usually have sample excerpts so it's not very risky to try new authors. I have discovered some great novels and have become a fan of several new authors.

Rose said...

I have read three self-published books; one a non-fiction, which I did not enjoy and thought was written more like a high schooler's essay. The second self-published book I read was of personal antidotes and rather vulgar and a bit offensive. The last self-published book I read recently was a self-help philosophical book, written well, easy to read, but I did find four typos. Each of these books were written by friends, so I felt obligated to read them! As a writer, I'd rather be tormented with reject letters until one day someone says, "Yes your book is publish worthy!"

Victorine said...

I am self-published and I read a lot of other indies too. Some stink. Some are fantastic. I just started reading The Venom of Vipers by KC May. I'm loving it! Of course, she's been traditionally published too. But I believe this book is all indie.

Eastbaywriter said...

Read them all the time. Finding some new and not so new authors with a different voice.

Caden O'Brien said...

I've read quite a few self-published books, all fiction, selected because of their intriguing story lines and recommendations from others. As others have noted, the quality in self-pubbed books is quite wide, but I've been pretty happy with the ones I've read. If they've been put thru the spit-n-polish that an outside publisher gives they would truly have been winners! Some self-pubbed have even been better than the publisher-approved books! I'll continue to read these books, because otherwise I think I'd be missing out on some very talented authors.

Stacey Nelson said...

I've read two. The typos, plot holes and stuttering flow of the stories kept me from enjoying them fully.

Personally, I'm willing to pay more for a better story which to me means having the book go through an agent, editor, publishing house, etc. so that it's as polished as it can be before it hits the shelves.

I don't think people should stop self-publishing, I just know that I'm not their target audience.

Lorilyn said...

I am amazed at the comments. I say we conduct a challenge.

Take books by category, mainline published versus self-published/POD published, and conduct an experiment. Have readers read books who read in the categories that are being judged, and see which they like.

Like an unbiased experiment, much like they do in medicine, to test results. It would have to be a double blind experiment.

I challenge you that the POD and self-published books will be rated even at 50-50, one-on-one. You take out the bias factor, I think you will be amazed.

You want help setting this up, let me know. It needs to scientific, unbiased, and fair.

Marta said...

My thoughts are similar to Jenifer and several other posters' comments; the quality matters, not how a piece is published. That said, I recently sought out a handful of the best-selling self-published fiction and was disappointed.

Of the self-published nonfiction works I've read, two were essentially worthless, a couple others needed structural work and condensing but were otherwise interesting, yet another was pretty good but had distracting typos, and one was excellent.

I've read several other self-published novels after reading reviews or hearing recommendations and sampling the writing, and been pleased with the stories. That's my firm strategy now.

I also read a fair amount of soon-to-be self-published fiction (since I'm an editor), and while writing quality varies, the authors are determined to put out solidly entertaining work, and are willing to invest in high-quality editing, design, and printing to do so. It shows in the final product.

To author Michael Sullivan, both mentioned and a commenter: I'm halfway through your series of The Riyria Revelations. Amazingly well written fantasy. (I even forgave the odd typo in the first books, which is rare indeed.)

Thanks for asking us, Nathan.

CG Blake said...

I've read one of Joe Konrath's novels (a good read), Victorine Lieskze's Not What She Seems (pretty good, but she missed some plot opportunities) and one of John Locke's books. Locke's a decent writer but his main character and premise are completely implausible. A contract killer who works for the Department of Homeland Security, whose superiors know of his freelance work. Give me a break.

Sharon Schlesinger said...

One, and it was so horrendously bad that I've never downloaded another. The sad thing is, there was a core of a good idea on which the book was based. Nearly every (no lie) sentence was followed by an exclamation point!!!!!

Jenny Phresh said...

To be honest, the only self-pubbed book I read was my own brother's, so I was compelled to read it by loyalty. Although a bit biased at the outset, I was quite impressed with the quality of the printed book and thought he did an amazing job. A slightly slow start could have been helped by an editor, but once I was over that hump it was off and running. I found perhaps 4 typos, but I see those in traditionally published books all the time.

Bethany Brengan said...

I can remember at least one self-published book I've read, and I'm sure I've read several others (though self-published books and small press books sometimes get mixed up in my mind). But the problem seems to be that the self-published books I've read aren't that memorable. Or they languish, unread, on my shelf because there always seems to be something else I'd rather read.

Heidi Hall said...

I also worked very hard to make every detail of my books exceed the standards of traditionally published fiction. My only hope is that a reader never knows the difference - they don't have to love the books, no book will garner 100% fans. But the quality of writing, cover & polish should be impeccable when self-publishing because readers may already be wondering why we took the path we did. Personally, I work in a field that makes editors, artists & beta readers very accessible. Why would I pay someone to farm out for these services? I do wish more authors going the indie route would spend the extra cash to hire professionals as it is our readers, as well as sales, that suffer because of the books being released that simply aren't ready. But language is subjective and ever changing. Some rules are broken intentionally and self-pub allows that avenue of self-expression. Yes, I am continually educating myself, but if my editor argues over a point that has two right answers - if one of the correct answers is mine, I win.

That being said, I read 90% Self-pubbed now. Not only are they less expensive for a reader, like me, with a voracious appetite and a frugal wallet, but they are also usually original. But I always, ALWAYS sample! If I can get 3 books of the same quality for the price of one traditionally published novel, it is not even a choice.

Bottom line, writing is an art form and anything new is always subjected to criticism under a microscope. In the end, I won't be surprised if publishers become nothing more than printing houses for POD books and all authors begin to self-publish. I know that I would much rather split my profit with an editor who made my writing sing, than an agent who will work to put my novel in front of publishers who will take an even greater percentage of my profits and demand I write within a bubble. Not only that, but it simply takes too long for publishers to get a book to market. I don't like wondering why the cyber-genius in the latest *insert bestseller* is holding a flip phone. Just my opinion.

Tom Bradley Jr. said...

I haven't yet. I purchases a hard-copy one a while back but haven't had time to read it. Also, I suppose I should read some -- especially self-pubbed e-books -- since I plan on self-pubbing my own novel as an e-book.

LupLun said...

I've read two for my review blog. One was decent, the other not so much. They both shared a common problem of lack of spit and polish. The biggest hurdle in self-publishing is that you don't have the resources that you would at a traditional publisher. Little things like proofreading and typesetting, things that the publisher would normally do for you, a self-pubber has to do themselves. Mistakes are commonplace. However, a good story can shine through these technical issues.

A bigger problem is the lack of a good developmental editor. The author can get pretty far with just beta readers, but nobody's perfect. Without someone with the authority and experience to tell them when they're Doing It Wrong, they wind up sending their novel to print with big problems.

Still and all, there's good stuff out there, too, and the authors apparently think it's worth it. A big part of the appeal is circumventing the long hunt for first an agent and then a publisher when what the author really wants to do is get to the sequel NOW.

-LupLun

BeccaLathorn said...

I think that it doesn't matter whether or not they use a publisher. The difference? More experienced advertisement. If anything, I have tremendous respect for people who self-publish, because they do it all. (I'm not saying all self published people are geniuses, but if you can make money without an agent and publishing firm, then I tip my hat to you friend.)

Gary Ponzo said...

Not until I became a self-published author myself. Now I read mostly Indie stuff. I need to support my peers. There's too many polished writers who've been overlooked because of the financial risks involved. My novel won a prestigious award and garnered an agent immediately, but NYC doesn't have the appetite for unknowns. Besides, practically every midlist author on the planet is either trying it, or thinking about trying it. Are you a self-published author if you've had five or ten novels published traditionally, then decide to go Indie? Ask David Morell?
See, the lines are getting blurry, aren't they?

Peggy West said...

I have read numerous independently-published novels. My only complaint is the need for editing. I liked the books and like the idea of reading what traditional publishing houses have not seen or have rejected.

Kevin Lynn Helmick said...

Yeah, the best books from and best writers, I've read in the last 5 years were all self published. There's such a variety of style's, and subjects that the trad's won't touch.
It's so interesting to see a writer just go for it. and that's the only place you'll find that kind of writing.

Ashley said...

I've read a bunch of self-published books. Most were imaginative and fresh. The quality was fine.

Sommer Leigh said...

As a matter of fact, the book I'm calling as the best of 2011 is a self-published book called Angelfall by Susan Ee. It is not only the best written book I've read this year, but the cover, editing, pace, characterization, and storytelling are so completely professional I doubt most people would even believe it's self-published.

Sally Dubats said...

This is fantastic. I haven't read a single post that doesn't highlight some facet of the challenges of self-publishing or have a considered reason for not wanting to read self-published books. There are a lot of self-published authors who do have their books edited, and there are a lot of poorly edited traditionally published books. (There are even a few typos in Hemingway's original "The Sun Also Rises"). To get through 300+ pages without any errors is always an accomplishment regardless of how the book was produced. Since the "guards" are no longer editors, and are usually low-paid and over-worked interns, it only stands to reason that authors, some previously traditionally published, become frustrated with the process and finally decide to self-publish. I do read these books, sometimes out of curiosity, sometimes because I like the author's previous work. There is becoming less and less of a difference between the two!

Kate D. said...

I have! I read only a few self-published books before my Kindle. I couldn't really justify spending $12 for a paperback that might not be so great and it was very hard to even find indie books. Before I had my Kindle, almost all of my purchases were in brick-and-mortar stores and I only went online to buy a book when I was really looking for something specific.

But now that I've gotten a Kindle, I'm finding all sorts of wonderful indie books. I'm actually a part of an online indie book club where we read a new self-published book a month. Sure, some are duds, but there are also some that have knocked my socks off.

I feel like we're on the brink of something big. Remember when studios wouldn't even look at distributing indie films and then realized they were missing something important? Yes, there were some terrible pictures, but we also got My Big Fat Greek Wedding and Good Will Hunting. I think we're right on the edge of the same thing.

Anonymous said...

Like indie musicians and indie filmmakers, the indie writer now has more sophisticated tools and freelance resources (artwork, editing services) to amp up the quality of their product.

As a consequence, it is difficult, from formatting and editing and cover design, to tell the self-published work from the large publisher stuff.

I didn't have easy access to self-published books until I discovered ebooks, about four years ago. Since then I've read many, mostly good reads, because I always read the sample before purchasing.

Backfence said...

It was one of my Kindle books - didn't know it was self-published, Just liked the premise. I wasn't more than three pages into it before I had that -- Wait a minute -- moment. Checked back on Amazon's website and sure enough -- It was self-published.

How did I know? It just didn't flow. It was choppy and disconnected, conversations were unrealistic, misused (and misspelled) words ... It was a trainwreck! Too bad. I know there are some good ones out there, but this JUNK is dragging them all down . It's that very stigma that prevents my self-publishing my own books.

Jovanna said...

I've read some self-published books. Some really needed re-writing and more editing. Some were surprisingly good. I tend to read regular published books more often, just because of the higher proportion of quality found amongst them, compared to self-published books. But I have to say, some regular published books are as bad or worse than some self-published books. However, if there's a good story, mistakes can be forgiven.

Sarah Nicolas said...

I actually run a review site for self-published sci-fi and fantasy books. (www.siftreviews.com) Though, if I didn't, I honestly don't know how many self-pubbed books I would read...

Ada said...

NOt sure if there's a point to me commenting this late in the game but a couple examples come to mind:

Friend of mine wrote The Shack...I read it in the bathtub after printing it out at work.

Christian Cantrell does really great work...as high quality as many pubd books and better in many cases. I consistently buy and read his work.

I also read Mycelium Running by Paul Stamets...I don't know who the publisher is and I don't care. I assume it's self published though because it's kind of a happy mess.

Self pubbed does not turn me off whatsoever, if the reviews are high and solid.

Susan Cushman said...

I would probably only read a self-published book if it was written by someone whose work I already know and admire, or a very close friend or family member. I realize the occasional best-seller will crop up in these ranks, but so far none has called out to me. As the future of publishing changes, if the quality of self-published books improves, I might be singing a different tune. But for now, I've got too many traditionally published books in the queue.

Heather Marsten said...

Yes - my pastor self-publishes. I like him and his books, but know that they are not as professionally done as one that runs the usual gamut. He has the venue to support his self-publishing.

Stacy McKitrick said...

I have a self-published book in my to be read pile, but haven't gotten to it yet. And I plan on buying another soon. But these authors belong to my RWA chapter, and I wanted to support them. They also offered their book in paperback, which is important to me since I don't own a reader. I do look forward to reading them, if only to see if there's any difference between self-pubbed and traditional.

gordonzola.net said...

I used to review zines for two publications and would occasionally get sent self-published novels to review as well. It made me really appreciate the value of professional editing.

Julie Achterhoff said...

I love reading and reviewing self-published books. Of course there are some that aren't up to par, but I've discovered quite a few that are really great like Amy Romine's and Mian Mohsin Zia's works. I went from traditional publishing to self-publishing myself. It's been a true adventure!

Susan Tuttle said...

I've read numerous self-published books and found some are as good as traditionally published books, but most are not. Mainly, I think, because the authors rushed to publish and didn't take the time to done that last one or two critical polishing. I self-published my own suspense novel, Tangled Webs, and have had really good feedback from readers. I wish I'd had someone else proofread it, though; some typos did slip through. But I see that now with even the big NYC publishers. With ebooks becoming so popular, I think we'll be seeing more and more self-published books coming down the pike. Those who will prevail are those who take the time to learn their craft and polish to the hilt

Katie said...

Yes (full disclosure, I am also a self-published author) but I was reading self-pubbed books before I went that route. I am fairly selective, so I find that 70% or so of what I pick up is good or great. I have found some phenomenal self-published books lately.

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