We are still coming to terms with writers not only being able to self-publish but being able to get those words easily to anyone with an Internet connection and reading device or a postal service.

In other words, you can write a novel, novella or shopping list and get it out in the world with very little monetary investment. And it doesn’t even need to be as an eBook as physical print-on-demand has gone from strength to strength.

And readers are responding to this availability of gatekeeper-free material by supporting those writers with sales. Though as we saw the other day those sales may not replace a full- or even part-time job.

One thing that just isn’t happening for self-published authors on a large scale is breaking into the various circles of critics and reviewers, of which I’m one.

Now, when I posted Where do authors get their validation in an age of self-publishing? I touched on but didn’t fully address why I don’t review self-published fiction (though I read and buy a lot of self-published non-fiction) so I thought I’d come up with a list. Not all these reasons are mine but are indicative of the issues.

I’m going to use ‘we’ as I think this list is more universal than personal though I’m sure people will let me know if it’s just me.

We don’t know who you are.

This is a biggie and probably the toughest as it’s a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy due to the gatekeeper nature of the circles of critics and reviewers.

Logically, there should be no good reason why independent critics/reviewers (e.g. those who blog about books) don’t feature a wide range of books from different sources. Self-published to big six can easily get review copies out there in some sort of form. So it’s not availability. It’s from the reasons for this post. So I’m going to come back to it at the end.

We don’t know how you’ll react.

The erratic behaviour of the author mentioned in Where do authors get their validation in an age of self-publishing? is a strong illustration of why we don’t read self-published authors. We don’t have a firewall between us and the writer. Books from publishing houses that don’t have any self-published books give a level of detachment between what we write and the reaction we’ll get. Sure, publishers don’t want negative reviews but they do need to know if they are publishing something that isn’t selling because it’s awful or because it’s good but not reaching the audience. Publishing is a crap shoot.

We’ll feel guilty when we don’t read it.

We have the best of intentions on reading books we agree (and in some cases begged) to look at and on those we get sent by publishers unsolicited (though even then some of those don’t fit our tastes). It is however physically impossible. And publishers are realistic. I’m sure they are disappointed and do calculate the returns on their investment in certain reviewers and in sending out books from certain authors to certain people. But that’s why they have marketing and PR departments to balance those risks with the chances of books catching imaginations and starting word of mouth, which is second only to money in raising awareness of books (see back to we don’t know who you are.)

But if we’re approached directly we may have to explain why we haven’t read your book. A book you’ve invested hundreds of hours of your life writing, then spent more time talking to us about and getting us to agree to read, only for us to come back with some lame excuse like ‘real life got in the way’ or ‘I got this much better book’.

We know you’re not going to generate hits.

We have several and varying different reasons for spending hours of our free time, and reviewing books that aren’t going to attract anyone is a serious consideration for some bloggers. Have you noticed how many reviews of the new Hilary Mantel there are? Everyone likes to be popular unless they are going for underground cult status, I guess. You see, a popular book will attract hits from people who already know about a book and those searches will get redirected to a blog (your blog) and they might come back. It’s ‘buzz’ content. So you might get bumped up the rankings when that big buzz book lands.

I’m breaking my ‘we’ voice for a second as I’m been blogging far to long to solely chase hits but doesn’t stop me from being tempted.

We don’t read cute bunny love stories set in Ancient Rome…

… or whatever genre you’ve written in.

Now this one is odd. You’ve gone through all that self-motivation to put your work into a package that you consider is something worth paying for and then you start trying to sell it to someone who doesn’t read the type of book you’ve written. Again, it goes back to ‘we don’t know who you are’ but not only that, you’ve also wasted our time and yours. We see the dilemma: you make a connection with us and we probably won’t review it anyway, and if you spam us we might not read it either but it’s got our attention, so why not just spam us and save yourself some time?

With bloggers especially it isn’t always about the fixed reviews on their websites. It’s about the conversations that happen elsewhere. You’re planting that seed of awareness. You know of the phrase ‘all publicity is good publicity’ – well, being negative is not a route I’d recommend btw as it’s a small world – but publicity is about getting out there. Something publishers pay a lot to make happen.

But even that is not enough as their writers are also being asked to promote themselves more. You can no longer write a book and let your publisher do all the work. It’s easy for most books that aren’t by established names to get buried. And even those can fade away if they don’t have fuss made when they come out.

We don’t understand why you don’t like what you’ve written enough to introduce it professionally to the right readers, readers who have published their taste over many, many blog posts for you to see what kind of books they like.

We know it’s going to be rubbish

Call it a sixth sense or sense of smell or culmination of years of experience but wherever it comes from it’s not usually wrong. We can tell if someone is worth reading and of a professional standard after a few pages though even then it might not be good. Or a book we want to read or enjoy but at least we won’t be foaming and ranting within a second of settling down. Authors can be deluded. Self-published authors doubly so. Not only have you compiled your opus without being consciously aware that what you’ve written needs to be redrafted or thrown away as it’s obvious that you’ve not yet mastered the craft of storytelling to an engaging degree. But you’ve got an ego that makes you think that someone else will not see your flaws. The reverse in fact, that we will see your genius and wonder why you haven’t gotten a six-figure publishing deal. We don’t want to break your delusions – as mentioned we don’t know how you’ll react – but we won’t be guilty that we haven’t finished reading you and we are really sorry we now know who you are and hope never to read you again.

Now I know this is full of sweeping generalisations and I’m sure there are exceptions to every point raised but if self-publisher writers want to be ‘taken seriously’ by those that have ‘respected opinions’ they are going to keep coming up against the default opinion that the quality of their work isn’t going to be as good as those books that have been through agents, editors, publishing committees, copy editors, book buyers for retailers – most of whom they have needed to get past in order to get published.

In other words reviewers/critics should never be the first people to give feedback on a work. Neither should your friends or relatives unless they are also able to be professionally critical to a high enough standard.

This all sounds a bit negative though it’s meant to be realistic, as harsh as that sounds. And at some point I want to do a post on ‘why we should review self-published authors’ though I’m struggling beyond; we’re missing out on some great stuff, but wading through all the slush to get there doesn’t seem a fair exchange.

Comments?

If you’re only staying for the one post you may want to also read  Thoughts: Where do authors get their validation in an age of self-publishing? which is a sort of prequel to this post. 

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218 Thoughts on “Thoughts – Reasons Why We Reviewers Won’t Read Your Self-Published Book

  1. A few weeks ago I was e-mailed by a self-published author who asked me to review his non-fiction book about keeping teenagers safe on the internet.

    I’m sure his book was fine; but had he even read my blog and seen to sorts of books I review?!?! Obviously not. He’d just carpet bombed as many book reviewers as possible with a copy-pasted e-mail. This is probably what I find most insulting/offensive about unsolicited approaches. I review mostly SFF/horror/weird etc. etc. Why would I (or the few people who seem to like my blog) want to review a help guide for parents?? It’s a immediate turn-off that a writer is just spamming reviewers without putting any research into the types of books said reviewers like to.. er.. review. Gah! *Walks off ranting*

  2. I’m atypical because I’m coming from the position of an (online) magazine that runs reviews rather than an individual who blogs, and we explicitly only review books (zines, films, etc.) that are not from the big 6 publishers: small presses, indies, even self-published. So our reviewers will look at the sort of thing that you’re saying is a hard sell. Nevertheless I do recognise all your points above.

    Name recognition, even within the small press and not-yet-big-time authors means something, so when we get something by a “small press legend”, it does get snapped up quickly. I don’t know anyone who’s turned down a self-pubbed book because of the danger of a bad reaction, but we certainly have had bad reactions. Threats if we don’t take a review down. (Easily ignored.) Whining self-justification in comments. All the things every writer is advised never to do. (Having said that, we’ve had even more experiences where we’ve slated a self-published book and the author has come along, politely thanked us for the review, acknowledged some of the issues we raised, and quietly gone off to lick their wounds. That’s the professional attitude, and those are the writers that I have no doubt are going to keep writing, and getting better.

    Guilt at not reviewing something you took a copy of is a real issue, especially when the self-published or small press author has paid for that copy. We try to minimize that, but it’s sometimes unavoidable. An obscure work not getting us hits I don’t think is an issue for us; we probably are the “underground cult” you speak of. :-) Authors who spam us with a book that’s way outside our area of interest? We just ignore them. Sometimes you can see a book is likely to be rubbish before you’ve even read half a dozen pages, from the error-ridden back cover copy, or the barely literate email advertizing it. Do you heed the warning, or take the risk?

    I’m intensely interested in how we’re going to develop filtering and validation mechanisms outside of the world of commercial publishers and professional review venues. It’s a bit chicken and egg: until we do, it’ll be very hard to find the good self-published stuff out there–but until the good self-pubbed stuff can be found and gets a reputation, the incentive to build up such a mechanism isn’t very strong.

    • I also run an online zine that only reviews small press and/or self-published work–although I’m considering incorporating big 6 reviews in order to establish comparisons between the two sets (in terms of both content and form).

      As you say Djibril, what the small/self-publishing world needs is filtering mechanisms, and I believe in general that starts with zines like mine and yours. Since most prominent reviewing institutions refuse to review that material, it becomes necessary to critique ourselves. Much as with cinema, the more seriously we take our own work, the more seriously the larger writing world will have to take small/self-publishing.

      While I agree that there is a greater proportion of mediocre writing to be found outside big 6 publishing, I prefer the freedom the format affords. Radical themes are more easily available, as are countercultural characters and messages. This freedom is exciting to read but moreover, when well done, it can be truly challenging to established ideas (either of art, society, or anything else). That’s what I want from my art, so that’s what I will support.

      • Thank you Djibril and Sam and others who will review self/small published works.
        I appreciate what Gav says about lack of validation or filtering but left unchecked the big houses will go for the safe stuff every time. Just as in the film and music industries, there has been an upsurge of interest in indie products because they can be different, challenging and fresh.

        • I’m an indie author who also reviews books by indie authors. While I agree that name recognition isn’t there for indie authors, especially at the onset, I’ve known indie authors who worked hard and made a name for themselves, even landing on the NYT Bestsellers list.

          I do think it’s a shame that mainstream publishing has taken to publishing works by “favored” authors – those who make the publishers a lot of money with much less risk associated with a contract – and hesitate to represent new authors unless they’ve made a name for themselves.

          I’ve read thousands of books by mainstream authors and have read about 60-70 titles by indie authors. I have to admit that, some of these indie authors write just as well as mainstream authors. Alan Nayes (Gargoyles), Douglas Dorow (The Ninth District) and Melissa Foster (Megan’s Way, Chasing Amanda and Come Back to Me) come to mind, immediately.

          Of the indie books I’ve bought/downloaded through a promotion, there was only one I deleted after reading the first page and that was more language related than anything else.

          Perhaps I’m lucky or congregate in the circles of indie authors who actually know how to write but, whatever the case, I must admit that I’m glad I took a chance on reading and reviewing an indie author.

          • Publishers are in the business of making money. They’re also a VERY conservative industry, not taking many risks. This is probably because they have such an archaic business model with a massive number of people on the payroll. That’s why they hesitate to represent new authors unless they look like a sure thing.

  3. Spot on, Gav. The few self published books that I’ve read have almost all been rubbish, and in some cases that there is a danger that ‘self-published’ goes hand in hand with ‘unprofessional’, which causes no end of confrontation between author and reviewer. As a rule, I don’t review any self published material on my blog. The exception will be when well established authors delve into self publishing, like Brandon Sanderson recently.

  4. Hi Gav,

    It’s possible you may have a typo or two here – I am assuming a deliberate irony and grinning like a Cheshire cat :-)

  5. If you win this contest, your book will get free publicity!
    2012 Anderbo Self-Published Book Award For a Self-Published Book (Fiction or Nonfiction) Deadline October 15th!
    One Winner will receive: $500 cash; Announcement on the Anderbo web site; Publication of a book-excerpt on anderbo.com
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  6. We do happily accept self-published books for review, although to avoid the guilt factor we discourage everyone from sending us print copies. We mostly get ebooks and pdfs now, and when we get print copies it’s from people who can afford to send them. I think we’ve reviewed at least one self-published book in most recent issues.

    For me the biggest reason we don’t review more (especially from writers we haven’t heard of) is that they tend to be way too long. If I’m going to make time to read a 600pp book it’s going to be one by a writer I like. And if the first page is boring I’m not going to plough through 599 pages more just to write a review that says it’s boring.

    One other thing that puts me off is the self-published or semi-self-published writer who explains in the submission email that they are published by a “traditional publisher”, etc, when they’ve clearly just made use of a publishing services company. I’ve no interest in reading the work of a writer who is either dishonest or ashamed of themselves.

    In general, what I’m looking for is books I’ll enjoy reading (not always because they’re good) and about which I think I’ll have something interesting to say.

    • That’s interesting, Stephen. I thought the trend was toward self-publishers producing shorter, not longer, works than what trade publishers produce.

      Jodi

      • As a general trend I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s the case, but a lot of what I’ve been sent by self-published and self-published by proxy authors are fantasy bricks that were written with an eye on the mainstream, and self-published after being rejected.

        • I didn’t have any idea what an ereader was, or the first thing about self publishing, or even mainstream publishing while I was writing in prison. Every word on every page of The Wardstone Trilogy was a moment of freedom I created for myself (in longhand…lol) Oddly it took only 7 months writing 3k words a day to comkplete the trilogy’s first draft. I wrote 4 more novels before I was released. It was a full year after that before I started entering the MS into word. Its big, but its no brick. Read it. I dare you. http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0085SG1YI

          • Yeah, that’s exactly the kind of thing I’m talking about.

          • John on June 10, 2012 at 4:15 pm said:

            Yeah, but you’re the same MR Mathias who had a complete meltdown on the Fantasy Faction Forums: http://fantasy-faction.com/2012/the-man-who-thought-he-was-king

            Thereby, completely justifying Gav Reads first line “we don’t know how you’ll react”.

            (Although, for you this isn’t true – as you react with extreme hostility to any negative commentary, pretty much guaranteed)

          • Yes, when self-pubbers do this stupid stuff, they give everyone a bad name. STOP trying to link to your book everywhere. It does not help you one bit. EVER!

          • I think it’s just ignorance…a lot of authors (self pub and trad pub) don’t have prior marketing experience. And if they do, they might not have prior online marketing or social media marketing experience. Marketing these days is all about building relationships, not about blasting out your message to people. And that’s where many authors get it wrong. It’s just because they don’t know better and haven’t made the time to figure it out.

      • The advice I’ve heard floating around is that authors should keep their books short and split them up into volumes. This is supposed to keep you in more frequent contact with your readers, increase the apparent size of your back catalogue, and perhaps lead to more reviews (since more people will finish reading).

        Artistically, I’m not sure how I feel about all that. I hate the idea of selling a cliffhanger in the name of marketing, and as a reader I hate buying something, then realizing that I have to buy another thing to get the whole thing.

    • Rita Payne on June 10, 2012 at 5:57 pm said:

      Do you read reviews put on Amazon about books from unknown authors?

  7. Great post – I may refer to this next time I’m approached in this way. I guess there’s a little bit of me that thinks it would be great to be one of the first to read a self-published phenomenon, but chances are I’ll probably let it pass!

  8. One of the reasons I still hold to is this: there are enough books being published traditionally, and the relationship to publishers is often more beneficial. It comes down to numbers, sometimes. Why should I read your self-published book beyond that you think it’s good when I’ve got publishers throwing things at me to read and review on a track record of publishing more good than bad?

    Otherwise, I agree with all of yours :)

  9. Pingback: SF Tidbits for 5/28/12 - SF Signal – A Speculative Fiction Blog

  10. It may well be that carpet-bombing sites with spam is effective. I chose to be more discriminatory, and only approached those sites/magazines whose reviews I regularly read myself. I also tweeted asking if anyone wanted a review copy. As a result there are about a dozen reviews of my book online… And yet there’s been no subsequent uptick in sales. In fact, ebook sales have been disappointing.

    When you get self-published authors who can barely string a grammatically-correct sentence together selling hundreds of copies a day, you have to wonder if their tactic of spamming everyone in sight isn’t such a bad idea…

    • Ian: I read a comment recently, attributed to Nick Mamatas, that the way to get publishing success is to write ‘a boring thriller’, a cookie-cutter work after the style of a ‘typical’ airport novel. From glancing through a few of the big-selling self-published books, it appears that is precisely what they’re emulating, except their material is even more badly written.

      I’m beginning to come to the conclusion that the only way genuinely good stuff can get the attention it needs is through traditional publishing, which can at least offer a means to get a book into shops and before reader’s eyes.

      Also keep in mind that most author’s careers actually take years to get anywhere before people suddenly start ‘noticing’ them six or a dozen books into their career. It’s not a lack of quality that’s the reason for your relatively low sales, it’s because these things take time (I should point out here Ian’s novella is actually very good indeed, and I don’t make such praise lightly).

  11. I think there are many valid points above, but also a number of sweeping generalisations.

    As far as I’m concerned, it’s your website, you can review or refuse to review whatever you want – that’s your choice. However, there is a certain bigotry surrounding self-published authors which is not helped by the noisy and vocal type of self-published/small-press(??) author that led to the spat on Fantasy Faction and the previous post on this site.

    For sure, many self published authors cannot string a sentence together and lack basic knowledge of grammar. Some cannot construct a plot, develop character, delete flowery adjectives, et cetera. I have read numerous samples and declined to buy when the above is apparent.

    There are those who do not take the time to correctly format, so paragraph indents are missing, or randomly appear at varying sizes. When I consider the weeks of effort I put into my first Kindle release I wonder at the laziness of some and the damned cheek of others in putting out a poorly formatted manuscript. This is not to say I consider my own e-book to be perfect: just a few days ago I found a spelling error that has been there since publication last October that no one else seems to have picked up on. What I can say is that I stamp out these minor errors as and when I find them. But –

    “We know it’s going to be rubbish”

    This is a bigoted and judgemental statement that just doesn’t hold true in all cases. You know nothing of the sort. There is a higher percentage chance that a self-published book will contain more errors than a ‘Big 6’ book, but you will find errors in most printed books. The first few pages will indicate the likely standard.

    Readers are often unaware of the hoops that writers try to jump through (and the clichés they try to avoid using!) to get their work to a mainstream publisher. These days, the majority of UK publishers will not accept manuscripts direct from authors: they rely on literary agents to act as a filter. Agents are busy people. I have other thoughts about some of them but that’s not a matter for this forum. An agency with two agents and 50 – 60 authors doesn’t want new clients: they refuse to read manuscripts despite stating in such tomes as the Writers’ & Artists Yearbook that they will. Other agencies will read, but they get around 80 – 200 submissions per week and perhaps will take on only a couple of new clients per year. They can’t always read everything.

    My recent experience of sending out the manuscript of Pike’s Quest to agents and the two publisher who actually agreed to read it was that I spent a small fortune in postage and destroyed half a rain forest in paper (damn those pesky clichés). The responses I got from everyone but a coupe was that the work was of a very high standard. Many offered personalised feedback, which is rare. Barry Cunningham (he of the Chickenhouse, previously of Bloomsbury, and the discoverer of J K Rowling) rejected it only on the basis that the humour and word play were too complex for his young readership. The reaction was vastly different to my early submissions where I received nought but a stock rejection letter and no feedback.

    Yes, many self-published authors are deluded and think they are better than they are: many can’t accept criticism of their work, and they bite when someone dares suggest that the work isn’t up to scratch (and deny being self-published), but to brand all self-published authors as rubbish is doing the literary world a disservice. Just because a mainstream publisher hasn’t picked up on it doesn’t mean the work is crap. Often it’s a matter of luck and timing.

    • PKgesic on July 2, 2012 at 9:24 pm said:

      Did you read beyond the sub-heading?
      “We know it’s going to be rubbish
      Call it a sixth sense or sense of smell or culmination of years of experience but wherever it comes from it’s not usually wrong. We can tell if someone is worth reading and of a professional standard after a few pages though even then it might not be good. ”
      I think that is pretty fair. Mr Gav didn’t say ‘all’ self-published books are rubbish. He said, that sometimes he can tell it’s going to be rubbish because years of experience allows him to smell the dross at a distance.

      First time commentator, I found this page through the ‘Book Designer’ and i didn’t really intend to comment, but, and apologies for this KJ, the chippy attitude of going on the attack whenever you see the words ‘Self-published’ and ‘Rubbish’ in close proximity, does not do the self-publishing field any favours.

      If somebody says, ‘All self-published books are crap’ — and there are plenty of them about — then have at’em, do a Mark Anthony and let slip the dogs of war.

      BUT

      If somebody isn’t doing that, as I contend Mr Gav (sorry about that, like I said first time commentator, don’t know your surname and we ain’t been formally introduced :) ) is not throwing all self-published authors into the same trashbin, then bringing the fire and the fury to bear is counter-productive at best and inclined to make book-bloggers everywhere shy away from dealing with self-published authors.

      IMHO.

      • PKgesic on July 2, 2012 at 9:41 pm said:

        Reading down through all the rest of the comments, I thought “Am I missing something here?” so I went back up and reread the article.

        Nope, nowhere does he say that all self-published books are rubbish. What he does say is “I don’t review self-published books”. He even says that at some point he will do a post called “Why we should review self-published books.”

        Cards on table here, I’m soon to be published via a writer’s collective. It is essentially self-publishing, but with the help of others including pro editors, designers, illustrators, and so forth.

        So I will be one of these authors that he doesn’t review. Will that make my marketing more difficult? Yes. Am I going to load up my metal-storm and start blasting away? No.

        His blog, his choice, and he has been entirely upfront about his reasons. I respect that.

  12. See – typos in my post above. I’m not perfect! Forget to edit.

  13. Hello Gav,

    I really enjoyed reading this!

    It was interesting getting a broad, sweeping view of how some reviewers see self-publishing authors. Though I hope it’s not across the board as that would be such a massive shame – and in that case I’m scuppered and I’ve not even put myself out there yet!

    I intend to be a self-publishing writer, but not for any of the reasons you’ve mentioned. My words have won competitions so I can’t be that awful. I just don’t like what I see going on in the publishing industry at the moment and I’d like to have creative control of Gunshot Glitter. This is not to say I’d never work with a publisher. In fact I really admire Canongate.

    I fully intended to follow the orthodox route, but K J Bennett highlighted some excellent points about how difficult that can be. Especially with agents. And even then there is no guarantee an agent can find you a publisher to buy your book. I had a top agent sit on my submission for six months with indecision. They liked my novel, but the fact it straddled genres was an issue. I’ve also had a top publisher ask me if I’d be willing to re-write it to sit in one.

    To ruin an original story for that reason seems wrong to me. She told me it would be tough to get bookshops and supermarkets to take it otherwise. But shouldn’t writing a book be about writing a fantastic story? So I elected in the interests of getting my book out there sooner rather than later to reclaim the process.

    Plus, I wanted cover control which even best-selling writers do not have. I know this for a fact as I’ve asked two. One has had 9 best-sellers and the other actively disliked one of his.

    My novel has been edited several times over and proof-read five times. Twice by a professional. I hate typos too. I see them appear in ‘published’ novels too. As for approach, if any writer spams you of any ilk, that’s not cool. Especially inappropriately. I can totally understand why that would irritate a reviewer.

    It is intimidating for a self-publishing author. For many, it’s a new terrain and it will take time for some to find their feet. Yes, I’ve seen some around me making mistakes, but I admire them for trying. Writing a novel is hard, but putting it out for dispassionate inspection with no publishing support or marketing to back you is incredibly intimidating.

    I am intimidated and I am nervous, of course I am, in fact I am absolutely bricking it!! But I am also clear on the reasons of why I am doing this, but it’s not for the reasons you have stated and not because of the calibre of my work.

    And if I am dismissed out of hand before anyone’s read my opening chapter, because I’ve been actively discriminated against for self-publishing, then I think that says more about the reviewer than it does about me. Though after reading what you’ve had to say, I know now that this is going to happen in some cases, but still, I owe it to myself and Gunshot Glittter to try ; )

  14. Nicely put, Yasmin.

    Someone just brought this webpage to my attention, and it’s worth a visit. Tongue in cheek but very true …
    http://www.weldonowen.com/blog/how-book-born-because-you-kids-love-infographics

  15. My final comment on this subject is that I have catalogued my reasons for self-publication and the reaction of others in a series of five blog posts in December 2011, titled “That’s Not Real Publishing”. It starts here – http://kj-bennett.blogspot.co.uk/2011/12/thats-not-real-publishing-part-1.html

  16. My last fantasy forum post generated nearly 8k hits (I had to stop counting at 6k because I was banned from the forum for speaking truth.) But my free sample was downloaded 4.5k times. Some indies create attention. Every post I make in every forum gets a few hundred hits, some thousands. But all get hits because I tweet the links to 93.6k tweeters. (Notice that the count of folloers is up 1.6k from before the “Melt Down” at Faction. :-)

    Here is how I know my books are good. Not by reviews, or comments, but by sales of Book II.

    I hardly ever promote book II, but about 85% of the people who buy Book I buy Book II. I can only assume that the other 15% either didn’t like it, or they just havn’t started reading the first one yet. :-)

    I know 4.5k people got the free ch. 1-5 preview of book 3 from my website over Memorial Day. And guess what. My title doesnt have the advantage of being on shelves across the country for people to find.

    “In other words, you can write a novel, novella, or shopping list and get it out in the world with very little monetary investment on the author’s part. And it doesn’t even need to be as eBooks as physical, print on demand, has gone from strength to strength.?”

    Big 6 publishes “garbage” daily…. And it sells. Snooky, Twilight, the last 1,000 fantasy books that are under 300 pages long and claiming to be epic.

    Here is the heart of the matter. ‘A book represents itself” no matter who wrote it or how it came to your attention. If you chose not to read indie, you are part of the machine that is failing. I understand the sentiment. But in all HONESTY, I find as much crap, if not more, on the book shelves. I see published titles that are well covered, and well edited, but a lot of the Big – 6 stories these days are formulated garbage with a preset avenue for promotion. It’s like an assembly line. The forums members are already in place to ease the title into the scene. The book stores are ready to receive copies to put on the shelves for folks to find. They COULD sell you a shopping list. I actually think there is a published book about shopping lists…lmao

    When bloggers decide to stand up; not cow like curs to the Big – 6 and their hundreds of imprints, the literary world will then be able to weed out the dreck from all sources and we can procede into the eBook Renaissance in style.

    Just my 2 cents.

    • John on June 10, 2012 at 4:28 pm said:

      You were banned from the forum of which you speak because you were rude, crass and objectionable and what you claim to be “truth”, the rest of the world saw as ill-informed opinion.

      http://fantasy-faction.com/2012/the-man-who-thought-he-was-king

      Yes, you got 8k hits, because your rage was so out-of-touch with reality that your comments went viral.

      Clearly a believer in “no such thing as bad publicity”.

      Oh, and “Epic” does not mean “long” it should mean that the events within the story are Epic in nature. It is quite possible to write of an Epic event without requiring 600 pages to do so.

  17. If I am wrong then explain my following vs. say??? Any of yours.

  18. Meh. Review what you want to review. It’s your blog, after all. I certainly don’t have the right to tell you you should review books you are simply not interested in reviewing.

    As a self-published author, I will probably get flamed for saying this, but many of the points listed above are valid. Most (not all) self published books are not up to the same standards as those produced by the Big 6. Now, before anyone goes gonzo on me, I know errors are found in Big 6 books, too. The point isn’t that Big 6 books are perfect; they aren’t. The point is that most self published authors only have one standard by which they rate their work, and that is friends and family, which is never a good way to go. Big 6 books are vetted, edited, copyedited, packaged, professionally designed, and given the company stamp of approval by dozens of people who actually work in publishing.

    That does not mean they always get it right, but they DO tend to have a better track record than the indie crowd. Hate me all you want; it’s the truth.

    There are exceptions to every rule, of course. Witness the meteoric rise of indie stars like Amanda Hocking, John Locke, and Hugh Howey, just to name a few. But now we are talking about three authors out of millions.

    I am a self published author. I have sold over 50,000 copies of my own books. That puts me somewhere in the middle of the road for indies, I think. Yet there is no way I would press someone to review my work if I knew in advance they were not interested in self-published titles. I’m just not that willing to be an annoying a-hole.

    No means no, folks. Accept it and find another blog to try. There are lots of them to choose from.

    • David McAfee the #Horror guy! I read some of your stuff. “33 A.D.” Pretty good, sir. Pretty darn good.

      I have a title in your genre. It won the READERS Fav Award for horror in 2011. It had 17k giveaways in 3 days on Amazon and is featured in the CURRENT Scream Magazine on page 45. (I take my job as a publisher serious.)

      My novella alone has been downloaded over 75k times.

      I have well over 150k sales between all 22 of my kindle/B&N titles. Probably nearer to 200k sales now.

      I’m not blowing smoke outta my ass. I speak from experience.

      • I agree with David that you should review what you want to review. Your blog, your decision.

        However…

        You know no such thing that all self-published novels are rubbish. David’s aren’t. Hugh Howey’s aren’t. While my sales don’t even begin to match theirs, I sell enough to be pretty sure mine aren’t. There are plenty of good self-published novels out there.

        You don’t want to read or review them? That’s your choice but you have no business labeling them as rubbish without having read them. As a reviewer, you should know better.

        I don’t apologize for my decision to go self-published. I make more money self-publishing than I even dreamed of and my following may be modest but they like what I write. But don’t worry, I won’t be sending you anything to review or any blogger for that matter. Funnily enough, readers find my novels anyway.

  19. vrabinec on May 31, 2012 at 9:05 pm said:

    I haven’t decided yet whether or not to go self-pub’d or trad, but I’m leaning toward self-pub’d because the royalties seem to be better. Thanks for the heads up, I’ll be sure to avoid sending the book here. Of course, I’m also a reader, and as a reader, I have to say that this blog post is pretty long winded when “self-published books suck” would have sufficed to express what you took a couple thousand words to deliver. I’d think about taking some writing courses that teach you how to conserve words and say what you mean in the clearest most concise way possible.

    Take care.
    Fred

    • Cheryl Lee on June 14, 2012 at 4:37 am said:

      hahaha…nicely said.

      Personally, I’m happy that I can self publish and “get it (my book) out in the world with very little monetary investment.” Whether it “sucks” or not will be decided by my readers.

  20. David The Publishers themselves have a priority called “profit,” where as most indies, even the bad ones, have a motive of being well recieved.

    vrabinec Gav is ok. he posts stuff like this so that the topic gets out there and discussed. I’m certain that he is not closed minded enough to fully dismiss indie.

    I challenge any of the posters before my first comment ANY BLOGGER ALIVE to read:
    http://www.amazon.com/Dragon-Revised-Wardstone-Trilogy-ebook/dp/B0085SG1YI/
    I BEG YOU TO READ IT WITH the FULL INTENTION OF FLAMING MY indie WORK to ash ONCE YOU’VE FINSHED. When your done, I bet you’ll start buying indie instead of big -6. I also bet you’ll either ask me for book II or buy it.

    PLEASE BIG 6 FANTASY BLOGGERS READ THE ABOVE TITLE THEN REIEW IT!

    I dare you!!!!!

    • Sir, I will not be goaded into accepting a challenge on those terms, no matter how many exclamation points you use.

      It’s rather arrogant to require that people finish your entire 600 page opus before they’re allowed to publicly state their opinion on it. The fact is, you need feedback from the people who give up on it half-way through, or in the first few pages.

      I did download the Kindle sample, and it’s not bad. I really did start off expecting to hate it, so you’ve pleasantly surprised me.

      But WTF is up with the text? It’s literally half the height of the normal Kindle text. I’m surprised it’s even legible at this size. I wouldn’t subject my eyes to 600 pages of this squinting for Terry Pratchett.

  21. Ok. Those are pretty good reasons. Authors and reviewers both enjoy the same freedom to shape their own destinies. The barriers have fallen for both. Good luck with your choices.

    • Dalya, as a self published author you are your own publisher. If you dont do that job too, no one else will. Writing a good book is the easiest part of becoming a notable indie. Its the buisness side that sucks, but must still be done.

      • Totally agree with this. Indie writers are finding out that there’s a whole lot more to the self-publishing game than getting that manuscript done. It takes the wearing of three or four different hats to get the job done, never mind getting it done well.

        It also takes the ability to step back and be able to admit where your strengths lie, and then outsourcing the more difficult tasks to someone else.

        • Agreed. I just paid a guy to reformat and insert the maps into the Kindle files of my fantasy books. Outsourcing is necessary at times. I have a mother taking chemo to deal with while I am getting my titles ready for the summer.

  22. I’m a non-native english speaker author, so sorry or my typos. As a former traditional, an award winning writer, I turned indie because the present traditional system is literally a dead end, full of snobbish people who should work in the McDonnalds and make French Fries instead of being in this profession. Personally I wanted to write something new, something what the present traditional publishers never wanted to release, because it’s not a mainstream work, it’s not broadcasting stupid political or religious agendas and / or it’s not intending to turn the readers dumb (Traditional mainstream works are the #1 in all of this.). Personally I wanted to write something else, something new. A complex new world with a complex story. If you’re a traditional you can’t do these things, because it’s against their agendas. And I’m proud to be indie and I’m proud for the quality what my books used to represent. Many of us are hard working people and many of us are former traditionals who want to give the readers something what traditional publisher won’t give you.

    Check my website to see more (I’m also the artist of this world as I’m also a professional graphic artist.). You’ll see that not every indie book and website is low quality, but we love what we do.

    P.S.: The writer is making the book good, not a publisher. Only publishers used to believe in this illusion; illusion which is now shattering all around them. Yes, I agree, there are many books out there which shouldn’t be, but 7 out of 10 traditionally published books are also junks.

  23. I don’t try to hide the fact I’m self-published, but I don’t exactly *lead* with it in my review request emails, ya know? :-) I know that the group at large is known for some odd behaviour. I try to package my books nicely and write what people will enjoy, and hope to get reviews because people are interested in the books, and not because I’m a regular commenter or sympathetic on twitter (though I do try to be nice, give back, and help others when I can.) I see a lot of people recommending that we authors “friend” people in order to sell them our books, and I gotta say that doesn’t seem right. I’ll friend people to friend them. Selling stuff is the business side, and that’s sorta up to the books, to try to look interesting without me there hawking them. :-)

    Ah, I kinda got off-topic. Typical odd self-publishing author. :-P

  24. SeriouslyGoodBooks on May 31, 2012 at 9:37 pm said:

    Gav ? Gav who ? Never heard of Gav. Guess this isn’t worth reading.

  25. mickistreetcki Street Perepeczko on May 31, 2012 at 9:40 pm said:

    Hmm there is nothing worse reading a blog like this with errors:

    their instead of there – many many and whereever.

  26. My blog is designed to promote indie ebooks, so that’s all I review. While it’s true that I receive quite a few submissions that aren’t up to professional standards in terms of writing quality and formatting, I still get far more high-quality books than I have time to review. I’d say about two-thirds of the books I’m asked to review meet professional standards in writing quality and formatting. I’m forced to choose only a tiny number for review, which is sad. Too bad there aren’t more people out there reviewing this largely ignored body of work. I guess many bloggers would rather be the 400th one reviewing the latest blockbuster than the one who finds and publicizes a hidden gem. I love being able to do the latter; it feels like a genuine service to the reading community.

    • We need more Becca Mills’s!! It’s cheered me up seeing your comment in my Yahoo mailbox this evening.

      It is about the gems. My own shelves are a mix of all sorts of fiction. I just want people to be open to it all. I think in time the sample chapter facility on Amazon will make people more open-minded about what they read. Ultimately quality will over-ride prejudice and assumptions. And then people won’t see it as so strange. Much like Internet dating!

    • Ha! Thanks :) I’m at @bccamlls, but I don’t tweet often.

    • Sounds interesting! I’ll have to check out your blog.

      These controversial blog posts are good for this, finding interesting links to follow.

      Jodi

  27. Interesting post. As a reviewer (with semi-pro credits including Starburst and The British Fantasy Society) and also a reasonably-successful indie-pubbed author, I can see both sides. There *is* a lot of badly-edited crap out there – but there are also some absolute gems that I’d never have found had I simply assumed that all indie books are crap.

    What about the review sites starting up run by trad-pubbed authors who are indie-pubbing their backlists? Sites like http://indieebookreview.wordpress.com/ Or the authors’ co-ops that are springing up such as http://www.authorselectric.co.uk (29 mostly trad-pubbed authors banding together for mutual support and promotion). I have to declare an interest in both here as I review for the former and am a member of the latter. But maybe these and other sites like them will become the “gatekeepers” of indie fiction?

    • Did you know the character “Inkling” in The Sword and the Dragon is a direct tribute to the “Inklings” of Oxford?

      The minor wizard ‘Flick’ is a tribute to Terry Brooks. If I have to explain why you don’t know fantasy. I do though. I read 300 pages a day for 4 years while I was in prison.

      Pug
      Simon
      Rand
      Paksinnarion
      Frodo
      Taran
      Fitz
      Locke Lammora… just to name a few.

      I know them all.

      The Wardstone Trilogy is every fantasy I have ever read all rolled up into one 750k word trilogy that I wrote in a prison cell. Debbie, read Book One and I’ll paypal you $40 if you dont like it.

  28. Hi there.

    I am a British author with three books for sale. One is published with a small press and two are self-published.

    Gav, this was an interesting read, and while I can understand your thoughts about self-published books, I am incredibly pleased to say that not all book reviewers share your views.

    I approached 18 book bloggers to see if they would like to review my latest (self-published) novel. One of them declined. The other 17 said yes.

    Best wishes to you.

  29. Ellie on May 31, 2012 at 11:03 pm said:

    I’m one of those reviewers who has stopped accepting self published books for review. I was asking for a sample before but it was too time consuming. I have a full time job, I read and review for fun, I will bloody well read what I feel like reading. I do accept books from small publishers though. The argument always seems to be big 6 vs self pub, but there is a middle ground. I don’t blindly throw myself at big budgeted reads and I think it’s presumptive to think reviewers are not accepting a self pub book for that reason. It’s mostly because I have had poor experiences in the past and can’t read everything. I do buy self published books now and then that make it onto my blog do I’m not a big snob, I just don’t want to feel forced into reading them!

    • Since self-publishing has really taken off, have you seen a decline in small press output for you to review? Or has it stayed the same?

      Thanks,
      Jodi

      • Ellie on June 1, 2012 at 7:41 am said:

        I think it’s increasing not declining. There is zero competition between self published work and traditional publisihing when it comes to translated fiction which I receive a lot of. There are also newer, more digital based companies cropping up. Angry Robot are spreading their wings and launching 2 imprints this year and they door have an open door submission month once a year. There is too much to read really!

  30. Plenty of reviewers read my book. Not sure what to think about this. I don’t know.

    • I have about 360 reviews for my main title across the board (between Amazon, B&N, Goodreads, iStore, Kobo, Shelfari). 4+ star average. I have a few 5 star reviews from the BIGGEST Fantasy review sites out there. That is one of the reasons I get mad at being labeled anything. With that many reviews on so many seller sites and reader sites, being refused because I am indie is FRUSTRATING.

  31. As a reader, not as a reviewer or a writer, I have to say anyone ignoring indie material is missing out on some great books. Is there a lot of crap indie material? Yep, there is. But in the last five years I’d say the percentage of crap indie books I’ve read has been roughly equal to the percentage of crap trad-pubbed books I’ve read. Maybe I’m lucky. Maybe I know how to avoid most of the crap. Guess what? So do most readers.

  32. vrabinec on June 1, 2012 at 1:04 am said:

    M.R., Gav may be fine as you say, but it’s silly for someone to make blanket statements like “I won’t review e-books”, because it’s the business model of the future. It smacks of some old man who forgot to put in his dentures, screaming, “Get off the lawn! New fangled television sets, it’s a fad, I tell ya. All you get is Howdy Doody. And that internet thing will never take off, either. Takes so logn to download.” It’s short sighted. If he wants to make an observation that the majority of the self-pub’d books aren’t that good right now, fine. I agree. But to declare that no self-pub’d books are worth reviewing is absurd. There’s nothing trad books have on Rex Rising or Wool.

    Anyway, the blog post got a lot of responses and a lot of atention, so he should be thrilled with that.

    Fred

  33. This is my favourite line of all – “We know you’re not going to generate hits.”

    Tell that to Amanda Hocking, John Locke, JA Konrath and at least 50 other self-publishing authors whose individual blogs probably have more hits than yours will ever see.

    Yes, you weren’t specifically talking about blogs but passing such general statements without leaving room for the exceptions that have gone ahead is being more than just a little cheeky.

    Yes, not all self-published authors are as polished as we expect them to be and some of them are just in for the money but there are many who work hard at what they do. I know this because I promote authors on a daily basis and not all of them are made of the stinky material you depict.

    Anyhoo, your blog, your right to speak. Whatever rocks your boat.

    • In general I’d say he’s quite right. There’s a sliding scale of what attracts hits to our blog; top of it is controversy, then film and tv, and bottom of the pile are self-published books by unknown authors, which barely generate any hits at all.

      Having said that, I don’t choose what to write about on the basis of what generates hits – I tend to write about whatever I’ve been reading – so I’m not entirely on all fours with Gav’s point above.

  34. Just here to get some link love folks! Oh yeah, and I’m one of those damned, cursed indie/self-published authors too. :)

    Carry on!

  35. Nick88 on June 1, 2012 at 10:38 am said:

    It seems that with most of this the best response to the blog is not to make sweeping general comments either way. A lot of self-published authors are way too close to the books they produce which means they can’t always see that not everyone will love that massive fantasy tome they wrote.

    However, people are right that the idea of typo’s et cetera crops up in quite a few Big 6 pubbed books – I guess the difference is that I can handle spelling mistakes occasionally when the rest of the book still reads pretty well and the story is great.

    What you find with some self-pubbed books is that they have bad editing and on top of that the story doesn’t read that well – there is also a huge amount of self pubbed titles that it would make it hard to screen which books are worth the review and which aren’t.

    I don’t fully agree with Gav – but I do agree with some of it and understand the viewpoints he makes. I personally don’t enjoy the way in which many self pubbed authors spam you to make a sale – it does the opposite for me, however if thats the way you make a living that is fair enough. You see in these comments alone people have constantly been promoting what they do as a counter argument. I kind of take all that with a pinch of salt – for me a good book is someone where a lot of people are talking about it and none of those people are affiliated with the author in question (i.e friends or family) – if thats self published, great, if its traditional published great.

    I think over time self publishing will streamline in the sense that many places won’t take the huge amount of self published works. When that comes you will probably start to see reviewers much more open to reviewing self published works. In the mean time why wouldn’t they choose to read pieces that have gone through editing processes and all that jazz?

    Sweeping generalisations either way don’t work – publishing is in a flux at the minute, traditional publishing is by no means dead but some self publishers are doing really well – how many are making a great living? Who can tell, we have a small minority who make it big, pretty similar to traditional publishing wouldn’t you say?

    And for those that say I get better royalties from self pubbing – that’ll change, i can guarantee that.

    • “And for those that say I get better royalties from self pubbing – that’ll change, i can guarantee that.”

      How’s that, then?

      • If I had to guess, I’d say he means that, once Amazon has driven the big publishers out of business (which I’m almost certain they will), they’re going to have a lot more clout, and will start taking a larger cut of the royalties.

        70% royalties is a loss leader to get authors to publish with them, at their preferred price range.

        I don’t think that will happen, though. I suspect that it will be too easy to compete in the self-publication space, and that will act as a deterrent against screwing over the authors.

    • I’d say I agree but I can tell if an indie book is ok or not from the reviews posted at the sell site. 5 reviews or less and those are friends family etc.. (not much diff than the publishers, first sixty reviews which come from staff and paid reviewers trying to launch)

      Readers know what they like. Thus all my sales. But I have also found that real readers dont review often. Its the bloggers and the industry folks who do. Cant get them to look, even though 35k people have bought my Book I and more than 30k are buying book II.

  36. I’ve reviewed for a number of websites, most of which leaned towards traditionally published works although some did take self-published works. I have my own review/interview site which primarily reads indie or self-published works but is also open to trads. While I found this post painting all self-published works with the same negative brush, and disagree with generalizations and stereotypes in all subjects, for any reason, but can understand some of the points.

    As a reviewer on my site, I’ve had some works that obviously and deeply needed help, professionally, personally, or whatever…they just needed help because the work they produced was seriously flawed and with help could have been vastly improved. In some genres, it seems even worse than others. A few: pointless and meaningless for me personally, but I do not consider my own opinion supercedent to all others.

    The biggest issue I’ve had with self-published authors is many do not follow simple, common sense etiquette regarding requesting, don’t seem to read guidelines although they are clearly stated, or have some really weird ideas of what reviewing involving, queues, timing and all sort of things. I’ve been the subject of several attacks, crazy reactions and sometimes dumb-founding displays of juvenile pique. Just the same, I’ve read some absolutely wonderful work I might otherwise have missed, and is certainly overlooked because of being self-pubbed even more so than simply a traditionally pubbed book that wasn’t a hit (most aren’t).

    As far as the, “I don’t know who you are” goes: the author doesn’t know who you are either, so what’s the problem? Just because you don’t know my name as an author, doesn’t mean that several thousand other people do not. It just might mean you’ve not read in my genre, or in my part of the world for that matter. If you are in the UK, for example, are you suppose to know the author in Denmark who is actually a huge hit who is seeking to break into other world-wide markets?

    I agree with some of the reasons you listed, but overall it comes off as incredibly condescending, self-important and stereotyping of all self-pubs as unprofessional, not cognizant of markets, advertising, platforms and branding, as well as being incapable of writing lucrative, well researched produced material that might find appeal to readers. I am a writer who has work that has been both traditionally and independently published. I’ve been behind the scenes in publishing for well over a decade from intake to final edits.

    My work that was independently published is actually more highly rated than the trad works, and that from random sources, unsolicited, as I don’t have family members or friends who read and rate my work, and I would discourage it if I knew of it anyway. I respect that everyone has their opinion, and they absolutely have the right to express, but I also know, in this case, you and others who wholesale agreed with you are doing themselves a grave disservice and personally I don’t understand how someone claims to love books yet choose to discriminate against some based on how they were produced.

  37. This is a really interesting thread.

    I’ve just self-published (Kindle and paperback) because my agent at Curtis Brown couldn’t sell my book to publishers. She told me when she took me on that it would be difficult because they are very cautious at the moment and don’t want things that fall outside the big genres. (Though maybe she’s just trying to make me feel better.) I haven’t yet sent my book out to anyone for review, because I’m working out which blogs might look at it and like it.

    Everyone seems to agree that there should be a way to filter self-published stuff. Some people look to reviewers to do that job, but reviewers themselves need to be able to sort the angry, deluded, typo-filled books from the ones they might like. I think that it would be helpful to have a kite-mark that certified that the book had been checked by someone independent and passed in a few objective categories, like formatting, grammar, typos and basic consistency. Those things are an index of the care that someone has put into their book, and their ability to master the basics of the craft. Once you pass in those categories, the rest is more subjective – and best handled by a proper review. An organisation that set up a kite mark could charge authors. They wouldn’t have to charge that much, because a lot of the judging could be done by spot checks, rather than by reading the whole thing. This might help improve standards, and be good for reviewers and writers.

    Oh, but how would you stop people fraudulently using the kite mark? Yes, that’s a problem. I should have thought of that before writing this. Any suggestions?

    • I just checked out your book and bought it. It looks like a great read, so thanks for posting:)

    • Curtis, that’s exactly what occurred with me – my agent sign me but said it would be a tough sell because it wasn’t squarely in the mystery genre. WHen she couldn’t sell it to the big mystery imprints, she encouraged me to self-publish it, helped me work on a plan, and has helped me with the marketing too.

      It’s been kind of a slog with the review sites, mostly because the lag time from submission to review date has been 5-10 months! Don’t get discouraged, move on!

      • Oooer, CHRISTOPHER, not Curtis.

        • Thanks, Pete. Actually, Curtis is a much better name than Chris anyway. It sounds as though your agent has been really good. I suppose we’ll see agents and editors sort of morphing into one another, lending their credibility to books for readers’ and reviewers’ purposes rather than just for those of the big publishers. I get the impression that my agent is a bit nervous about self-publishing – and, after all, the agency she works for doesn’t get a cut of the money I (fail to) make out of it. She’d rather I put my time into finishing a book in another genre, so she can sell that, and she may be right. I’m trying to do both.

          I had no idea the review sites had such long lead times. Thanks for the warning. I shall try to hang in there. I hope you do the same.

  38. Ooh, many thanks for this, and for tweeting about this. Every author needs to make a name for themselves, and so the first point, ‘we don’t know who you are’ is surely a only a temporary one until you read one of their books: I didn’t know who P.B. Kerr was, we have only just discovered Eva Ibbottson etc., etc.,

    My main task now will to work through this list and submit my self-publication to the people who say that they do review the same.

    My children’s book is free for download this weekend GavReads, you are very welcome to download it and review it if only to validate your own points. But I hope that you would like it.

    Now that I have heard of at least one reviewer, I will pop by to see what you think about things.

    And if you like, I will happily proof read your copy for the missing words, non-sequiturs and other such barriers to a clear argument.
    (tongure firmly in cheek: I don’t really want to start off by insulting you of course!)

    #AmazingUmbrella

  39. Forgive me for I haven’t read all the comments and I intend to do so after I leave this one. As I reviewed the list of justifications you use to not review self published authors, I cringed. The question of why do we review seems to be answered by “for the hits, to get our own validation, to be viewed as someone with taste.” Perhaps because I come from the genre world, I merely have a different set of answers to “why we review.”


    We don’t know who you are.

    Logically there should be no good reason why independent critics/reviewers (e.g. those who blog about books) don’t feature a wide range of books from all difference sources.

    One of my favorite things as a reviewer is finding a hidden gem that no one knows of and recommending that book. I find that to be one of the most rewarding parts of being a reviewer.


    We don’t know how you’ll react.


    This one made me swallow in disbelief and again, maybe it is just that genre writers are poor sports, but I don’t believe that either. There are plenty of dustups by mainstream, literary authors about the negative reviews that they receive. In the genre area alone, there is Deborah Anne McGillivray, an author published by Kensington, who internet stalked an Amazon reviewer, found out her real name, googled for her address, and posted veiled threats about the reviewer’s horse farm and was cheered on and supported by other authors. I have had published authors attack me personally (frequently) and one Tor published author has made it her mission to smear me so that the google search results portray a negative picture. Let’s not forget the published author and her agent that called a reviewer “that bitch”. The whole debacle was written up in the Guardian and PW. Said published author even has her book optioned for a television series. Bad behavior isn’t the pervue of self published authors.


    We’ll feel guilty when we don’t read it.

    There is virtually no possible way to review every book, even traditionally published books, that is sent to a reviewer. During one panel I recently attended, an editor for the Library Journal noted that a reviewer has no obligation to review a book, even a book that is requested. Another reviewer pointed out that having a clearly stated review policy that conveys this message (that a book is accepted for review consideration only) can set the appropriate expectations.

    The guilt about not being able to review a book is attendant to any reviewer, regardless of what types of books that they accept.


    We know you’re not going to generate hits.

    This is probably my least favorite point. I heartily believe that blogging for hits is the worst advice to give to any blogger. Successful blogging comes from passion of the reader/reviewer, not because of any hit driven motivation. Absolutely getting an audience is important, but the type of audience that you want doesn’t build from a hit driven mentality.

    Further, while Hilary Mantel’s next book is popular, there is no evidence presented here that those reviews receive the most attention or hits. In my experience, it is often the unknown book that moves virally amongst bloggers that receives the most attention and that attention, like books sold via word of mouth, build over time.


    We don’t read cute bunny love stories set in Ancient Rome…
    … or whatever genre you’ve written in.

    Again, I don’t get why this is directed toward self published authors. I get probably 10-20 queries a day for reviews and 90% of them aren’t well targeted and many of those are from mainstream publishers. I requested one fiction civil war book for a reviewer of mine and she reviewed it favorably. We now get dozens of unsolicited copies of every war book possible from the Civil War to World War II, many of them non fiction.

    Review queries are a crapshoot. I use a canned response to those individuals who are pitching a book that doesn’t fit my audience. It takes about 30 secs to skim the review request, know it is not for us, and use my canned response.


    We know it’s going to be rubbish

    There is no question that the quality of self published books are generally going to be much lower than self published books. For this reason, we instituted a policy that we will CONSIDER self published books only if they have been professionally edited. This is an honor policy in that we cannot verify the truthfulness of someone’s statement but if we do review it and the editing is bad, that is something authors will get taken to task for.

    While I have disagreed with nearly every point you have made, I will state that I think it is every reviewer’s right to turn away any type of book, including those that are self published. I just disagree with your reasons why. If you had said that you don’t review self published books because most are of poor quality, I wouldn’t have blinked an eye. But all the other reasons, particularly the one about popularity, strike me wrong.

    • Gav Reads on June 10, 2012 at 2:33 pm said:

      Sometimes you write a ‘in the moment post’ and you write for people that already know you a little. This is one of those posts.

      The hits thing was a bit of a dig at a small minority of bloggers who chase hits. And although post has generated it wasn’t designed to that. I wrote it to highlight issues.

      I could called it, ‘If you want to self-publish you’ll need to find ways around these barriers’. I’m not sure it would have been as effective in getting a message across? It’s too late now to find out as it is what it is.

      And I’m glad people disagree with me as was supposed to highlight issues. As I said on twitter I’m debating not dictating but if there wasn’t a problem would I have got 70 comments?

      But I hope that those self-published authors that read it think well I’m not going to ‘be crap’. I’ll get it edited/peer read or what ever it needs. I’m going to be cool and professional. Etc.

      • I’m sensing ‘glass houses’ and ‘stones’ …

        • Gav Reads on June 10, 2012 at 3:25 pm said:

          I’m seeing a healthy debate.

        • Gav may read but is he actually entitled to judge writing? Who is deluded here? Bloggers are nothing but self-published reviewers and reading his post and comments I suggest Gav acquires a BIG can of glass cleaner for clarity. He may use those bricks he is throwing at the self-publishing community to build a solid grammatical foundation for his glass house… Just sayin’

        • “… but if there wasn’t a problem would I have got 70 comments?”
          Gav may read but is he actually entitled to judge writing? Who is deluded here? Bloggers are nothing but self-published reviewers and reading his post and comments I suggest Gav acquires a big can of glass cleaner for clarity. He may use those bricks he is throwing at the self-publishing community to build a solid grammatical foundation for his glass house… Just sayin’

  40. So…as I said on Twitter, I find this a little dickish, although I don’t think that’s the right word. It’s…in a way, it’s condescending, and perhaps a bit patronizing as well. What you’ve essentially done is devalue what’s become a legitimate publishing path for people who fall outside the box that traditional publishing is happy in.

    A lot of authors I know have gone to self-publishing as a way to keep control over their product. Their cover designs, their royalties, their pricing, etc. They find a freedom in self-publishing that authors in the Big 6 houses don’t get. They don’t get a choice in their cover, so if their cover sucks, they’re pretty much stuck with it. Covers seem like a small detail, but I’ve picked up books solely because of the cover (and most of the time, have been lucky enough to fall in love with them). I’ve also read Big 6 books that were intensely popular and couldn’t figure out why. I’ve been lucky to read several incredibly well-done self-published books. I’ve also read some I didn’t enjoy, but that’s par for the course. When I wrote less-than-positive reviews, none of the authors jumped down my throat. In fact, I had one ask how she could improve.

    It’s unfair for you to lump all self-published books into the same category of SUCK when there are a plethora of reasons for a writer to go that route. As a certain recent debacle has proven, you’re not exactly safe even from an agented author (or agent, for that matter). For you to say “I’m not gonna” is only robbing yourself of some good stuff. And in a few cases, not just good, but great.

    • Gav Reads on June 10, 2012 at 2:15 pm said:

      To quote from the post (with cleared up grammar):

      I want to do a post on why we should review self-published authors though I’m struggling beyond; we’re missing out on some great stuff, and wading through all the slush to get there doesn’t seem a fair exchange.

      • I’d say the sole and abiding reason to review self-published works is to serve your readership, by wading through the slush so they don’t have to. “We will only review a self-published if we LOVE it” is a valid tack to take, along with, “We only review a limited number of any books; don’t take it personally if yours gets buried under the avalanche.”

        But ultimately… Why do you review any book, if not to point readers towards books they’ll enjoy, and warn them away from books that they won’t?

        • It’s way too much to ask a reviewer to wade through the slush so you don’t have to. Here’s the question: why should he? What responsibliity does he have to the rest of us in that regard? None.

          We have to wade through the slush ourselves, and I say that as a self-published author.

          • Well, why do reviewers review books, then, if not to serve the readership? Serious question! What drives a reviewer to review — not just occasionally, for their friends and family, but as a major hobby or even a career?

            Why review anything?

            If the answer includes “because I want to find great stuff and share it with others,” then there’s the only answer possible for why someone should consider self-published stuff as well.

            It’s not an answer that bears the weight of Ultimate Moral Correctness, no. But it’s the only answer to the question. Why should a reviewer review self-published books? For the same reason a reviewer reviews traditionally-published books. It’s like those tests where the question is: “Can you prove that the universe was not created, as-is, five minutes ago?” :)

  41. I certainly see your point – I read/skim many works to determine if we should carry them in our bookstore. A lot of them are crap; some just need work. Most should not have been published…yet.

    However, your own writing gave me a headache with its lack of punctuation, and so I ask the question: how exactly can you even recognize good writing?

    • Gav Reads on June 10, 2012 at 2:11 pm said:

      I’ll admit it wasn’t my most fluent piece ever. And I would love to tidy it up some more (I could but I’m reluctant). And I probably should have given it another draft. And considering the subject matter I probably should have. But what’s done is done.

      How do I recognise good writing?

      Ultimately it’s an opinion. I’ve published quite a lot of reviews on the blog and you’re welcome to compare tastes.

      A good post about ‘what is good’ is here btw:

      http://www.velcro-city.co.uk/its-what-we-point-to-when-we-say-good/

    • lars on June 11, 2012 at 7:33 pm said:

      Hate to break it to you, but good writing isn’t about good grammar, punctuation, or even spelling. That’s good copy editing. Good writing is about plot, character, voice, and originality. Which is something very different.

      That said, I will stop reading something if the copy-editing sucks, even if the writing is good. I do so, just as often as I will stop reading something with perfect copy-editing and shitty writing.

  42. We have reviewed self-published at OurBookReviewsOnline but try to check out as much as possible before agreeing – after all not everyone loves romantic fiction or war stories or scifi/fantasy and there’s no point in reading a book for review if you wouldn’t read it for pleasure. Most of the dire books I’ve read have been ‘properly’ published but just not for me. Maybe with looking at self-published, we’re hoping to discover the next Amanda Hocking – haven’t done so yet but one never knows…..

    As for looking for ‘hits’ on the blog – our most popular post ever is When The War Began – a teen dystopian novel by John Marsden about the invasion of Australia by an unknown enemy. Why so many hits? I believe it’s on the Australian school syllabus and kids are looking for a lazy way to do homework!

  43. I operate the 15 year-old online ezine–The Messenger. I review a lot of books each month, both indie and traditionally published. I have to say that I find treasures and rubbish in both. I sometimes scratch my head at the trash that some respected publishers let through. I have found typos, bad punctuation and grammar, ad just plain bad writing in indies and in traditional published works.

    I have also found incredibly wonderful books in both camps. Although it is true that a lot of indie writers self-publish because their work isn’t good enough for a major house, it is also a fact that some really good writers just want the control, speed of publishing, and higher royalties that come with doing-it-yourself.

    Bottom line is it’s a gamble either way. Sometimes it’s great; other times it’s painful to read books submitted for review.

  44. As a indie-published author, it’s definitely a challenge to get reviews, but I enjoy the process. It’s a daily hustle finding people willing to read the book and I always try to make sure my books are in pristine condition before soliciting reviewers. As a result, most of my books are rated 4 star and above. I’ve also won several book awards, which definitely helps. Reviewers, thanks for all you do!

  45. I am not at all surprised at your take on self-published books, nor am I surprised at the variety of comments you’ve received. I’ve been pondering this whole gate-keeping thing myself, and that’s the reason for my own recent blog titled The Art of the Book Review: should good reviewers turn pro? (http://redonald.com) I can see that the future may very well hold the rise of independent professional book reviewers who will take on the “filtering” role that agents and publishing houses served in the world of traditional publishing.

    Would I as a reader be prepared to pay a subscription fee to a reviewer who shared my taste in fiction? Would I as a self-published author be prepared to pay a fee to a reviewer who I felt represented the audience my books will appeal to? I think ‘yes’ to both, depending on the dollar amounts involved.

    It’s a contentious issue right now, no doubt about it. But market forces tend to prevail, so if there’s a demand for competent honest reviewers from both readers and writers, we’ll see it happen.

  46. I’m a self published writer; one who managed to get his book taken into stock by both Borders (RIP) and Waterstones. By stock I mean every store in the country not just the ones nearest me, wedged in the ‘local authors’ section alongside books about buses.

    I think you know you made a lot of generalisations about self-publishing. You said as much in your post. But I think you have to understand why people self-publish.

    For me it was that after two years of posting submissions to agents I was getting nowhere. It was clear that often my material wasn’t even being read. I had always viewed self-publishing as an admission of defeat but in the end felt that I had no other option, other than seeing my manuscript simply gathering dust.

    Does that mean my writing is actually total pants? I don’t think so. I found enough fair-sighted reviewers who would take a look at it and guess what – most of them enjoyed it. I’d be the first to say it needed some more editing but I’ve had some great responses. My wife’s was the best: “It’s not half as shit as some of books I’ve read recently”.

    The trick is to take it seriously. I didn’t get a friend to do the layout, I paid to have it done by a professional. Likewise proof-reading. The cover was done by a graphic artist, not a bloke down the pub. That’s how it ended up being approved by Borders and Waterstones.

    So there are good self-published books out there and the more open-minded reviewers are, the more likely they are to find them.

  47. Hello Gav,
    Well, of course it’s your choice what you wish to review and from whom!
    In my case, I would try to set out reasons why you might want to take a look at the novel I self-published as a Kindle ebook last December.
    a) My short stories have previously been published in paperback by the major London publishers, Picador and Vintage, and sold in most countries of the world. The stories were chosen by editors including John Fowles, A L Kennedy, Toby Litt, Ali Smith, and were reviewed in THE SPECTATOR, THE HINDUSTAN TIMES, SCOTLAND ON SUNDAY, SCOTTISH STUDIES REVIEW
    b) i had signed a contract with a literary agent for 2 earlier novels
    c) The novel I published last December, THE SURVIVAL OF THOMAS FORD, was represented by my second literary agent in London, it had the full support of two agents at that agency. It also had the full support of the film scout who had discovered SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE as an unpublished manuscript, who told me and my agent that my novel was the best she had read in the last 4 years.
    d) Editors at a number of publishing houses “loved” the novel, I was told. The book was read by several editors in one major publishing house, only to be turned down by the sales dept at a meeting because I “reminded them of someone they had had high hopes for two years earlier but then had lost money on.” The senior commissioning editor at another London house wrote “I love books like this. It has the pace and excitement of a thriller but the voice and emotional depth of a literary novel.” But still no sale!
    e) After nearly 18 months of this, and the agent and film consultant calling to tell me on the phone that this was happening A LOT in 2011 with quality fiction (their term) that they were sending out…I decided to put it out as a KIndle ebook instead.
    f) 30 five-star reviews now on Amazon UK
    But, as I said, of course it’s your choice what you wish to review and by whom.
    I was certainly given the impression though by those London professionals last year, that A LOT of quality work which would previously been sold is now being turned down by the traditional publishers, for whatever reason, and that work will have been making its way into the self-publishing pipeline for some time now I should think!
    All best, John

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  50. It’s too bad all self pubbed authors get lumped in the same boat because not all are created equal; some work very hard to make their work the best possible by hiring professional editors, cover designers and sometimes even marketing/PR firms.

    For any self pubbed author worth her salt, she will have done her homework ahead of time on who to submit review copies to, and include a presskit – even a virtual one – that points back to a professional website, social media and reviews. I have seen this done well, but it requires the work of a part-time job (if not full time!). Simply uploading to smashwords and bombing everyone in publishing via email is tacky and as the article said, a waste of everyone’s time.

  51. lars on June 11, 2012 at 5:57 pm said:

    Self published novels fascinate me in the same way that ebooks used to fascinate me.

    I have a degree in Computer Science and I love books. I began reading ebooks over 12 years ago, and I bought my first e-reader well before the Kindle took off.

    Currently I work in an extremely well known indie bookstore. The reason I bring this up is to simply say — I know exactly why self-published writers are so disliked. I know about how publishers carefully cultivate relationships with the store staff. How their reps try to find our taste and match us to books they think we will like.

    Simple professionalism with *ahem* the indie writer community is a foreign and bizarre word. They come into the store and demand we read their work, without making a convincing argument towards why we should.

    But, like I said, I am fascinated with self publishing. So in addition to reading a lot of traditional published works, I actually read a lot of self-published e-books.

    So I would like to clarify some things:

    Firstly, of the 200 or so self-pub books I’ve read since March, about 20 of them were worth reading all the way through and about 10 of these were the equivalent to something I might find on a store book shelf (which isn’t saying much since quite a lot of books on our store shelves, I feel shouldn’t have made it off the slush pile). This isn’t to say they were all bad. Even the worst book sometimes had some redeeming feature, or a good chapter or two.

    Secondly, I actually did find one great book. Something that completely blew me away. A genre work equal to anything I’ve ever read in that genre. I forwarded it to a publisher’s rep I know, who forwarded it to an editorial director, who agreed with me, and a week later that publisher offered the author a contract. (which they are still negotiating or else I would share) There is really good stuff out there, if you you care to look for it.

    Thirdly, if you are a self published author, please make at least one of your books cheap, so those of us who enjoy reading can actually afford to buy it. Also stop making fake 5 star reviews. I know their bogus, you know their bogus, so why do them. The same goes for leaving negative feedback / swearing / cursing someone who has written an honest 3 star review — this is the person who can most improve your writing, whereas 5 star reviewers are mostly sycophants.

    Fourthly, it should be a requirement that anybody who self publishes, should actually sit down and read other self published works. Spend a few months and read like a hundred of them. At the end of this experience, you will understand exactly how the rest of us feel when you offer up your manuscript, and maybe even learn from the mistakes of everyone else.

    • “…it should be a requirement that anybody who self publishes, should actually sit down and read other self published works. Spend a few months and read like a hundred of them.”

      Why do you hate me and want me to suffer?

      It’s a pointless exercise, really. If a self-pubber is sending you awful writing to review, he/she is probably ill-equipped to recognize awful writing. Those who are equipped to recognize it are probably sending you competently written books.

      • lars on June 29, 2012 at 6:48 pm said:

        Personally, I feel that every writer should read cringe worthy material.

        It is easy enough to live in a bubble and only read good stuff. But only reading a few good books a year makes it seem that writing is easy. Descending into the crap pile does two things:

        - If you do it enough, you start seeing common mistakes that you can then learn to avoid. For example, a common writing tip is “Show don’t tell.” Well read enough crap and you will begin to see exactly why “telling” bites.
        - More importantly, you begin to force yourself to say… no matter what, I am not going to write like this. You begin to take make a very self critical assessment of your own work.

        Plus there is always the chance of stumbling onto to an outlier. You can’t imagine the feeling of finding something wonderful that maybe nobody else besides you and the author has read. Imagine say, what Beckett must have felt when he stumbled across Borge, or when Walker Percy stumbled across Toole.

  52. Soujan1 on June 11, 2012 at 6:26 pm said:

    I know it must be a lot of work, reviewing and writing reviews, and marching through the slush of those self-published. Furthermore, yes I agree, most of what people think in these “circles and echelons” is negative. I remember when I started reading fantasy, and once I had read all there was at the bookstore in my town, there was nothing else. Now, the world is exploding with stories from every genre, across the globe. Wow!!! That “could be” so positive…but rarely does in get placed in such a light.

    Literary agents make their 15% off sales of an author, now 40-50% of those sales are for a less expensive E-Book. So, they make less, staff less, and are trying to hold on to their authors. Publishers are the same, rehashing and remodeling every story and book cover to build desperate sales to book stores that are closing. Hollywood, ha! Do not get me started on the rehashing of worthless garbage that hits the screens, originality is an afterthought in a modern world where it is now abundant, and a grasp away.

    So what is the answer? Sure, 9 of 10 self published books may not be anything worth the print, but 1 of ten are. Ever read a book by one of your favorite, legendary, top authors and said “wow, that was terrible?” Sure, we all have. I have read trash from the big names in writing, by the top publishers, and seen those great 5 star reviews and thought “what rubbish, who got paid to say that?” What is the difference from a self published no one to a top author in his mansion? Nothing but the dollars and the contacts. They all started somewhere low, got discovered, got edited, got bad reviews, and then got lucky.

    Don’t waste your time reading it? Why not, it may be the next bestseller.
    Don’t know how someone will react? I have seen reviews, professional and otherwise, no one cares how the author reacts, if it’s an honest review. Keep in mind, it is your opinion, your take, not gospel. I have had 5 star reviews on my books, 3 to 4 from the pro’s, and even 1 star reviews from who knows. All of them are opinions, nothing more, given to the human condition at that point in time.

    Ego? I find the biggest egos are in the industry, the agents, the reviewers, and that very “circle” of people who think their time is more precious than anyone elses. You read and review the conjurations and labors of the minds and creativity of others. If you had such creativity and drive, you would write, not review. So if you think that four or five hours you spend over an unedited self published book, a book that may have been years of work and dreams for someone else, is not worth your time—I say the problem has been found.

    Someone have the nerve, the respect, the ambition to take the self published and see that they are the future of storytelling. This “industry” has been around only a few centuries, and it is beginning to crumble in modern day. Those that see this, may figure out a way to see the diamonds in the slush, a search that will be well worth it someday soon.

    —JRJ, FL

  53. Thank you for this valuable information. I didn’t think it was too harsh, just very straightforward. But it’s exactly what needs to be heard in the self-publishing world. Your words are appreciated.

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  55. This is my second year of reading/reviewing Indie/self-published/small press books. By the end of 2013 I will have read/reviewed over 225+ books (my best guess). I had to stop taking requests because I didn’t feel comfortable scheduling so far out.

    Based on my experience, here’s my take:

    We don’t know who you are – but there’s the beauty of it. I’m discovering something new. Because the authors are more likely to correspond and keep in touch, I have built some great relationships with authors that I truly like their work.

    We don’t know how you’ll react – Yes, I don’t. I’ve had from one end to the other where they’re very engaged or I think they must have died because there’s no reaction. I’ve been told that they are advised not to contact reviewers and have since not expected it. Otherwise, I don’t care how they will react because I’m a big girl and can handle it.

    We’ll feel guilty when we don’t read it – Nonsense, it is what it is. You can only please some of the people some of the time.

    We know you’re not going to generate hits – Not true. I’ve since gone on to be friends with writers who are making a living by writing. If you are able to quit your job and take up writing full-time, you’re a hit. If you are able to reach your audience no matter what the size, you’re a hit. Sure are there a couple of traditionally published authors I’d like to meet, but they won’t interact with me the way these writers do.

    We don’t read cute bunny stories set in Ancient Rome – I love the genre-bending stuff. I like diversity. If it’s good writing, I’m there.

    We know it’s going to be rubbish – Not true. Sure that has happened when I see a book cover I think is crap or read the title and go – oh uh. But it feels good to tell the author, “You need to invest in a good book cover. This is a good story that needs a good cover.” They should have thought of that in the first place, but some think they’re not worth the investment. Also the fact that I’m going to get well over the 200 mark in books that I think are 3 stars or above in about 3 years, they’re not rubbish. I look forward to picking the next book to read.

    • Well said Coral – I agree with nearly everything you’ve said. For me the whole benefit of reading self-published authors is getting to read new stuff that the rest of the world doesn’t know about yet, and getting to know these authors.

      Sure, there have been some books that are rubbish and some that just haven’t been my thing in respect to genre, but I’ve found some fabulous books that I would never have been able to enjoy if they were not self-published.

      So self-published authors, please do keep contacting me. I, for one, love to read and review self-published works.

      • Rita Payne on June 12, 2012 at 4:57 pm said:

        Hi Cheryl. I would like you to take a look at my book. on Amazon and read the reviews. “Tapestry of Tears”

        • You book sounds good Rita, but I’m not finding any reviews for it on Amazon. If you’d like to discuss this further with me let’s get off this message thread. It’s gotten too big and I’ve stopped following it. It blew out my inbox! Email me at bluegirl1961@hotmail.com.

  56. I’ve never been big on reviewing or just reading self-pubs since because, in my experience, it’s a bunch of jaded writers angry at the publishing industry for rejecting their genius. The couple of self-pubs I did review pretty much dumped me by the wayside. My reviews weren’t glowing so they weren’t even worthy of a thank you. I guess that’s better than the author going rabid on me.

    But lately it’s been professionalism, or lack thereof. It is insanely clear in my review policy that I don’t review self-pubbed books. Period. End of discussion. Now let’s count how many self-pubbed authors I have emailing me trying to get me to read their books? Quoting my policy back to me, applauding my awesome reviews, trying to convince me I should read their book anyway. No. Not going to happen. In fact it makes me want to dive into the self-pubbed world even less. I have far too many books in my pile that have been vetted and approved by someone other than the author’s mom to deal with what’s bound to be sub-par material by a pushy author that wouldn’t know professionalism if it hit them with a bus.

    • Donna -

      My blog covers very specific subjects which are evident immediately to anyone who reads the description on it. Plus-size issues, plus size fashion, media commentary, etc. But I get pr requests from travel firms, jewelry sellers, and worst of all, diet and fitness sites. When fashion pr people write to me, I write back, “Do you sell plus sizes?” The answer is always no. I feel your pain.

  57. This is an excellent article, and I agree with almost all of it, even though I am a first-time self-published author. However, when I had two novels published (The Devil You Say and Strong Spirits) by Avon, there was no publicity budget, and in those days, no social media platform of any kind. Both books were part of a series, a humorous fantasy set in depression-era London. I had to put together my own haphazard book tour, find and arrange radio interviews, attend sci-fi fantasy conventions…all of this even though The Devil You Say won a number of Best First Novel awards and was very well reviewed.

    I have an anthology of my stage work being published by Exit Press. However, my historical novel, The Abortionist’s Daughter, is self-published. An agent took it around to all of the agents who said things along the lines of “this is the best writing I’ve seen in years, but no.” So rather than drop it in a drawer, I published it on Amazon.

    The reward for my being ignored by my first publisher has been that I know how to do publicity for my novel. So thanks, I guess.

    • Soujan1 on June 12, 2012 at 2:16 am said:

      And there it is folks—–the reason reviewers do not want to read us self published authors…reason #14—-because some (no names mentioned Elisa) cannot stop themselves from posting their books, where to find them, and hawking for attention. For crying out loud…did you not read the article and the posts? And you had to mention your website, plug your 2 books, your publisher, and try and make a sale out of this thread? Please do not procreate, ever. I have written too, but I am NOT going to mention it here, I will NOT beg for sales or reviews, and I will NOT lower myself as so many do. I have pride, I love to write, and the rest will work itself out. If it happens my books sell huge to my kids after I am dead, so be it—it happened that way for many famous authors, such is fate. But please, if you want to help self-publishing, do not do what Elise just did….ugh….

      • Sorry that you took my post that way. If it makes you feel any better, my previous novels are out of print, and Avon no longer exists. And in the leave a reply field, there is a line for adding your website. Blame the blog set-up, not me. I am not begging for or asking for a review. The blog author made it quite clear that he does not review self-published books.

        I hope that your books sell huge to your kids.

        • Forgot to add, fyi:
          Thank you for the insults. It will make people pay more attention to my post. After all, there is no such thing as bad publicity.

          • Soujan1 on June 12, 2012 at 3:37 am said:

            After reading through all the posts a second time, and re-reading the article discussion, I wonder why you are the only person plugging your books here? (insert insult here) We are discussing how to improve self publishing, and SP authors chances of sales, prosperity, and awareness. If you read (and focus on something besides yourself), you will see that one of the reasons is the constant shameless plugging/hawking/spamming at every opportunity that “published” authors do not do. The professionalism, confidence, etc…and respect of SP authors needs to raise so that we garner/earn the attention from reviewers…not slam it at em’ every chance we get. Hence, no one but you plugged their books on this discussion—that was part of the point, one that you seem oblivious to. You are the example of what not to do…try and fix that, for all of us.

            My kids thank you for your warm wishes. And there is bad publicity, for those of us with conscience.

            —JRJ

          • If you read all the posts again – why didn’t you spot that MR Mathias plugged/linked his book(s), his website, his tweetfeed and his general awesomeness to the world of publishing in pretty much every one of his many posts?

            Therefore, Elisa, innocently or purposely linking to her work, is not the only person “plugging” her books.

            Just an observation.

          • Soujan1 on June 13, 2012 at 2:20 pm said:

            Agreed, noted, and it yes—shameless for them all.

  58. Hi Gav,

    Healthy debate indeed! These are interesting times for us folk. Turmoil. Change. Strong opinions. I respect your point of view. There are only so many hours in a day and with the floodgates of publishing now so open, you as a reviewer can drown in stuff. Of course you have to function in a way that works for you, and of course your experiences with authors and books will flavor that. All of us writers should take on the responsibility of representing ourselves in the best possible way. It can help us all. Positive experiences with indie books and indie authors will send ripples of changed opinions into cyberspace. That’s what I get from all of this.

    I come to this discussion with a diverse point of view: I’m traditionally published, I’m self-published, AND I’m an associate literary agent. Just two years ago, this combo would have been inconceivable (I think), yet today it makes perfect sense. As others have noted, the market and the economy have become tight, and many midlist authors have suffered as a result. In the good old days, a writer could grow their audience, stick with one publisher and editor, and build their success over time.

    While that still certainly goes on, it’s not exactly the norm. We writers also see many wonderful books being passed over by traditional publishing. Thank god for self-publishing. It’s a way to revive books that went out of print far too soon. A way to build audience and reach readers with new material. And reaching readers is why we write, after all.

    But I think that anyone who blogs about books, or writes books, or edits, or agents, or sells books does it for the love of the written word (who can really say they do it for the money?). I don’t ever feel like it’s us vs. them. We are all on the same team. Since I wear many hats, I’m always a bit bummed when I see folks in the biz slamming others in the biz, which happens from time to time in forums and in comments on posts.

    As an agent, I can only take on an author if I feel I can sell them to a decent sized publisher, otherwise I’m not doing a service to that author. As an author, I can only write my very best work, I can’t make a top publisher print it, even with the help of my agent. As an indie published author, I can only put out the very best product I can and present it to readers as best I can. As a book blogger, I imagine you can only review so many books and want to serve your readers.

    Most of us are doing our best to serve the reading community we are so devoted to. Thanks, Gav, for sharing your perspective with us.

  59. Another self-publisher chiming in here. I must admit, while I was reading the post I got pretty angry, but fortunately while reading the long line of comments I’ve cooled down a bit. The contents have already been run through the mill, but I’d like to give my support to two points:

    (1) Any of the reasons for refusing to read a self-published book that have to do with the author personally (e.g. not knowing how he’ll react, assuming his ego is doubly large, having a publisher to act as a “buffer” against him) are nonsensical. Traditionally published authors have equal access to their keyboards. And when it comes to ego, self-publishers are well accustomed to being ignored and bashed. The absence of a buffer works both ways; if a reviewer says something cruel, it’s a direct attack. Traditional authors who have been validated by a battery of agents and editors who love their work for its sales potential, who are supposed to have “made it” just by getting their covers on the shelves of the kiosk in the airport, can act like the sheltered kids who were praised to the skies by school teachers and can’t conceive of failure in the outside world.

    “Well, obviously, this ‘Gav’ is an illiterate chimpanzee, because Such-and-Such Journal had two glowing sentences for ‘My Great American Novel!’ Has /he/ been published? Of course not. He just has this stupid plebeian blog. /My/ genius has already been confirmed by the super-famous editors at Bloomsbury. The unwashed masses simply don’t understand.” (Note: extreme generalizations here, exaggerated to match the generalizations of self-publishers in the post and pushed to the limit for borderline comic effect. Of course very, very few authors would actually say this–though most think it in private :p)

    Self-publishers, on the other hand, don’t have a leg to stand on. What are we supposed to say? “Oh yeah? Well, my husband says it’s wonderful. So up yours.” Yes, there are naive idiots who believe they’ll be instant billionaires for their 200k word YA novel about vampire bunnies in ancient Rome. But believe me, most of us do not take our mothers’ excessive praise as fact. The ones who do don’t last long.

    (2) If you’re concerned about quality, the way a book was published should be irrelevant for evaluating it. As you say, you can generally tell whether a book is rubbish within the first few pages. I would argue that you can generally tell within the first few paragraphs. So why refuse to even glance over an excerpt if it doesn’t have a recognizable logo stamped on it? If it’s unedited crap, the low quality will become apparent very quickly. If it’s not, then you would only refuse it out of snobbery or the desire to get Google hits.

    In general, the vehemence of reviewers who refuse all self-published material baffles me. Have you ever heard of a movie critic who has a strict, non-negotiable policy to never watch independent films by unrecognizable studios? “A movie about gay cowboys? Sorry, I don’t review indies. Get Warner Bros. to edit it up properly and maybe I’ll consider it.” Would you refuse to try a restaurant that isn’t part of a national franchise, or operated by a chef you’ve never heard of? Would you assume he was rejected by all of the /real/ restaurants, and just set up his out of spite to make a quick buck without doing the work? No, that would be silly. But it’s perfectly rational to shunt all self-published books to the side, right?

  60. Vince Vawter on June 12, 2012 at 2:56 pm said:

    I worked on a novel for five years and vowed to find representation by an agent. Thank goodness I kept my vow. My agent helped me whip it into shape and sold it for me to a Big 6. My editor there made fewer revision suggestions, but certainly strategic. It comes out in Spring 2013. If I had gone the self-publishing route, I would have been the author of a first-rate story told in a second-rate manner. I admire the conviction of self-published writers, but I am not one of them.

    • Vince, congratulations (no sarcasm). But how do you know self-published authors haven’t been edited or “whipped into shape”? Many submit their books for professional editing, and I don’t mean scamming edit services. Some have had professionals read over their work several times over. Don’t tar all authors with the same brush.

    • I don’t wish for this to be taken in the wrong way, because all writers should listen to advice about their writing and take it into consideration – I certainly have done -
      but it isn’t always necessary for an agent and a publisher amend a book to make it saleable, is it?

      That is not to say that having such input invalidates the author (and if a publisher took me on and suggested sensible revision, I’d certainly consider it), but surely a writer can sometimes produce a first-rate story and write it in a first rate manner without that input?

      When all is said and done, an agent or publisher offering up ideas is merely expressing his/her take on the matter: it isn’t necessarily the right take.

      • Publishers (via Editors) will make suggestions/changes (to title, structure, characterisation, plot, names, places, dates, locations, etc) – to make a story more profitable “in the moment”.

        Publishers are only in it for the money. You are providing a product for them to sell, that is all.

        They’re not in it for the art, for the story, for the love of life, just the money. The less they have to do – the better – but whatever suggestions they make “to make it better” is of course with one eye on the bottom line.

        Very few writers have enough “power” now to say to their editor/publisher – “no, I’m not making any changes, that’s the story I want to tell.” (and to be honest, that’s a brave, supremely confident, indeed, egotistical writer who can do that)

  61. My initial thought: get an editor or have someone first read over your self-published blog articles before publishing them. As a self-published author, I can handle the snark; but all your grammar errors and typos are distracting and credibility-sapping.

  62. Someone who inflicts an illegible gray font on his readers is no judge of “professional standards”.

    Just sayin’.

  63. I’ve been self-publishing since 1974 — three novels, one book of poetry, plus some short stuff. I’ve also had six novels published by mainstream publishers — adult novels by Dell/Delta (under the Seymour Lawrence imprint), kid novels by Scholastic. One of those adult novels with Dell went worldwide in many translations. My last kid novel with Scholastic sold 200,000 copies, after which my agent told me that publishers weren’t interested in any more books from me because (in the era of Harry Potter) I “didn’t sell enough.” Look, you just can’t get published as a midlist writer anymore. Then my agent died.

    So I returned to self-publishing for my most recent adult novel. It got exactly one review. On Bookslut. A good review. But the only one.

    I love self-publishing. Like most writers, I suck at self-publicity. That’s the weak link in this new world of self-pub. I broke even on the most recent novel. That’s a victory.

    I write because I have to write. Maybe you review because you have to review. You owe me nothing. I expect nothing. I’ve never asked you to review anything, and obviously I never will.

    Fair enough?

  64. Cassie on June 12, 2012 at 6:51 pm said:

    @JRJ
    After reading through all the posts a second time, and re-reading the article discussion, I wonder why you are the only person plugging your books here?

    You must not have read them clearly. I saw at least three others besides Elisa promo’ing their books. You didn’t comment on them. Why did you single out Elisa?

    • Soujan1 on June 12, 2012 at 7:02 pm said:

      Thanks, I will let them know. I saw people plugging books that were NOT their own, recommendations and such. I think that hers were done with such careless abandon, more than once, and even mentioning publishers….just exactly what we need less of, thats all. If she was traditionally published, as she claims, that makes it an even worse example.

      • I think I mentioned the title of mine about 70 – 80 comments ago … and it was as an example, not a plug. Having said that, mentioning a book by name in a discussion about books is not a sin, and anyone clicking my name on the posts will be led to a website that mentions it again, so what’s the big issue?

        I will now mention a certain John Bunyan, who’s “Pilgrim’s Progress” is reputedly the second biggest selling book in history (after the bible). It was self published originally (not literary agents or Big 6 back then), and has not been out of print since 1678!

        I can only dream …

        • Soujan1 on June 14, 2012 at 6:19 am said:

          The big issue is that as self published authors, we need the respect from those in that “circle” that this discussion is about. We will not get it if every self-centered and desperate author finaggles a way to link/plug/hawk/sneak themselves and their book into every possible conversation. It is one of the things that annoys and puts-off those we want the attention of. It labels all SP authors into a group of spammers so-to-say, and overwhelms/floods the nerves of reviewers, readers, critics, and agents–which leads to posts and discussions such as this in the end. Then, in these same posts, the same author will also work in ways to compare themselves or make comparison to hugely successful authors or tie in bits of publishing history that they have retained, which only sickens the masses more. Great, you “mentioned your book” and the Big 6, and Pilgrims Progress, John Bunyan, and a bit of 17th century publishing fact—-wow…I am so impressed down here…I will really read or review your work now….ugh…vomit…Get the picture? If you want yourself, and us as a generation of SP authors, to excel and propser—learn the time, place, and dignity of things that those in the traditional publishing world expect from writers. So far, most SP authors don’t get it, and it hurts us all.

          —JRJ

  65. Wow, amazed to see the comments to this post still going strong, Gav, you’re going to win some kind of “most provocative blog post of the month” award.

    I think a lot of book bloggers identify as writers. The book review is their chosen genre, and their blogs are their means of publishing their work. As such, they want to review the books that they believe will 1) stimulate them to write a good post and 2) draw attention and praise. These are the things that motivate writers who don’t get paid for their writing: the wonderful feeling of having produced good work and the positive feedback they get from others on that work.

    But one can also look at book-reviewing as primarily a service to the community of readers. If you’re a blogger who thinks of your blog that way, then it’s reasonable to ask, “Where is my service most needed?” I firmly believe that indie publishing is the place where more book-reviewers are *desperately* needed. As someone said on Kindle Boards recently, indie publishing has moved the “slush pile” online, and readers really need help wading through the tremendous number of offerings. And not just in simple terms of “good book”/”bad book,” but in the richer, subtler terms of, “Is this the kind of thing I’m going to like?” Being able to align themselves with a book-review blogger whose taste they know mirrors their own would be extremely helpful to readers who want to (or, for reasons of budget, need to) buy indie books.

    Right now, in my subgenre, people all over the blogosphere are reviewing Kevin Hearne’s latest book, Tricked. I haven’t read it, yet, but the first three books in his series were excellent, so I’m sure this latest one is an enjoyable, stimulating book to review. But does the blogosphere need a thousand reviews of this one book, in addition to all the reviews from major review outlets like Publishers Weekly and Library Journal? Wouldn’t it be great if some of those bloggers, instead of posting the 497th review of Hearne’s book, posted the first review of an indie book?

    After all, readers probably already have enough information to decide whether they want to read Hearne’s book, so your voice may not make much of a difference, there. But if you do some of that slogging through the slush pile and find that indie gem and bring it to your readers, that’s a true service to the reading community that you, as an expert reader/writer with a platform, are uniquely qualified to provide. Yes, you may have to interact with some authors who are not yet well versed in How Things Work, but this seems a small price to pay when balanced against the service you can provide — you, and only you.

  66. Laurie on June 12, 2012 at 7:55 pm said:

    Thanks for the post. Blunt, but honest. As someone considering self-e-pubbing over going the traditional route, I’ve been wrestling with these same questions, and not just for reviewing, but the whole legitimacy issue. Self-pub has had such a stigma for years. It’s fascinating to watch it turn publishing upside down, and processes will adapt eventually, but what to do in the meantime?

    One possibility: what if you knew a self-pubbed book had been edited by a respected editor? I forsee free-lance editing not only becoming highly sought after, but editors might become a kind of gatekeeper, and might have ties to reviewers. Not quite publishers, but influencers, perhaps?

  67. Deb Kinnard on June 12, 2012 at 8:03 pm said:

    I heard about this from a link elsewhere, and I hope I’m not echoing another’s comments because I’m too busy to read every single one (some of them look like rubbish). I hope you who won’t read self-published are being careful about titles that are published this way after putting out multiple commercially published books. Sometimes there is just no market for a story that’s of equal quality with anything that author has previously sold. Sometimes it’s just the wrong tale at the wrong time, or that publisher has had six different novels release in the past year with exactly that same theme (!) or another such deal-breaker.

    When you say the quality cannot be as good, you’re making assumptions, perhaps about writers whose books HAVE sold commercially. These writers do not have to prove themselves to their readers…or to reviewers, either.

  68. It’s really admirable, Becca, that you feel that way. I can’t imagine there will ever be enough selfless bloggers to get through the whole slush pile though, will there? And Laurie, it sounds as though you’re saying that editors will start to become brands – badges of quality. I think that’s really necessary.

    Writers have always wanted publishers to give an objective seal of quality: if it’s good, it’ll be published; if it’s not, it won’t. And that assumption is behind the prejudice against self-published books. The fact is that good books are rejected (I’m thinking of the guy with the a-f list of points, above) and bad ones are published, because publishers’ goal is profit. So we need other ways of bestowing the seals of quality that everyone wants.

    All I meant earlier was that it would be useful to have a means of signalling that a book has met the minimum standards – since it is the frequent failure to do that which most damages self-published books. A non-profit organisation like the AIA (http://allianceindependentauthors.org/) could administer something like that. And reviewers could easily check online (with a unique code for each kite-marked book) that a book claiming to be approved really is.

    • Not the whole slush pile, Chris, no. But the people who submit their books for review are already a subset of those who self-publish. And bloggers can always limit their pool by focusing on a certain genre or subgenre. (I may have to do that myself one of these days, since I’m having to let so many good books go by, at this point.) I think putting a couple thousand focused book-review bloggers on the issue could really accomplish a lot. It’ll never be perfect, but it could be way better!

      • My biggest thought is this (it’s been a long morning, so bear with me):

        First, I don’t mean to offend anyone, just thinking aloud. I’ve read this great little debate, as well as others across the internet, and I have to wonder if this is part of our ‘nanny-state’ mentality. With these changes in publishing options, we are given a huge amount of freedom to choose who and what we want to read. However, instead of rejoicing in this freedom, we all start crying, “Why doesn’t somebody please just pick out the good stuff and hand it to me? That would be better….”

        Sort of a step in the wrong direction, in my opinion….

        • Now THAT, I like!

        • Just a matter of time constraint, for a lot of readers. It takes a great deal of time to download several dozen samples and read them all before choosing what you’re going to buy. For readers who think that’s fun — great, they can do it. For those who don’t like “shopping” or don’t have time, a shortcut would be useful. Not a “gatekeeper” shortcut, so far as I’m concerned — a “recommender” shortcut. Reviews have always served that function.

        • Good point. I should stick my kite-marks up my arse.

        • Cassie on June 12, 2012 at 10:05 pm said:

          Yes, I agree. We now have TOO many choices and for many that means they look to reviewers to do the work. But, that’s not fair to reviewers who read because they love to read, not to act as a gatekeeper so other readers pick the right titles. I do think that’s the nature of thing but that’s our expectation, not theirs. I’m not saying that there aren’t reviewers out there who see themselves in this way.

          And that’s fine. As others have said, Gav has a right to read, or not read, anything. And to his opinions on self-publishing. I happen to support his generalization despite knowing there are gems. But there are many that are not. Hate the Big 6 if you will, but for the most part, you knew the chances were high you’d get a quality book for your money. That’s not the case for self-published.

          Lots of passion here. Lots of viewpoints. This is what makes the publishing industry so fascinating. :)

          • I’m not trying to be bull-headed, but I don’t see how there can be such a thing as too much choice. Between reviews, genre lists, and tags, it’s pretty easy to narrow down the choices. Amazon can even sort searches by recommendation.

            I think that every book I’ve bought for my Kindle has been either a recommendation from one of my friends (here on the internet or out in the world), or something I’ve found in a Twitter feed. It takes a bit to find people who’s tastes match your own, but when you do, you can follow their Twitter feed or Facebook page easily and read through it quickly.

            Granted, I have a bit more time than some – my big-girl job is very flexible – but I still can’t see how it’s that difficult. I’m not trying to make everyone read self-pubbed books, by any means. Read whatever you wish – it’s a matter of choice. Which was my point. Thanks for your thoughts on this, guys!

          • Cassie on June 12, 2012 at 10:34 pm said:

            @Jimelle I read what I wrote again and yeah, that wasn’t quite what I was saying. I love the idea we have this many choices and it really doesn’t bother me because, like you said, there are ways of finding what we want. I was trying to say that for some people, the ones who either don’t know or don’t want to, the number of choices they have now is probably mind-bogging so they turn to reviewers and want them to screen them for them. That’s what I meant. Good point – I agree – I love the choices. I have found a few gems that I wouldn’t have otherwise.

  69. Jim R on June 12, 2012 at 9:41 pm said:

    All salient points, well-communicated.

    Coming from a different perspective, when I ran the literary desk for a print magazine, I used to make a point of looking at the self-published ‘proofs’ that we had in, when I had the time. If something grabbed me enough to finish it then I’d review it. The filtration thing is absolutely spot on, though, there is suddenly no barrier between the source and the feedback, and it can be unpleasant. But on the whole, most communications that I had were civil and even positive, apart from the occasional slavering lunatic. And I’m pleased that I genuinely helped out a few self-published authors with exposure and a few sales, even through three-star reviews that they may have been disappointed with.

    But, I do have to say, 99.9% of what I looked at, and I stress looked at, I could easily tell wasn’t worth my time from the off. More than that, if I did review it, then it would probably do more harm to the author than if I didn’t touch it. Any publicity is good publicity, in itself, is not true and it is not a sensible model by which to operate. Many people like to decry the traditional ‘big houses’, but their model works. Getting through publishing committees, editors, agents, buyers and eventually punters boils down to one point – the book was good enough.

    I once had a drink with a publicist whose opinion and experience I completely respect more than anyone else in the industry, who said that they’re asked all the time for the secret of getting published by a big house. The answer, they said bluntly, was to write a good book. It is actually as simple as that, but the mechanics behind the refinement are what matter. The internet has made publishing much easier, and broken a fair few traditional gates, but has it made the quality of writing, storytelling and fiction better overall? I’d argue not.

    The more successful big house authors out there, particularly in SF&F, most of whom I’ve spoken to at one point or another over the years, have all had the same story of writing and writing and writing, of rejection after rejection and of learning with each experience. There is something to that experience which is as integral to writing as the initial seed for an idea – a blacksmith, for instance, doesn’t pick up a hammer and forge plate armour on his first attempt.

    The overall point is that Gavin’s summation is 100 percent accurate. Reviewers and journalists should never be the first to give feedback on novels. Agents and editors should.

    But, I fear, I digress. Again, an eloquent, insightful and informative post, Gavin, one that should be useful to self-published authors.

    • Jim, I loved the insight & observation in your post : )
      I’ve left a few comments through out the the threads, but have been reading and observing from my mailbox since then, but wanted to pipe up to say so. It IS the mechanics behind refinement with a novel which make all the difference. As an author self-publishing her debut, this part has represented the biggest learning curve for me and it’s critical because I know how many detractors there are out there who will make massive assumptions about me before they’ve even read a word of Gunshot Glitter. And I don’t want to give them that ammunition.

  70. Well one thing for sure. This blog is going on my regular reads list (even if it is longer than my arm!).

  71. Great post and fascinating discussions in the comments, folks! (Though some are more or less spam-y than others :)). Just wanted to throw my 2 cents on the change pile…
    Gav, what I hear you really saying is that the current model for discovering self-pubbed books doesn’t work for you. The effort/risk/investment does not outweigh the outcome/reward/return that you get back from sifting through the slush pile. At this point, I 100% agree with you. There is simply too much middling material to go through and I don’t like the approach that many (emphatically NOT all) self-pubbed authors take to gaining reach readers.
    That being said, I’d be interested to see how your position does or doesn’t change as the market reaches a more mature stage and there are corresponding developments in how both traditional and non-traditionally published authors find their readers. Not sure what this will look like, but I suspect it will change things for the better on both fronts.
    Interesting infographic at this link to illustrate just how much self-pubbed there is to sift through as compared with traditionally published books, leaving aside any comments on quality: http://www.ampersand-publishing.com/this-is-the-third-post-and-just-wow/

  72. Soujan1 on June 13, 2012 at 4:18 am said:

    Labels, segregation, and all around egotistical mish-mash: A storyteller tells stories, a writer writes, and if someone dances, they are a dancer. This “author”, big 6, top of the line, edited, unedited, blogged or not, reviewed by people or not, agented vs unagented, on the list–not on the list, is just a societal margin given to opinions of people at any given time. It is just a system of separation, of division, and not truly based on anything other than time and place. I doubt Homer had an editorial dept. for his sagas, how about Dumas, Mallory, or Twain? Doubtful.

    I hear and see how most people feel the important need for reviews, blogs, posts, links, spam, pasting, plugging, the list goes on ad finitum–the need for others acceptance and liking of their stuff so they feel they are something. Some could not resist plugging their books even here in this discussion, and that is sad. Some of us, whether we think we “are” something because of our big publishing houses or not, have “dignity”. We also have a “joy” for writing, creating, and storytelling. Sure, you have to market in this day and age to make a buck, and doing it on your own saves money…but watch when and where you do it. Have some self respect, respect for others, an realize that because everyone else does it, does not mean you have to. Most of us learned this early on in life.

    I may be a self published writer, full of rejection letters and emails, with the best thing since the written word, and just can’t get a query letter right. Maybe I want to self publish because the publishing system is flawed and broken. Perhaps my books are B rate and will never amount to much. Maybe tomorrow that agent will call and take me to the top. Maybe I am already there.

    Whatever your story, the issue is that self published authors do not have the respect, the dignity, the value, nor a reputation to earn the eyes and ears of those that hold the keys to where we want to be. So, if everyone would calm down, slow down, get off yourself for a moment, and collectively worked toward changing that—perhaps, just maybe, it will change for the better. Until then, read my new series….blah%&%#@$%blah….ha! Just kidding! Keep writing everyone, that is the most important thing, and do not give up!

    JRJ

  73. Was this blog post self-published? I’m just wondering, because it’s full of typos and grammar/punctuation mistakes.

    • Gav Reads on June 13, 2012 at 11:00 am said:

      I hope it doesn’t as I had it proofed and corrected and a revised was added last night. Can you offer some examples?

      • Since you ask, here are some suggestions for your opening six paragraphs (I don’t intend correcting it all). i fully accept that blog-writing is less formal than book-writing, and I don’t proofread all blogs (my own carries a few errors, I’m sure).

        GAV: “And it doesn’t even need to be as an eBook as physical print-on-demand has gone from strength to strength.”

        CORRECTED: “And it doesn’t even need to be as an eBook, as physical print-on-demand has gone from strength to strength.”

        ======================

        GAV: “And readers are responding to this availability of gatekeeper-free material by supporting those writers with sales. Though as we saw the other day those sales may not replace a full- or even part-time job.”

        CORRECTED: “And readers are responding to this availability of gatekeeper-free material by supporting those writers with sales. Though as we saw the other day, those sales may not replace a full- or even part-time job.”

        ======================

        GAV: “Not all these reasons are mine but are indicative of the issues.”

        CORRECTED: “Not all these reasons are my own, but they are indicative of the issues.”

        ======================

        GAV: “I’m going to use ‘we’ as I think this list is more universal than personal though I’m sure people will let me know if it’s just me.”

        CORRECTED: “I’m going to use ‘we’, as I think this list is more universal than personal – though I’m sure people will let me know if it’s just me.”

        ======================

        • For American punctuation, the comma after “we” goes inside the quotation marks. (For UK punctuation, it goes outside — but you should be using single-quotes first, and double-quotes inside.)
          ;)

          (Murphy’s Law of Typo-Correcting: you WILL make a typo yourself.)

          • A.Bet,

            The “single vs. double quotes” thing is contentious. The main thing is to be consistent within the work. See http://www.informatics.sussex.ac.uk/department/docs/punctuation/node30.html

          • Continued …

            From that article:

            ================================
            Since an apostrophe is usually indistinguishable from a closing quote mark, the reader may be momentarily misled into thinking that she has come to the end of the quotation when she has not. This is one reason why I personally prefer to use double quotes:

            Stalin announced defiantly “Hitler’s invasion of Russia will be no more successful than Napoleon’s was.”

            With double quotes, the problem goes away.
            ================================

      • Having read your review of Jason Webster’s “A Death in Valencia”, it’s pretty clear that self-published critics could also benefit from the services of proof readers and copy editors:

        See: http://gavreads.co.uk/2012/06/review-a-death-in-valencia-by-jason-webster-chatto-windus/

        • Whilst I agree that Gav’s use of language and grammar leave a little to be desired, bear in mind that he is reviewing for free. A football fan need not be player of skill to crticise a match.

          • That’s true enough, KJ. Thanks.

          • Just re-read what I wrote:

            “A football fan need not be player of skill to crticise a match.”

            How very Confucius of me – it’s almost fortune-cookie worthy!

          • I think that the mistake I made was to be mildly offended by the double standards operating between “We Reviewers”, which includes the self-published and suggests a superior class of sentient being, and the notion of “Real Writers”, which excludes self-published proles like me.

            Like Dobby the house elf, I shall now have to go and iron my hands. :)

  74. This has certainly got people talking. I hope you don’t mind, I’ve cited your post in my take on the debate at The Cynical Self-publisher (http://thecynicalselfpublisher.blogspot.co.uk/2012/06/read-me-or-why-do-self-published.html) where I’ve argued that we indies would do much better to campaign not for bloggers (or the press) to review us but for the cultural media to pay more attention to self-publishing as a source of serious art. I also argued that if we really want a blogger to review us we should first become part of its community, and if we are unable to become part of its community probably a review from it will not be beneficial.

  75. There’s been a lot on the net of late regarding indie authors behaving badly and sure, there are some rather infamous temper tantrums and snit fits preserved in all their glory on the web. But that doesn’t mean all indie authors are like that. By that logic, we might assume after Mel Gibson’s arrest a few years back that all actors are insensitive and foul mouthed drunks.

    Unfortunately, it’s the loudest shouters who get heard.

    There are plenty of polite, professional writers working as hard as they can to pursue publication and get their work in the hands of readers. Some of us even travel both roads–the indie/self road and the traditional agent/publisher road. We’ve been known to meticulously research bloggers and reviewers and then politely send a query request for reviews.

    I’ll go even further and say I only want to have my work read by reviewers who can write critical reviews. If there’s no range in review opinions, than how can a potential reader know what a 4 or 5-star review means? (It’s like the Garrison Keillor line–where all the women are good looking and all the children are above average.–that may not be the exact quote, but you get the idea.)

    It’s frustrating to know that some reviewers won’t even consider reviewing my book, even if they read the genre, simply because it’s self-published. That hurts my chances of discovery, but that’s the way it is. I’m not going to go rend my garments or bad-mouth said reviewers. It’s their choice and I’m in a position where I’m asking for someone’s time.

    I approach writing professionally. I respect the craft, the story, and the reader. I have an agent who is working hard to sell one of my novels. I elected to independently publish a different one for a set of very specific reasons. I don’t have temper tantrums–at least not since I was 6, and while what I write might not be everyone’s cup of tea, it’s been vetted by two critique groups, my agent, and a freelance editor. I promise it won’t make anyone’s eyeballs bleed.

    So does that make me an outlier or (and this is what I believe) are folks making blanket assumptions based on a few dramatic examples?

  76. Pingback: Link: 7 signs you are ready to self-publish (a checklist) by Damien G. Walter | Gav Reads

  77. Good discussion here-many excellent points and glad to contribute here. My background- about 30+ years senior global management/consulting experience and during past 10 years focused on entrepreneurship, working with many new ventures, often serving as CEO, securing funding, and helping educate entrepreneurs. Also since 2002 have contributed as Adjunct Professor at several leading universities and now teach at R.H. Smith School of Business in the University of Maryland.
    I have always been writing and in 2011 published first entrepreneurship/management book. Working through my contacts, had some traditional publisher/agent discussions but same issues as all with long delays- I set up publishing company, used Createspace and released the first of a planned 3 book “Worm On A Chopsick: entrepreneurship series “Understanding Today’s Entrepreneurial Age: Directions, Strategies, Management Perspectives”. Funny title, catchy cover art, initial book selected as recommended reading for company officers/directors by Boards & Directors magazine. Slow sales and I have the next book planned for release by end of year-may use Createspace or Lightning Source, and also working on Kindle new ventures book. Made mistakes but learning each day
    Re DD comments about “wearing three or four different hats” really summarizes what writing is all about and see many parallels to new venture business. I see several new ventures/business plans weekly. Founder may be a technical guru, have a great idea, but to do all needed to move this forward founder “must wear many hats”- marketing, investor presentations, financial, management/leadership and so on. These are often outside the founder’s “comfort zone.” While often he will argue that if he has funds he will ‘hire’ these skills, unfortunately tough case to make in today’s market. My counsel in most of these situations, is “don’t quit your day job” unless you can develop or attract the needed resources I mentioned.
    Replace the word “founder” with “writer” in the above and you see what is needed. Achieving success, however you define it, really demands moving from position as “writer” to “entrepreneur” (or “infopreneur” the new term I see now). That is tough for many writers, just as it is for a technical guru who really is more comfortable working in a laboratory than making an investor presentation. The “don’t quit your day job” really applies to both.
    Summary – the independent publishing sector is here to stay, it will achieve explosive growth as the market matures, and I intend to use, support and promote this channel however and wherever I can. Writers do have to learn new skills-marketing, promotion, financial and so on- to survive here however. And these skills can be learned. Just as technical guru seeking to start their own business has to adapt in ways that may be uncomfortable, writers must do the same. Keep writing and continue to expand your skills – that I believe is the formula to succeed in today’s market.
    Email Paul@paulbsilverman.com
    Blog http://paulbsilverman.com/blog/
    Twitter: @globalbizmentor

  78. I get it. I really do. As one of my friends who has never read my book (or its reviews) put it, “I have enough published books to read.” We are an over-sensitive lot, and may come back with a virtual axe or something if we don’t like what you have to say. Besides, with no gatekeepers most self-published stuff is really, really bad. At least you know with traditionally published books that probably more than one person saw and worked on the thing before it made it to the public. Also if you do one, word will get out and the next thing you know you will be flooded and facing a virtual slush-pile.

    However, here a couple of reasons why you might consider, now and then, publishing a review of a self-published novel:

    1. You are more interested in serious fiction than in “hits” and you might actually discover something really good. (It’s not that difficult for a discerning reader to find the good stuff even if most SP is dross.)

    2. You might get more hits than you think. There are a lot self-published writers out there. Many of them are involved in social network sites like Authonomy, You Write On etc. Some may have thousands of facebook “friends” who they know from such sites. I’m willing to bet you’ve received a respectable number of hits on this post. How do you think all those new visitors found you?

    3. More and more blogs are starting to look at SP fiction so it keeps you ahead of the curve.

    4. By not taking a chance on SP fiction, you are basically admitting that without somebody else’s imprimatur you aren’t able to judge. You know you are better than that.

    5. Because bloggers are self-publishers and this isn’t The London Review of Books. There are self-published books (not mine, unfortunately) that have sold more copies than this blog will ever reach.

  79. http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/?p=7124l provides a healthy insight to the ‘superior ‘ trad pblishers.

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  82. Oh, please.
    Try to keep in mind that you are a self-published reviewer.

    Your main value is to indie authors.
    Who are actually quite possibly capable of generating more hits for you than if you reviewed a book by Steven King.

    If you have to have somebody else telling you which books are worthwhile, what exactly is your value to writers, readers, or anybody?

    Just a few thoughts on your thoughts here.

  83. Now for a reader’s perspective.

    Regardless of intent, the original post enumerates with relative succinctness the reasons that the media (however construed) keep pushing the same thing over and over again. I’ve watched this over thirty years as an eyewitness, and in the critical and historical literature have watched it play out over centuries. Publishers want to make money, so they chase the sure thing. As the stakes get higher (see “film industry”) the product becomes more and more homogeneous.

    Furthermore, reviewers and critics operate not only from conscious esthetic criteria but from their own prejudices. Witness the recent flaps in “high-culture” circles about the innate inferiority of novels written by women (thank you, V. S. Naipaul) and the repeated snide dismissal of books based upon their genre. Genre classification is also a matter of opinion, and a sidelong way to confer or withhold literary cachet.

    Recently I’ve been reading a lot of steampunk, and I started wondering why I hadn’t seen more work in that genre by and about the African diaspora. So I searched on “Afrocentric steampunk” and turned up several marvelous blogs, and thence (because I cannot resist a hyperlink) eventually I found the body of work I was looking for. But it wasn’t review sites that got me there; it was my own search.

    Do I suspect bias in the reviewers who never mentioned this stuff?

    Given that most of the review bloggers I’ve encountered appear to be white (given their concerns and implied literary canon), the clear answer is yes.

  84. I recently started a book blog and write and review YA fantasy. I specify in my submission guidelines that I do not accept self-published books for review because I feared that doing so would unlock the floodgates and it would be difficult to vet and turn authors down directly. I myself might be a self-published author someday and I don’t want to be hypocritical, but the point of my blog is to build an audience, and I just don’t think teens are super into self-published works yet. That said, I bought my first self-published ebook the other day because the synopsis was just THAT good and I told the author I will be reviewing it for her, because she is part of a writers group that I am in and I want to be supportive. Here’s hoping I genuinely like the book…

  85. You’re going to see a lot more trade-published authors releasing new titles themselves – either standalone novels, or as extensions or prequels to previously-published series. Once an author gains a bit of name recognition from trade publishing, the lure of self-pub with those 70% royalties can’t be ignored. There are also many authors who have had to change their names after their publisher killed off a series before publishing the whole thing. Expect many of those missing books to appear too.

    So what’s my point? In the near future it’s going to be harder and harder to draw a line and stick self-pub on one side and trade pub on the other. Reviewers will probably have to use the ‘do I know who this is?’ question to judge potential candidates.

  86. There’s certainly a great deal to know about this issue. I love all the points you made.

  87. Pingback: Novel Writing: Characters, First/Third Person, Slang, Adaptation, Self Publishing | Bang2Write

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  89. This reminds me of an old tale:

    God was standing at the door of a church. A guy walked to him and said, ‘can I go in?’ God said, ‘No!’ A few seconds later a group of people showed up and walked right in. They guy walked up to God and said, ‘Can I go in now?’ God said, ‘No!’ Another couple showed up a few moments later and walked in. The guy walked up to God again and said, ‘Why can’t I go in, but everyone else gets to do it?’ God said, ‘They don’t ask for permission, they just do it.’

    Times change, technology changes and attitudes change. Those who are clinging on to this archaic mentality that authors must seek ‘permission’ to get published are no different than the ones who thought horse and carriage will survive the automobile.

    I’m a self-published children’s author. Could I have gone through a publishing house for it? Yes, what I have written and illustrated is comparable to its well-known peers. Should I have done it? No, not really. If the quality is there it will get recognized. It might take longer, but readers have the last say. I would like to get my book reviewed, but if someone thinks it’s not worthy simply because it hasn’t gone through a fogy gatekeeper, so be it. In the end the book will speak for itself.

    Honestly having to get filtered by a publishing house is no different than dressed-up censorship.

    • Vince Vawter on June 24, 2012 at 7:38 pm said:

      A valid insight, Robyn. Might you try going through a traditional publisher your next time around? My agent sold my first YA novel to a Big Six publisher, but I vowed to self publish if I had to. Thank goodness I didn’t have to because my agent and then the eventual editor improved my book immensely. This has been an interesting dialogue for the past two weeks, but I always remind myself that what’s important is the writing. All the rest will figure itself out.

    • If your book has gone through some sort of established editorial process I as a reviewer can be reasonably confident that someone knowledgable sees merit in it. I may still disagree, I frequently do, but the odds of your book being worth my time have improved. How is that censorship?
      Without that editorial process you need to find other ways to convince me you can write an interesting story, in coherent prose. That can work in various ways as Gav explains but from my point of view some are:
      I previously read something, not necessarily other fiction, by you that piqued my interest.(Note that idiotic blog comments can put me off your fiction too.)
      I have heard about you from reviewers or readers whose judgements I am familiar with, even those I may disagree with.
      You have gone through that editorial process in the past with other works.
      There may be other ways but these are some of the filters I and most readers or reviewers have to use for any book. If you see that as censorship, I am unlikely to consider your book to have the level of literary intelligence I demand.

      • I’m not sure where this notion of not going through an editorial process comes from. Serious authors who decide to self-publish hire editors and work closely with them on their manuscripts. If you are referring to someone who has worked at a well-known publishing house then that’s a different story.

        If you are only willing to review material that other people have gone through and filtered then you’re just not willing to get out of your comfort zone.

        Considering the ‘level of literary intelligence’ you demand I am surprised that you cannot maintain decorum in your conversation, e.g. calling someone’s comment idiotic when it’s possibly different from your views.

  90. I’m not anti self published, but if I don’t know who you are then I don’t know if you are someone who would go to the trouble of getting decent editorial support and a proper proof reader (not just your mate Dave). If we’ve talked on twitter or fb I may actually ask to see it, that is entirely different, I like you, if I enjoy conversing with you then my instincts may tell me i’d like your writing too, but if you cold sell me your MS to review…. sorry, my time is limited, the books are many and I have no reason to believe you are competent yet alone entertaining. So I support self publishing, but I only support the people who go to the trouble of seeking and if necessary paying for professional guidance and support to put out a quality product. Be under no illusion writerly types, the people who pay for your books don’t care that you gave blood, sweat, tears and the best years of your marriage to this, your precious baby. This is a product and we have every right to expect some quality control.
    So I applaud the challenge to traditional gatekeepers, but remember the value they have and that something needs to replace them if you choose an alternate route.

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  92. Hmmm. Methinks some reviewers might, in the future, find themselves out of a hobby. Or even a jobby…

    On a more serious note, this trending view – that to self-pub means you were probably rejected by a major publishing house, is a little disturbing. What if you’ve rejected a major publishing house? Does your work automatically shift from ‘publishable’ to ‘suckable’?

    Or does it mean – oh dear god no! – that TPHs are no longer the Holy Grail for an increasing number of writers? Scary times ahead, I guess.

  93. I began studying the ebook market in earnest after I produced a first draft novel last October. Since, I have been editing, studying and reading full time twelve hour days. During that time I’ve read about 800-1000 ‘first few pages’ of novel previews on Amazon. Ninety percent, I stop reading after the first page around 90%. This may be a new genre in fact: Shock Novels. I’m shocked that you would present this to the public with your name attached, I’m shocked that you think you’re a writer and don’t know how to operate spell check, I’m shocked…. etc. My belief is that a psychological manifestation is the main proponent in this wave of ebooks and other produced works such as ‘photography’ – homo sapiens are becoming a clinically deluded, narcissistic species of technobot monkeys with alphabetic generators and image creating digital machines. That in itself is a more interesting premise for a story than most of what I’ve seen lately. Go ahead dear, run with it… I got a million of ‘em.

  94. Wow! If anything, this post has attracted a lot of attention. I am a self published author who has ben working hard at promoting my recent release, The Brotherhood Of Piaxia, via book bloggers such as yourself. I can think of no other tool to promote my book and get the word out that would not require a significant cash outlay on my part. To date, I have probably reviewed almost thirty-five hundred blog sites to determine whether they review my genre, consider self published, will accept only an ebook (Many want hard copy only. On that one the world has changed) and are open to requests. Understand I tried to examine only bloggers who I felt might meet those criteria. The result was an approximate one in four ratio of bloggers where I could go ahead and send my request, doing my best to meet there request rules. Of the nearly eight hundred requests sent out, the percentage of those accepting was even worse, a little bit better than one out of nine. My current tally is ninety-three promised reviews. This represents less than three percent of all bloggers examined. Throw in the fact that to date, I’ve received only sixteen reviews. Most of these bloggers in possession of my book for a minimum of two months or more. Now I understand some, perhaps many, need more than two months to get through their TBR lists and my novel is still somewhere in their queue, but at the end of the day, there will be bloggers who just never get to it. The reasons will vary, with I think giving up blogging as a big one. I’ve already had a couple inform me of just such a decision. So my expectations on actual reviews received is significantly less, perhaps as much as half. (Or more, heaven forbid.) That will bring me to a grand total of forty-seven reviews when it’s all said and done. That’s less than 1.4% of all bloggers examined. A number of other factors may be attributable. My pitch stunk. The cover didn’t appeal. The short synopsis didn’t hit them. Any one of who knows how many other issues may have been involved but one has to believe that these weren’t the case. That my results were average. The challenges facing authors like me are still pretty tough.

  95. G.E. Johnson on July 2, 2012 at 7:23 pm said:

    Oh goodness! Are authors still responding to posts like this? Oh heck, I may as well join in for the hell of it! I do wonder why indies or self-pubs seek out reviews from reviewers who clearly don’t support us. It makes no sense when I can simply play with the kids who actually enjoy playing with me. Besides, if I REALLY need the validation of literary snobs I can just go to an established name in the review business. Kirkus Indie anyone? Congrats, though, on the amount of traffic you’ve generated to your blog. Brilliant! And now back to the Indie love playground… as you were. :-)

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  97. John Regan on July 16, 2012 at 12:24 pm said:

    I hope you don’t submit self-published works to other reviewers exhibiting the same appalling grammar and syntax as you have demonstrated in this blog. May I point out that a sentence should comprise a subject, a verb and an object?

  98. Pingback: Reasons Why We Reviewers Won’t Read Your Self-Published Book (via @gavreads HT: @sydneywriters) | Literarium – The Blog

  99. As a reviewer and a self-published writer, I appreciate all your points and – I’ve read a few self published novels lately, on a review mine and I’ll review yours basis and, there are undoubtedly some clunkers, some good stuff too, and without the filter of the agent-editor-publisher process, it’s hard to know what’s worth the time and what’s not. On the other hand, a fair percentage of the proper-published paper books I’m sent to review are bloody awful too – often I hate stuff that’s garnering a slew of 5* reviews and love stuff that’s not generally popular. Jane Austen and Proust both self-published, And then there’s Twilight and 50 Shades…

  100. I thoroughly enjoyed this. It’s not my usual bag, I’m really not into werewolves and vampires at all, but thought the quality of the writing really made it shine.

  101. I am a self-publisher, and I understand a lot of what everyone here is saying. I, however, am different in that I usually only read self-pubbed work and little traditionally-pubbed work. I do this mainly because I feel self-pubbed authors get a bad rap for the few that can’t write and complain a lot. Aside from that, I have read lots of traditionally published work in the past that’s tedious, time-consuming, and has/have no real plot and cardboard characters. I have also read self-pubbed work that’s beautifully written (not much, though). I do feel it’s unfair to say self-pubbed work is inferior to traditional work. It’s not. Not always. Ever read Twilight? 50 Shades of Gray? Sure, they’re best-sellers, but they’re not perfect books, either. It really goes to show you that traditional publishers don’t know what will sell and what won’t. It can be junk and sell; it can be great and not sell.

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