Is It Fair To Judge Self-Published Books?

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Let’s be honest: most of us have probably judged self-published books at one point or another. I know personally before I started blogging, I had never read a self-published book because I thought the vast majority were going to be terribly written and not worth my time. After all, if it was really a good book, it would’ve been published by a big publisher, right? Well, no. But I didn’t know that.

Is it fair to judge self-published books and authors like this? Is it fair to assume that because a book is self-published that it’s going to be of a lesser quality than a book that’s been published by a big publisher like Harper Collins?

I think in some ways, yes. I hate to admit it, but there are some ways that self-published books are generally not quite as good as traditionally published ones. It’s not necessarily that the author isn’t good at what they do. And it doesn’t necessarily mean the book isn’t worth reading. But self-published authors often lack resources. They may not have a professional cover designer or editors or other people who can help fine-tune their work. Honestly, how many errors have you found in self-published books? I know I’ve found my fair share of them.

There is also the issue that literally anyone can self-publish. So yes, there can be some truly awful books out there that have been self-published because they couldn’t be traditionally published. This is luckily not something I’ve come across, but I’m sure it does happen.

But I don’t think it’s fair to write off every self-published book just because it’s self-published. When I started blogging, I started receiving a lot of review requests from indie and self-published authors so I started actually reading these books and I have found some really great books this way. C.E. Wilson is a self-published author whose books I really enjoy (although they do sometimes fall prey to errors). Other books that were self-published that I thoroughly enjoyed include The Oleah Chronicles by Michelle Johnson and Just a Few Inches by Tara St. Pierre. (EDIT: How in God’s name did I forget to mention The Edge of Juniper by Lora Richardson?! One of my favorite reads this year! Shame on me.) So it’s definitely not true that every self-published book is terrible.

Why would someone self-publish if they could, presumably, get their book picked up by a publisher and get all the benefits of traditional publishing? Often times, authors want to keep complete control over their book. Once you sign a contract with a publisher, it’s no longer completely yours. Other people have an influence on it and you may have to make changes or do things with your book that you may not want to do. If that’s something you really don’t want to have to put up with, self-publishing is a great option for you. You can still publish your work but don’t have to let other people tell you what to do with it.

Authors may also want to work at their own pace without feeling pressure from deadlines. Publishers can impose really stressful deadlines on authors and if you don’t work well under pressure or time constraints, or you just want to take your time without feeling like you have to write at a certain pace, it may make more sense to just publish your book(s) on your own.

So is it fair to judge self-published books? Maybe to some extent, but I don’t think readers should write-off these books as poor quality or a waste of time. There are a lot of self-published books out there that are great stories waiting to be discovered.

What do you think? Do you judge self-published books? Are you a fan of them? Let me know!


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32 thoughts on “Is It Fair To Judge Self-Published Books?

  1. I haven’t read a great deal of self-published books, but I will say that everyone has to start somewhere. Not everyone can land a book deal seemingly overnight. I really admire those who self-publish; to me, it often shows they have real passion and initiative. (Granted, some self-published authors may have no business writing a book in the first place!) So I keep these things in mind on the rare occasions that I read a self-published work.

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  2. I think for me it’s definitely the lack of professional editing. I haven’t read a great deal of self published books and I have nothing against them, the traditional route is so difficult and at least it gives people an honest chance. However the common errors that an editor would have picked up on tend to ruin the reading experience.

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    • I can understand that 100%. Errors are probably the main reason I don’t read more self-published books. I understand not wanting to pay an editor, but I think even just having a family member or a friend or someone look through for errors could be helpful in getting rid of some of them.

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  3. I have to admit I carried the same misconceptions you did about self-published books. Sure, there are bad ones, but there’s also perfectly good books out there by indie authors. I do notice that the lack of resources put them behind on such a competitive industry, and for that same reason I feel like, as a blogger, I can do something to help them out. That’s why I accept self-published authors’ review request (if the book interests me, of course). I’ve seen many review policies that state they won’t accept them, and I understand that’s a personal choice, but I couldn’t do that. Nowadays, when I get a review request, I simply read the blurb and don’t pay attention to how it was published. Thanks for bringing up this topic! It’s nice to see how others feel about it 🙂

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    • I do the same! I love being able to help out self-published authors especially since I often get to read an awesome book in the process 🙂 They definitely have a hard time competing with big publishers so if my review can help get word out about their book, I’m more than happy to do it!

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  4. YES TO THIS POST KOURTNI! I think I may be slightly biased considering I read self-published books, but I’ve always said that there are good self-published books out there. YOU JUST HAVE TO LOOK FOR THEM. I think self-publishing gets a lot of flak too since the romance genre dominates that market, but it really isn’t all just romance. The romance authors just get the most hype, tbh. I don’t think that there is anything wrong with self-publishing, readers just have to be willing to give these authors a chance.

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  5. I read and review self published books and some of them are great and some of them are not as great. One thing I have noticed though is when I review a self published book I have a hard time rating it. For example, it might be an amazing example of fantasy, but it definitely has not gone through the same rigorous editing that a big publishing house puts books through, should I hold that against a book. How do rate self published books in comparison to books from big publishing houses?

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    • I have the same problem, actually! It can be difficult when you read and loved the book but did notice errors or other things that could’ve and would’ve been fixed/improved had they been edited and revised by professional editors. I usually mention it in the review, but don’t really factor it into my overall rating unless there were tons and tons of errors.

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    • There are definitely pros and cons to self-publishing, no doubt about it. I think if I were an author my biggest deterrent re: self-publishing would just be knowing that there are a lot of readers who tend to look down on self-pubbed books. It’s unfortunate though because as I mentioned, just because a book is self-published doesn’t mean it isn’t a great book.

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  6. Your post caught my attention. I do judge books in general, I haven’t been one to judge a self published book. I have however found one of my favorite authors, and books with a self published author. Her name is Rhonda Dennis, her first book “Going Home” is so amazing. It is like a classic you can read over and over again. Yet the book is one that just grabs you from page one and you don’t want it to let you go. You fall so in love with the characters, that they feel like they are a part of your family.

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  7. I think this is an interesting question. And my first gut response is yes, it’s absolutely fair to judge, rate, or grade self published books. Just because the book hasn’t been published by a company doesn’t exempt the writer from critique or criticism. Let me be clear, I’m not talking about troll criticism of the “you suck, your book sucks and you shouldn’t have been born” types of criticism/judgement. I’m talking about the more classic type of criticism/judgement. The “I like your story and here’s why.” Or “the story didn’t work for me and here’s why” types of criticism/judgement. Constructive criticism/judgement. But that also puts a burden on those of us reviewing the book. We must be fair and constructive in our responses. If the spelling and word choice stuff takes us out of the story or grammar errors distract us and confuse us, the writer needs to know this in a kind and not attacking-their-person-hood sort of way. That way the writer can learn and grow in their writing and storytelling.

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    • Oh I absolutely believe that it’s fair to review self-published books! And I hold them to the same standards as any other book, minus the fact that I’m a bit more forgiving when it comes to errors in self-published vs. traditionally published books. A lot of people tend to just write-off ALL self-published books as being bad or poorly written when that’s not the case for a lot of them. A lot of authors just like self-publishing because it lets them have complete control over their work 🙂

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  8. I do agree with you here! There are gems in the self-publishing world (however rare they may be) Mostly it’s hard because like you said literally anyone can do it, so there are a lot of awful ones out there. The best thing is usually to have them vetted by other bloggers first!

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  9. Great post! 🙂 I wrote a discussion about self-pub vs traditional pub months ago, and I was really surprised how many people were against reading indie books. I think you hit the nail on the head. Anyone can publish and because of it, indie authors aren’t respected as authors when some of the good ones are lumped in with people who can’t write a decent sentence, let alone a book. I like a bunch of indie authors that I read all the time and wait for their new releases. I also liked Just a Few Inches and the author is also really nice and great to work with. 🙂

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    • Indie/self-pubbed authors are definitely not respected as much as traditionally published authors are. There’s kind of this idea that they aren’t “real” authors because they haven’t published through a huge publisher. It’s really unfortunate because there are some great ones out there so I wish more people were open to reading self-pubbed books. Especially book bloggers since they can be really helpful when it comes to getting word out about books – but there are soooo many bloggers who won’t read them and don’t accept review requests from them either. To each their own I guess. 😛

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  10. I think the worry people have about self-published books is that it’s difficult to wade through them all to find that ones that are decently written, had an editor, etc. If you purchase a book from a major publishing house you know immediately that the book has had several pairs of eyes on it, gone through revisions, and is grammatically correct. If you purchase a self-published book, you’re taking a chance and hoping for the best.

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    • That’s true! I personally read a lot more reviews for self-published books than for traditionally published ones for this exact reason. The reviews can help you avoid the truly terrible ones. But at the same time, you also risk stumbling across spoilers.

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    • There are some great self-published books out there. I find reading reviews before I decide to read (or not to read) a self-published book to be really helpful in avoiding the truly awful ones out there. But that does put you at risk of accidentally stumbling across spoilers too.

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  11. I actually didn’t know what self-published books were until I started getting into the online book community and have to admit I haven’t read a lot of them. One that I have read a loved was Falling for the Ghost of You by Nicole Christie which probably isn’t the best book but it was cute and I really enjoyed it. But I do agree with a lot of your points. I think people do avoid self-published books/authors more often than not because of being hesitant of the quality of the book. There are some great ones out there but it’s a matter of finding them amongst all of the ones that are not so good. I think rather than judging them I try to see what others think and decide from there whether I want to read the book or not. 😊

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