Self-Published Books Deserve Their Bad Rap

Self-Published Books Aren’t Good, Sometimes

This article is more of a warning than anything else. It is written by an author who self-publishes all he writes, so don’t misunderstand the intent here. There is no doubt that indie writers who put out their own books have a reputation for being hard to trust. The public would often rather go for a mass produced volume from one of the big guys, and it shows itself over and over in the sales categories. 

That’s not to say that some self-published stuff doesn’t do well, several have done VERY well (50 Shades of Grey). Mostly though, the big sales are happening through the “big 5” publishers and many of their small to medium-sized counterparts. The reason, sometimes, is because many readers have already rolled the dice, and lost, with self-published books.

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Buying a Book is a Gamble

Let’s face it, buying a book is a commitment. It rarely has anything to do with the money, it’s the time it takes to read the book. How horrible do you feel when you waste a dozen hours reading drivel, hoping it will get better somewhere along the line? There are so many good books out there, it’s a terrible waste of time to read the ones that aren’t.

For this reason, readers go where they’re sure of a quality product. Now, let’s define what that means.

It’s All About the Story, Except the Parts That Aren’t

Here’s a review I read recently on Goodreads:

Seriously in need of a good editor. Reads like a first draft of a halfway decent UF novel. Littered with grammar, punctuation, and spelling errors–not to mention the occasional, but jarring, inconsistency. These are precisely the things a decent editor would find and fix. Needs polish, as a lot of self-published stuff does.

Self-published books often have great stories in them. Authors of all stripes have created amazing characters and taken them on thrilling adventures. That makes a good book, right? For some, yes. However, there are many aspects of book writing which often fall through the cracks in self-publishing. 

  • Developmental Editing: This leads to areas in many self-published books which simply don’t advance the story or should have been reworked. 
  • Line Editing: Most self-published authors are on a very tight budget, and editing is expensive. In some books, it shows. 
  • Formatting: Creating all of the various formats for eBooks can be confusing and challenging on your own. 
  • Proofreading: Nothing is more distracting than misspelled words or obvious punctuation problems. 

There are many other things also, but these are the ones that can really turn a reader off from self-published books. They may have come across books which lacked several of the above, and have never been able to shake the memory. Too many times, the readers see improperly indented paragraphs, chapters which drag on and on, characters who are never fully developed, and to cap it off, the wrong ‘their’ is used several times.

Again, I am not saying the stories aren’t good or that they shouldn’t be read, I’m saying that often times they AREN’T read because of these issues. As authors, we need to make sure our product is polished before we put it out there so that the stigma of self-publishing can slowly be erased. 

Self-Publishing is Awesome, and Indie Authors are Great

No sarcasm in that, it’s true. There is the opportunity now, for everybody who has access to the internet, to publish what they have written. That’s exciting! We have more stories from more worlds than we ever thought possible. It is truly the best time in history to be a writer. 

In order to get the self-published authors read, we have to ensure that the books we are producing are well put together. Don’t be in a hurry to rush things onto your site or onto Amazon, take your time and save up the little chunks of money you’ll need to make it as good as it can be. 

Here are a couple cheaper ways to help, since I know few of us will ever have thousands of dollars to drop on publishing:

  • Beta readers: An absolute must. Use several, four or five if you can, and do multiple rounds. This will allow you to do your own developmental editing, and get advice from actual readers. 
  • Use writing groups for help: They can be found on social media and the internet. There are many that would love to help you polish your manuscript in return for some help on theirs. 
  • Fiverr: Freelancers abound, and are much cheaper than the bigger companies. Use caution, sometimes there is a reason why they’re cheaper. 
  • Take time away: Sometimes we get so wrapped up in our characters and stories, we can’t see the details anymore. Take a couple months away from your book now and then, and come back with a fresh set of eyes. You should do this several times in the course of revisions.

I hope you see this article was not to put down self-publishers, they’re the best! It was simply to encourage you to go through the steps to polish your writing so that it can ultimately be seen by the most people possible. The more it looks and flows like what people are used to, the more it will be picked up by the public. Please sign up below to receive alerts about new books! 

Happy writing!

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