The general view of published versus self-published works is that you can expect a higher calibre of writing and story in traditionally published books. Yet, there are a bunch of hidden gems in the self-published side of things and as anything and everything can be published there could be more of your favourite story type or tropes you like in the self-published realm then in the traditionally published side of things which tries to limit themselves to prevent over saturation.
With such a perception, it can be hard to get into reading self-published works. However, I think it’s important for readers not to be a traditional published snob. And let’s face it, there are and will be a tonne of self-published books that are not worth the time to read it and readers want to know that what they spend their hard earned money on will be a good book. Yet, I’m sure every reader has read at least one book through the traditionally published way that they can’t understand how it got published. It also seems there are more and more of them being produced by the day. I’ve read a few self-published books in the past year and none of them have blown me away, but I have read a lot worse books in that same year that were traditionally published.
Another hurdle self-publishing has to overcome is viability. It’s hard to find out about self-published works because readers mostly only hear about the traditionally published works, and even then it’s only the books with the highest promotional budgets. It’s unlikely you will find many self-published books in your local library or bookstore, making it hard to find them or find out about them. Not only do you need to find self-published books, you need to know which of these are the best of the best.
That is why reviews are important. Reviews tell other people ‘hey! I read this book you might not have known about and this is what I think!’ Reviews help give the book visibility.
Yet, I find it hard to review self-published books as critically because I want to give the author a pat on the back and say good job. It’s not as hard for me to say my feelings about traditionally published works because there are so many people in the process of publishing it that the burden of producing a good book is on more then just the author because there are more checks and balances with editors and the like then there are (generally speaking, though not always) in the realm of self-publishing. The result is, I want to be nicer to self published authors and give them more leniency.
But I want my reviews to be critical and helpful and while I would never attack any author personally, by artificially inflating my ratings or my reviews because a book is self-published is not going to help the author get better or anyone who reads my reviews a good sense of my true feelings for the book. It makes it harder to separate out the good from the bad which is part of why I write reviews, to be informative and help people decide if they want to read a book I have read.
This is only the beginning of the challenges that face self-published authors and the readers that want to support them. There are many, many others. Overall, I think my take home message for this post is, don’t be afraid to read self-published works and don’t be afraid to review them critically. Most good authors realize this is part of publishing and any visibility is generally better then none.