Are Self-published Books a Good Choice for Readers?

When you look for a book, do you want something popular? Do you want to read all the latest and coolest stories? Or do you want something that pushes the boundaries?

If you translated your buying experience with SP (self-published books) versus TP (traditionally-published books), you might say that TP books are like major brands purchased at a national chain store, such as Cheerios. Conversely, SP books are like a farmer’s market bag of organic rolled oats. Both have their benefits and their drawbacks. Which cereal would you choose?

There are several things to consider when choosing whether to pick a TP book or go indie:

Are you a stickler for grammar, punctuation and spelling? You do have a better chance of reading correct writing in a TP book, simply because it’s guaranteed professional. Publishers have editors on staff, SP authors may or may not. If your skin crawls and you develop hives when reading incorrect writing, you may want to go TP.

Do you want to hear the author’s true voice? You may get this in a TP book, but usually you get a filtered version of it. A TP work is edited for correctness, but also to adhere to goals set by the publisher for content, including length. Some authors become outraged by the changes made to their work by editors. If you care about hearing the author’s true voice, you may want to read SP books.

Do you prefer the popular genres that stick to certain subjects, or do you like surprising variety? Marketing within genre guidelines is a big part of the TP industry. With a SP book you get a pure idea that hasn’t been screened or adjusted to fit a certain market section. Many SP books were just too off-genre to get accepted by a TP. Are you still interested in the book if it doesn’t fit the TP market?

Do you consider a popular book to be worth more money than an unknown, or are you a bargain hunter? Though you get the same volume of content, a TP book is priced based on market standards to get the most money out of your pocket possible. They are all priced that way. Conversely the SP market is full of free or nearly-free books. Some authors just want their books read and they definitely aren’t trying to pay marketing departments, managers, agents, or other staff that a publishing company does.

I read it all as long as the synopsis catches my attention. I find I get just as many awesome reads with both types, as well as the same amount of stinkers. What do you choose?


Categories: Reading | Tags: , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

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11 thoughts on “Are Self-published Books a Good Choice for Readers?

  1. I love how you’re gradually becoming an ‘unknowing’ expert in this field. Will definitely be reading backlogs worth of your advice and tips soon, as I’m looking into this area more nowadays. Thanks so much for continuing to share and as always, looking forward to more from you.

  2. I’m just beginning to read some SP works, and I won’t rule out the possibility of publishing my WIPs in that format. Frankly, I wonder how many TP books saw the light of day when they aren’t very good. The reality is most TP books sell very few copies, too.

    This is an intriguing time to be hitting the world as a “new” writer!

  3. The only TP books I read are the ones I get for review. I can’t afford the prices. I’m actually finding that I prefer a lot of SP books because they are different, surprising and interesting. Some are lacking in skill, but I haven’t read a really terrible one for ages. (The Awesome Indies has removed the quality risk for me) The TP ones are really very predictable, they’re all publishing the same thing (whatever they think is fashionable) and they tend to focus on the quality of the prose over the concepts and plot. I prefer the cross genre Indie books to the strict genres I see in TP work. The YA stuff is all very similar and often very dark. Given all that, I think my work belongs in the Indie camp.

    • It’s just as important to know where the books you write belong as it is to know what books you like to read. They might not be the same.

  4. As someone who works for years in a used bookstore, I saw many traditionally published books that were unusual, and didn’t get enough attention–they are out there.

    I also saw lots and lots of self-published books go to the recycling bin after sitting on the shelf for months. WHY ON EARTH can’t more self-publishing authors put as much love and effort into the looks of their book as they do writing it? There are so many forums online! Advertise for a beta reader! Many, many of them will edit for free! If you make a beautiful present for your best friend, do you toss it in a grocery bag and call it good, or do you wrap it with the same amount of care? Do you say “Well, I could have made sure it fit you, but that would mean you were picky!”

    No! No, you don’t! You find the best picture you can! You don’t have to have money–talk to local artists! Go on Deviant Art! There are lovely things you can get very cheaply. Some artists will do a book cover gratis for the advertising of being on a book cover. Pay attention to the typeface! You are describing the look–the feel–of a world you have birthed! Show it respect!

    And yes, it is true editors can change stories and that is ridiculous, but authors can’t see everything. Your eyes autocorrect. You know what it’s supposed to say. Other eyes must read it! Eyes that can find those things! This is your work of love, and it deserves every effort to make it the best! Don’t dismiss that!

    We recently opened our own small book, game, and geekery store, and I began stocking local and independent authors. One of the first covers I opened revealed four errors on the first page. I will not be reordering that book. I feel as if I paid one of those ‘fine art’ artists that delivers a bucket of trash to make a point. I feel as if I paid to inflate an ego that couldn’t be arsed to run the manuscript through spellcheck, let alone ask friends to give honest opinions.

    We have another SP novel that has a lovely, carefully designed cover, and we’ve invited the author to a signing at one of our monthly events. The back looks silly, but the author spent real time and love on this book, and I’m giving him a chance.

    I hope he does well.

    • Thank you for this unique perspective! I get a lot of authors visiting my site but not a lot of bookstore owners. I really value the input from someone who makes their living with books, but has to rely on authors to make great books to sell. I also really enjoyed your shop! Please let me know what you think of the books I gave you yesterday. I’m new to self-publishing and I welcome any constructive criticism.

      • I haven’t yet had a chance to look at your books, so there isn’t a lot of feedback to give except my first impression of a book with jewelry on the cover–non, oh, say, celtic knotwork jewelry–is that it is a traditional romance, very Harlequin. Having not yet read it I have no idea whether that was the impression you intended, though. ^^ I was noticing in particular because of a book I was offered the other day that was a mystery (not so much our genre) that I would have never considered at all due to the HUGE FLAG on the cover! It looked very much like 80’s political science, a genre eyes just glaze over…I’ll actually take a look when I have time, though, thanks for bringing them by!

      • The one with the jewelry is a fantasy with romantic elements. The purple one is a sci-fi. I may change the cover of that one to match a second book I’m writing in that universe, but that won’t happen until the second book is done.
        I’m excited to hear what you think whenever you have the time to get to them! My email is (also on my card).

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