I don’t like self-published books. For the purposes of this post, I’m talking about fiction.
Don’t get me wrong. I want their authors to succeed, I really do, but I have yet to read a self-published book that I didn’t struggle to finish… if I even got that far. Often the ideas are good but when it comes to execution, something is lacking. Rambling beginnings, cardboard cutout characters (especially heroines), and listless prose are some of the ubiquitous problems I have found. I don’t mean to sound prejudiced here. I don’t want to sound like I expect all self-published authors to fail; I would love very much to fall in love with one of their books. However, this doesn’t look like it’s going to happen.
Some of these books have been professionally edited and I wonder if the authors really got their money’s worth. Perhaps they chose the editor unwisely or, if they chose well, the author might be at fault for not taking the editorial advice the way the editor had intended. Maybe the author did her best with the advice and talent she was given. Who knows?
(Edit: What I’m not saying here is to take every piece of advice as gospel, especially when it comes to suggested solutions. It also helps to get a second opinion, perhaps even more. If a number of readers pick up the same problem, then you should really consider fixing that part. However, keep in mind that if you have paid a professional editor, then you should carefully weigh his opinions and decide what is appropriate for your book. I hope that makes things clearer. In any case, if you choose to take the advice, it’s often better to rewrite the work yourself, rather than your editor. That way your voice and characters will remain intact.)
The problem with self-publishing is that the companies creating these books don’t take part in quality control and this means that a lot of crap gets through. The sad thing for many of these authors is this: some books are just not ready to be published. I’m sure that in the right hands self-publishing can be a powerful tool to showcase a skilled, formerly unknown author’s work and bring it directly to readers. I just have yet to see this.
So this is what I ask of authors intending to self-publish: get your work critiqued by other writers, pay an editor to help you improve your work (and do your damnedest to do the advice justice), don’t jump the gun and publish before your book is ready and PLEASE don’t become defensive when other writers are wary of your work. They have every right to be. For every decent self-published book out there, a sea of crap surrounds it. Don’t be part of that sea.
All of the above is my own opinion. I am an extremely difficult reader to please, with tastes that may be wildly different from most readers of adult fiction, especially regarding pace, writing style and character development. Do, however, keep in mind that other readers may be as critical as I am and you are competing with many other forms of entertainment that tug at a reader’s consciousness. Your book must be as good, if not better, than most traditionally published novels out there in order to have a shot.