Monday, 5 September 2011

What's your attitude to self-published books?

I finally broke down and bought a Kindle and, even though it's not yet in my possession (isn't it typical? I waited in all morning for it to be delivered and when I finally gave up and left, I came home to one of those 'you were out' messages), book-buying addict that I am, I've already been scouring Amazon for possible purchases.

I've made a deal with myself that I will only use my Kindle for a) books that are 600 pages or more and therefore extremely difficult to carry around in physical form and b) e-books that are very, very cheap. It didn't take me very long to notice that some of the cheapest e-books available on Amazon are the ones which have been published independently. What surprised me was how interested I was in reading some of them.

On the one hand, if a book comes to you from a reputable publisher, you are assured it will be of a certain quality. A team of people whose job it is to put out books will have guided, edited, proof-read and polished a book before it gets into your hands. But I can't say I've thought every published work I've ever read was high quality. And of course I believe that there are talented writers out there who can't get a publishing deal.

I've bought paintings from street artists before. I've been to music gigs for unsigned acts. Most of all, I read countless reviews from people who aren't paid professional critics. But I've yet to buy a self-published book. Part of the reason is the investment - it doesn't take more than a few minutes to read a review or listen to a song, whereas reading a book can take days. As for a painting, one look can tell me if I like it or not. And I can read a review and listen to a song for free; books cost money. 

Which is why e-books and the internet at large, are making such a dramatic difference for self-published authors. If I were to buy a book, the fact that it costs pennies on-line is a huge incentive. Ultimately? My final decision would be based on this: If a reviewer I trusted and knew I shared tastes with recommended such a book, that would be enough to make me give it a try. I think I'm now at the point where I listen to my fellow bloggers more than any 'official' source for books.

What about you? Do you read self-published works and if not, would anything convince you to give them a try?


  1. I read a lot of indie books now I have the Kindle, and some are less than perfect but there are also some absolute gems. If I'm not sure about a book I use the Sample function, gives you a good idea of how well proofed and formatted it has been at least!

  2. I have grown more and more accepting of self-published books as the days go by. Actually scrap that. It's not the self published but that hasn't appealed to me. It's the eBook bit. I don't have a kindle (but I desperately want one) and it's difficult sometimes to get a book in a readable format if you don't have an electronic reader. I try to get PDF sometimes but being a mostly paper reader I tend to print it out and that turns into a monster. I agree with you that there is no real guarantee of quality even for mainstream books these days. I'll just buy whatever I think would be a great read and I also judge by the reviews of trusted bloggers.

  3. When I first got my Kindle, I grabbed a bunch of them because they were only $0.99... but I haven't read most of them yet. I think it's because I hear about traditionally published books much more and so those books get prioritized in my TBR list.

    I'm especially wary when I see only 5-star reviews of a self-published book I've never heard of because then I suspect it might be the author self-promoting herself/himself (reviewing her own book under multiple accounts or just getting family or friends to give glowing reviews).

    The few indies I have read and really enjoyed (Being Jamie Baker by Kelly Oram and the Heavenly series by Jennifer Laurens) have been books that I learned about through other YA book blogs because I trust these reviews more.

  4. Thanks for the recommendations, Sarah. I'll check those books out.

    I'm glad you mentioned that about the review system on Amazon - the fact that someone can just get everyone they know to give them a 5 star review is another reason I'm wary. It's difficult to know how to judge what's worth reading, but somebody has to read them first to do the judging.


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