I hope you’re all doing well. I know I promised more discussion posts, in my last monthly wrap-up, but I didn’t tell you exactly how I was going to be doing that. Well, I’ve decided to participate in Let’s Talk Bookish, a weekly meme hosted by Rukky @ Eternity Books and Dani @ Literary Lion, “where we discuss certain topics, share our opinions, and spread the love by visiting each other’s posts.”
I didn’t even know this was a thing (which, shows how much I haven’t been paying attention, because I’ve totally read posts from bloggers who participate in this meme before, so apparently I’m just a dingus). But, I am SO excited to take part! My goal is to post whenever the blog schedule allows it and I find the topic really interesting. I already know I plan to join in at least twice this month, so let’s get started!
This week’s topic:
Short answer: no.
But, that’s not a very interesting blog post, so I’ll dive into why!
I think, first of all, you need to make sure you’ve done the work to confront any negative biases you might have, in the wrong assumption that self-published work is of lesser quality than traditional published work. I was definitely in this camp for most of my life, since it had always been framed to me that people only self-published their work when the traditional publishing world rejected them, meaning they weren’t good enough.
*sighs at past me*
Not only is that a bit elitist, but it’s also absolutely false. Yes, you’re going to find books where you question why it was published in the first place or books that are riddled with typos and poor formatting. But, there have definitely been traditionally published books I read where I was floored that it could even be published in the first place, the writing was so poor and the story was so bland (which is, of course, subjective opinion).
I think, by going “easier” on self-published books, you’re giving weight to that assumption that the book is lesser quality automatically from it’s traditionally published peers, simply because it’s been self-published. But self-published doesn’t mean unedited. Self-published doesn’t automatically equate to lesser quality, poor writing, shitty grammar, poor formatting or a bad story. I’ve read some incredible self-published fantasy, ever since I got off my high horse and admitted I was wrong to ever be fooled into thinking it was lesser. Books like:
I also have a lot of self-published books I’m really excited to read (next month, hopefully, for September’s Self-Published Reading Month challenge–but you’ll have to tune it later this month, to see which books those are ;)).
So, I think the more important thing, as a reviewer, is not to view writing your reviews of self-published books by judging them more easily (or even more harshly!) than you would a traditionally published book. I think, no matter how a book is published, you need to focus on writing honest reviews.
Book reviews are subjective in nature. I’ve read and reviewed books I’ve adored that friends found lackluster. I’ve also read books that I was not a fan of that the community has absolutely praised. That’s why it’s so important to remain honest to your true opinion and to also say why. Why did you find the characters to be uncompelling? What about the narrative specifically lost your interest? Telling the why helps your readers to decide whether the books might still be something they want to try–or something they must absolutely avoid.
I also think, when you’re writing a review that critiques or leans more towards the negative side, it’s important to also highlight or remind people that reviews are subjective and others might still enjoy the book you’re bashing, however politely (though, if you’re commenting on problematic issues, then of course you don’t need that caveat, as it’s important to bring problematic books forward and not support them).
So: should you go easier on self-published books? No, I don’t think so. I think you should read and review it as how (I hope) many already judge any book they read: with an open mind, responding with an honest review that acknowledges your subjectivity, isn’t afraid to highlight problematic content, while also recognizing your own biases and life-experiences and how they influence your reading of the book.