Last Updated on August 7, 2020 by ThoughtsStained
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:
Should Reviewers Go Easier on Self-Published Authors?
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.
I completely agree! A book is a book is a book. I went through a period before I really jumped back in my blog where I was reading a lot of self-published books. Not all of them were good, but some of them were and I have a couple in hardcopy to further support the author. Self-publishing is a great venue to take greater control of your publishing journey, but I don’t think it automatically qualifies for special treatment. … I also really appreciated how well-thought-out this post is and how compassionately it’s written. I’m all fire and brimstone about my opinions most the time and I’d like to emulate your temperament a little more on hot topics like this! <3
Nicole Evans says
Amber, your comment made my DAY, holy shit. Thank you so much!!
I agree (obviously, since you’re agreeing with what I already wrote, but here we are :P)! Of course I’ve read self-published books that I haven’t been a fan of, but I’ve read plenty of traditionally published books that are the same way, of course.
Thank you! I can definitely be fire and brimstone, too (and I like how you described that), but I really appreciate that! <3 <3
Davida Chazan says
I agree. Self published authors should do everything they can (hire an editor, get beta readers, work with a writing group, hire a graphic artist for the cover art, etc.) to make sure that they’re giving us the best work they can offer. I’ve seen authors who self publish where they’ve obviously been very lazy about putting out a polished, final product, and they shouldn’t be praised for doing that. On the other hand, I know many self publishing authors who have gotten on my “best of” lists for the years I’ve read their books!
Nicole Evans says
I definitely agree, it’s in any author’s best interest to make sure they put their best work out there, but having that self-published label shouldn’t automatically make someone assume it’s going to be a bad book! And I’m so glad you’ve found some you’ve loved!
Davida Chazan says
I just finished a book by an old friend of mine from High School. I was sure it was going to be a dud, but OH! It was really good! (I should have known better. He’s made a career writing for Hollywood and now I see he’s won several awards for his screenplays.) I’m kind of surprised he went the self-publishing route, though. And he did it bare-bones. Only available on Amazon!
Realms of My Mind says
Great post Nicole! And I agree, self-published shouldn’t get “easier” reviews. It’s insulting to the authors to say you won’t hold them to the same standards as their traditionally published peers. That said, I do find myself sometimes (not always) couching my criticism a little more softly. I think it comes from a place of feeling like self-published authors are a little more personally invested in their book babies because they don’t have the distancing mechanism of a publishing team and are more likely to seek out reviews of their books. I never tag authors in bad reviews but there’s always a worry somehow a self-published author will find the review, and I don’t want to look like a jerk. This worry might be completely unfounded, but it’s what has gotten stuck in my head!
Nicole Evans says
Oh, I definitely feel you on this! I have found myself adding the caveats of, “if I didn’t like this book, here is why you might like it,” on self-published books that I negatively review, but almost never do that with traditionally published books, so that is something I personally need to work on!
Dani @ Literary Lion says
I’ve been pleasantly surprised by reading everyone’s answers to my question this month! Self-publishing has the image it deserves now in the eyes of many bloggers.
I agree with your point of view completely. I had no idea there was a reading challenge that supported self-published books (I guess I timed my question rather well). I already have a TBR set up this year but maybe next year I’ll look into reading more self-published works. I have deeply loved a few of them.
Nicole Evans says
Yes, when I look through some posts, I was so excited to see how many people are actually respecting self-published work!
There is! You should definitely join in next year, I know we would love to have you. 😀
Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction says
I definitely agree that self-pubbed books should be held to the same standards as any other book. There are plenty of self-publishing authors who put in the work to make their book the best it can be, and I pretty much expect that.
Nicole Evans says
Exactly! I can tell if you didn’t care at all and just wanted to be published and I want to respect the work that self-pubbed authors who DO put in the work do by holding them to the same standard I would with any traditionally published book!