Up for discussion this month is the rocky subject of Self Publishing. I will try and look at this from both the author's and the reviewer's point of view and try and bust some myths while I'm at it. The reason I have decided to tackle this subject today is because a couple of week's ago I went to a workshop or perhaps a more relevant title would be a 'discussion' on Self Publishing. This particular workshop was run by Welsh author Derek Wynford Jones whose works are all self published. You may ask were we getting a biased view? I would say not. There are pros and some, in my opinion, quite big cons to going down this route.
Let's look at reasons why an author would go down this route. Is it by choice? Or, are they forced to take this route? I have reviewed a book for a self published author who deliberately chose this route. His reason was because he wanted sole control of his work. He wanted full editing rights and control over how and where his book was advertised/promoted and sold. On the other hand I know of someone who was fed up with sending works to traditional publishing houses and getting no response that he decided the only way was to self publish.
The authors fortunate enough to be taken on by the publishing houses have all the marketing and sales managed for them. Yes, their work is edited and there may have to be some negotiations along the way but their main focus is on the writing itself. Hopefully, enough books are sold to earn some decent money and keep the royalties rolling in.
To choose to self publish is quite a costly process. You write your book and with software such as Createspace (owned by Amazon) you can create your layout, use graphics to design a cover and even get your ISBN number. Once you have got this far and edited your work you pay a percentage and on top of that, if you choose to print there are additional costs. You can choose to pay for professional services to design the cover and format the book. You decide the price you want to sell your book, you are responsible for marketing your book and deciding where and how you are going to sell your work. Mainstream shops such as Waterstones would charge a lot of money to give you space on their shelves. How do the self published market and sell? Book launches or requesting a review from one of us. Book launches don't come cheap. Added costs such as venue hire, wine and canapes and then the punters need to buy the book! Ask yourself, how likely are you to recoup the outlay for a book launch? To get a review you will be sending your book for free to the reviewer in return for an honest review. It is quite a gamble, and you have to be very serious about your work to undertake all the expense. In my opinion, unless you are very successful then you are paying out for very little in return. Of course, self publishing through Amazon you could just choose to sell your book for Kindle and not print. Amazon is not the only way to self publish but I use this as an example.
Let's now look at self published work vs traditionally published work from a reviewer's perspective. As I mentioned earlier I have reviewed self published work as well as books from publishing houses. I know some reviewers put in their policies that they will not accept self published work. That is a reviewer's choice and there may be valid reasons. I think the biggest risk for a reviewer accepting a self published work is that it hasn't been edited professionally (you don't know that), but it's an assumption so there could be big mistakes, it could be rubbish, the layout could be wrong etc. But I defy you to tell me that you have not read a book that has typographical errors, pages missing, blank pages, or is not particularly well written that has been accepted and printed through a traditional publishing house? I am not talking about proofs or ARC's, I am talking about books that you may have purchased in your regular bookshop.
I think the main worry for a busy reviewer is having to sort the wheat from the chaff, as it were. To self publish you could, technically, print anything. Random numbers or letters and make it into a book, but, realistically you are going to get a story of some sort. However, you may have a higher ratio of 'chaff' shall we say from a self published author. Now, us reviewers do need to take into account, and I know we do, that an author's work has taken a lot of time and input into its making. At the end of the day, who are we to discard a self publisher so readily? Reading is subjective and so is reviewing to a point, although one should be objective in one's approach. Yes, I know we all do that already but I am just making my point.
Time is of the essence and many reviewers state what they will/will not accept for review and this should make it easier for authors/publishers to distinguish their audience.
What are your views about accepting self published works for review? Please comment below if you would like to enter the discussion.