Do All Self-Published Books Really Suck?

Newsflash — all self-published books suck. Don’t believe me? Then spend five minutes Googling the concept and you will get hundreds of articles from ‘experts’ who will prove to you that it’s the truth.

Okay, so I guess we should all just give up, run away with our tails tucked between our legs, and go start a McDonald’s franchise then?

I don’t know about you but I despise generalities. I hate broad, sweeping statements that dismiss an entire topic out of hand. So, in this here, uppity blog post I will attempt to address what seem to be the biggest complaints.

Complaints about self-pubbed books

While there seem to be as many complaints about self-pubbed books as Carter’s has little pills, let’s hit the highlights:

Not good quality. This I take to mean not as good as traditionally published books and people say this with a straight face too. As though the fact that a book was published by a traditional publisher makes the book good. I don’t know about you but I’ve read plenty of traditionally published books that were terrible. Where and how a book gets published does not guarantee good quality.

Unprofessional. By whose standards? If the readers complain, then so be it. You should probably listen and possibly unpublish the book if the response is really bad. Of course, it’s a given that you want to do everything you can to write the best story you’re able to write and if you have, then who gives a rat’s ass what your competitors say?

Glutting the market. This one really gets me. Because the market is for readers, not authors. So how can an endless supply of books be bad for the market? It can’t. Although it may be bad for authors and publishers who don’t like competition, I don’t think readers are too upset about it.

Poor formatting, not professionally edited, typos, bad layout, terrible covers – blah, blah, blah. Okay, again, so what? (And by the way, I’ve seen typos in traditionally published books too, so no one is immune. And don’t get me started on some of those ‘professional’ cheesy covers either.) And sure, I’ve seen this in indie books too but the market weeds these products out by refusing to buy.

And just as a side note – Hollywood spends billions of dollars a year producing one stinker after the next. Do you hear actors, producers, or screenwriters complaining? Nope. Instead they have awards. Yup, that’s right awards for the biggest stinkers of them all. That group knows how to close ranks and defend the fortress. Also many many of these really bad movies become cult favorites (Attack of the Killer Tomatoes ring a bell?) Who knows, even if your book sucks it could still gain popularity as a Raspberry of its own.

Anybody can publish – no standards. And who might be the gatekeepers in this little scenario? The traditional publishers? The critics? The trolls who travel review forums to trash the work of others? And again, that anyone can publish is good for writers and readers. A writer gets to test her mettle, possibly fail, and learn new tricks, or God forbid succeed – and readers get unfiltered, non-homogenous stories that they can’t get anywhere else. How is this a bad thing? Except possibly in terms of competition for those who’d prefer to thin the herd.

Indie authors are so pushy. Now I agree that manners and being polite in social discourse is a must – however, when an author approaches a reviewer or promotes her book in another way, she is being the publisher/distributor. Not the author. Of course they want to get their product out in the market and known about and create a buzz. It’s a sales cycle, baby. What salesman isn’t tenacious and persistent? Answer: the one who doesn’t sell anything.

Published too soon. Again by whose standards? I’ve seen authors brag that it took them five years to write a book. As though their book is somehow better than a book by an author who wrote and published in six months. But in the end it’s the reader who decides what book is better. The time it took to write a book is no measurement of its value. Again, if an author published too soon, no need to worry about it, her public will let her know. But making statements like this create an arbitrary that really has nothing to do with the truth.

And too, and this is something people don’t talk about much – in the “Golden Age of Pulp Fiction” those dudes and dudettes were cranking out 4-5 stories a week and being published. They didn’t torment over every word, they didn’t wait for beta readers, or spend months looking for just the right editor. They just wrote stories. And apparently, damn good ones because their stories were everywhere. Even if your story isn’t perfect (and I’ve yet to see one that is) if you entertain the reader and give them what they want – the rest really doesn’t matter, does it?

Productivity over quality. I don’t understand how these two are mutually exclusive. Is it really so impossible to write fast and good? Nora Roberts is very prolific and fast, as are many literary giants and best selling authors. Are they hacks too? And if readers love a writer’s books then that’s the important thing, isn’t it?

The wild wild west of the indie author frontier

Indie authors and indie publishers are forging a new path. And my belief is that this is unsettling the apple cart of the status quo. Could things be better? Sure, but that could be said about any industry or field under the sun. Things can always be better and it’s a great thing to strive for – always.

As an author and a reader, I agree that you should do everything you can to give your readers a topnotch, high-quality product. A story that will wow them and keep them up past their bedtimes reading because they just can’t fucking put it down. So absolutely, get all the professional help you can afford and work that puppy into a thing of wonder.

But don’t let a small budget stop you either. You do the best you can. And on the next one you do better. That’s the cycle. Always improving on the next shot, the next round, the next book.

So, I say self-publish. Take a shot. If nothing else, you’ll learn a lot. And hopefully, there’ll be other writers out there who will give you a hand up. And hopefully you’ll do the same when you’re able.

All self-published books do not suck. All traditionally books are not all wonderful. There’s room for all of us. So keep writing.


Copyright 2015

8 thoughts on “Do All Self-Published Books Really Suck?

    1. Thanks.

      I really don’t know. It seems it has helped some authors and not others.

      Although I have noticed that authors do better when they have a plan. Not just for the writing the book or series but their career path. So, if your goal is to be trad-pubbed, then perhaps you should look at how self-pubbing will move you toward that goal or not – then take the steps that seem most likely to lead you there.

      The one mistake I think a lot of self-pubbed authors make is in not realizing that they are also publishers. It is a different ‘hat’ and once your book is finished then you must take on that hat and viewpoint and act accordingly. That may be the difference.

      Although, I think our focus should be on writing a really good story. At least that is my philosophy, right? Just write the best story you can and take it from there. 😀


      Liked by 1 person

  1. I was just at a writer’s conference where the agents suggested self-publishing for experience, to get the first book out of the way and to create a following. I have tossed a lot of self-pubbed books into the corner of my room. Even traditionally published books can be poorly edited these days.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s interesting that agents would suggest that. Surprises me a little but it might not be bad advice.

      Yeah, I’ve chucked a few self-pubbed books too and trad pubbed books as well. For me, picking up a new book whether self-pubbed or trad-pubbed is a crapshoot. You may love it or you may hate it. Some of it is personal tastes and some of it is craft. Although if the story is compelling I usually forgive an author for missteps and an error here or there. 😀


  2. Interesting post, Annie. Very passionate. Clearly you feel strongly about the subject 🙂 I agree with you – I dislike generalisations too. I formed my opinion, as a reader, from sampling various books. I did find them lacking, by my standards and also in comparison with traditionally published titles. I don’t believe that all self-published books suck – far from it. But I believe that there is enough poor quality among them to give the lot of them a bad name. You know what they say: it only takes one rotten apple to spoil the bunch. People will either generalise – it’s something we do – based on popular opinions, or they’ll do what I did and patiently try some for themselves. Having a bad experience several times will result in generalisation. It’s inevitable.

    Liked by 1 person

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