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“I’d Rather Pour Bleach in My Eyes Than Read a Self-Published Book”, or What You’re Up Against as a Self-Published Author

There’s a fascinating conversation happening over at the Smart Bitches blog that every self-published author should pay attention to. The question was posed to readers, “Do you buy self-published books?” The responses are a great peek into the minds of the reading — and buying — public.

Sadly, the predominant answer seems to be that readers avoid self-published works. Many readers complain of a poor experience with an awful self-published book that’s made them wary of all others. Interestingly, many respondents say they actually check to see who the publisher of a book is before buying so they can steer clear of indie efforts.

“I must confess to a deep prejudice against self-published books… Logically, I know there must be some good stuff out there, but my encounters with the breed have all been negative.”

“I did buy and read (part of) a book that I consider self-published. Boy, was I sorry I’d bought it.”

“I’ve not bought a self-pubbed book mostly because I worry at the quality of the work.”

Of those who say they do buy and read self-published books, most say they do so only when the book is recommended by someone they trust.

“I never buy self-pubbed stuff without some kind of recommendation… There’s just too much crap out there and I don’t want to be the one sorting through it.”

“Mostly the author has to be recommended from reviewers I trust or I have to find a sufficient amount of information to know I’m not wasting my time/money.”

“The only self-published book I bought I bought because I knew the author.”

There are two important lessons here. (Actually, there are a lot more than two in the 100+ comments on the blog but these are the two lessons I really want you to pay attention to.)

You Have to Be Better
1] The market is flooded with self-published books of a truly execrable quality. Readers know it. Reviewers and bloggers know it. My dog knows it. So is the stigma against self-publishing fading as more people do it? No way. If anything, the stigma is only getting stronger as more and more bad books push their way into publication.

If you choose to self-publish, you’ve already got a strike against you in the minds of many readers. That means you’ll need to work twice as hard to prove them wrong. Hone your writing. Check your facts. Invest in professional editing and design. Make sure your book, from beginning to end, can compete against anything on the New York Times bestseller list.

It’s About The Trust Network
2] Book sales come from word of mouth. This is true for all authors, but for self-published authors, getting referrals is do or die. Build your network before you publish and continue to nurture it as you go. If you’ve got a top-quality book (see point #1), your readers will help you spread the word.

What are you doing to make sure your self-published book is an outstanding experience for readers?

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7 Responses to ““I’d Rather Pour Bleach in My Eyes Than Read a Self-Published Book”, or What You’re Up Against as a Self-Published Author”

  1. Wodke Hawkinson Says:

    Ouch! Well, it’s true there are some bad self-published books out there, but then there are some books from traditional publishers that make you wonder if the editor was asleep at the wheel. Still, I understand the concept of the gatekeepers of traditional publishing. That said, I have read some very good self-published books, and some that had respectable content, but were poorly proofread/edited. So I am encouraging all self-published authors to painstakingly proofread their manuscript, and have someone else read it, too. It wouldn’t hurt to go the extra mile and have it professionally edited.
    We are a writing team and each of us strives to proofread our work and revise it. Still, mistakes will slip past.
    When reading a book, I can handle an occasional typo as long as there are not consistent grammatical or spelling errors throughout the book. But many people are not so tolerant.
    For our own works, we naturally desire perfection. It’s easier for us since we have two pairs of eyes looking at our manuscripts. So my advice to any author considering self-publishing is to find at least one other person willing to read your work and give you constructive criticism so you can make it better.

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