Footnote on Self-Publishing

As a reviewer for several organization publications, I get to see books that come to the light of day from a variety of processes. They range from self-published to those who come from one of the major houses.

Is there a difference in the finished work? The answer is yes.

Most, if not all the self-published books – novels and history/biographies /autobiographies – don’t have the same production values of traditionally published books. No, it is not because they are produced by print-on-demand or in soft cover. It is because they don’t go through the same vetting and editing processes that those published by an independent press or major publisher use.

The production process from Word document to published book has an impact on every aspect of the manuscript. Publishing house editors help the author polish, improve the plot (if it is a novel or the story line) and proof the final work. I’ve had proofreading problems in the past and with the self-published books I’ve seen, its editing and proofreading that are the first giveaways.

There many reasons why the quality of most self-published books don’t have the quality of one that comes from traditional process and are well beyond the scope of this blog, but it boils down to motivation. A press is known by the quality of its work, i.e. the books that it publishes. Produce good books and with decent distribution, they will sell.

Self-publishing houses are factories geared to taking the manuscript from the hands of the author to the market in the least amount of time, at the least cost to the author with the least amount of effort on their part.

Are there good or even great books self-published? Yes. However, in the small sample of ones that have crossed my desk, I have yet to see one.

Why this soliloquy? Recently, I was sent a self-published book to review and it was, to be polite, unreadable. The plot was hard to follow, the writing was awful and it needed a good proofing. A third of the way through it, I put it down.

As an author, I don’t want a bad review out there, so what does one do? I called the editor and he said it was my call. Thanks!!!

For weeks, I stewed on what to do. I’ve been down a similar path when I told Fireship Press to pull Cherubs 2 off the market because it had too many typos.

With this book, the debate in my mind was do I call or send an email with the bad news or just sit on the book. The choice was made because the author sent me an email saying he published new version.

Instinct said call him and during the conversation, he told me that he’d rewritten the work and I agreed to have a look. If it is better, a review is written. If it is still terrible, he gets a call or an email saying the book still isn’t up to snuff.

Is this a knock on self-publishing, no. It just is what it is.

Marc Liebman

May 2018

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