You may not know this about me, but I am an Indie Authors & Book Blogs Confessions addict. I have been happily addicted for at least a year now. In that time I've seen a LOT of confessions, and there are some confession themes that pop up periodically. Before I go any further, it needs to be pointed out that IABB is not responsible for the content of the confessions. They are 100% anonymous, IABB just provides the platform for their airing. The only confessions that do not ever get posted are the ones that name-drop in a negative way, and sometimes even those slip through the cracks. Interestingly, one of the common confessions themes is "My confessions are always deleted and I've never name-dropped" (somehow the confessions complaining about confessions make it through when the others either don't, or the confessor just missed their posting.)
But let's get this back on track. The confession pictured above features another common theme for confessions. It always elicits some outrage from authors and some agreement from readers, and some ambivalence from Chip. I personally feel that this specific confession is one of the best in this theme because it does not deal in absolutes. Additionally it comes from an author, who has obviously felt the sting of the self-publishing stigma. It's a two part confession so I have a two-part (or more) rant to go with it.
The first part of the confession about authors taking the short way out and not having their books professionally edited giving all self-published authors a bad name is absolutely true. It sucks and it's not fair, but it is true. About 6 years ago, I read a self-published book that was awful. It needed an editor for story flow and plot consistency, and quotation marks, it needed sooooooo many quotation marks. I actually had a pencil with me at all times while reading to try to add the quotation marks where they seemed to belong just so I could make sense of the dialogue that would switch speakers within a single paragraph, with minimal character tags. When I realized that book was self-published, I swore off self-published books. That one book made me decide to not waste my time or money on a whole class of books, because the experience was that bad.
I stuck to my indie book celibacy until about 3 years ago when my sister-in-law told me that one of her cousins had a self-published book available for free on Amazon (because she knew I loved to read.) It was a free book so I 1-clicked it, and because the author is technically family, I decided to give it a shot, but my expectations were way low. Honestly, I was a huge ass in my attitude towards reading that book, like I was doing the author some big favor just by reading it, for free mind you. The book blew me away and redeemed my faith in indie authors, and made me realize that I had been a fool to discount indie books all because of one bad experience. Eventually that book/author led me to the indie community on Facebook which led to Courtney and me starting this blog.
Which leads me to the second part of the confession; bloggers not wanting to take a chance on unknown authors because they've been burned in the past. When Courtney and I started the blog, we wanted to help everyone. We wanted to review every book that was pitched to us. It took maybe a week for us to become overwhelmed with requests, for a brand new blog with no reviews posted. Unfortunately no blogger can help everyone and review every book that they're pitched. There are just not enough hours in the day and way too many authors out there for that to be possible.
So we have to decide which books to accept and which books to decline. We find a strategy that works for us, and every blogger's strategy is different. Heck, my strategy has evolved over time and is nothing like it used to be. Part of that strategy is that an author that I have read and enjoyed before is significantly more likely to have a review request accepted than an author I've never heard of (although I've also been known to tell authors that I didn't deserve an ARC of their upcoming release because I'm a horrible human being who hadn't even finished reading and reviewing their last release yet, which I had also received an ARC for.) I have several authors who's books I enjoy that I have turned down offers from multiple times because I have no idea when I would have time to read the books they are offering (my inability to stick to a TBR doesn't help matters any.) I can understand why this author would feel like bloggers are more hesitant to take a chance on an unknown because of receiving poorly edited books in the past. We can kind of get to a point where we prefer to stick with who we know. It's easier and provides a reduced risk of author backlash.
Now before I get a bunch of indignant comments from authors about self-editing, yes, I'm aware that it is possible for an author to self-edit and even do it effectively. However, authors that can do that are almost as rare as unicorns (but I hear if you drink their blood it can bring you back from the brink of death.) It is fucking hard to read your own writing objectively (I'm pretty sure this whole post is basically the shit after all). It's hard to read your own descriptions and see where they fail to deliver, because you already have the picture in your head without the words. And it's hard to see where your jokes fall flat because they're still fucking hilarious in your own head, you're going to be laughing about them for weeks (I'm already patting myself on the back for this post. Job well done right here.)
I know that hiring an editor is expensive. But they always say you have to spend money to make money, and your book is a product that you are asking people to pay for. You should want it to be the best possible book it can be. But if you really can't afford an editor, self-edit until looking at your manuscript makes you want to puke, and then find a few good beta readers, people who aren't just going to blow smoke up your ass, to help you find the areas where your plot gets lost in excessive descriptions, or where you changed Kate's name to Katie (because they're so close and basically interchangeable, right? NO! They are not! That's like saying that Dr Pepper and Mr Pibb are the same thing. It's basically blasphemy.) The point is that you should have eyes other than your own on your manuscript before you hit publish (even if those eyes belong to your mother because she's always been overly critical of you.)
So to sum up this entire long post, from a reader's perspective, this confessor is spot on. When you publish sub-par books, it contributes to the stigma that already accompanies self-publishing. While you are only responsible for what you produce, you should still want it to be the best it can possibly be. Or you can just not care, but don't be surprised when you hear people saying that they refuse to read indie.