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I’m currently participating in a thread over at Goodreads entitled Do self-published ebooks have a bad reputation?

My answer of course was a resounding yes.

Because I can’t be arsed re-writing what I wrote, here’s my response:

“Most definitely. And as you allude to, poorly edited works full grammatical errors is one of the main reasons why. For me also, some of the hissyfits and unprofessional behaviour from some self-published authors ranting at reviewers/readers who did not like their work, have not helped the cause.

No doubt, a lack of editing and proof-reading skills will not help any aspiring author. But are those who push out poorly-presented novels spoiling it for the majority?

In my experience, I would say yes. Obviously I haven’t read every self-pubbed book in the world, but I find that there is a major difference in quality between the authors who have been traditionally pubbed, and trying out self-pubbing, and the authors who have turned to self-publishing just so they can see their book up in lights as it were, due to being rejected by every traditional publisher they’ve subbed to.

If so, what can be done to convince potential readers not to tar all self-published ebooks with the same brush?

Reduce the number of books that are error strewn. Increase the quality of editing, heck perhaps even have some kind of accreditation system where the reader knows that if a self-pubbed book has a seal on it that denotes quality editing, then the worst they can expect is to not like the actual story. I hasten to add that the seal of approval would not necessarily be given by a review site. I’m thinking something like The Self-Publishing Standards Authority. I just totally made that up, but you get my point.”

What do you guys think of that idea? Having a seal of approval from an official body that the self-pubbed book that you’re about to read, adheres to a basic standard of quality, e.g. decent formatting, professionally edited, minimal spelling and grammatical errors etc?

What would that body look like? Who would you prefer to run such an organisation? Reviewers? A panel made up of successful self-published authors, reviewers, editors etc? How would it be funded? And lastly, do you actually give a shit whether a self-pubbed book is well-edited anyway?


  • If I could actually trust such a body? Yes, I’d be more inclined to try books coming from said body. Perhaps it could be funded something like RWA or MWA-the funding coming from members or something, I dunno.

    But I’d definitely be more inclined to try books that I knew had gone through some sort of basic vetting process.

    As it is, as far as self pubbed goes, I generally only buy the books by authors I know or by those who are already published in the mainstream arena. They tend to get the basics of publishing-editing by somebody other than themselves, quality control, etc.

    I’ve bought maybe four self pubbed books that didn’t fit those standards. And to be honest? I haven’t read them yet.

    I was thinking about trying Beautiful Disaster, was curious about it. But…um. Well. Never mind.


  • Cindy
    March 14
    2:20 pm

    Honestly? I’ve bumped into a number of traditionally published books (and newspapers) that were not edited well, so unless the self-pub is just lit up with problems, I probably won’t even notice.

    In my hometown, I used to edit our “professionally edited newspaper” when I picked it up because I don’t think they even had an editor. Jay Leno could have done a week of headlines out of each issue.


  • We’ve had this discussion on the GR IR fora. I do think it’s a problem, but I’m not sure what the solution is. Certainly I encourage those who ask me about it to go through the publishing process with an established publisher first. I think this would eliminate a lot of problems IF the writer is willing to learn. I’ve been a professional writer all my adult life and I learned so much going through the process with LI. It’s an invaluable education. As for formatting and such, that’s simply inexcusable. There’s a ton of information out there about how to do it. Is it PITA to read all 5011 pages of the SW instruction book? Hell yeah, but if you use their service it would behoove you to do so. I know that Apple won’t put a book in its store unless it’s gone through EpubCheck. It doesn’t check for content, but it does for formatting.

    Many people say the market will weed out the bad stuff, but there’s so much game rigging out there I’m not sure this true. Last year when I was on bedrest i bought several dozen self pubbed books. I wanted to check out the market and since they were cheap I went all in. It was bad. It was very bad. Books with numerous high reviews yet I couldn’t get past the first chapter. They’re gaming the system, and it pisses me off because those of us who are serious authors are being tarred with the same brush.


  • susanedits
    March 14
    4:25 pm

    I like the idea, largely because I want to be part of the official body that gives the seal of approval. The only problem is that a basic standard of quality isn’t enough. Plenty of self-published books have been copyedited well enough to get rid of most errors in spelling, grammar, in punctuation, but still have major problems with structure or readability. In other words, many books that earn the seal of approval still won’t be good enough for people to want to read.


  • It’s not a bad idea but it brings up a lot of questions. Who becomes the authority and gives the seal of approval? Is it a group of people like ‘Arch’? They’re everywhere and tend to weasel their way in on things.

    And what about traditional publishers? In the rush to get books out they’re missing a hell of a lot of stuff too. Do we apply a seal of approval to them as well or are they sacrosanct?

    “Many people say the market will weed out the bad stuff, but there’s so much game rigging out there I’m not sure this true.”

    I totally agree with this. There is a hell of a lot of rigging out there. Who do you trust to get it right and in the end to we over-regulate things? I still believe it is up to the individual to make a decision about what they buy and from whom. I’m not necessarily going to believe in a seal of approval from someone else, especially if I read what they’ve approved and its crap or if I suspect they have an agenda/bias.

    Actually, it’s all a bit Big Brother to me and you can never make everyone happy with something like this.


  • willaful
    March 14
    7:30 pm

    I’d expect that getting the seal would cost something and if the author isn’t going to shell out for an editor, I doubt they’d shell out to try to get a seal. And so many seem to be proud of their errors, like it shows what great storytellers they are that they can’t be arsed to spellcheck, or something.

    It matters to me a *lot*. Luckily I have a kindle and both Smashwords and Amazon makes it very easy to read a sample.


  • The majority of the self-pubbed books I’ve bought have been bad to woeful. There are exceptions, but they are usually by authors who are already published by traditional or digital publishers.

    I get the impression a lot of self-published authors don’t understand what it means to be self-employed. It’s pretty much a given that going it on your own requires capital. I don’t think “I can’t afford to pay someone to edit/format/create a cover for my book” justifies putting up shoddy material on Amazon and expecting customers to pay for it.


  • susanedits
    March 15
    5:49 pm

    SarahT: Sometimes they have more elaborate justifications than “I can’t afford it.” For instance, “I had my wife’s friend proofread it, and she’s an English teacher!” Did you know that not all American English teachers understand that commas and periods always go inside the quotes? Sigh.


  • susanedits “Did you know that not all American English teachers understand that commas and periods always go inside the quotes? Sigh.”

    Funny, I just had the mother of all fights with a reader over this one. I’mno grammar girl, but damn,


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