Will Self-Pub Sales Affect Your Future?

Hocking - My Blood ApprovesDear Rachelle: Could poor self-pubbed Kindle sales affect a writer’s chance of getting an agent in the future? Is a pseudonym safer? Signed, Considering Self Pubbing

Dear Considering:

Yes, if you’ve self-pubbed a book and it sold poorly, it could affect your chance of getting an agent and getting traditionally pubbed in the future.

But of course, there’s the sticky wicket of defining “poor self-pub sales” which might be different depending on who you’re talking to. It used to be that the average self-published book sold 200 copies (or fewer). Nowadays, that’s probably still true, but there are self-published authors selling thousands of books a week, so an average is not only difficult to find but virtually meaningless. I’d say, you’ll only impress someone if you’ve sold several thousand copies of your self-pub book.

There’s also the issue of how anyone will know what your sales are. If your book doesn’t make it into any Amazon rankings, such as the top 20 or top 100 in any category, then you’re just one of the thousands of ho-hum self-pub books, but nobody will know how many you’ve sold.

So if you’re self-publishing in anticipation of later seeking an agent and/or traditional publishing, then yes, I’d recommend a pseudonym. If your book turns out to be a sensation, you can tell prospective agents and publishers about it. If it flops, you can pretend it never existed.

But don’t miss the writing on the wall here. Your self-pub experience can give you some clues about two things:

1. Your ability to reach an audience and get them to buy your books, and
2. Whether readers are enjoying your books or not.

Besides your sales, you have some other clues: Have you received fan mail? What are your reviews and average number of “stars” on Amazon and Goodreads?

Pay attention to what the whole experience is telling you, and try to learn from it as you proceed with your publishing journey. You may need to get better at connecting with readers. You might need to become a better writer before you’re ready for “prime time.”

Or, you may be selling well, getting terrific word-of-mouth and online reviews, and you should keep on doing what you’re doing.

Q4U: Readers, I’m curious. Have you purchased and downloaded any self-pubbed books? Why or why not? If so, what’s your overall impression? Any particularly good recommendations?


Rachelle Gardner

Literary agent at Gardner Literary. Coffee & wine enthusiast (not at the same time) and dark chocolate connoisseur. I've worked in publishing since 1995 and I love talking about books!


  1. Sophie on April 12, 2015 at 10:50 PM

    There are some really amazing self-published books out there. You notice them less than traditionally published books, so when you find them it blows you away. For example, right now I’m eagerly waiting the delivery (it’s expected to arrive tomorrow!) of Christina Pilz’s book Fagin’s Boy, a sequel to Dickens’s Oliver Twist. The quality of the writing is very good, surpassing a lot of traditionally-published books out there. The book also has great reviews from a lot of major book bloggers and, judging by the cover, the author spent a lot of time formatting and designing her book.

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  6. D. A. Casey on August 31, 2011 at 10:02 AM

    Yes, I’ve purchased self-pubbed eBooks. My overall impression is that most are written by semi-literate authors who don’t actually read novels themselves, so they’re unaware of even the basics of storytelling. It’s best to stay clear of most and only buy those books recommended by people you trust.

    I would recommend books written by Nicholson, Mayer, and others previously mentioned above. If you like short stories with a twist ending, I also recommend Karin Cox’s “Cage Life.” http://www.amazon.com/Cage-Life-ebook/dp/B005DC6AHM

  7. Nancy Shoap on August 30, 2011 at 10:35 PM

    I’ve self-published with Xulon Press and was very happy with the help I received through all phases of production. The first story I wrote “With God’s Help” was published in Guideposts exclusive series, “When Miracles Happen.” It featured a little kitten who survived an ordeal only with God’s help, which resulted in healings both physical and spiritual and a gift of new sight for writing. This was the inspiration to write my first book, “His Everyday Promises”, a collection of true accounts experienced in everyday life. Each story shows, as the poem “Footprints in the Sand” illustrates, God is carrying us in our most desperate of times. More information at http://www.hispromises.com

  8. Kathrine Roid on August 30, 2011 at 11:16 AM

    My only experience with self-pubbed authors is a young cyber friend who has no idea what she’s doing and a spammer who left a comment on my post about how to write alien invasion novels that ran so: “Great post, check out my alien invasion novel, [amazon link].” The book linked to had “Createspace” listed as the “publisher” and wasn’t even really an alien invasion novel – I don’t know what he was thinking.

    I’ve not sampled any self-pubbed books, and I’m a little afraid too – my book budget is tight and I trust the traditional market gauntlet’s ability to weed out disappointments.


  9. Catherine Downen on August 30, 2011 at 10:44 AM

    Michael Gallagher has a blog that lists free books for Kindle, and I imagine many of these are self pubbed. The blog is “Free Kindle Books and Tips.” Here is the link: http://fkbt.wordpress.com/

  10. Shawn Bird on August 21, 2011 at 6:11 PM

    One more point: The publishing paradigm is shifting. To me the question of whether self-publishing will hurt your trad publishing aspirations is illogical. Is it even necessary to have a trad publisher? Why do you want one? If you can make more in royalties without them, if your marketing is successful as it is, if you’re selling 30,000 books or more, why do you WANT a trad publisher?

    Is it something programmed into the author brain that says you’re not really successful unless you’ve been signed by Harper and Row, et al? What is success then? I suggest that authors need to re-think their position on this. In the new publishing reality, those trad publishers are in danger of disappearing. You need to consider, “Why do you want to jump onto that sinking ship?”

    Perhaps you’re already more successful than you’re letting yourself believe.

  11. Shawn Bird on August 21, 2011 at 5:40 PM

    My book was accepted by a small press. Unfortunately, before it was published the company closed down. The publisher suggested I should look at self-publishing as an e-book. I debated a bit, then created a publishing house, and released. I am consistently sitting between 5-15% top Kindle ebook sales. The placement number shifts wildly every day, but the “Best seller statistics” are at the bottom of every e-book available on Kindle, visible to all. I do the math myself- dividing the placement by the total books on Kindle, (between 750k and 796k since Grace Awakening was released the end of July).

    I think if you’ve done your homework, have a good product, and are willing to keep up the marketing, e-books are a way to skip a lot of hassle. I like being able to go directly to readers, and I’m thrilled with the ratings and reviews that are showing up for my book. I am responsible for just as much marketing as I’d have been if I was with the original publisher, but I get to keep way more of the royalties this way, and I’m charging far less for the book. Win for me, and win for the readers… ;-P

    I know authors with major awards whose ‘bestseller stats’ and number of reviews are much weaker than Grace’s, so I think I’m on the right track 3 weeks after release. I haven’t even started the major publicity push yet. I’m looking forward to seeing what 3 months and 3 years will bring. It’s a fun adventure.

  12. Bari on August 17, 2011 at 6:11 PM

    Wow! What a topic! As an experienced chef I began the journey of self-publishing my book : Canadian Recipes of the Great White North by Chef Bari
    What a daunting task – after hiring the right professionals to design, spell-check layout my book and advertise, I found out my pocketbook was drying up. I even spent time on Radio Stations and had invites to be a host chef on TV Stations. The most success was without a doubt the exposure on TV. I now sell most of my cookbooks in Europe, like England and believe it or not, Germany. It also has reached Japan and Australia. Because of the flood of cookbooks out there ( which I knew from the beginning) I found out my book was mostly accepted as a Canadian Souvenir; which is good. Would I self-publish again – probably not. But it was fun writing & testing all the recipes. I now have a Facebook page : Canadian Recipes of the Great White North with all the free recipes and tips. Does it mean sales – no but I do sell my book to clients throughout Canada. Chefs across Canada seem to know each other from one place or another. For example – my friend Corbin Tomaszeski of Food TV network worked with us as our apprentice at the Edmonton Petroleum Club. Books like Life is basically if you know someone who knows someone.

  13. Karen Syed on August 17, 2011 at 12:35 PM

    >>Most 99c and $2.99 ebooks are self-pubbed.<<

    This is so not true. There are many books in that price range that are not self-pubbed. Indie presses (companies, not authors calling themselves indie) use these price points.

  14. David Todd on August 17, 2011 at 11:34 AM

    I have NOT downloaded any self-pubbed books, since I don’t own a good device for reading them and don’t want to use my computer for that purpose. I have read quite a few self-published paper books, mainly those of fellow writers group members, and a few others that had been recommended to me. So far, 100 percent of those have had more errors than would be tolerated at a traditional royalty publisher. One writer in my current group had the worst, and bemoaned how the publisher (a vanity press in the worst sense) had done not editing except for back cover copy. I bit my tongue.

  15. Buzz Malone on August 17, 2011 at 11:13 AM

    I self published two dramatic fiction novels this year with local settings in rural Southern Iowa communities. I had intended to use my own marketing skills and my name recognition to sell them. I have established a distribution network of independent businesses in rural communities to sell my books and it is working.

    What troubles me is that it IS working beyond my network. In short, it is working too well for my comfort. People across the country are emailing me to tell me that they enjoy my stories and it makes me think that I have undersold their potential by self publishing for a local market. The other difficulty is that the people who really love my books are middle aged and older. They have no trouble returning to purchase more books for their friends and relatives, but they lack the web savvy to leave very many reviews where I’d like them to or create the internet buzz capable of moving the things forward in a meaningful way beyond their immediate points of contact.

    I have even been commissioned to adapt my latest dramatic fiction release into a play by local business groups. Still, I am forced to wonder where all of this is going and how I can break the constraints of geography. I am actively querying agents and have received some fantastic feedback from the first two, but I have little faith in the process if you haven’t any connections in New York. The third novel is complete now and I my patience to hold on to it is growing thin. The only thing I want to know really is…if a POD book is locally or regionally sold by the author and it does exceedingly well, couldn’t it be considered for national release by a publisher at a later date? Or have I doomed my first two stories to regional obscurity for all eternity?

    There is a lot of really poorly written self published material out there today. There is also some really great stuff out there. I recently read “The Shield That Fell From Heaven” by author William Kerr as a Goodreads first read novel, and I found it to be very well constructed with prose that will strike anyone who enjoys Victorian writing style.

  16. Bob Mayer on August 17, 2011 at 3:50 AM

    I wonder why my email isn’t bursting with inquiries from publishers since I have the opposite problem? #35 besteller on Nook. 12 of the top 1,000 titles on Kindle. The only scifi/fantasy author outselling me in eBooks the last several months has been George RR Martin. Selling well over 2,000 eBooks a day.
    Yet not a peep from NY or foreign publishers. No interest at all.
    My experience was a publisher would drop you in a heartbeat if your mass market sales didn’t cut it, but why isn’t the opposite true: great eBook numbers should equal interest.

    • Keary Taylor on August 17, 2011 at 10:39 AM

      Wow, this is really interesting to read Bob. I’ve often wondered if self-published authors with great e-sales numbers were ever contacted by agents or publishers. My husband asks me all the time why these people aren’t coming to me, and while I’ve sold 30,000 copies of my books in 4 months, I don’t quite have the numbers you to 😉 This really amazes me, you would think publishers would be knocking down your door at the point that you are at now.

      Best of luck though Bob! I wish you continued success and congrats!

    • Ruth Madison on August 18, 2011 at 10:37 AM

      That’s interesting. I’ve heard that writers with those number are being approached. I wonder if you could query some agents just to draw attention to your success?

  17. Vivi Anna on August 17, 2011 at 1:17 AM

    I have bought several self-pubbed books, some were good, some were bad. Just like the books I’ve bought off the shelves in bookstores.

    I like the selection of self-pubbed books because it is wider and more diverse. I can get whatever I want. I don’t have publishers telling me what’s good and what trend I should buy.

    The gatekeepers are the readers now, as it should’ve been all along, and they will decide with their pocket books.

    Oh, and I’m a multi-published traditional author who has chosen to self-pub.

    • Ruth Madison on August 18, 2011 at 10:35 AM

      Very good point! I agree that I like that the gatekeepers are the readers.

  18. Julie Crouse on August 16, 2011 at 11:01 PM

    I very much enjoyed your comentary on self-publishing. I recently purchased my first self-published book on Amazon: “River Music” by Summer Hammond. It was increadible! Her first ever published book. I highly suggest you reading it. The book was a quick read for me and I was even her second review posted. It JUST came out.

    I have a book that I started during NANOWRIMO 2010 that I am considering finishing and self-publishing. I have been told by a few other successful writer friends that I should seek an agent for it, but I am just so new to the whole idea that I am not really certain where to go with it.

    Anyhow, the whole intention to this reply was to share a truly beautiful book with you in response to your Q4U posted above. I don’t really frequent a greant number of blogs, will you email me if you respond to this?

    Have a wonderful week!

    • Julie Crouse on August 16, 2011 at 11:02 PM

      OOOPS! “RIVER MAGIC”! I am not sure what I was thinking when I typed “River Music”, but her beautiful novel is “River MAGIC”. I highly suggest you consider reading it. 🙂

  19. Marcia Richards on August 16, 2011 at 10:33 PM

    If I were selling tens of thousands of books that I self-pubbed, why would I bother with a traditional publisher? I ahve bought several self-published books and they were all very good. Naturally those authors on their 2nd and 3rd books were better, but I haven’t been disappointed. They were likely professionally edited as I only found one error in one book.

  20. Vinny Alascia on August 16, 2011 at 6:39 PM

    I have bought and read self published books and I self publish my work. I think the industry has moved beyond a self pub or traditional pub mentality. The rest of us just have to catch up.

  21. patrice on August 16, 2011 at 6:26 PM

    I wouldn’t hesitate to download self published books. I think it’s an interesting time in writing/publishing history. I see the huge surge of eBooks, but I really believe that printed books will never go out of style. They may lose sales, but there is something so delightful about a book filled with paper and glorious words!

    I have considered self publishing and that desire is fueled by someone I know who has done extremely well by doing so. I see the wisdom in using a pen name. I had thought about that and I was interested in your take on it.

    I enjoy your blog. Keep up the good work!

  22. Caleb Bartholomew on August 16, 2011 at 5:18 PM

    are the self published books horrible because they have errors in them or are the errors noticeable because the story line is flat? I find errors in traditionally published books all the time but the story line is great and the errors don’t really slow things down so I gloss over them. I’ve even seen grammar terms wrongly applied ie… a preposition was identified as an adverb and there was a whole section on this word being an adverb. Of course, in a text book, anything is worth being distracted by 🙂

  23. Renee Vickers on August 16, 2011 at 4:55 PM

    I’ve purchased self published books but typically they’re either poetry books or short stories. And of those, I make the purchase knowing the writer and their ability.

    I’m hesitant in buying a full length self pub novel though. I’ve read some excerpts that have made my eyeballs crawl back into my head. The problem comes down to the level of editing most people can do and what is really needed for me to part with my $10-$20.

    • Ruth Madison on August 18, 2011 at 10:33 AM

      Most self-pubbers are selling their ebooks for around 2.99, some for 99 cents. It’s a lot easier to take a chance on those than on one that’s over $10.

  24. Nancy Kelley on August 16, 2011 at 4:48 PM

    Some of my favorite books were self-published. Jennifer Becton’s Austen-inspired novels and her mystery/thriller were both excellent. I’m currently reading Nachtsturm Castle, which is a Northanger Abbey sequel by Emily CA Snyder, and I just reviewed The Darcys of Pemberley on my website.

    I absolutely agree that the success or failure of self-publishing depends in large part on the author’s ability to connect with readers. The online Jane Austen community is very active, and very willing to help new authors find other readers. The authors I mentioned all blog and are present on Twitter, and actively talk with their readers.

    And if it isn’t obvious, I will be likewise self-publishing my own Austen novel in November.

  25. Sariah Wilson on August 16, 2011 at 4:33 PM

    I’ve downloaded both self-pubbed and traditionally published books. I’ve seen self-pubbed books that were perfect – in storytelling, editing, cover art – and traditionally published books that were a complete mess in formatting, editing, boring and had hideous stories (and the reverse, of course, is true for both).

    Recommendations would depend on your preferred genre! 🙂

  26. Brooke McGlothlin on August 16, 2011 at 3:56 PM

    Two things:

    1. If you want to self-publish, go for it! But do yourself a favor and hire someone to design a cover and edit, edit, edit your book. PAY someone to do it. Take your time! Don’t trust your own editing eyes, because if there is any leverage we Indie authors have right now, it IS going to go down the tubes if we don’t put our best out there.

    2. I’ve self-pub’d three books and had success with each. Even if they never get traditionally published, they have provided me with experience (marketing, writing, editing, design, finding a niche, etc) that I might never have gotten otherwise. This can only be valuable to the process.

  27. Ben Woodard on August 16, 2011 at 3:39 PM

    Thanks Rachelle. I’ve bought a few. Most fair. Some unreadable. And a couple were as good as anything I’ve read.

    I ‘ve asked 6 or so agents and editors this question. The answers varied. One agent told me that unless I sold 8,000 to 10,000, he wouldn’t look at anything else I did. An editor told me to “go for it.” That it would be a great experience, and even if I sold none, I would learn much about publishing, and she would still consider me. So who knows. I’m going to “dip my toes in” by self publishing short stories – chapters from my YA novels. I’m still pursuing traditional publishing. Interesting times, eh?

  28. Erin on August 16, 2011 at 3:08 PM

    I’d love to see a follow-up on this one as to how a poorly selling TRADITIONALLY published book can affect future sales.

  29. Maril Hazlett on August 16, 2011 at 2:56 PM

    Rachelle, I really appreciate you taking on this question – many people want to know this information, but finding someone to give you an honest perspective is tough. I also appreciate everyone who gave tips on finding indie review sites.

    I tend to buy self-pubbed books through blogs I already read and like. Like everyone, I’ve seen some good and some bad, just like traditional publishing.

    However, the biggest disappointment so far has been a very well-published traditional author, who appears to think he can just throw up ebook files and unpublished writings willy nilly… no front or back matter, no cover design worth mentioning, no filters, no editing. This material disrespects my Kindle! And it makes me cranky.

  30. Chris on August 16, 2011 at 2:24 PM

    I bought a few self-pubbed books years ago, and have been given some for free by friends. They were mostly awful. For now, I refuse to buy them. If you’re planning on self-pubbing, I would at least recommend hiring an editor to get that professional second eye on your work (simple mistakes bug the heck out of me; there’s no reason someone shouldn’t catch them). Also, hire a pro graphic designer to design the cover. Covers that announce that your work is self-published tends to make me cringe.

    If you are not willing to invest some money in your work, why would I want to invest any of my precious time or money?

  31. Matthew J. Beier on August 16, 2011 at 2:24 PM

    Woops, sorry for the crappy spacing above. Strike one!

  32. Ruth Madison on August 16, 2011 at 2:23 PM

    I’ve enjoyed several self-pubbed books, and been disappointed by many traditionally published books! I don’t look to see if a book is self-pubbed or not, I look to see if I will like the book. I download a sample and I depend heavily on the reviews to determine if I want to buy a book on Amazon.

  33. Matthew J. Beier on August 16, 2011 at 2:23 PM

    I was terrified when reading this post, but the comments have been both interesting and encouraging. I decided recently to self-publish my novel “The Breeders” this November. At first, it was just going to be an eBook…but I’ve since decided to start a publishing company and do a print book as well (using Lightning Source, a subsidiary of Ingram Book Group). The learning experience has been extreme–but also amazing!
    That said, I’m constantly plagued by self doubt. As exciting as it is to be taking control of my writing career and despite some positive feedback from agents on the book, I have no Stamp Of Approval from anybody but myself. Yes, I’ve had test readers, I’ve hired a great editor, and I’m releasing a book that will [hopefully] be indistinguishable from any Big Six book–but nobody “in the know” has told me it’s all okay. It’s an entirely new brand of writer’s insecurity. But it’s also something that makes me know I’m not one of those writers who is self-publishing because of an overblown ego.
    People might hate my book, but I’m still going to release my absolute best work. It’s scary as hell, but it also might be a very clean cut way to start a writing career. The market can give me a verdict on my literary worth. If I fail, at least I’ll know how to code eBooks and design layouts in Adobe InDesign! It never hurts to get a little bit smarter. 🙂

  34. Steph Campbell on August 16, 2011 at 2:06 PM

    I’ve read probably two dozen self pubbed books recently. Some were AMAZING (Jamie McGuire’s BEAUTIFUL DISASTER, Rebecca Knight’s LEGACY OF THE EMPRESS) some made me so angry that I’d wasted money on them they were so bad. (I won’t name names on that one). But that’s how I feel reading traditionally published books as well. Some change my life, some I like a lot, some are awful.

    Robyn, I love your comment. I’ve adopted a similar philosophy. I don’t stalk out my sales daily. I know that the business is changing quickly, and having had an agent interested in repping my work, I still chose to self publish. I’m curious to see what the future holds for publishing…

    • Robyn Bradley on August 16, 2011 at 5:43 PM

      Oh, Steph — I hear you. It seems like things change daily. It was July 2010 when I first considered self-pubbing. I knew nothing–hadn’t heard of Joe Konrath, or Amanda Hocking, or KindleBoards. When I look at how much has happened in the last year, I’m astounded. It will be interesting to see where things are a year from now–shoot SIX months from now. This holiday season should be interesting. Wishing you much luck! 🙂

  35. Emily WEnstrom on August 16, 2011 at 1:29 PM

    I’ve only downloaded one self-pubbed book, because it was free. I actually have not read it yet. I would not, at least at this time, pay for a self-pubbed book. The reason is there’s no quality assurance like there is when you go through a publisher. I know that there are some very talented authors out there self-publishing some really good works, but it’s very difficult (a lot more difficult than with traditionally released books) to figure out what’s what. So I’m not willing to put money on the line. In fact, I’m not really willing to but my time on the line, either, at this point. My book list is too long already with books that got fantastic reviews, are from authors I’m already in love with, or otherwise proved themselves worth a chance. Self-pubbing just doesn’t have the profile and network to reach this mass audience yet.

    • Ruth Madison on August 16, 2011 at 2:26 PM

      Like with any book, you can download a sample to see how the quality of the writing is. And check out the reviews. I hope that people are leaving honest reviews and will put one star if they feel a book deserves that!

  36. Brianna on August 16, 2011 at 12:51 PM

    I’ve read some great self-pubbed books and I’ve read some awful self-pubbed books. The fact that they were self-published has nothing to do with how good or bad they are. The same could be said of traditionally published books. I don’t disagree that it could hurt your chances of being traditionally published, but it shouldn’t stop you from trying, if that’s your dream.

  37. Tirzah on August 16, 2011 at 12:46 PM

    What I think would be great…if someone started a business, screen the self-published crap from the good books. This way you could go to some place like goodselfpubbedbooks.com—lol and just pull up the ones that at least have been spell checked and have a plot.

    Self-Pubbed authors could appy and if the book passed the basics—edited, made sense, had a plot–it went on the list.

    If not, it didn’t.

    Ah—a publisher without publishing I suppose.

    I’d love that type of review site.


    • Frida Fantastic on August 16, 2011 at 7:26 PM

      Volunteer book bloggers specializing in indies are already doing this work. Big Al’s Books and Pals, Red Adept, etc. all address whether edits need to be made whether it comes to story or formatting. And that’s only the tip of the iceberg of the indie book blogger community, it just keeps on growing. These people are already out there doing the work for free, what just takes time is finding bloggers who have similar tastes in books as you.

  38. Jill on August 16, 2011 at 12:44 PM

    I buy self-pubbed books all the time. Sometimes they are ho-hum. Sometimes they have a fair number of errors. One author whose books I buy regularly has virtually no errors in her text, but her books used to be formatted oddly. Right now, I’m reading Running Black by Patrick Todoroff, and I’m enjoying it–intriguing plot, no errors yet.

    The key to e-books, regardless of publishing type, is price. If it costs more than $9.99, I’m not going to buy it. With trad. pubbed books, I’ve found that e-books are sometimes more expensive than the hard copy. At that point, I’m not going to buy either.

    • Ruth Madison on August 16, 2011 at 2:28 PM

      Agreed! Price is a big factor. I don’t buy an ebook that’s any more than $6, traditionally published or not.

  39. Chris Longmuir on August 16, 2011 at 12:40 PM

    It saddens me that so many people have been put off self published ebooks because there is so much junk out there. I started to publish to Kindle and Smashwords because, despite winning a major literary prize and being traditionally published, I found it next to impossible to engage a publisher or agent. One agent I have known for a number of years said he was selling so few books to publishers he was reluctant to expand his lists. He advised epublishing as the way of the future. I took his advice and now have two books which are epublished, they sit on my author’s page along with my traditionally published paperback. To date they are selling reasonably well, but I would hate to think I was being classified as a junk writer because of them.

  40. Beverly Diehl on August 16, 2011 at 12:36 PM

    Have a bought a few self-pubbed books, as favors to friends. Mostly, they are hold-your-nose dreadful. Have bought a few that were actually decent, especially non-fiction niche books, or memoirs, but I have seen on many blogs some people hawking their self-pubbed fiction “masterpieces.” Most of them, from the excerpts they proudly post, are so bad they’re almost campily entertaining. *Almost.*

    From what I’ve seen, those who self-publish fiction tend to be the ones with more ego than talent. They don’t *need* professional editors, or cover art, or… Too many great books out there to read to waste my time on those.

    • Ruth Madison on August 16, 2011 at 2:30 PM

      Yikes. And I guess if you bought them for friends, you aren’t able to leave honest reviews, eh? I really think reviews are the key to good self-published books rising to the surface. If people are publishing terrible things, I think we must review them harshly so that they learn to produce something comparable to traditionally published books.

  41. John G. Hartness on August 16, 2011 at 12:29 PM

    I think that one thing we are seeing is a subset of self-published authors who are taking their craft seriously, paying money for good editing and covers, and generally doing a lot of the things themselves that traditional publishers do. I’ve even had one small press publisher draw the line between these “indie” authors and typically vanity press self-pubbed authors.

    There are a lot of us out there who are trying to do it right, trying to write the best books we can, hire the best cover artists and editors we can find, and generally put out a product that is comparable in quality to what is traditionally published.

    But the problem is how to find them. I think in the end the market will determine who is worth having around and who isn’t, and the people who aren’t willing to put in the years of hard work will fade into the background just like Mrs. McGillicutty and her cookbooks of years gone by.

    As a self-published author, I read a lot of my peers. I tend to find them through kindleboards, which is where a lot of the more professionally-oriented of our ilk hang out. My general impression is that most of us could use some help with cover design, some additional editing love, but the stories are pretty solid.

    I read almost entirely e-books now, and have found very few total stinkers. But I also sample anything that costs more than a buck, so that saves me from buyer’s remorse.

    My self-pub recommendations – David Dalglish, Scott Nicholson, Joseph Nassise, Scott Sigler, Michael Sullivan, just to name a few. Of course I think my books rock, too, but if I didn’t I wouldn’t have put them out there for the world to see (and fortunately, for the world to buy).

    In short, if an agent or publisher wanted to talk to me at this point, I’d entertain the discussion, at least on some of my books. But right now I’m selling 3,000+ books per month on my own, and keeping 35-70% of the sale price. So I’m pretty happy with my decision to self-publish.

  42. Dana Strange on August 16, 2011 at 12:28 PM

    I randomly bought SWITCHED by Amanda Hocking last January. I enjoyed it and have been buying various self published books ever since. Some of them I like and some don’t hold my interest – same story as traditionally published stuff.

    The big difference is when I spend 99 cents and get bored, I don’t feel like I’ve wasted money. I feel good that a writer who had the courage to self publish made money.

  43. Tirzah on August 16, 2011 at 12:24 PM

    If you want to read a good self-pubbed book, read “Waiting for Karl Rove”. And no, it is not my book.

    LOL. This is political and social satire and very, very well done.

    The time the author spent to format those foot notes–I could just cry thinking about it.

    Very funny and very witty but not PC.


  44. Ida Freer on August 16, 2011 at 12:22 PM

    Perhaps present or future self-published authors should consider purchasing a carefully selected self published book.

    That would help ensure this option for writers will continue to exist.

  45. Tirzah on August 16, 2011 at 12:16 PM

    Yes I’ve downloaded and was part of a self-pubbed poetry anthology. What I find is most self-pubbed books are either poorly edited or are in a need of a rewrite.

    Things that a good content editor would have helped them with.

    Most of the self-pubbed books I’ve read (I’ve read about a 100 because well i wanted to play with my Kindle and Smashwords) need someone to be mean to the writer. Several I read were great early drafts but not finished products.

    The plots are underdeveloped, the characters weak. Many had potential but the writers either couldn’t see the flaws or no one was kind enough to rip the book apart.

    Every writer needs people who will read their work and be unkind in the kindest way possible.

    There is a series on Smashwords that the author has hurt themselves by self-publishing. The series is about 3 more edits away from being publishable. Right now there a few plot holes, the story line is rushed but most of the time, her main characters are well fleshed out. This is a series that had potential but the author will never develop it because they’ve tossed it out on the internet only partially formed. That irritates me.

    To see it be so close and yet fall so short.

    You do find good books in self publishing but you have to wade through a 100 bad ones for every good one you find.


  46. Susanne on August 16, 2011 at 12:11 PM

    I have read a few self-pub books. They have not been good. I am now to the point if someone recommends a book to me I check out the publisher to make sure it isn’t a self-pub. The scary thing it is getting harder to identify all the vanity presses out there.

    I do have a question. How do you go about getting a pseudonym? Do you have to register for one? Is the accounting for finances as a DBA?

    • Ruth Madison on August 16, 2011 at 2:34 PM

      No, you don’t need to register it. When you do the ebook or at a vanity press, it will ask you what name to put on the book and what name to use for taxes and payment purposes. I use a pen name. It allows me to brand this name for one purpose only.

  47. Marilyn Walker on August 16, 2011 at 12:05 PM

    I have read quite a few self-pubbed books, and only ever purchased 3, all from people I knew. I have owned two bookstores so have had many beg me to carry or read their books. And I have to say… I have plenty of fear and loathing around self-published books. If they don’t have glaring errors, many suffer from being… just “OK” as reads. Others are – awful. Now, it’s not as if every print book I’ve ever read was great, but even those I didn’t love were at least well crafted. I am sure there are good ones out there, but hope I don’t have to waste any more time finding them.

  48. Crystal Jigsaw on August 16, 2011 at 11:58 AM

    I have downloaded and bought in paperback several self-pubbed books. Some have been enjoyable, well-written and worth the money, others haven’t. But I think that’s the same with a traditionally published book also. I self published my novel and although sales haven’t been immense, I am happy that it is being enjoyed by many readers and has received several five-star reviews on Amazon.

  49. Robyn Bradley on August 16, 2011 at 11:48 AM

    I’m a self-pubbed author (and trust me, up until a year ago, I was the BIGGEST self-publishing snob and swore I’d never do it — never say never, I guess). Like some of the others above, I’ve read some great self-pubbed books and some lousy ones, most of which were doomed by poor storytelling, poor editing, or both. I sample a lot on my Nook because of this…I find the first 20 pages are quite telling.

    What’s great about this blog post is that it shows a real shift in thinking — five years ago (and Rachelle — definitely correct me if I’m wrong in this assumption), I think we’d be hard pressed to find any agents who would seriously consider a self-pubbed writer…or who would even encourage self-publishing as a viable option for a writer’s career. Just as my own opinion changed, so, too, has the industry’s opinion (and no, not completely…and yes, it’s still evolving…day by day, it seems).

    When I published my novel, I promised myself I wouldn’t become obsessed with checking my sales figures (since Amazon updates digital sales every hour). I see so many writers who do this (people talk about it on Kindle Boards). I’m in it for the long haul. I went three months without looking at all, and now I check in once a month.

    I realized my decision to self-publish would likely affect my chances at landing an agent…but even this assumption on my part has evolved, as evidenced by the growing number of self-pubbed authors who are working with agents (Victorine Lieske, Michael Wallace, J Carson Black are three who come to mind — there are more…Kindle Boards has threads on this topic).

    And, as has been cited here and on numerous other blogs, the agent’s role is changing in this still-evolving digital publishing landscape. (I’m in the camp that agents still matter, and will continue to play an important role in a writer’s career, whether traditionally published or self-published).

    Thanks, as always, Rachelle, for your thought-provoking posts. 🙂

  50. Jane Steen on August 16, 2011 at 11:46 AM

    Like Natalie, I recently purchased a self-pubbed book about writing from an author with an excellent blog, and from a skim through it the quality is excellent. So far much of my experience with self-pubbed books has been ARCs sent to me for review or won from author sites. Some are less than professional, some are polished. I rather like the new breed of author determined to do it their own way; they’re the pioneers we’ll be grateful for five years hence.

    Here’s a question for you – purely hypothetical. Supposing you have a client, Author X, who publishes traditionally in, say, the romance genre and is modestly successful. She’s written a sci-fi novel (a genre you don’t represent) and consults you about self-pubbing it. You give her your blessing and advise her to use a pseudonym. She does her research and publishes a good product: edited, good cover, nice formatting and all. It takes off and she becomes internationally known as Author Y, with sales far exceeding her romance novels. What’s your advice to her?

    • Rachelle Gardner on August 16, 2011 at 12:02 PM

      I’m not sure why I’d need to give her any advice at this point in the scenario you described. “Keep going, you’re doing great”?

  51. stephen matlock on August 16, 2011 at 11:43 AM

    I’ve purchased some self-published works on Amazon and elsewhere. They have all been junk.

    That doesn’t mean that all self-published books are junk, and I am hoping to find some that are well-written.

    I agree that some books published by the traditional publishers contain some mistakes, but the mistakes in self-published books are at an order-of-magnitude more common and egregious.

    I absolutely am not saying self-published books are guaranteed to be bad. And to be honest, I’d be happy to self-publish if my books do not sell through a traditional publisher.

    But I’m going to try to learn from what I see and make the book as great as possible.

    So a related question would be: why are ebooks so horribly formatted? Can’t people figure this out? Is it so hard to do it right? (I know that other problems such as spelling and syntax and the rest are mechanical, and the basic writing skills of plot, theme, and character also need to be considered, but ebooks tend to just look like ransom notes.)

    • FK Wallace on August 18, 2011 at 5:20 AM

      One of the reasons ebooks are badly formatted is that people don’t know how to convert a book to html.

      But, speaking as someone who’s done it, there are often formatting changes showing up on a kindle that are not there when you view the file as html on your computer.

      It’s incredibly frustrating. For example, in my book, one line in a paragraph (in the first chapter, of course) got switched from italics to plain. There was nothing in the html indicating this, and multiple reformats either lost all the italics or made no difference. I can’t explain why it changed, and I spent four hours trying to rectify it.

      One single sentence.

      Plus the kindle software indents all paragraphs, and there is no way to get round this other than reformatting the start of every scene and chapter by hand.

      That said, some commercial books have terrible formatting errors (Terry Pratchett and Henning Mankell’s books spring to mind). I’m much more annoyed about poor formatting in a trad. published book. No excuse for that at all.

      But as a self pubber, it’s extremely gratifying when an Amazon reviewer praises the editing as well as the story! I’ve taken the view that the quality of editing is just as important as the story itself. Being short on cash at times, I’ve learned to create my own covers but by following the KISS principle, using decent picture editing software and not trying to be too clever, I’m happy with things so far.

  52. Dorothy Bentley on August 16, 2011 at 11:38 AM

    Great topic, Rachelle!

    I was asked to review several self-pup books for newspaper and my blog. Sad to say, they were painful to read because of poor writing. As a result, I now shy away from self-pup’ed work and I don’t think I’ll ever do it, though many seem to take that route.

    When I read a traditionally published book, whether fiction or non, I like to read slowly and absorb the amazing editing which must have gone on behind the scenes. Traditionally published books have had a whole team of gifted professionals sift through the work.

    I love emailing my newspaper columns to editors. They look at my writing with fresh eyes, and work their magic.

    Also, I seriously don’t think I have what it takes to edit to the level a book would require, plus do all the layout, design, and so forth.

    When my writing rises to the level required for traditional novel or non-fiction publishing, I believe I’ll sell. I’m willing to put the work into my writing and be patient.

  53. Lisa Hall-Wilson on August 16, 2011 at 11:27 AM

    I’m probably going to offend people here with my rant – but I’ve read dozens of self-pubbed books as a reviewer and wish I could have that time back. In fact I stopped reviewing books because of how many poorly written self-pubbed books I was forced to read.
    There have been delightful exceptions, one self-pubbed series is actually my very favourite series ever and gets reread every year – but that author had done well with a mainstream publisher previously. Finding one gem out of 30 titles hardly makes reading self-pubbed titles a wise investment of my time.
    Generally I find self-pubbed titles lack focus and structure, are riddled with spelling and grammatical errors, POV problems, lack authority to actually speak to the subject they’re writing about, and often the cover-art is unappealing. Again – there are exceptions but that’s been my observation.
    Many self-pubbed authors I’ve spoken with don’t seem to want to put the work in to build a platform, pay for good editing, cover art, and marketing. Authors get one chance with me. If I spend my money on something they’ve created, given up time to read it – and they disappoint me. I’m done. I’m never picking up another book by them. I’d rather take a risk on a new author, than a chance with one who’s disappointed me previously.
    I will buy self-pubbed books – but I really do my homework now. I read the reviews, it needs great cover art, and the author needs a blog or Facebook presence so I can make sure they can articulate themselves well.

    • Ruth Madison on August 16, 2011 at 2:45 PM

      When people have asked you to review their books, what have you done when it’s terrible? I don’t want to make enemies, but I’m very honest in my reviews and I will give a one-star if I think a book deserves it. Have you given the books you’ve been sent the review they deserved or do you not post unless you can honestly give a four or five star rating?

  54. Kat on August 16, 2011 at 11:09 AM

    I’m self-published, and I have downloaded a good bit self-published works, and like quite a bit of them. Since I generally read by recommendation, if someone comes to me – usually, it’s a fellow self-pub author – and says, “You might like this”, I’m likely to take a read of it. I’ve read some bad self-pub works as well, but if someone comes to me with their work, I never turn them away.

    I’ve self-published my sci-fi series so far. On Smashwords, it did great. On Amazon and Nook, could be better, and marketing is taking me a lot of money and effort. I understand the bias against self-pubs, believe me, but please bear in mind that some publishing houses will release a bad book full of errors just the same as a self-pub can release a book with seemingly no editing to speak of.

    Self-pub recommendation is “12 Months of Trying” by Gayle Moffet. An anthology of her submissions to various markets, fiction and non, peppered with poetry. Sharp and relatable.

  55. Emily on August 16, 2011 at 11:07 AM

    I’ve read several self-pubbed books, and only one was good: Tara Benwell’s THE PROPER ORDER OF THINGS. It was good enough to be published by a major pub house, in my opinion. The other self pubbed books I’ve read were all author-hype (I’m a sucker for a convincing author blog) and no style or substance at all. I’m going to be careful what I buy from now on, as much as I want to support self publishing.

  56. Margaret Y. on August 16, 2011 at 11:06 AM

    This post is interesting. Thank you for your perspective, Ms. Gardner.

    There is no harm in trying self-publishing. If it goes poorly, you can start over with a new book. The poor-selling indie one won’t even be on anyone’s radar (as you can see from the previous replies). If it goes well, you won’t need a traditional publisher at all, because you’ll be doing very well on your own. There is little downside in trying, and you’ll learn a lot along the way.

  57. Keary Taylor on August 16, 2011 at 10:57 AM

    It always makes me a little sad when I see the prejudices against self-published authors, but I do understand. There is a lot of garbage out there. But there are those authors out there who have worked their tails off. And a lot of them make the mistakes they do because they don’t have the funding to hire a professional editor. When I started self-publishing I certainly didn’t. I did the best I could, spent hours and hours formatting, learned how to do cover design, and did the best job I could. The hard work paid off, and eventually after I had sold 20,000 copies of my 2 books I had the funding to hire a professional editor, and after selling 30,000 copies in the last 4 months of the 3 books I now have out, I’m so swamped I’m considering hiring an assistant to help me out with the overwhelming email I get these days.
    Yes, there is a lot of garbage, but consider how much work the majority these “Indie’s” have put in, and they have to do every bit of it themselves. Think twice before you judge too harshly.

    • Kristin Laughtin on August 16, 2011 at 6:19 PM

      Congratulations on your success! But I think the fact that you put such hard work in is key. Self-publishing’s stigma comes from the idea that these authors couldn’t get traditionally published, and that attitude is reinforced every time someone stumbles across an unedited manuscript that somebody stuck on the web. I’m not sure if self-publishing is the route for me, but I’m glad to read about your experience and know that it can work out!

  58. Ruth Chambers on August 16, 2011 at 10:57 AM

    Several years ago I purchased several copies of a self-published book (some for gifts). It’s an excellent book titled Bad Time Stories by Margret Sanders. It’s a humorous, poignant and informative memoir of a young girl in Nazi Germany during WWII.
    The author says the book sold quite well. She originally intended it for her children.

  59. Jamie Lee Scott on August 16, 2011 at 10:55 AM

    I’ve purchased MANY self-published books, Amanda Hocking among them. I’ve been disappointed in some, impressed with others, just the same as with traditional publishing.
    What self-pubbed, or traditionally pubbed authors need to know is that the hard work starts AFTER the book is published. Promoting takes 10 times the effort than the novel writing did.

  60. Layton Green on August 16, 2011 at 10:44 AM

    Good post, Rachelle. I’ve been following you for years and love your blog. I self-published (after having an agent for years and a fantastic NYC editor) and can recommend it in this market as a way to distinguish yourself. All circumstances and books are different, but self-pubbing is now a viable avenue either a) to earn author income or b) to get picked up after good sales. It seems like common sense, but the key is to make sure the book is %100 ready, whether self-published or submitted to agents/editors. It’s a brave new world out there. Also, all online sales are calculated and reported by Amazon, BN, etc. directly to the author/publisher on a real-time, so it is very easy to prove sale numbers.


  61. Laura Pauling on August 16, 2011 at 10:29 AM

    I’ve read several and will keep on. I download a sample so I know if I’m purchasing a good book. I can tell within the first few pages if the writing is up to par. And so far, they’ve been excellent. Most of these are YA.

    Addison Moore Ethereal series.
    Michelle Muto Book of Lost Souls
    Anne Riley The Clearing
    Laura Josephsen Notes from the Realm of the Underworld (Also Known as High School)
    Anya Winter – Stampede Fever
    Eisley Jacobs – Born to be a Dragon (middle grade)
    P.J. Hoover – Solstice

    The level of self publishing has risen and will continue to as publishers buy less books. They are worth checking out. I put just as much thought into purchasing a trad. pubbed book. Reading samples… etc. That said, I read trad. pubbed books too. It’s not an either/or.

    And I think there is just as much risk or greater trad. publishing too esp. if you don’t sell through and your book flops within the first few months, you’re in trouble.

  62. Sarah Thomas on August 16, 2011 at 10:23 AM

    I haven’t tried any self-pubbed books. I’ve heard such horror stories about the lack of editing and poor craft, that I’m afraid I may have formed a prejudice . . .

  63. Nancy Petralia on August 16, 2011 at 10:04 AM

    First, thanks, Frida, for the tip on blog reviewers. I’ve been trying to figure this out for some time.

    I have read several self-published books, although I didn’t buy them online. The newest, which is available on Amazon, is I Am Sea Glass, a collection of poetry illustrated by gorgeous watercolors. It’s the work of a husband and wife. Beautiful on many levels.

    This book may be self-published, but you’d never know it. I think that’s the key. It’s edited, well laid out, and carefully put together. In other words, professional. My husband reviews some books for Amazon and we recently received one that was clearly a self-pub. Make that vanity pub. It looked AWFUL. Different typefaces on every page. I guess the author thought he was getting our attention. Repetitive text. No supporting data for his claims. Now if THAT book can make it to Amazon’s review list, what do the rest of us need to do to get our better pubs more attention?

    • Marcy Kennedy on August 16, 2011 at 2:04 PM

      I think what you just said is key: “This book might be self-published, but you’d never know it.” That’s the defining quality of a really stellar self-pubbed book.

  64. Michael on August 16, 2011 at 9:57 AM

    I haven’t purchased any self-pubbed books. If they were cheap I might consider them for my Kindle, but I don’t even know how to find them. This makes me wonder how anyone would find my books if I were to self-publish.

    • Robyn Bradley on August 16, 2011 at 11:28 AM

      Hi Michael,

      Amazon just launched its Kindle Indie Books portion of its store.

      Happy reading! 🙂

    • Kristie Cook on August 16, 2011 at 1:55 PM

      As an indie author myself, I’ve read a lot of self-pubbed books and have been pleased so far. What I find interesting in all the comments is how do you know you’ve never read a self-pubbed book? I’ve had tons of readers say they would have never known mine was indie until they started reading my blog.

      One commenter above said they wouldn’t even know how to find self-pubbed books. Until Kindle’s new Indie Bookstore came out, there wasn’t a special way to find them. They’re mixed right in with all the others and you wouldn’t know unless you know what to look for on the book’s details listing. Most 99c and $2.99 ebooks are self-pubbed. The Indie Bookstore only highlights 4+ star books with strong sales rankings, so that’s not even close to all of the indies.

      You might be surprised to find something you’ve read recently is indie.

    • Ruth Madison on August 16, 2011 at 2:50 PM

      It’s good to have a platform. I’m writing for a very particular audience and I know exactly what they want and where to find them.

  65. susan swiderski on August 16, 2011 at 8:32 AM

    I’ve read four self-published books so far. One was a collection of poetry, and it was God-awful atrocious. Not just lousy poetry, but lousy spelling, lousy everything. Just awful. Even so, I bought a fellow amateur radio operator’s self-published novel after that. From start to finish, her book was filled with errors. With serious editing, it could have been a good book, but as it was, it made my eyes bleed. She later came out with a second book, but I didn’t even consider buying it. The other two novels were written by the same man, and the quality of his work was considerably better. (which is why I sprung for his second book) There are several self-pubbed works available now that I also intend to purchase. Each of the writers runs a darned good blog, so I’m betting on their books being enjoyable, as well.

  66. Katie Ganshert on August 16, 2011 at 7:32 AM

    I’ve read two self-pubbed books and enjoyed them both. Both are doing phenomenal on Amazon. Ranked #1 and #2 in some teen category and/or romance category.

    Ethereal and Tremble by Addison Moore. 🙂

  67. Sharon A Lavy on August 16, 2011 at 7:19 AM

    Angel in the Shadows and Angel in the Storm are excellent Kindle ebooks by Lisa Grace.

    These are YA. Professionally edited and earn a wow rating from me.

    I am eager for her third book in the series to come out.

  68. otin on August 16, 2011 at 7:08 AM

    I’m going to hold off on the self publishing until all other avenues are exhausted.

  69. Ardee-ann Eichelmann on August 16, 2011 at 5:53 AM

    I have read and purchased many self published books. I can highly recommend Gary Ponzo’s “A Touch of Deceit” and “A Touch of Revenge.” That being said I also like the work of Jamie DeBree and India Drummond a great deal. Both authors take pains to get assistance in editing their books and having books with few if any errors, they also tell good stories.

    I have read self published books that were good but could have used some editing assistance or help with eBook formatting. Some other books simply fail to tell a good story.

    I am considering going the indie author route but will make certain that my book is professionally edited. I am the queen of the comma splice.

    All in all I have been pleased with the quality of self published books I have purchased. The number exceeds fifty so I have read many self published books.



  70. Saffina Desforges on August 16, 2011 at 5:51 AM

    This is an interesting topic, especially now that Amazon.com have taken the step of creating a separate chart for indies recently.

    Publishing is changing though, the roles are reversed somewhat. We CHOSE indie publishing after a very brief courting of agents. It was immediately obvious that the control was ours then.

    Our debut novel has sold over 75,000 copies since Jan 2011 and reached #2 in the UK Amazon charts.

    http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sugar-Spice-controversial-psycho-sexual-ebook/dp/B004AYDK22 We have released our second (well, third if you count the US edition of ‘Sugar & Spice’!) book too, ‘Snow White’.


    We have a third book due out before Christmas and an anthology.

    Two top NY agents have called US. We have another call due Friday, solicited by the agent.

    Being indie is no longer a stigma, it is freedom.

    We may or may not choose to have an agent rep us and look for a traditional deal in the future, who knows. For the time being, my motto is this: (and incidentally, what I told my co-writer when he was ‘umming and ahhing’ over whether to put our first book on Kindle) What have you got to lose?

    S&S was in a drawer where it had been for some time, now almost 80,000 people have read it and I get messages and emails all day about when our next book is due out, that wouldn’t have happened if we hadn’t chosen the indie route. Sure, poor sales might harm you, but if one more person other than your mother reads and likes your book, I consider that a bonus!

    Great post as always, Rachelle!

    Saffina Desforges

  71. Joseph J Pote on August 16, 2011 at 5:11 AM

    I have downloaded and read several self-pub’d books. Some I liked and some were only so-so…about the same average as traditionally published books.

    Interestingly, when I think about it, I don’t recall ever reading any self-pubbed fiction, though. For fiction I tend to follow authors I know and like. Maybe I’ll find a self-pub’d novelist I like in the near future…

    I have just completed my first book, and chose the self-pub route. It is Christian non-fiction. Lacking both offical credentials and platform, self-pub appeared the only route worth pursuing.

    I broke all the rules by doing everything myself. So far, I feel reasonably satisfied with all but the website, which I am still working on.

    I have learned a lot along the way, and am now working on building platform (yes I got it a little backwards).

    We’ll see how it does…

    If anyone’s interested, visit my website at http://www.josephjpote.com and click on the book title link, “So you are a Believer…Who has been through Divorce…”

  72. Frida Fantastic on August 16, 2011 at 4:58 AM

    Surfed in from Twitter here. I’m a speculative fiction enthusiast that has started a book review blog with a focus on indie-press and self-published SF/F. I’ve only been reading indie ebooks since April, but there is a lot of great stuff out there that could easily belong on the shelves of my local chain bookstore. The difficulty lies in finding the good stuff amidst the sea of crap, but that’s where book reviews and book bloggers come in.

    I’ll plug my fellow book bloggers, you can see some of the latest indie book reviews linked from here: http://www.simon-royle.com/latest-indie-book-reviews-from-around-the-web/ We’ve started listing the genres too for easy browsing. No two book blogs are exactly alike, so I advice subscribing to a few at a time to see if they review books up your alley.

    These folks do quite a lot of sifting. I know that for a fact because the slushpile is in my inbox, but after much sample-reading, I manage to find more solid books that I enjoyed reading versus ones that I didn’t.

    • Joseph J Pote on August 16, 2011 at 6:01 AM

      Nice site, Frida!

      Thanks for sharing!

  73. Rick Barry on August 16, 2011 at 4:31 AM

    I haven’t bought any self-pubbed books, but I’ve received some for free. Those have contained so many errors that, after having spent five years as a textbook editor, I simply couldn’t enjoy them. The glaring errors were too distracting.

    Friends, if you do self-pub, please don’t fly solo. Hire someone with the expertise you need to make your work look and sound professional so it can be taken sreiously.

    • Rick Barry on August 16, 2011 at 8:23 AM

      Lol… Should be “seriously.” So much for typing comments from my iphone at 4:30 a.m. 🙂

  74. J.J. Lancer on August 16, 2011 at 3:45 AM

    I’ve yet to buy a self-published novel. I rarely buy traditionally published novels (I prefer to borrow), so take it for what it’s worth.

    I’ve checked out a lot of free self-published books (particularly on Smashwords), but even the top ranked stories were somewhat underwhelming.

    • Caleb Bartholomew on August 16, 2011 at 12:54 PM

      check out “The Liturgist” on smashwords. It’s not rated high but it’s much better than anything else I’ve read

  75. Kathy on August 16, 2011 at 2:54 AM

    I have never downloaded a self-pubbed book, but have read one I received in the mail from a friend. It was good! I guess that’s just it, I wouldn’t be inclined to “search” self-pubbed books unless I was looking for something very specific. There are sooo many books out there. I’m sure there are fantastic self-published books, but unless they have a corner on a particular market or appeal through an amazing marketing campaign, most likely they won’t appear on my radar. I still think traditional publishing is the way to “sell books” unless you have a spare million somewhere or are a marketing guru. Book writing is one thing and marketing/selling a book is quite another.

    • Jackie Ley on August 16, 2011 at 5:59 AM

      I agree – there are far too many self-pubbed books out there. You know you’d have to waste a load of valuable time panning through all the dross to find the occasional gold nugget.

    • Kristin Laughtin on August 16, 2011 at 6:14 PM

      This is my big issue as well. There are too many self-pubbed books to sift through on my own. Advertising could help some of them stand out, but very few authors have launched campaigns that drew my interest enough–and then in those cases, I am doing as you said and searching for something very specific. Self-publishing can lead to success, but the author has to have marketing skills as well if they want to sell more than a few copies.

  76. Danielle La Paglia on August 16, 2011 at 2:53 AM

    A friend in my writing group self-published her YA novel. She had agent and editor interest, but was eventually told it was wrong for the market at this time. It’s an amazing novel. Any fans of urban fantasy would love it. THE BOOK OF LOST SOULS by Michelle Muto.

    • Anne-Mhairi Simpson on August 20, 2011 at 11:00 AM

      I’ve got Muto’s book queued up on my iPod Touch. It looks fantastic. Next on my list after Thea Atkinson’s Name of the Rose (also self-pubbed). I’ve bought quite a few self-pubbed books since I started networking and building my online presence. In my experience, indie authors are much more inclined to get into a conversation with you than traditional authors, even those who haven’t actually published yet. No one seems to teach trad authors how to use social media, at least that’s my experience. Most of the indie books I’ve read were fine with the occasional odd editing fillip, but nothing that hasn’t also struck me about trad books from time to time. Some indie books I’ve read were absolutely fantastic, and their authors are mostly represented now by agents shopping their books around New York.

      I’ll be self-pubbing my first book (the third in terms of books I’ve actually written) at the end of October and we’ll see what happens. I don’t expect agents to start calling me up, but as Rachelle said, at least you can track your sales accurately when you publish yourself.

  77. Natalie on August 16, 2011 at 2:45 AM

    I have bought one self-published book, from an author whose blog I read. The book was even a revised version of actual blog posts (about writing advice). So I have never randomly bought a self-published book.

  78. Giora on August 16, 2011 at 2:29 AM

    Small correction, Rachelle. Amazon gives the rankings of self-puplished books, for example by Creatspace, and you can calculate how many books sold based on the rankings. The book in your blog “My Blood Approves” by Amanada Hocking has a ranking of #33,374 which is okay. Based on the success of Aamanda Hocking I was expcting her to have a much higher ranking. We can also say that if someone publish his/her first book via an established publisher and the first book sells poorly, then their future is cloudy as a poor selling self published book.

    • Rachelle Gardner on August 16, 2011 at 10:25 AM

      Giora, as far as I know, and contrary to some who claim otherwise, there is no formula for calculating hard sales based on Amazon rankings. This is why the author’s access to Bookscan is so important, because it reports hard sales. Still, Bookscan is typically off by 30% to 70% depending on the book and genre.

      • Robyn Bradley on August 16, 2011 at 11:32 AM

        Agreed, but so many self-pubbed authors are focusing on digital sales, rather than print (that doesn’t mean they haven’t published print versions through CreateSpace or some other vendor, but the self-pubbed writers who I hear talk about their sales are *usually* talking about their digital sales). And digital sales are updated every hour through Kindle Direct Publishing and PubIt, so real sales numbers are quite accessible (and verifiable).

        • Rachelle Gardner on August 16, 2011 at 9:14 PM

          Yes, Robyn, but those numbers are available to the author – not publicly available, right?

          • Robyn Bradley on August 17, 2011 at 10:04 AM

            Oh, I see what you’re saying. Yep — those numbers are available to the author only.

      • Giora on August 16, 2011 at 12:22 PM

        Thanks Rachelle for the clarification.

  79. Joy Tamsin David on August 16, 2011 at 2:22 AM

    Rachelle, would your answer also apply to sales from small press/POD publishers or e-book publishers?

  80. Sally Apokedak on August 16, 2011 at 1:41 AM

    I have not bought any self-pubbed books, whether they were printed or electronic. I have downloaded free self-pubbed books, but I’ve never read any of them. I have a block against them, probably because I have been sent many self-pubbed and small-press books for review, and I always look at them, to be fair to publisher, and I don’t ever review them, because I don’t want to slam them.

    I’ve seen some books published by big houses that I don’t like at all, but every publishing house has some good books, and even their lousy books are usually covered nicely and printed with decent font and ample white space. My problem with self published books is that I’ve never seen one that didn’t have several of the “this looks very amateurish” type things going on.

    Take this guy for example. I’m sure he’s a very nice man. But who is going to buy a book with this cover?

    I have had arguments with self-pubbed authors who wanted me to review their books and they insisted that their books were very professionally done even though their cover art looked like it had been done by their kids in kindergarten. The trouble is not that they are blind to their sins. We all are. The trouble is that they can’t hear when unbiased people try to correct them.

    There is one exception I’m going to make. I’m going to read Andrew Peterson’s third Wingfeather book, The Monster in the Hollows. I expect it to reach a certain level of quality because he’s an artist and everything he does reaches a certain level of quality. I think anything put out by Rabbit Room Press has a better than average chance of being decent.

  81. Donna K. Weaver on August 16, 2011 at 1:32 AM

    I have downloaded some self-pubbed books. Some have been very well done. One I was very disappointed with as much because it was a novella and so much potential was never explored. I felt after reading it that the author should have finished the book.

  82. Jenny Lee Sulpizio on August 16, 2011 at 1:19 AM

    Caleb-I am right there with you. Well said. 🙂

  83. Caleb Bartholomew on August 16, 2011 at 12:38 AM

    I am a self pub author for my first book. I don’t think it will effect my chances for a few reasons. First, my sales are ho-hum because I don’t have a whole lot of collateral to invest in advertising like I would with a traditional route. Second, my second book is a much stronger book and my reason for going through self publishing was so that friends and family could see what I’ve been working on. I picked up a few extra sales and I’m always happy to continue promoting myself for more sales. Third, getting into self publishing has given me the opportunity to network in a way that I couldn’t otherwise. The networking has given me an in, in the industry. When best selling authors start liking my facebook author page and my facebook book pages, I have succeeded in networking. When my next book is ready for an agent, I will have people to go to. This will not come free of charge of course. I will have to help them when I can as well, such as letting people know there books are out.

    In short, finding an agent is difficult whether you have self published or not. It’s a subjective business. Some agents will care and some will not. Some might be guarded but then come around. It’s a game of chances.

    In the end, I have gone from a beginner who knew nothing about the literary world to at the least being a self educated novice who other beginners are coming to, for help as they commence on their endeavor to become published authors; self or traditional.

    • Marcy Kennedy on August 16, 2011 at 10:04 AM

      Hi Caleb,

      You said your self-pubbed sales have been modest because you don’t have the money to spend on marketing. I’d like to encourage you to consider using the widely available free or inexpensive means for marketing. Books aren’t sold through expensive magazine or newspaper ads anymore, and people are turned off by the “hard sell.”

      I don’t know what you’ve already tried, but if I might offer some unsolicited advice:
      –Facebook ads are pay per click. You set the limit you want to spend (e.g. $50) and you only pay if someone clicks through and the ad is finished once you reach your spending limit (recommended by Jeff Gerke of Marcher Lord Press)
      –Wordpress.com offers free blogs (and you can buy a domain for only $17/year). If you choose not to blog, you can still use this as a static website where you can set up a bookstore that links to Amazon.com as an affiliate (you earn an extra percentage whenever someone clicks through from your site and buys the book)
      –If you don’t have time to run your own blog, offer to guest post on other people’s blogs and in your byline include a link to your book
      –Be on Twitter or Google+ and build relationships. You might only have a hundred people at first, but those hundred open you up to thousands of others if they like you and your book enough to tweet about it to their followers. Keep a 12:1 rule. Help others and socialize 12 times more than you talk about your book.

      I hope at least one of those might help. They only scratch the surface of the great, creative marketing means that we as writers now have available to us without needing deep pockets.

      • Caleb Bartholomew on August 16, 2011 at 1:02 PM

        Thanks for that input. I like the idea about by-lining on another persons blog. I do have my own blog but it is hard to keep up on a regular basis. As far as some of the inexpensive costs, they are very reasonable but I have negative collateral, being a masters student at a local seminary.

        Networking is something I have done a ton of but it will effect my next book more than my first book. In the last week, I have connected with over 100 different authors for the first time, via facebook.

        • Marcy Kennedy on August 16, 2011 at 1:55 PM

          I know what you mean about the school expenses. I have my Master’s in Theological Studies, and I had to do it over the course of about four years due to the cost. I’m glad one of my ideas might be a help 🙂

  84. joan Cimyotte on August 16, 2011 at 12:35 AM

    I have not purchased a self published book at least that I know of. I’m an artist with hundreds of paintings I have made on my walls. I don’t know how to sell them. Why in the world would I think I could sell my book by myself?

    • Madison Johns on August 16, 2011 at 3:02 AM

      Why publish it at all?? Why not, have you tried to get a book published these days. I feel self publishing is a good way to start if you are smart enough to read between the lines, editor, formatted properly, ect. I have a cover artist. My first book was trash and my second I don’t still think may be up to par. (I’m smart enough to know I should bury the first book in the backyard). I did submit my second to an independent publisher. I haven’t given up on traditional publishing yet. I think we all need to grow as a writer.

      • Karen Syed on August 16, 2011 at 5:16 PM

        Self publishing is not about getting started, or at least it shouldn’t be. It should be about having the faith in yourself and your work to be willing to put your money where your mouth is and to produce the very best product you can. You shouldn’t try and use a self-published book as a stepping stone to an agent. Agents have their place, but if you are smart enough and committed enough to publish a great book on your own (PROPERLY), why would you want to give any of the proceeds away?

        As for selling a book; no matter who publishes a book, you or a publisher, you should be willing to put the exact same effort into marketing and selling that book.

        A reporter once asked Robert Kyosaki what she should do to sell as many books as him. He told her to take some classes on selling. She said she was a writer, not a sales person and that wasn’t what she wanted to do. He pointed out to her that it was part of the package, “…it is a best SELLER list, not a best WRITER list.”

        Authors/writers don’t seem to realize this when jumping into this business.

        I have bought and read MANY self-published books. I have also read some stinkers. I don’t think a book should be judged on WHO published it, but on how good the book is.

        Karen Syed

      • waggish on May 23, 2012 at 11:03 PM

        I have also been asked these questions and I have the same list of steps I give to peolpe. When I contacted some of the well-known names for formatting, cover design, etc. I got quite a lot of, We can do your project, but we have a 12 week waiting list. I was ready really, really ready so I put together a team and I’m super happy with them.Here is the list I made about different art sizes for different sites. My cover artist gives me the design in all of these sizes so it’s super easy to do the upload.Kindle600 x 800Payloadz273 x 273xinxii.com380 x 480Smashwords500 x 700Barnes & Noble PubIt563 x 750Thumbnail150 x 210Lightning Source e-Book510 x 680Veronica