Do readers care if a book is self-published?
January 8, 2013
Frankly, I think the answer is a resounding, “It depends.”
Like many of you I have been a reader all my life.
I used to ride my bike to the public library, hole up in the basement with a copy of a Robert Heinlein sci-fi novel and spend the day.
In those days, there were basically two types of books. Those published by the major publishing houses and DIY volumes often produced at a local print shop. These were church histories, family reunion tomes, collections of recipes from home-town chefs.
Even as a young reader I noticed something about the two types of books.
They didn’t look the same.
The books from the big houses had just the right paper, words aligned a certain way on the page, a feel of substance, as if to read them was to rub shoulders with greatness. The DIY books often were printed on shiny stock, the words in strange fonts, the lines crammed together or spaced too far apart. Some of these were also written in the vernacular with misspelled words, odd sentence structures. The covers looked like cardboard end caps with bizarre art work pasted on them.
I am not demeaning those early DIY books. They were works of love, personal dreams fulfilled, items necessary to build a business or pass the word of great events to future generations.
I wish Mr. Shipp had written one of those and included his secret barbecue recipe.
The point is that I could tell by looking if a book was self-published.
Fast forward to the digital revolution.
I have seen countless posts about self-published versus traditionally published books.
As a reader, I don’t give a hoot who published the book I have before me. But I care a lot about the quality of a book.
An ugly wrapper can hide great writing. The problem is that if the package looks home-made, I won’t buy the book. I won’t even download a sample. If the cover looks that bad, I am convinced the author didn’t care enough to produce a first-rate work.
A good cover piques my interest, but that is only the beginning. When I begin to navigate the book, I don’t want any surprises when it comes to the look of the words on the page. I want paragraphs properly indented, word and line spacing that appeals to my eye, style-book grammar and punctuation. All those things should be givens.
If any of them are off, I find myself distracted from the words on the page, worrying about the next snafu I will encounter, wondering why the book wasn’t polished one more time, or three more times.
This is not just a self-publishing issue as the release of J.K. Rowling’s latest book demonstrated. You will recall that the first digital version of her book didn’t display correctly, and the publisher had to re-issue it.
However, for the most part the home-made look of many self-published e-books is a self-inflicted wound in Indie publishing. In the rush to get works into the marketplace, Indie authors sometimes cut corners. Maybe this is an economic issue derived from small, almost non-existent, budgets.
It is penny-wise and pound foolish to publish a book that isn’t ready for prime time. As more e-books flood the market, quality becomes even more essential.
So, my brothers and sisters in the Indie ranks, let’s do each other a big favor.
Let’s not disappoint our readers.
Let’s give them well-produced books that shine.
(Stephen Woodfin is an attorney and author. Click here to visit his Amazon author page.)