Monday, October 26, 2009

I made this myself

Today, a simple question:

What would it take for you to buy and read a self-published book?


  1. My sister's recommendation or it's a good writer friend's book.

  2. A high HIGH recommendation not from a friend, but from someone whose literary taste I value.

    Sales would also work for me--sell enough copies, and the public will inform me of the quality.

  3. For non-fiction, it would have to be a subject I'm interested in. In fact, I has bought a couple self-published e-books.
    Fiction is a lot tougher sell. I hate wasting my money on crap, so I trust editors/agents a bit more than random recs of people who will probably read anything.

  4. The author would probably have to shove it down my throat so I even know the book exists. Then I might buy it. Reading it is another can of worms. I just don't get out much so I wouldn't know a self-pubbed book if it hit me in the head.

  5. I don't think I'd read it. I'm inherently a fan of the "system." I think there is something to be said about an author and their novel if they can convince agents and publishers to follow their vision.

  6. I'd go by a trusted reader's recommendation or if I've read samples of the author's work and really liked the writing.
    Honestly, though, I get most books from the library. I know, bad me for not supporting authors more.

  7. It would have to be marketed well or earn high recommendation because I otherwise probably wouldn't know about it.

  8. A recommendation. Many of the books I read are from friends recommendations or, just a friend dropping off a stack of books at the house. I swear he only does that to make his bookshelves look better, and mine worse. : )


  9. It would take a personal recommendation for me to find out about the book in the first place. Then if it had a subject that interested me, I'd flip through it and read a few sentences, just like with any book, to get an idea of the writing quality and style. If I liked it, I'd buy it and treasure it as sort of a collector's item, especially if I knew the author personally. And definitely get the author's signature in the front cover, for fun. :)

  10. #1 point here would be if I even know it exists. After that, I'd take a recommendation from someone whose book judgement I trust, or if the topic seemed compelling enough. I'm not going to discount a book purely because it is self-published, but it is going to take a lot more for me to even know it's there as an option.

  11. Rebecca, Cool to see you respect your sister's taste! It's nice that you would support a friend too.

    Beth, interesting what you say about having the public inform you. That makes sense if word of mouth marketing is successful.

    lapetus999, fair enough. I think the non-fiction thing makes sense.

    Stephanie, good point about even knowing if the book is out there. I think that may be the main problem, marketing.

    Ken, For me personally, I just haven't compared enough self-published books against published ones to be able to know if one group is really better. I know of three self-published books that I've read, and for all of them, the self-publish was a result of time constraints--not wanting to waste it--instead of rejections from agents.

    Annie, reading samples is a good point. I think that would be one of my criteria as well. I good marketing strategy might be to price the book cheaply or to offer it online for free first.

    Mariah, yes, marketing is important. Then again, I suppose there are plenty of traditionally published books that also aren't marketed well. I bet we don't know about hundreds of books that come out that way.

    Scott, give me your friend's email. He sounds like a key player!

    Recessionista Genie, that sounds like a really reasonable way to approach this. It's nice to see that you wouldn't have any initial biases just because the book is self-published!

    WindyA, yeah, I think a few people mentioned this. It's a difficult thing, I guess. With everyone competing for advertising space, the publishing houses probably have far more power.

  12. (1) A recommendation or I know the person

    (2) If it's mentioned everywhere/marketed well

    (3) It's something that really catches my attention plot/character-wise

    (4) Price (should be decently priced)

  13. Ditto what Glam said.

    Granted, I read "The Lace Reader" for free because I was working at a newspaper that received a review copy and the Arts reporter let me borrow it. About the only issue I had with that particular self-pubbed work was some continuity issues (but not even to keep my from enjoying it).

  14. Personal rec, of course, but I also would read it if I knew something about the author and her writing. There are blogs I read where if the blogger self-pubbed, I would absolutely buy her book.

    But here's sort of a messy example: I read, like many people, Alexander Chee's essay on Annie Dillard, and I bought his novel, Edinburgh, immediately. I read it this weekend, thus bumping it in front of other to-be-read books, and even supplanting the novel I was already reading.

    It's not a perfect example because his book wasn't self-published, but if it had been I absolutely would have bought it, based on his compelling writing and persona in that essay.

    Maybe those two are more connected than I'm allowing--maybe he is published because he is that good--to have written that essay. But that just applies in the current publishing model. I'm saying that based on that writing he could have self published.

    So I actually do see a time when good writers with an online presence (i.e., demonstrable compelling writing) will be able to skip the traditional publishing route. Because their own work/reputation will be the equivalent of an agent's/editor's/publisher's kiss of approval.

    Davin, on a separate note, after reading Edinburgh, I'd have to say Chee is making the case for writing/reading about dark subject matter...

  15. 1. An interesting story

    2. Some form of credibility...sample pages, a blurb, or the recommendation from a friend so I know the quality of writing is decent

    3. I need to know that it exists. I think the greatest challenge for those leaning toward self-publishing is marketing and raising awareness.

  16. I second those who said they need to know the book exists. Other than that: whether the book is self-published or published through a traditional publishing house doesn't mean much to me. I pick books to read in the same way:

    1. Do I like the writing and the story?

    2. Did someone I trust recommend it?

  17. ...The first page, the actual text, the space between the covers. Whether I like that is my only real criteria for reading and/or buying any written work. All the stuff outside that--the publisher, the book's cover, blurbs, recommendations--is normally meaningless to me. If an author (or publisher) is a real asshole sicko or somehow offends me greatly--that's an exception here, that's when I'll downgrade insides to No Thanks status, especially for buying something because I don't want to monetarily support that individual. But even then I still must look at the insides before I'm sure. I'm more interested in writings than writers.

    I probably cannot accurately know what a book's insides are like until I've read the insides. And I read for insides.

  18. Usually I avoid self-pubbed because as a newspaper reporter I saw a lot of amateur stuff come in that had gone that route. However, the publishing world is changing, and there may be more viable books self published. I would probably read one that I knew the quality of the writer's work from either blogging, being in crit group with them or rec from someone's whose taste I trust.

  19. Hmmm, not sure I would. I guess, if word of mouth told me that the book was JUST so great then I would buy it. I'm not being snobby Davin, you know that. It's just that the self- pubbed books that I have looked through, DO NOT have the quality that traditionally pubbed books do. A lot of writers in this town have gone that route and the books aren't done well. So that is a big reason that I have the opinion I do.

    Now if it was a writer from our blogosphere like Chuck, I would think about buying it. I might buy his. Am I making sense or just babbling here? :) Great question though.

  20. Addendum: Everyone should read the awesome Janet Reid today, touching this subject:

  21. I guess I would need to at least know about it. How many self-published books make to the new-fiction section at Borders?

  22. If I know the writer and have read her work before (so I know it's worth reading). It would also depend on the subject matter. I'm a die-hard Beatles fan and enjoy reading fiction about the band, but that's a difficult subject to sell to regular publishers. One of my friends has self-published her Beatles fan fiction book called "With Strings Attached," which puts the group in a D&D type world and satirizes some aspects of RPG. I interviewed her on my blog to help promote her book.

  23. Having worked in the self-publishing industry for a major self-publisher, I can honestly say that there are some truly amazing books out there. Unfortunately, they are far and few in between.

    I wouldn't read a self-pubbed book (fiction) unless quite a few people recommended it to me. I would be more apt to read a memoir than a novel, though.

  24. Michelle, thanks for your list! The last point is an interesting one. Do you expect self-published books to be cheaper because there's no middle worker that also needs to get paid?

    Matthew, thanks for your input and the compliment to The Lace Reader as well. I think whenever someone advocates a self-published book, it makes the idea of self-publishing more acceptable.

    Jennifer, I think I get what you are saying. Chee was able to sell you based on something else you had read of his. That makes sense. And thanks for the note about the darkness!

    Rick, thanks. Raising awareness is hard. I also think it's hard for many midlist writers that publish through houses.

    Crimey, thanks for your thoughts. I would hope that I could ignore how the book was published too. But, it is hard to compare since the two options are rarely sitting together on a shelf.

    F. P., I think what you say here supports the idea of making a free or very low priced book available online with a bigger price for readers who want the hard copy. To me, this model makes sense, but I wonder how it does in the real world.

    Tricia, I do get the sense that the writing world is changing. Even though it's not currently the same thing, I think bloggers and tweeters are self-publishing their works and gaining fans that way. The connection between those short messages and longer works is probably closer than I think.

    Robyn, Thanks for your thoughts. It's interesting because I've had just the opposite reaction. With the two and half self-pubbed books I've read, I've thought that all of the authors could have gotten published traditionally if they wanted. One in particular, is an older gentleman who is approaching 90. The only reason he didn't look for an agent was because he was worried about dying first.

    Mariel, Apparently, at least a few do! Well, I'm not sure about Borders, but Barnes & Noble's anyway. That surprised me, but authors can get their self-published books there if they want to.

    Sandra, You bring up an interesting point. And, in the reading I've done, people tend to say that self-publishing works very well for books that have a narrow focus like that.

    Melissa, thanks for jumping in on this! Interesting viewpoint from the inside. The most successful self-published book I know about (within my circle of friends) was indeed a memoir. It sold over 3000 copies.

  25. Davin, I don't expect self published books to be cheaper, no. I just don't think they should be overpriced. "Decently" is the key word here. Maybe that was a dumb point, though. Are any self-published books overpriced, I wonder?

  26. Self-published books are REALLY over-priced, which further detracts from their appeal.

    In my job (I wrote the back cover copy for our self-pubbed books), I had to skim through quite a few manuscripts (1,000 or more) and there were some where I really wanted to contact the author and say, "Send this to New York! Don't waste your time with this!"

    Our of the thousands and thousands of books we published, I can count on one hand those that actually "broke out" and were offered a publishing contract with a New York publishing house.

    If you truly want to succeed in self-publishing with fiction, your book must be 1) excellent and 2) out of the box.

  27. Yes. If I've been made aware of it from some other means, or it makes it was into my line of sight, then I have nothing against self-publishing. I will read a page or two like F.P. suggests, but I won't buy books (or CD's, audio speakers and cars) blindly. I'm not a big online guy; I always go to bookstores.


    I have at least one self-published book I plan on buying as soon as I'm financial able to.

  28. As a lot of folks have already said, self-published books are mostly invisible to most of us. I'm sure there are self-published novels I'd enjoy, but likely I'll never hear of them. Someone would have to recommend it to me for me to know about it at all.

    I have purchased and read some non-fiction self-published books, all well written and aimed at niche markets (okay, aimed at one niche market: violin players and collectors). I found those books because they were distributed by nationally known music supply companies. Though I bought one (self-published in the late 1800s) at a used book store. It has a leather cover and is really cool.

    One issue I have with places like Lulu is that, even if the cost of the book itself is reasonable, the cost of shipping pushes the expense pretty high. I assume Lulu makes most of their money on "handling" fees built into the shipping. I don't know how Amazon's self-publishing biz works, or B&N's (if they're still doing iUniverse). I do know that, at least six years ago, some B&Ns would actually stock iUniverse books in the stores. At a special display table. Near the restrooms.

  29. It would require the same critetia I have for buying non-self-published books. Recommendations mean little to me, since one person's Greatest Novel of All Time may be another person's Emergency Toilet Paper. I generally look for the following, regardless of publisher:

    Eye-catching cover and intriguing title.

    Interesting back of the book blurb.

    Reasonable pricing.

    All of that is, of course, contingent on the book being available in the stores I shop.

    That being said, if any of my writer friends decided to self-publish, of course I would buy their book! ;)

  30. Not too long ago I was shopping for deals on Amazon and ordered a middle grade mystery. I was happy when it came and dove right in.

    Well, three pages in, I thought 'who published this book?' - turns out it was self published.

    I never finished it. Not because of the publisher, but because it was not written very well. I felt a little ripped off..even though I only paid $4 plus $3.99 S&H.

    that was more of a ramble than a true answer to your question....sorry :D

  31. The only self-published books I buy and read are ones that are sold as an add-on to a seminar or workshop. If the workshop was useful, and there is something I want to take home from it, then I'll buy the book. I'll also buy a book of a friend or acquaintance, just to be supportive. Other than that, I generally don't buy them. Good question. - G

  32. Fiction:

    Knowing the author personally.


    Great cover art and catchy synopsis or first page.


    Knowing the author.


    Relevant or Interesting.

  33. I hate to admit it, but effective marketing would probably work for me, if its in a genre I read.

    If a self published book and a TOR book were sitting side by side on the shelf, I'd read the book blurb and and the first one or two pages to see if the book might be interesting. Most of my purchases are based off the strength of the blurb alone.

    I only look at who published the novel if its exceedling awesome (outside of normal genre standards), really bad (I want to know what Publishing House stupidly let that one on the shelves), or if I think the storyline is similar to my own novel idea and I want to know what House published its like.

    If the only marketing the book has had is sitting at the front of the store while the Author does a reading or has been reviewed in the Lifestyles of the local newspaper, I doubt I'll ever see it.

    Everywhere I've been - conference, workshop, bookstore, online groups - where there are self-published authors amidst the crowd, I hear the same reasoning behind the self-pub'ing: the normal publishing process takes to long; my book has been rejected by agents too many times; it's too good to sit on a shelf; and so on.

    Some self published authors may very well be excellent writers; but without that marketing campaign to get their novels shelved with everything else in its genre, I'm afraid I'd just walk past the stores billboard touting the author's greatness.



Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.