Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Book bloggers and self-publishing: Room for mutual respect?

(These are my comments on a great discussion among book bloggers at Bookalicious about whether they should accept self-published books for review).

I’d like to weigh in because I dearly love book bloggers and feel you guys are taking on a huge and important role that has been largely abandoned by the mainstream press, and even dedicated publications like PW Weekly have their own masters to obey (it’s now essentially a mouthpiece for the major publishing industry, not for books themselves).

I have been a “published author”–six books, in fact. Some did okay but they all went out of print. I’ve been self-publishing for the last two years. The quality is just as good, and in fact three of the books were previously published and I got my rights back. I feel the books I’ve written since then are even better than the ones that got published. And they are finding more readers. It’s truly a better option for most authors, and means lower ebook prices and more choices for readers.

I don’t undervalue professional input–all writers should use a qualified editor and proofreader, whether they pay for it or trade with peers. Having an agent does not make one a better writer. Having a corporate publisher does not make one a better writer (though a good editor can help any writer). The only difference between a major-press book and your average competent self-published book is luck.

I have worked with many great book bloggers. I did a 90-day blog tour that launched my first Kindle bestseller, and blogs helped immensely. I always read the review policy of bloggers before I query. If you don’t want self-published books or ebooks, I respect your choice. We all have too many books as it is.

But I do believe locking out self-published books, especially in 2011 when publishing is undergoing seismic change, means you miss the opportunity to discover the next wave of great writers, those chosen by readers instead of predetermined by the amount of the advance paid to the author (and let’s not kid ourselves, corporate bestsellers are made and not born, and get all the marketing, and get stacked up high in front of the bookstore, no matter what level of quality they are. That’s not criticism, it’s operating procedure). 

There are couple of ways to deal with the floodgates that you can borrow from the industry. My first agent told me he rejected almost everything based on the query letter. “If it sounds like something I would have written, I reject it,” he said.

If a writer doesn’t read your policy, strike three. If a writer can’t write a decent sentence in a query without a grammatical error, strike three. If the writer can’t clearly communicate and inspire in a brief email, there’s probably little hope for an entire book, so strike three. These simple steps should clear out 95 percent of the pile!

One other suggestion for bloggers, one the industry gave up long ago:responding with a polite “No, thanks.” Once agents and publishers started their “Only responds if interested” policy, it immediately moved them down the scale of considerate people who respect the time and work of others and removed them even further from the people who could help them thrive. “No, thanks” takes about as long as hitting the delete button, and makes everyone sleep better.

I admire book bloggers because you put so much time and passion into what you do, with little return besides free books (and getting a box of new books from a publisher really feels like “getting something,” as opposed to having an ebook mailed to you). But as bookstores close, major publishers weaken in influence, and everyone has a device at their fingertips to consume books, they desperately need guides to help them navigate the ever-growing flood of books.

I don’t think there’s an easy choice, and it remains a personal choice. But there’s an entire, unexplored world out there, and you might be surprised what is waiting for your discovery.

Thanks for all you do bringing readers and writers together.



  1. Great post, Scott. I agree that book bloggers are helping to keep the industry alive, and the ones willing to review self-published books are a god-send. Writers, especially self-pubbed ones like me, should be very grateful for their time and efforts.

    Katie McVay
    Author, The City of Lost Secrets

  2. thanks for sharing, Katie, we need all the filters and advocates we can get!

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