The advent of ebooks and print on demand technology have revolutionised publishing. For the first time ever, it is relatively cheap and easy for anyone to publish a book. That is wonderful news for the authors with excellent stories who just missed out on getting a publishing deal. Such authors can now take their books directly to their readers, and if they have a professional attitude, get the help they need and follow the exact same steps as those taken by a traditional publishing house, their book can be as good as anything put out by a mainstream publisher.
In that scenario the reader gains access to many great books that they would never otherwise see, sometimes for no other reason than that the time wasn’t right when the author approached a publisher. Books for niche markets appear, books that would have been rejected as simply not in fashion, or as only relevant to a small a number of readers. The big publishers can’t afford to take risks, but authors can and will, and the result can be new and exciting literary movements. That’s the the good news.
The bad news is that if authors publish just because they can, without due consideration as to whether or not their book is worth publishing, or if they aren’t well-educated and diligent in following due process, their product could be substandard, and there is nothing to warn the readers. Instead of getting a wider range of excellent books, the reader could face an overwhelming array of poorly conceived and executed ones.
In reality, both exist side by side, and since you really can’t tell a book by its cover, if you buy a self-published book without due research you risk getting a bad one. On the other hand, if you refuse to buy self-published books you miss out on the many gems available at bargain prices.
Mainstream publishers were called the gatekeepers because they kept the dross out of the book market. In that climate, readers could be confident that anything they bought would be a decent story and properly edited and produced. Now that anyone can publish a book, that assurance is no longer there. This is a dilemma for readers. How do they make sure they don’t waste their money and time on an inferior product?
Readers don’t want someone to tell them what they can or cannot read, but they also don’t want to have to try to work out if a book is of a professional standard or not before they buy it. The gatekeepers aren’t gone, the fence has, and if readers are to make the most of the influx of new reading material without choking in the flotsam, they need someone to point them in the right direction. It’s not always the best books that float either, many excellent ones drown due to lack of marketing skills and advertising budget, and some poor quality books float simply because their author knows how to market.
In this climate, book review sites are vital, especially ones like Goodreads that show a wide variety of reader opinion, but even more important are reviews by people with qualifications in writing and editing. These are the people who can gauge if an indie book is of a similar quality to one put out by mainstream publishers. Their testimonies can save us a lot of heartache.
We can find one or more review sites where the reviewers seem to like the same kind of thing as us, or we can carefully scroll through reviews on Amazon and Goodreads to try to get a sense of whether a book is any good or not, but it doesn’t take long to discover that books that some people rave about are actually very badly written, and yet the reviews aren’t telling us this. This is because those who know the most about writing are not writing reviews. The general culture is for authors not to write negative reviews about other authors work, even if it deserves it. This saves a lot of hassle for authors who might otherwise have to deal with irate and possibly vindictive authors, but isn’t helpful for readers, so if even reviews are suspect, how is a reader to know which books deserve their dollars?
The answer is to find sites with reviews written by people whose opinion you trust, and if you want to browse, buy your books through a site like the Awesome Indies that only lists books vetoed by those with professional writing or editing qualifications. Such sites not only help readers to find the best of Indie books, they also help to maintain the standard of published works by making it clear what is expected.
This is why I created the Awesome Indies site. Here is a quote from one reader that sums up how readers are responding to the site.
I found your site, its aims and professional approach not only impressed but also enthused [me]. Here, it appeared, I’d found a genuinely credible arbiter, a respected winnower of wheat from chaff. Clive S. Johnson http://www.flyingferrets.com
Tahlia writes contemporary fantasy and magical realism with a metaphysical twist for both adults and young adults. She likes stories that are inspiring & empowering and that question the nature of reality, mind and perception. Tahlia is an avid reader, an extremely casual high school teacher, an occasional mask-maker and has studied philosophy & meditation for many years. After scripting and performing in Visual Theatre shows for 20 years, she is now a bone-fide expatriate of the performing arts. She lives in an Australian rainforest, is married with a teenage daughter and loves cats, but she doesn’t have one because they eat native birds.