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Do You Want to Know if a Novel is Self-Published?

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Do You Want to Know if a Novel is Self-Published?

Post by Margaret » Sun April 10th, 2011, 5:13 am

Some while ago at HistoricalNovels.info, I started including a notation on a listing if a novel was self-published. Visitors had commented that this would be useful information to them, and it did seem to me that it might be useful. In the meantime, I have received quite a few requests from authors requesting that I remove the notations that their novels were self-published. Some have been more polite than others; many have requested that the listings for their novels be removed entirely if I won't remove the "self-published" notation.

I'd like to revisit this question and it would be a great help to know what readers here think about this issue. There are two main areas of contention:

What is a self-published novel? For purposes of my website, I consider a novel to be self-published if (1) it is published by the author's own press, (2) it is published by one of the self-publishing services such as Lulu, (3) it is published by a POD publisher which refuses few or no projects submitted to it (just in the three years since I started the website, it's gotten trickier to differentiate these from small presses which use POD technology but do screen submissions - I consider it a red flag if the website of one of these "publishers" is geared toward persuading authors to submit to them and their submission guidelines stress technical set-up procedures like margins rather than asking for a synopsis and sample chapter). What do you guys think? Am I being too restrictive?

Should I include a "self-published" notation at all? Many self-published authors feel there is a stigma against self-publishing and do not want their books labeled as such. Perhaps the fact that I do include this notation is evidence of a stigma - otherwise readers wouldn't want to be "warned" that a novel is self-published. Am I being unfair to self-published authors and misleading to readers by including this notation?

I'm particularly interested in the perspective of people who are "just" readers, because this is the group I feel my website is primarily serving. However, I'm also interested in the perspectives of authors, because of their greater knowledge of the publishing process.

What do you think?
Browse over 5000 historical novel listings (probably well over 5000 by now, but I haven't re-counted lately) and over 700 reviews at www.HistoricalNovels.info

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Post by SGM » Sun April 10th, 2011, 8:37 am

I find it useful to know if a book is self-published if I have never heard of it before because, as we all know, some of them can be really bad and hence a waste of money and more importantly -- time.

But if they have made it onto your iist I assume that they have crossed a quality threshold from a completely independant source and therefore don't care in the slightest who publishes them.
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Post by EC2 » Sun April 10th, 2011, 10:59 am

Speaking purely with my reader hat on - which is why I am here: I don't care if a novel is self-published or not. That reason alone would not stop me reading it. If I buy a book to read, it is either because I love the author, or because I have heard good things about it from people of similar taste whom I trust to be honest. I value sites such as yours and this one for helping me choose where to spend my money. If it's on your site and self-published with a good review, I would think 'kudos' rather than 'meh.' However, if the author of the self-published novel arrives somewhere like the HNS e-list and starts spouting off about their fantastic novel, then I am much less likely to take a chance. Indeed, I think it's one of the reasons that readers have largely fled the HNS e-list! It's like being a Wildebeest trying to cross a river with the crocs in wait.
I'm rambling here. Bottom line. It doesn't bother me whether a writer is self-pubbed or not. What I want are honest reviews that help me to decide whether I will read or not.
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Post by Veronica » Sun April 10th, 2011, 11:17 am

As a reader, which is the only thing I am, I have no interest in reading books that are self published. Why? In my head I see them as not being good enough to be "properly" published. Having said that, not all books that are published are good.

Weather you should note it or not on your site I can not say but yes I do shy away from self published books.
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Post by Misfit » Sun April 10th, 2011, 1:34 pm

To the best of my knowledge I have only purchased two self published books, and at the time I did not know they were self published. Would that knowledge have made me think twice before clicking?

Yes it would have, but only for one of the two. The first one was our own BB's Traitor's Wife and the reviews it already had were from readers I've come across before and trusted their opinions. The second was a dog (although Michele and I had more fun with it than we should have :p ), and even though there was one review from a reviewer I've followed, most of the rest were clearly written by friends or family.

That said, as a book buyer I do want to know if a book is self published and not necessarily because I automatically assume it's a stinker because it can't get published - how do I know it's been given a good going over by an editor? Self pubbed book #2 I mentioned above was not only dreadful plot wise, it was riddled with typos, too many commas and more grievous errors. Why should I pop $18 for that?

I'm pretty much a library girl these days unless someone can seriously sell me on a book, and I've yet to see them pick up a self published book, despite putting in a purchase request.

Now that I have a kindle that might change, as I can now download a free sample and purchase at a lower price than these are listed at, since the hard copies of these books never seem to go down in price.

And back to whether these are good or not, I was one of the Vine reviewers selected to look at 40 excerpts from one of the elimination rounds in Amazon's Breakthrough Novel Award contest, which as I understand it is for self-published authors only. Of the 40 I had, about 5% were excellent and I was rooting for them to advance. The rest, well let's say they needed to go back to the drawing board.

Sorry I've rambled Margaret.
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Post by Divia » Sun April 10th, 2011, 2:56 pm

Stigma or not, in most cases self published books tend to be bad. Not all, but a great majority of them.

If you call it being "warned" then yes I want to be warned.

I can understand why an author wouldn't want to be labeled as self published, there is that stigma, there is that bad vibe taht goes along with it.

I suppose if you wanted to make everything neutral then you should leave it off. But is that helping readers? It wouldnt help me.
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Post by boswellbaxter » Sun April 10th, 2011, 3:39 pm

With fiction, knowing that a book is self-published or published by a small press won't stop me from buying it (or at least sampling it on my Kindle). With history/biography, I am more wary, because it's been my experience that a lot of self-published histories or biographies are poorly researched and/or written by crackpots. I've never bought a self-published book without knowing that it was self-published; usually the cover art, the price (either very low or very high), and the publisher's name are dead giveaways.

For your site, Margaret, I don't know if it's really necessary to include a "self-published" notation. Simply listing the publisher would generally accomplish the same thing by informing a reader that the book's not published by one of the major houses. I don't think readers need to be "warned" that a book's self-published: if they choose to buy a book without first sampling its contents and find that it's not what they hoped for, they've lost a little time and a little money (just as they would if they bought a traditionally published book that they disliked), but it's not as if they've gone out and bought a car or a major appliance sight unseen.
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Post by Divia » Sun April 10th, 2011, 6:15 pm

But self published books tend to be high. So you are wasting valuable dollars on something that is less than stellar.
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Post by Kveto from Prague » Sun April 10th, 2011, 6:40 pm

Hi Margaret. just a reader here. But as you probably know, your site has been my number one source for HF recommendations over the last few years.

however, i have never read a self-published book, at least knowingly. this has more to do with the fact that i prefer older books than anything. but I have definitely picked up that "stigma" against self-published books just from the comments of other posters on this site. nevertheless, I would probably try a self-pubed book if it was on a subject dear to my heart.

As you say, your site is for readers. and that is info only fair to let readers know. i think it will become less of a stigma over time as more and more writers move toward that route.

As a compromise, perhaps to lessen the perceived stigma you could use a "code key". rather than writing "self-published" at the end of the description you could just write "s.p.". for some reason, codes and acronyms tend to annoy people less (often times people don't even look to find out what they mean. for example, i still don't know what ARC stands for. ive never bothered to look into it :-)

If you have writers asking you to remove their titles if you don't remove the "self-pubed" label, I'd drop their book descriptions in a heartbeat. As far as I can tell, you are giving them free publicity out of the goodness of your heart and in an effort to help fellow readers. If they don't want that publicity that's their loss. Your site is a "reader's" site, not a shill for writers, which is why it's a great sight.

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Post by fljustice » Sun April 10th, 2011, 7:35 pm

[quote=""Kveto from Prague""](often times people don't even look to find out what they mean. for example, i still don't know what ARC stands for. ive never bothered to look into it :-) [/quote]

ARC - Advanced Reading Copy commonly given out by publishers to reviewers ahead of official publication in order to generate buzz. Sometimes it's also an uncorrected proof of the book with a note to the reviewers not to quote anything without checking the final copy. Publishers may also ask that reviewers hold their reviews until the publication date. It may or may not have the finished cover and all the "extra" pages. It may also be a softcover when the book is hardcover. There are lots of variations, but the key thing is that they are free from the publishers and given in anticipation of receiving a review. The FCC now has rules about posting reviews on line and requires that reviewers disclose if they received a free copy of the book. Hope that answers your question! ;)
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