There are many reasons to be thankful for self-published authors.
Unfortunately, some people – most notably, some discussion forums – like to stress the features of the worst indie books. But the worst books don’t define self-publishing; the best books do. Many more people are reading the best indie books because they sell much more frequently than the worst books.
Perhaps if we focus on the benefits of self-published books, and spend some time marketing features that make the best indie books stand out, this will help to improve the image of self-publishing and help to offset some of the negative marketing out there.
(Any self-published authors who may be advertising negative aspects of self-published books are actually hurting their own marketing efforts. If you sell eBooks, for example, but spend time convincing others that most eBooks are awful, then you’re telling people not to invest in eReaders and to buy just traditionally published books. How will this affect your very own sales?)
You can choose to focus on the number of self-published books that need editing and better covers. You can focus on how awful the worst books are. You can focus on the bad behavior of a few indie authors. But why? It’s a choice.
Especially, if you’re an indie author, you should help to show others that there are some quality indie books out there. Marketing positive features of indie books helps your own marketing efforts.
The worst books are very rarely selling. Any sensible buyer will avoid books that have features that they don’t like. So why worry about the worst books?
Why not focus on the best indie books that are selling frequently.
Okay, maybe there are a few indie books that are selling very well, which maybe shouldn’t be. But who are we to judge? If they are selling well, they must be appealing to some buyers, right? All books that please one set of readers are detested by other readers. I bet we can all list some extremely popular, traditionally published books that we detest and explain what’s wrong with them. Obviously, thousands of other people loved them.
So why should be thankful for self-published books?
- They give us something different to read. Something different from the kinds of books that traditional publishers are accustomed to publishing. Traditional publishers usually don’t like to publish material that is too different.
- We can read books that were driven by creative writers who were driven by passion, writing with the freedom to write as they choose. Self-published authors didn’t have to follow a business model in order to get published. Traditional publishers are businesses that want to publish books that are most likely to sell.
- It can be a far more personal experience. Indie authors sell many books through personal marketing efforts. Therefore, many of the readers have actually met and interacted with the author. You’re much more likely to know a self-published author than a traditionally published author. Chances are that you already know several. This allows us to read books by authors we already know. Since they are more likely to have a small readership, they are more likely to give you personal attention should you wish to meet and interact with them.
- The very, very best self-published books are really quite amazing. For example, there are some highly stunning covers. Traditional publishers tend to have good covers; most will sell well just by being good. Many self-published authors seek incredible, eye-popping covers to help get their books noticed. As a result, there are some fantastic self-published covers out there. There are great traditionally published covers, too, but most of my all-time favorites have been self-published.
- Self-published authors took a risk for our benefit. Most self-published books only benefit a small number of readers. Authors have better prospects for having their books stocked on the shelves of chain bookstores through traditional publishing. The next time you discover a gem that was self-published, take a moment to appreciate the risk that the author took to make this book available to you.
- Who doesn’t enjoy the experience of discovering a diamond in the rough? People like to go to flea markets and yard sales hoping to uncover something incredible. There are also many readers (like myself) who love to browse through self-published books, hoping to discover an as-of-yet unnoticed masterpiece.
- If you read a self-published book, consider how much time has been put into it. First of all, the author probably has a full-time career (but not as a writer), and put this book together as a hobby during spare time. Next, the author didn’t just write the book, but proofread the book, designed the cover, marketed the book, and so on. The author may have even invested a large sum of money for help with editing, illustrations, eBook conversion, or other services. Most successful indie books had much time, blood, and sweat put into them. Even when one component may be lacking (e.g. cover design), a great deal of time and effort may have been put into the rest (especially, preparing the storyline and choosing words with care). You can see the best parts of the book or the worst parts of the book; it’s a choice.
- Many self-published books fill a need for a niche audience, or for a useful nonfiction topic that traditional publishers wouldn’t invest in. The next time you read a book written for a specialized audience, or the next time you search for a book on an unpopular nonfiction topic, if a self-published book fills your need, take a moment to appreciate that such a book even exists.
There are millions of people who have self-published a book. There are many more indie authors than traditionally published authors. Most of us know many indie authors – family members, friends, acquaintances, but also people who had been strangers until we discovered their books. Most of us have good reasons for supporting the self-publishing industry.
I’m not saying that we shouldn’t support traditional publishing. They provide a great service, too. Especially, if you’re looking for popular books, traditional publishers help to deliver well-written, well-edited books, help us find such books easily among millions of books on the market, and support valuable businesses like brick and mortar bookstores and libraries.
What I am saying is that we should support self-published authors in addition to traditional publishing. In this case, we don’t have to make a choice. Both are quite valuable.
Chris McMullen, self-published author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers