With all the discussions flying around about self-publishing, the evil of Amazon and the future of the industry, I feel the need to stick my head above the precipice and shout “what about us?” You know, the readers, the people that buy these books.
In theory self-publishing is a good thing, letting authors get their work out into the open and read, but you only need to look around a handful of book blogs to see that bloggers aren't accepting them for review, either through bad experience or the sheer number of requests we receive for them. I think, in all likelihood it's a little bit of both. If I only had a few requests a year, I'd be more inclined to say yes. Instead, I expect a personalised pitch and a sample for me to judge their style by and still I feel like these books are a chore to review. Which is sad because I genuinely love reading and reviewing. Maybe if I read more self-published work, I'd find one I loved but I'm not prepared to wade through the slush pile to get there.
Because that's what publishers do. The team behind your books read them, like them, edit them and market them to (mostly) the correct audience. You start to trust in imprints that publish books you've enjoyed. You're not going to like everything, but there's a good chance you're not going to be put off reading for life.
The general reading masses do not care that Amazon are “taking over” and mostly they like the company for selling everything including the kitchen sink for low prices and free delivery. They do care if all their bargain ebooks turn out to be boring or badly constructed. You can only gauge so much by Amazon reviews, I have witnessed “advice” for authors to get their friends to leave positive reviews and discourage negative ones. Due to the abuse of the unhelpful vote, genuine reviewers may be less inclined to leave a negative review and just not leave one at all. Lets face it, most users of Amazon don't even consider reviewing books.
I wonder, if after the initial excitement of new toys wears off, readers will stop buying so many ebooks just because they're 99p. We all do it, but in my case, it's mostly traditionally published books that have been reduced to increase sales. 95% of the time you can spot a self-published book a mile off as cover designers don't seem to be high on the list of things to acquire before publishing. I love a good cover design, and a bad one makes me wonder how much thought the author put into the whole process. Has it been edited by a professional or just their friends? Or, worse, not at all? Has it even been proofread (spell-checkers are no substitute)? Have they researched the places, customs and events that occur within the story?
Publishers are so often portrayed as the snobbish gatekeepers that keep the talented authors out of book heaven. That's just not fair and I'm not just saying that because they send me books. I'm sure they would be kicking themselves if they overlooked a gifted author and they went on to be a huge self-publishing success.
There are plenty of new digital publishers starting up, doing the same important things but more likely to pick up your novel...if it's good. Because whilst maybe everyone has a book inside them, not everyone has the skill to write one that others will enjoy.