The Great Debate: Self-Published Books are No Good

Omar: Self-published books are a menace. Perhaps that’s a bit of an exaggeration but they sure are bad enough.

First of all, we need to differentiate between a published book and a self-published book. They are not even remotely close.

Publishing-HousesIn order for a book to get published by a decent publishing house, there is a rigorous process to go through. This process includes copyediting as well as editorial and design work to ensure that the book is of decent quality and is worth the time that we will spend reading it.

Riley: You’re right, of course. Traditional publishing houses have high standards and provide excellent resources like professional editing and design services. It seems that in a modern age, though, publishing houses are more about who you know than what you know. Many aspiring authors now-a-days complain of a publishing industry that has become cliquey, unhelpful, and old-fashioned.

Omar: When it comes to the “self-published” books, it’s a free-for-all festival where everyone and anyone can become an author. A self-proclaimed author, to be precise.

A self-proclaimed author falls under the same category as the self-proclaimed genius and people who claim they are “award-winners” but never actually specify any of those awards. If a person believes something to be true, it doesn’t mean it actually is.

Books are no different. In most cases, those self-published books don’t even have the basic quality requirements to make them qualify as “books” to begin with.

Riley: Of course there are bad self-published books, and bad authors who give self-publishing a bad name, but there are two big things you’re forgetting about.

  1. Not all self-pubbed books are bad. Quite the opposite in fact. I’ve read loads of great self-published books that I’ve loved and shared.
  2. Not all traditionally published books are good. I’ve read my fair share traditionally published clangers in my time too, leaving me wondering how on Earth they managed to find someone to publish them in the first place (perhaps that’s that nepotism again).


As for the ‘awards’ claims – you’re right, of course. There are a few bad eggs who do that, but it’s really unfair to tar all self-published authors with that same brush.

A Swarm of Crappy Books

Omar: When self-publishing a book, most people don’t seem to ask themselves ‘why?’. They ask themselves ‘why not?’. With such a low-barrier of entry, it is rightfully so.

They love to write this crap anyway so why not just throw it on Amazon and call it a book? What is the worst thing that could happen? It’s free and you publish it yourself, right?

When it comes to crappy self-published books, there are numerous examples that aren’t just bad, they are heinously bad.

The bottom of the self-published books barrel – which is a really far bottom – is full of 18800202_c5913dfca3_b.jpggreat examples of how out of control this whole thing can get.

Hall-of-fame-worthy examples include a book about a Californian drug dealer who graduates college in the 1960s, moves to Alaska, loses his mind, and turns into a ram!

The way the book is written is actually much worse than the plot, which is really impressive given how bad the plot is. I’m sure the author loved it though, that’s why he “self-published” it, to share it with the rest of us.

Riley: Ha! The Californian drug dealer plot sounds right up my street! And that just goes to show how subjective books are when it comes to deciding what is good and what is not. That plot might seem ridiculous to you but to me, it sounds funny. Putting that aside though, there is bound to be crap at the bottom of the barrel, but the stuff at the top is worth its weight in gold. The fact that many traditional publishing houses look to self-fifty-shades-of-grey-the-classical-album-launch---an-evening-with-el-james.jpgpublished books to scout for talent is proof enough of that, and there have been numerous examples of self-published authors who have shot to fame. Just look at EL James. What started as self-published fan-fiction became one of the biggest selling book franchises ever.

There are some amazing self-published authors out there who simply haven’t had the chance or the opportunities that traditionally published authors have. There are many, too, who don’t have the resources to pay for a professional cover design or high quality editoral team. Many new authors also get ripped off by supposed ‘experts’ in those fields, and find it hard to distinguish between the genuine and the dodgy.

What’s more, there are plenty of traditionally published books that are low rated, that are littered with typing errors, or that have ridiculous covers. Why don’t we give self-published authors the same chance that we give traditionally published authors when we randomly pick up a book?

There’s a simple solution that you can apply across the board. Don’t like the look of the cover or the sound of the blurb? Don’t buy it!

Looking For a Good Self-Published Book? Good luck.

Omar: I’m not saying that all self-published books are bad, just the vast majority of them.

With the behemoth amount of crappy books being self-published annually, finding a good one is like looking for a needle in a haystack. Despite knowing it’s there, looking for that needle is a total waste of time.

The only way you’ll ever find a good self-published book is either with pure luck or through a friend who found it with pure luck and recommended it to you.

Imagine going to the movie theater and finding out that they are allowing the same concept. Instead of having eight movies they have 150 that are in the wrong categories, with poor actors, hilariously-bad special effects, and cheap storylines.

Stockholm Public LibraryWhy makes such thing acceptable for books?

With so many good books lost in that noise, I believe the current dysfunctional self-publishing mechanism needs to be re-evaluated.

Riley: Yeah, the sheer numbers of self-published books makes it harder to find that gem you’re going to really love, but it doesn’t make it impossible. Besides, you’re never going to love every single book you pick up, now matter how few are published. Some you’ll love, some you’ll hate, and some will be okay – that’s called life.

Perhaps you’re right – perhaps the system we’ve got at the moment is a little dysfunctional. Perhaps it needs an overhaul, or better control, or whatever.

Thanks for playing Devil’s advocate so I could get my point across, Omar! 

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