Self-Publishing: Good for Writers, Bad for Readers?

I love a good Major League baseball game, watching men in tight pants running bases, hitting 90 mph fastballs, and catching towering fly balls.

But what if they changed the rules and allowed anyone with a mitt and cap to play in the majors? We’d see thousands of new teams as every guy or gal who ever dreamed of being in the big leagues finally got a chance. It would be great for them, but lousy for the fans who pay good money to watch the best of the best out on the field.

That’s similar to what has happened in the publishing business. Writers no longer need to “tryout” to be published. They can circumvent the agents and publishers who serve as gatekeepers to traditional publishing. Write a novel, create a cover, upload to Amazon, collect some five-star reviews (Thanks, friends and family!), and BOOM, you’re a published author.

I’m planning to self-publish my first novel, so I’m not knocking this route. But as a reader, I find reading self-published novels to often be an exercise in self-punishment.

I try to read both traditionally published and self-published novels. The former I usually choose after reading reviews or because I love the author. The later, well, I do read some of those five-star reviews, and I want to believe them, but I’m usually left wondering if either they didn’t read the book or they wouldn’t know good literature if it hit them in the forehead.

I also read a lot of forums where writers talk about traditional vs. self-publishing. Writers complain that agents and publishers reject work because they think the book isn’t marketable, or because the writer doesn’t already have a following. I’m sure that’s true, but I suspect, based on my own history as a script reader, that agents and publishers reject the vast majority of manuscripts because they’re just not very good.

Which brings me back to readers. Self-publishing is here to stay, and that’s a good thing. But we reader need a better way to separate the wheat from the chafe. We need reviews we can trust.

Writing quality reviews is a difficult job, but I would love to see some tough, smart critics emerge who are willing to write reviews of self-published novels (especially in the romance genre). Are there some already out there? Are there romance reviewers you trust? I would love to read them too.

Best Wishes,