Recently, I was given an ARC of a soon-to-be-released self-published novel to read and review. And I was excited to do so. In fact, I was the one who contacted the author asking for the ARC, because the concept seemed interesting and like something I’d love to read. Unfortunately, my experience reading the book was… less than fun. It was so flawed in so many ways that, at fifty percent of the way through my read, I had to stop.
This left me in an uncomfortable position: Should I review the book or not? I felt torn, because the author had been so sweet to me during our few interactions, and because it felt like maybe I was critiquing his book too harshly. After all, it was self-published. That meant he didn’t have a team behind him to help him make his book shine and shimmer. So should I really be holding him and his book to the same standard as I hold traditionally published books and authors?
Then, I stopped and I realized that people like me are part of the problem. I realized that if we let books like this pass without honestly critiquing them, we’re basically ensuring that self-publishing will never be taken seriously. I mean, self-publishing is notorious for half-baked novels getting put out into the world before they’re ready. And if we say, “Oh, well, it’s bad because it’s self-published, so we should be less critical of it”, we’re only making things worse. I mean, Jenna Moreci’s novel The Savior’s Champion is proof that, when done right, a self-published book can be just as well-made as a traditionally-published book.
I’m not saying Moreci’s book is perfect, but neither are most traditionally-published novels. What it is is well-structured and written, with no glaring grammatical flaws, and a well-developed world and characters. It doesn’t feel like an amateur wrote it, or like someone tried to save a buck by foregoing a necessary step of editing. It is, essentially, the same quality as your average traditionally-published novel. And that’s what I want from all of the novels I read.
So, I’ve decided to write a review. I plan to be as nice about it as I can, because I understand that the author is a person and that being rude or mean is completely unnecessary, but I don’t plan on holding back on my critiques. My personal standard for self-published books is for them to feel professionally made, and from now on, that’s the standard I will hold them to. And I encourage all of my fellow book reviewers to do the same.
Don’t give a self-published book four or five stars just because you feel bad and are trying to be nice, or because you think it’s okay that it’s poorly written because it’s self-published. Don’t avoid writing a review at all just because you can’t think of anything positive to say about the book. Not only are you doing the author a disservice by letting them think their book is flawless when it isn’t, but you’re also doing potential readers a disservice by not warning them about what they’re getting themselves into. And you’re doing the self-publishing industry a disservice by letting sub-par novels pass without even a slap on the wrist.
What do you guys think? Does it seem to you like we’re giving self-published authors too much slack? Or do you feel like I’m wrong, and that they shouldn’t be held to the same standard as traditionally-published authors? Let me know in the comments!