I'm going to self-publish in a few months. As a matter of fact, I'm about to launch my Kickstarter campaign to raise money for it. And I'm very excited. Very. But I'm also nervous.
But I'm not just nervous about people reading and judging my book. My worries aren't just "what if they hate it?" or "what if I only sell three copies and those three all go to my family?" Those are normal worries, and although that would hurt, it's not as scary as my real worry.
Which is that my self-published novel will end up as just more flotsam in the slush of self-pubbed books (and flotsam is optimistic: implying that I'm floating on the top of the slush).
You see, far too many books published by indie authors are subpar.
Now don't get me wrong, I think that the self-publishing industry is great. In theory. Making more books available to readers is awesome--it will allow people to fill niches that traditional publishers don't even know are there (or are too small for the trad. publishers to care about). All of these new books are great for readers, and fulfill a lot of indie authors' dreams.
But therein lies the problem. Too many people are publishing their "dreams" without polishing those dreams up. Traditional publishers might spend a year or more getting a book ready to distribute. There are multiple edits, covers to design, titles to change, more edits, more covers, another title change. Rinse and repeat until that book is as close to perfect (or marketable) as it is going to get.
Occasionally you will find a typo or inconsistency in a traditionally published book, but not that often and not that glaring, because there were professional editors involved.
That is one of the major differences between traditionally published books and self-published books, which are mostly edited by the author, a couple of beta readers (maybe), and possibly that English major the author kind of knows. And these self-edited self-pubbed books create a lot of slush. People prematurely publish on Amazon and Smashwords and create messes that can cover up the good self-published books.
But you don't set rough diamonds in a ring, and readers shouldn't be asked to commit to a book in the rough either. And every time a reader buys a self-published book that is poorly edited, they become leery of buying another. And who would blame them? Even though indie books are typically cheaper ($.99 anyone?), that doesn't mean that the reader should be put in the position of tryin to figure out which "there" the author meant, or what tense the sentence is supposed to be. If someone is paying for a book, even if the price is less than a dollar, they should be getting a product that is easily readable.
And if not, the first page of that book should be "Warning: The only other person to have read this book is my mother. She said it was great. Also, I got a C in high school English so expect spelling and grammar errors." If the reader wants to buy it anyway, more power to them, but they should know what they are getting into. Because if readers keep getting burned by indie books, they are going to stop buying them. Because $.99 is a great price for a good book, but if you have to buy 10 books at that price to find one that is readable and enjoyable, it would be better to find a traditionally published book for $7.99.
And that's what scares me. I'm scared that the book that I am going to invest real money into getting professionally edited and fitted with professional cover art is going to be that 11th book. The one that the reader isn't going to buy because she's been burned so many times before. If you read my post about The Wandering Engineer series, you'll see that I nearly gave up on those books because of the downward spiral it was taking.
And maybe you're an indie author and thinking to yourself "but you didn't give up." Well, no, I didn't. I rarely give up on books or series, and I enjoyed the first couple of Wandering Engineer books enough that I was willing to keep slogging through them to see if they got better. But I was also reading them for free on someone else's Kindle; I wouldn't have kept paying money for poorly written, unedited books. And in my whole life, I have given up on 2 traditionally published books and close to 20 indie published books. I'm not going to waste my valuable time reading books where I have to puzzle out what the author actually meant to say. And when I've spent money on that book...ugh! It makes me leery of buying self-published books, and I want to self-publish!
So I'm scared to self-publish, because I'm scared that the messy splurts of premature publishing are going to stain my work, too.
If you want more of a rant on why self-publishing is a problem (with plenty of vulgar language to keep you entertained) go check out this blog post by Chuck Wendig on his blog terribleminds.