It’s no secret that self-published books are mostly frowned upon by many readers. “If a book looks ‘self-published,’ then I’d say there’s a good chance it sucks,” writes one Reddit user, proof that there’s this stigma that self-published books exist. -published are bad. Well, there might be a grain of truth in that. Anyone can self-publish these days, thanks to the abundance of platforms like Kindle Direct Publishing, Draft2Digital, and Smashwords. The publishing gatekeepers have already been bypassed, the keys thrown out the window. And oh, it’s not limited to ebooks only. Now anyone can self-publish in print and even have their physical book distributed to physical stores. Anyone can now hire narrators to record their books – that’s already a different field, but you get the idea.
When self-publishing, most authors do all the work on their own, not realizing that editing is a collaborative effort. There’s a reason why in traditional publishing, there are art directors, illustrators, layout artists, editors, proofreaders, publicists, and other professionals involved. A book project passes through several hands within a publishing house. In the early stages of publishing alone, the manuscript is checked by a third party, such as a literary agent, editor, or beta reader who might detect problematic content. I know this because I am a publisher myself; the work done to get a book published is incredibly long and tedious. Typical publication time can take up to two or three years.
I’m not saying that when something is traditionally published, it’s automatically a good book. There are books from traditional publishers that are just as bad. On the other hand, that doesn’t mean that self-publishers can’t get professional help with their projects. Some freelance writers who can afford it can certainly do it too. But often the cost is high, and the average self-published author is likely juggling multiple jobs to make ends meet.
I know this because I have seen it from their point of view too. Besides being a traditional publisher, I also published my own book a lifetime ago (no, I won’t link it here, sorry!). I know how difficult it is to do everything alone. Self-published authors are often at a great disadvantage due to a lack of resources.
So, while most self-published works get a bad rap, where do we find the ones worth our time and money? To start, we need to define what is considered a “good” self-published book. Is it manufacturing? The cover? Writing? Should it look like a publisher-quality book? Is it the general atmosphere? Well, people judge the book by its cover and content, so you’ll know a “bad” self-published book when you see it.
To help you find the stars among this crowded field, I’ve compiled a directory of sources to visit to give self-published authors the chance they deserve.
Weekly editorsThe life of the book
Book Life is the independently published book reviews section of Weekly editors. They regularly review independent books here, just like in their traditionally published books section. By browsing the reviews, you can see which ones have merit.
Meanwhile, in this section, authors have paid for reviews. And since they paid for it, they are guaranteed to have a place. In this page, you can see a book’s “production notes” such as notes for cover, content, editing, etc. It’s surprisingly detailed, and I find it useful when looking for under-the-radar books to read.
Book Life Award
On the other hand, this one is TP‘s Award for self-published works. It’s an annual writing competition that aims to “support freelance writers and discover great books.”
The competition is divided into two categories: fiction competition and non-fiction competition. Since the winners are rated by reviewers, you might want to check them out to see if they’re worth adding to your TBR.
Independent book review
This is a website that publishes book reviews from small presses and self-published authors. As they post many reviews of these creators, you may find something remarkable.
According to the disclaimer, they only put out ‘good’ reviews, so let’s just assume everything you find here is outstanding – bad apples thrown away.
Kirkus Reviews‘ List of the best independent books
This magazine publishes the best of independent books every year, and it’s also a great place to find great self-published books.
Here, you’ll notice the books are topped with a prominent blue star, meaning they’re starred reviews. Plus, you can browse independent books published from 2015 to 2022.
IndieReader is another book review site that caters to self-published books. Reviews have a point system with corresponding meaning, from one star readings which are “really bad, work on it” and five stars which are “great!” Must read.” I find it unique and useful. That way you’ll know which ones are worth buying. You can also sort by genre if you’re specifically looking for something.
There are also books stamped “IR Approved”, which means that the site staff recommends that you check them out.
IndieReader Discovery Price
As Kirkus, this site also offers a writing contest for self-published books. The competition aims to “find the best of the best”. And according to them, only books with more than four stars in their reviews section are read by their judges. You can check out past winners to see if you’d like the titles listed there.
You can also browse entries for 2022 for more options.
It’s just hard to find good self-published books these days because publishing one has never been easier. And it doesn’t help that so many self-published works have low production value, adding to the crowded scene.
Fortunately, the websites above make it easy to see which ones have merit. For more, here’s the “Beginner’s Guide to Finding Great Self-Published Fiction.”