I’ve been kind of bummed the past few months with the amount of books I’ve read that I won’t mention here because they were such a disappointment. As I mentioned in a previous post, I don’t do negative reviews. Most of these books were self-published and unfortunately it showed. I have absolutely nothing against self-published books. In fact, I love them and couldn’t be more excited about this publishing option.

It’s not every self-published author but a disturbing number are still not taking it seriously. They are designing their own covers (it looks like they’re using MS PowerPoint). They’re not paying for editing services so the books are riddled with grammatical errors. Worst of all, they seem to not be using a critique group or beta readers to find plot holes and make the story more interesting.

Where Self-Publishing Is Struggling

Here’s a few of the things that these “let-down” books had in common:

Grammatical errors – I know it costs money and I know for many self-publishers, money is super tight. I want to be sensitive to that but I feel like if you can’t care enough about your readers to hire a copy editor, then it’d be better if you hold off on publishing.

Amateur book covers – I wish I could post some examples and I don’t want to hurt any struggling authors but frankly, you know when you see them. Covers put together by non-designers in a non-professional way. Even spending a small amount of money with an up and coming designer makes a world of difference.

Poor plot structure – Plot holes, scenes that should have been cut, and confusing chapters are just unacceptable when the competition is so fierce today in publishing.

Weak story – This is my biggest annoyance. Give me something I haven’t seen before. Surprise me. Make me feel something. Don’t give me cliches, tired dialogue, obvious story lines, and overused settings.

Traditional Publishing Isn’t Perfect Either

To be fair, it’s not only a problem with self-publishing. Several of the books I’ve read recently were published traditionally and while they didn’t suffer from the grammatical errors and the book covers looked at least passable, many were just not great stories. Confusing, boring, full of plot holes, and overflowing with cliches. Frankly, I’d rather deal with grammar errors than a boring story so I guess the above applies to everyone.

The thing is that in many cases, at least traditional publishing provided a filter for the garbage. Now that the barriers to publishing are broken down, it’s harder to tell what is quality and what is crap. A quality cover, a great first page, an excellent story, an awesome blurb. Those are things that can help a self-published book compete with the big boys.

A Higher Bar

There’s already a stigma associated with self-publishing so if anything, a self-published book needs to be better than the average traditional published book just to be competitive. I truly believe self-publishing can be successful (it already is for several unique books) and is the most exciting thing happening in publishing today but self-publishing’s only going to hit the great heights it’s capable of if self-publishers take it seriously and invest their writing work with quality and value.