Aspiring author and random thinker

On Reviews: Indie vs. Traditional

So I started reviewing independently published books. Interestingly enough, I find myself automatically assuming a lower quality and giving it a generous rating/review considering that it’s the work of a few people instead of an endless stream of professionals. After writing my first review and giving it a 4 star rating, I started asking myself ‘Should I be as harsh as I’m with other book or should I be giving it a chance?’

The question is an easy one to answer, considering that I experienced publishing my book independently and know how useful these reviews are. No, with traditional books I expect them to be perfect and harshly criticize even the smallest error, but indie books are different. First of all, the writers need the moral support and the reviews help them maintain their motivation, which would indubitably result in the improvement of their craft. Second, it’s a general notion that indie books are less polished that traditional ones. The core concept or idea, however, deserves no leniency in my opinion. Writing can be improved, but not creativity – although behavioral psychologists would disagree with me.

From a readers perspective, I believe that they also tend to read indie books with the same demeanor as I do, expecting them to be of slightly lesser quality than traditionally published books, unless the author is some sort of millionaire willing to spend a fortune on her/his work. So I don’t believe I’m cheating the reviewers by giving a high score for indie books. PS: I never give a 5 star or 100% score to any book that I don’t find myself enthralled with.

As the market for indie publishing quickly becomes more and more competitive, the threshold set for acceptable books and their rating increases. These days indie authors are starting to invest significant amounts of cash in the both post and pre-publication process. Will this market eventually end up similar to the traditional one, or will it remain in a relatively shark-free zone?

7 responses to “On Reviews: Indie vs. Traditional

  1. The Hyperteller July 2, 2013 at 4:32 pm

    With regards to your last question, I think the self publishing market will slowly morph into another version of the traditional publishing world. The people who succeed in self publishing are great marketers; no matter how good a writer is, they still have the same problem they’ve always had, which is that they (often) don’t know how to sell their book.

    So self publishing is becoming about talented marketers and writers who can afford to pay marketing companies to do it for them. Eventually those companies will have to up their prices to deal with the huge demand (as authors realise that the most likely route to success is to hire one of these companies to market their work), or decide to choose only clients whose writing is of a high quality (because then the company’s success rate statistics will remain high).


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  3. DF July 6, 2013 at 8:17 pm

    Thanks for your post. It’s always enlightening to see what other thoughtful people are pondering about the ever-evolving indie book phenomenon.

    My perspective comes both as an indie author and a mainstream book reviewer for print newspapers. If readers and reviewers cut slack to indie books, then know that the same is done for traditionally published books. Out of all the books I reviewed for newspapers, I gave nearly all good reviews and only one book an out-and-out bad review. For that one, the publisher’s publicist asked my editor to get a review on short notice, and he assigned it to me because I file my copy by the deadline, come what may. When I read the book, I was dismayed, but the publicist was waiting for the review to come out, and I just couldn’t put lipstick on that pig.

    The rest of the time, I made sure beforehand that the books I reviewed had legitimate things that I liked. I did this on the principle that readers generally want to be told about books they will want to buy, rather than about bad books they should avoid. Unlike Hollywood movies, there are so many books out there that if a book is bad, there’s no reason to call attention to it. Review the good ones was my policy.

    On the other hand, I actually know a number of indie authors who want to hear opposing viewpoints on their books. If there are negative reviews mixed in with positive, say on Amazon, that means that people are at least reading the book, and it’s not just the author’s friends who are hyping him because he’s their friend. Maybe some readers will say, “Hey, I want to judge for myself what’s going on with this book.”


    • thinkinglazy July 6, 2013 at 9:05 pm

      I was not expecting a professional’s viewpoint. You have certainly made me think about the indie vs. traditional reviewing from a completely different perspective. Thanks!


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