Why Reviewers Ignore Self-Published Books

Chicago Sun-Times book critic David Montgomery explains why he doesn't review self-published books.

In my experience the overall quality level of self-published fiction
is not sufficiently high for the books to be given serious
consideration. This is not to say that all self-published fiction is
bad. The law of probability alone would indicate that at least some of
it must be readable. But the vast majority of it is not.

There are many reasons for this (e.g., self-published fiction has no
third-party vetting, most of it is not professionally edited, much of
it was already rejected by agents/editors for a variety of reason), but
the bottom line is that most self-published fiction just isn't very

He's right, and although he's only speaking for himself, he might as well be talking for the majority mainstream magazine and newspaper book reviewers out there.

Inexplicably, I keep getting emails from publicists and vanity presses to review their self-published authors….even though a) I am not a book reviewer and b) I am a harsh critic of self-publishing in general and vanity presses in particular.

2 thoughts on “Why Reviewers Ignore Self-Published Books”

  1. I know of only one exception to the Mr. Montgomery’s excellent analysis. A friend, Stanley Gordon West, saw his excellent novel, Amos, about terror in a nursing home, published by a large NY house. The novel became the basis for an Emmy-nominated TV drama starring Kirk Douglas. But afterward, Stanley West could not sell another book to any NY publisher. He eventually began self-publishing, employing his own press. He did not use a vanity press. He has sold tens of thousands of copies of his own novels (which are vetted and edited by others)and recently sold film rights to one of them. He is genuinely self-published, not vanity published.

  2. Forgive the rambling, it’s early.
    Your thoughts on self-publishing not withstanding– I’m published by publishers, but I enjoy self-publishing my niche work and I can tell you that the biggest cost for me is hiring an editor to ensure my self-published material is as good as my pro-published material; this craft is 90% ego. I can’t put crap out there when my readers are used to something better, so I’m not the sort than enters into self-production because I feel I’m above editing or I’ve been rejected out the wazoo and have no alternative. ^_^ While it may be a last resort for SOME rejected writers, as writer with very good connections, there ‘s just times I just want to write for me, and other freaks like me–so I’d never expect a pub with a profit margin to even consider my self-pub projects. ^_-
    Does it make those projects less valuable? Not to me, and certainly not to my readers. Am I looking to pick up new readers? Sure, and that’s why reviews are important—but when a reviewer chooses not to review something based solely on the fact that it’s self-produced so it couldn’t get picked up anywhere—that’s a deadly misconception and it sucks. Perhaps I’m more sentimental about self-production because I come from the world of graphic novels, but I believe it’s a case by case thing and it’s a shame most reviewers think there’s not enough good ‘self-published’ fiction out there to make it worth their wile.
    Now I’ve never worked with a ‘vanity press’ [who still does these days when printing on your own is so much cheaper] but I’m curious about the after affect of it and how it seems to sour potential reviewers: Do you think vanity press authors set themselves up for ridicule when they self-publish mainstream [inset genre here] and then expect it to be considered by the New York Times and other Review sites?
    On a side: I’ve noticed over the last few years some pubs putting out some lackluster shit [excuse my language] and I don’t know if this has to do with publishing houses hiring freelance editors, or if the quality of editing in house has gone down hill. I suspect the former.


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