The barrier to reading self-pubbed books

Over the weekend Jane wrote a great post on authorial stickiness and self-publishing, and the comments that followed were very interesting and showed a variety of reader responses to the adventure of trying new, self-published authors and the possibility of glomming their (self-published) backlists.

I didn’t comment, although I read the thread, because I haven’t read a lot of self-published books.  One of Jane’s points is that the $0.99 price makes the risk of trying an unknown, self-published author extremely low, encouraging experimentation.  I would not necessarily disagree with that — price-wise, it’s less than a cup of coffee or a soda from the vending machine at work.  And yet when I browse the $0.99 books, I seldom buy an author unless I’ve heard of them or read them before, self-published or not.  A quick scan of my Kindle library yields self-published books by Kate Rothwell (whose NY pubbed and e-pubbed books I read first); L.K. Rigel, who was recommended in a comment thread at DA;  and the Ilona Andrews Curran POV shorts and new SF-rom.

When I skim the ebook sale lists on DA, it’s based on author name and blurb.  Sometimes I’ll download a free ebook to try a new author if it has been recommended, but the free or $0.99 price point doesn’t lower the barrier to new authors (or self-published authors) that much for me.

Beyond price/budget, the barrier to unknown authors for me is the cost in time of reading the book.  While I will discard a truly terrible book or set a boring one aside if I get stuck, I’m more concerned about the investment of my time than the $0.99 (or $2.99) out of pocket.  If a book is bad enough, I can ask Amazon for my money back and they’ll delete the book from my Kindle, but they can’t give the time back.

It’s heartless, but there it is.

How about you — do you buy self-published authors?  How big a deal is the price point?




Filed under Book related

14 responses to “The barrier to reading self-pubbed books

  1. The only self-published authors I buy are those who were formerly traditionally published. Despite how wrong the connotations may be about that price point, I associate it with bad writing, bad editing and bad formatting and at the end of the day it is not worth my time. I see no value in it at that price point. There are exceptions of course.

  2. I wish more people would factor in the cost of the reader’s time. I have a huge TBR, so the opportunity cost of reading a bad book is high. Self-pubbed books are just less likely to be well edited. That doesn’t mean they all are like that, but finding the good ones in the sea of not-so-good ones is difficult. I tried excerpts (thank you Smashwords) of two books (same author, two different genres w/different names) in the past few days. They have all kinds of problems that a print-pubbed or good-epubbed book would not have. I’m willing to give a self-pubbed book half an hour or an hour, but not more than that. Whether it costs .99 or 4.99 or 0.

    • Opportunity cost — that’s it exactly, my whole post boiled down into two words 🙂

      I bought a $0.99 book today…but it was based on Sarah Frantz’s review, so I’m less concerned about the risk of bad/no editing.

  3. I just read a wonderful self pubbed book by an author I’d never heard of–and, ooops, hey! I bet it’s the same one you just mentioned in your comment. Something Different, by Reid yes? It’s beyond worth the 99 cents.

    The great thing about those ebooks is that you can get a free sample. The bad thing about those samples: a lot of times the author has polished the hell out of her first three chapters for contests. So you get a fabulous beginning followed by rough rest.

    • jmc

      It was worth 99 cents, yes, although I didn’t love it as much as you and Sarah, maybe? Some cultural things seemed not quite right to me, and there was a fair amount of telling, especially in the epilogue.

  4. I read the first part of Something Different and had real problems with the Americanisms. I’m going to keep going because I like the writing style aside from that. It’s a weird set of juxtapositions: aggressively English slang words like telly next to “mini-van” (Brits call them MPVs or People Carriers). Very disorienting.

    • jmc

      I read Something Different last night, and noticed several Americanisms or cultural things that did not quite fit, and was going to do a quick post this evening.

      While I liked it, I didn’t enjoy it as much as SarahF did.

  5. Yeah, I noticed the mini-van too. Obviously Reid isn’t a Top Gear fan.

  6. I did love that book–but it fit exactly what I wanted to read at that moment. If I’d been tired or grouchy or in the mood for something else, I bet I wouldn’t have glommed onto it quite as thoroughly.

    Maybe if I’d had too much coffee or had a bad day at work, the mini-van would have bugged me more and the other things I’d noticed (the text book writing which isn’t accurate, the one dimensional wife) would have been more uppermost in my brain. Or I might have sneered about yet another


    Dyslexic rent-boy hero (I think he’s the 4th I’ve read. Then again, it makes some sense–not being able to read does limit a person’s career options.) I forgave all that because I really got caught by the characters. And it all worked perfectly for me.

    The filter of my mood seems to affect my response to books — maybe more than it does other readers. That’s why I don’t take many of my own reviews seriously. I think mrsgiggles is a reviewer who seems to go through mood shifts.

    And why am I leaving such a long message here?

    • Mood as filter for reading seems perfectly reasonable to me.

      I wasn’t tired or grouchy when I read it last night, and noticed some things that I highlighted as odd or worth looking at a second time. When I went back to it this morning as my commute-read, I felt a little less thrilled with the book. Still impressed, comparatively, by a self-published book, but also aware of the areas that (for me) might’ve been better polished by going through the regular (e)publishing process: The wife, the dyslexic rent-boy, the Americanisms, the textbook writing (WTH?), and the style of the epilogue.

      Also, the prostitute hero/ine is problematic for me in genre romance generally, because of the social/psychological/health baggage inherent, which is most often ignored. Reid sort of addressed this, but authors often don’t, because it’s too “ugly” for romance.

      • Absolutely on the mood-influenced reading for me. I was bugged by the rent-boy hero too, but the wife *really* bugged me. Does every female in m/m have to be either a bitch or the most sympathetic and supportive BFF on the planet? No normal women allowed? Sorry, rhetorical question, but I’m so sick of it.

        I do think it’s a textbook (sorry) example of a writer with a good voice and style who would be much better with a good editor.

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