When I conducted a seminar on fiction writing, not surprisingly, the question of self-publishing popped up.

The general slant is – self-published books are of a poorer quality. There is much truth in this – but to tar the entire community? The implication is – books that go through a publishing house’s mill are of higher quality. There is obvious truth in this.

The idea is never to put down anyone but to encourage everyone.

Therefore, I pull out my ready list of books from publishing houses, including contemporary best sellers that contain errors – typos, sentence structure, inconsistencies in storyline, book cover, and so forth. These publishers have the services of professionals. What chance for the rest of us? The established authors have paid their dues, I reckon, and one should celebrate their success. The rest of us in the herd are held to higher standards – perhaps rightly so, until we too pay the dues that we owe our readers.

The occasional minor error is okay, I suppose. However, beyond a tipping point –

The idea arguably is not to be perfect, though this would be super, but to minimize errors such that readers either don’t spot or chose to overlook them – because the storyline, the characters and style by themselves are so captivating, distracting and marvellously enjoyable.

Perhaps that’s why I continue to relish a well written book – whether self-published or legacy published. And when I notice the occasional error, a smile – they’re human too – and I’m too busy enjoying the page turner.

What is your take on this – as readers and authors?

********** Copyright @ Eric Alagan, 2014 ************

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  1. I do think independent publishing has a reputation for being poorer quality (possibly propagated in part by publishing houses defending their territory?) Legacy publishing doesn’t guaranty a flawless book- I’ve read several that have left me shocked they were able to sell that story. (I know that sounds harsh!)

    For me, I’d like the benefit of an editor or a critical eye to point out the obvious errors that I can’t see myself. I don’t trust my proofing abilities and wouldn’t want to publish something that wasn’t completely polished.

    1. Same here, Janna

      I prefer a critical eye to look over my works and welcome anyone pointing out errors or typos.

      One problem I notice is, I write UK English especially with regards to spelling (or at least, try to) but there are some grammar Nazis out there who insist on correcting me – to adopt American spelling. I find this amusing.

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts and all good wishes,

  2. I believe there probably is some truth in what you’re saying, Eric, that books from publishing houses are professionally and “better” put together, even though I’ve self published. Since I enjoy writing poetry, I’m not optimistic in thinking mine will be chosen by a true publisher, as poetry is hard to get published (unless you’re famous or dead and I’m neither! 🙂 ). So the self publishing route offers an option for those of us who would love to see our writing in print.

    I had someone else edit mine and I don’t think there are any errors in it, honestly. I haven’t seen any. But I have seen some in self published books and I am somewhat of a grammar Nazi. I twinge when I see mistakes. However, as you said, we’re all human. If a pattern seems to be forming, though, than that’s not good and should be corrected prior to print time.

    I have caught some spelling errors in professionally published books and am always surprised when I do…yes, I know we’re all human, but I suppose from the professional companies, I’m a little tougher, thinking there shouldn’t be any! 🙂

    However, after all is said, I do agree with you in your last paragraph! I love a good book, regardless! Great post and topic to discuss!

    Wishing you a Happy Wednesday!

    1. Hello Lauren,

      Poetry is a tough sell – and self publishing is the way to go, I reckon.

      I read your poems and have yet to spot an error – not that I was looking or expecting. You’re one of the most polished poets in Blogsville 🙂

      You’re right (Chuckling) a poet has to be either famous or dead to sell their anthologies. Quite often, poets become famous only after they are dead 🙂

      All good wishes,

      1. Aww..thanks for your kind words, Eric, and although our writing is different, I’ve always admired yours and you would be a mentor if I ever had a question. Just saying! 🙂

        And yep, you’re right…usually after they’re dead! 🙂 So sad, but true!

        Take care, L

  3. What a good discussion!
    I believe that self publishing is the wave of the future. The self publishing author needs four or five things:
    1) A good story – this has to come from the author.
    2) A well written narrative – again this has to come form the author
    3) An essentially error-free manuscript. In my case, and I suspect most author’s cases, this is impossible without an editor to catch the grammatical errors (where should that comma go), spelling and inconsistencies. Independent editors are around and I am lucky to have located a good one for my work.
    4) A person who can design the cover and “look” for the book. In some cases this could be the author himself / herself, or an outside consultant.
    5) Someone to market the book when it is published. This is where, I believe that, the professional agent and publishing house have their expertise and can add to the formula. After all how many really good authors can be expected to also be good marketers?
    Our US Sunday paper literary sections are rife with stories about self published authors, rejected by agents and traditional publishers, who have gone on to become best selling authors. In the reports most opt to remain self published rather than give up the income flow in the hope of going further.
    All this leads me to the conclusion that the dynamic of publishing is changing under the pressure of two forces:
    a) The number of authors is increasing astronomically due to population growth, an increase in literacy and the aging of the population so that there are more and more retirees with nothing better to do than to write that book that they always dreamed about.
    b) The existence of marketing outlets, such as Amazon, and self publishing houses, such as Create space, with the ability to quickly and inexpensively, deliver single copies into the reader’s hands.
    I suggest that traditional agents and publishing houses need to morph to respond to these new dynamics. Perhaps a new entity will emerge – the book marketer! I see this entity as a QC agency who could be engaged by the author and who would advise and ultimately assist in the marketing for a fee paid by the author. This final shift makes the author the one who collects and distributes cash. It still leaves the reading public as the final determinator of whether a book is a success or a flop.
    Cheerio, Jane

    1. Hello Jane dear,

      Wow! What a comprehensive article. This is simply marvellous, and coming from a recently published author, spoken from first-hand experience.

      I agree that self-published authors need help in only one area – marketing. This is a niche that agents and publishing houses can fill – and any business person worth his/her salt will fill this obvious need. Authors can outsource the editing and book cover parts.

      And you’re right, if this model materializes – and indications are, it’s going that way – the “publigency” (publisher/agency) will be the last to get paid and rightly so. Payment for performance – just as it is, in the real world of business.

      Thank you for your contribution which I’m sure many readers would find useful,

  4. A good conversation. There are a great many authors out there who self publish and do a wonderful job of it. Great covers, nice formatting, no errors. There are great traditional published books too, of course. Then as has been mentioned in earlier comments, both indie and traditional books that make me wonder what the publisher or author were thinking.

    My thought is that as a reader, I need to find the authors I like and respect. As a writer, I need to do the best I can with the money I have and the experience I’ve garnered to make my published work the best it can be.

    1. Thank you, Connie, for this sharing – much appreciate it 🙂

      I’m like you – drawn to authors (and movie stars) whom I like – as people.

      In a recent Singapore Writers Festival, they invited several literary luminaries from Australia, UK and USA – all expenses paid – how about that for spending taxpayers’ money!

      After one talk, several people picked up copies of a book written by this ‘famous’ author and queued for his autograph. He was in a foul mood and actually kicked out at a chair that happened to get in his way. Many people, including myself, walked away in disgust without buying. The people in the queue, having already paid for his book, looked non too pleased.

      All good wishes with your books 🙂
      – Eric

  5. Whether traditional or self-published or a combination–some small presses are using printers that print for the self-published–the cure for typos and other such mistakes is hiring a really good editor and repeated proofing. A good book is a good book, a poor book is a poor book regardless of the publisher.

    1. That’s true, Juliana

      Self-publishing does not have to be a solo effort from start to finish – outsourcing is more than a buzz word or a bad word.

      A good book might smoother some errors, some times. A bad book will stumble on errors, all the time.


  6. I’ve been thinking about self publishing myself and one of my greatest fears is precisely that I’ll miss some silly typo or make a horrid writing mistake that simply bypasses my critical eye from reading and rewriting the same pages over and over again. That said, recently I’ve found plenty of mistakes on publishing house books; many more than say 15 years ago. It gives me some satisfaction when I see that, and yet I’m horrified all at once because they do presume to be better than self published works, so I would expect a nearly perfect publication. On the other hand, you can hire an editor and proofreader to help with a self publication. I appreciate high standards on any published work, however, as you said, a well-written book will help you ignore the typos and mistakes. In the end, it’s all about plot and narrative.

    1. Hello Mericel (or is it Marilean?)

      I can understand the anxiety and self doubt that wrecks, especially, first time authors. Although I’m a self-assured and confident person, I too went through the crunch a couple of years ago with my first novel – even when published under a pen name.

      Blogging added to my confidence as I find it a useful proxy for self publishing.

      Thank you for popping over and sharing – and all the best with your forthcoming book. Go for it – the water only “looks” deep 🙂

      – Eric

  7. As a writer, I want my work to be perfect, so get frustrated when I find errors I have previously missed. As a reader I’m probably more picky. I can understand why a self-published book might contain errors – there aren’t many eyes to spot them pre-publishing. But for a big house to put out books with spelling errors or inconsistent plots, that isn’t good, not considering the time, money and number of individuals involved in getting a manuscript from author’s final draft to the bookshop. But maybe I just need to loosen up a little?

    1. I chuckled when I read your first sentence, Sarah – I feel the same way, like kicking myself when I spot a typo (and after all that shaking and rattling).

      At ground level, we expect better from publishing houses – considering the manuscript has run through the gamut of editing work from author to agent to editors and all. This combing is unavailable to most self published authors.

      However, the readers really don’t care and rightly so – if we want to enter into the ring with the big boys, we should measure up, I reckon.

      No, I don’t think you’re unreasonable, Sarah – you’ve every right to expect quality works in return for spending hard earned money, I reckon.

      All good wishes with your writing 🙂

  8. I have read far to many books from the big guys that made my eyes bleed. On the flip side I have read many self-published books that were wonderfully edited and lovingly pushed through to a final product. I know the books we have published at RedmundPro, have seen both sides of this conundrum being a cooperative a few of ours have slipped through with errors though I am proud of our low margin.

    Writers, editors, publishers; at the end of the day there are humans behind these titles. Humans are bound to make errors. Slipshod work, the readers are going to raise the roof, let the author and the publishing house know with bad reviews and drops in sales.

    1. I agree, Val – readers of fiction are quite generous and will overlook genuine errors but certainly not shoddy work.

      I used to read a blogger who kept making repeated typos in her poems – it was really painful to read. I wrote a private email and asked her to take a look, as it reflects poorly on her otherwise brave attempts. Her response was >>> Quite often I write and post these poems within minutes >>> Apparently, it was a source of pride that she could bang out her poems in minutes, never mind that it takes even accomplished poets months to get their’s right. When I tried to gently nudge her (silly me) she took great affront and now does not read my blog. Sad!

      When it comes to non-fiction works, I believe the accuracy of content is paramount. However, this does not mean style and persuasive elements should take a back seat. In fact, typos play glaringly against the author.

      I wish you and Red continued success in your RedmundPro series 🙂

      Luv and hugz,

      1. I often find errors, months later. It makes me want to bang my head into concrete walls. I can read others and edit. What I can’t apparently do, is read my own work and edit, even passably. I think it is a flaw in my personality. Red is a massively talented editor, she is harsh but good.

        You are kind Eric, sometimes though others don’t take well to criticism even offered in kindness.

  9. In some ways I feel that self-publishing is like putting your money where your mouth is. You are confident enough to invest in your work and let the readers of the world decide. With publishing house or agents, you are subject to the limited readers and your opportunity is thus confined.

    Just like u-tube or music video, sometimes they garner so much public response that overnight it becomes a sensation.

    As for the editing work, some writers themselves may have learnt the technique of writing, have a very good grasp of the language, perhaps comparable to editors. Undeniably the editors with their vast experiences can contribute valuable ideas.

    Publishing house are also business entities, so money making is top priority. Writer’s creative work is invaluable, yet the larger share goes to the publisher. In my wildest guess, I think publisher may in time to come seek out self-published books to sign on authors and make a fortune, what an irony !

    1. When I read your comment, Jasey, I did a double take. LOL! You took the words right out of my mind 🙂

      I know what you mean when you say > “With publishing house or agents, you are subject to the limited readers and your opportunity is thus confined.”

      A handful of agents and editors decide – whereas, when we self publish, the readers decide.

      Good one!
      – Eric

  10. I’m afraid I’m too old, infirm and impatient to undertake the ordeal of seeking conventional publishers. So I self publish all my books. And gladly accept all the blame for the errors.

    1. Oh Paul 🙂

      We all do what makes us happy – and along the way, we also spread some joy.

      I read the poems you post on your blog and have not detected any errors. But I do confess – I’m no grammar Nazi!

      I read that you’ve more anthologies in the pipeline – all good wishes,

  11. Who is to say that a self-published book can’t have good editing. One can choose to invest in a good editor who can ascertain that the quality matches that of the Traditional Published books. Then you can go ahead and indie publish.

    As someone who wants to write a book someday, I would concern myself with doing the best that I can to make my work excel at both fronts (story and editing).

    Indie publishing would appeal to me because I wouldn’t have to jump through lots of hoops especially for nonfiction.

    But I would want my first novel to be traditionally published… there is so much a publisher can do for you in the area of publicity.

    What I can say is that at the end of the day it all comes down to the story… When it’s good, you find yourself simply saying that your favorite author is human too and you kind of love that about them.

    Thank you for giving us the opportunity to discuss this, Eric. 🙂

    1. Hello Jazilah,

      You’re right, as many of the so-called self published authors actually follow the same sequence as a publishing house.

      For my first two novels – I engaged editorial consultants, professional script assessors and book cover designers. After printing, I used established distributors to reach out.

      My sentiments are, if one is unprepared to invest money in one’s own book, why expect a publishing house to do so. However, I hasten to add – not all authors have the financial wherewithal, as it can cost a pretty penny.

      For non-fiction (business books), although I employed professional cover designers for my 4 books and used the services of distributors – I’m the content expert.

      You are right – we need to get both fronts right – story telling and the technical aspects (developmental editing, editing, proofing, cover design, etc).

      Always good to have you visit and contribute 🙂


  12. i don’t think a general statement across the board for either kind of book is fair. i have seen the gamut, both good and bad, in each.

  13. I agree Eric, for someone like me trying to break out for the first time, self publishing is easier than waiting forever for a publishing house to notice me.

    1. Now you have an avenue to go direct to your readers, Susan.

      If you do well enough, you might have an agent knock on your door for your next book. I know that some people might not agree – but I see the role reversal in the not too distant future – agents (if they want to remain in business) contacting successful self-published authors to up their game. The question is, will the successful self-published author bite.

      During 2010 and 2011, I went looking for agents. Now, I don’t bother.

      Good luck with your books,

  14. I find mistakes in books, menus, signs all the time. But here’s the thing I don’t find them in my own writing. I need someone to edit my writing. Is that true of all people who write, you think?

    1. That happens to most writers, I reckon, Diana.

      After rewriting and revising several times, the eyes glide over as the mind recognises the sentences.

      It’s certainly true for me and that’s why, I put away my manuscript. When I return a few months or even a few weeks later – Gosh!

      Thank you for your visit and comment,

    2. As Eric says: “the eyes glide over as the mind recognises the sentences.” In my opinion it’s always worth getting a second (and third, and fourth…) pair of eyes to peruse any words in a row after you think you’re finished with them.

      I need someone to edit my writing.

      My rates are highly affordable!*

      * Just kidding. I don’t charge. I would if I could, though…

  15. I know what you mean. I have just finished reading two self published books with a lot of errors throughout. Hand written corrections are not a good way to present in spite of how well researched the book may be, over prints are another turn off. Yes I have discovered a rare mistake in publisher house books but they are very rare and insignificant.

    1. Hand written corrections and over prints – that’s simply not on, I agree, Ian.

      The only over prints that hold any value are – stamps – one of my hobbies.

      What I found was, it was rare (if at all, I might add) to find any errors in the older books – much easier to locate errors in the newer books from legacy publishers.

      Self publishing has taken off in a big way in the last few years due to pent up supply. In time, after the fallouts, it’ll settle down and quality start to improve as readers simply reject shoddy work – I reckon.

      Whatever, sea changes are under way in the book publishing industry and I reckon the first casualties will be the literary agents!

      We shall see.


  16. I have to say that self-published books are typically considered of a lesser quality, but I don’t think this can be used as a blanket statement. Yes, I have tried to read what turned out to be some really poorly written and edited self-published books and have also read some high quality self-published books that had great story lines and top-notch editing that I just couldn’t put down. Just because a book has been published by a traditional publishing house by no means assures you that it is any good. Look at the number of traditionally published books that wind up in the discount bins. Usually they are there for a reason, they aren’t very good. I’ll choose a great story any day regardless of what method is used to publish it, self or traditional.

    1. Hello Dom,

      Thank you for your presence here.

      Blanket statements add no value to any discussion, you’re right. I too have read some really painful self-published books and legacy published ones. The reverse holds true too.

      Books ending up in discounts bins – yes, that does say something of the book’s life cycle, I suppose.

      I’m with you – give me a great story anytime 🙂


  17. I have seen misspelled words and errors (too many at times) in self published books, but have also seen a few in the publishing houses’ books, but most often just ignored them if the story and book was so good I didn’t care about the errors. What I never liked or thought was professional was seeing the rough, uneven pages bound in a hardback book that was one from a bargain priced stack. One can really tell about the quality of good book binding and paper with the better or more expensive books.

    1. That’s interesting, Joyce – the quality of the physical book – especially for readers who prefer the ‘traditional’ print book as opposed to the ebooks.

      I read ebooks and paperbacks – for starters. If I really love a book, I would subsequently purchase a hard cover (if available) for my collection.

      Thank you reading and commenting.

      All good wishes,

  18. I think that editing standards in general are a bit down, probably an attempt to cut costs. As a self publisher, settling for poor editing makes it hard for reviewers to take you seriously. However, a great story is a great story.

    1. That’s true, Bill, editing standards seem down. I wonder whether this is also due to the explosion of writing, editing and publishing information now readily available as more people are into self-publishing, and perhaps much more discerning.

      I agree that we need to strive for the highest standards and if we did find an odd error after the fact – no need to beat ourselves on the head.

      Ultimately, authors need to tell a great story and well – or readers will not go for it, even if given away free.

      More than money, it is time that is precious for readers, I reckon.

      All good wishes,

  19. I recently read an article by Major Book publishers bashing the Independent book publishers- saying that they were bringing the industry down, that their quality was bad, that they wished that all the Indie published books would just go away.
    Ha ha!
    Then I read the comments section. These were nearly all “Independent Book Authors who had published their own books!!!””””
    They had a lot to say, including, “That they made a lot of money publishing their own books, that their books sold, that the Formal Book Publishers were just mad that now they had ‘competition-‘ That they were able to earn a living on their own publishing efforts, and MOST importantly, but NOT surprisingly- That this way they were able to Keep Most of their proceeds…

    1. Thank you Michele, for sharing your opinion.

      Yes, the current model that publishing houses employ places the authors at a severe disadvantage – with some authors receiving no more than 5% of the retail price – and that’s before taxes! If the authors use an agent – which many have to do, to get the foot in the door —

      All good wishes,

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