I discovered self-published books years ago and it was eye-opening. Lichgates by S.M. Boyce was one of the first, and it blew me away. The characters and the worldbuilding were amazing and original. It was fast-paced and kept me hooked until the end. I finished the four-book series in a week. Since then, I’ve read more and more self-published books. As a student with a limited budget, it was great. It still is.
One of the upsides (and others will see as a downside) is the lack of gatekeepers. There are no agents or acquiring editors who’ll reject you. Freelance editors might still pass on working with you, but it’s easier to hire someone than be dependent on their investment in you. As a self-published author, you are in control. You don’t have to wait until someone gives you a thumbs up. You don’t have to fight your way through several doors before you can have your book out.
Yes, it might lower the bar for self-published books but the cream will always rise to the top. You can see who has invested in their dream, in their book. And it’s not just the cover. It’s also the writing and editing. Once you dive in and read more indie, you’ll learn how to recognise those books.
Another upside of no gatekeepers is that indie authors have (more) creative control. I’ve read several indie books that a traditional publisher would have never picked up. Some smaller presses do take more chances and I appreciate them a lot. I love reading all the diverse and inclusive stories. I’m reading trope combinations I probably would never see in trad pub. The creativity, the out of the box thinking, the interesting and unique voices, the indie community has it all. Most of these books are written because the author needed to tell the story, regardless of marketability. The indie community has created new genres too. Have you heard of gamelit? Or reverse harem? Isekai maybe?
Writers love their stories and when they have more creative control, their passion won’t be suppressed. That’s not to say an author published via the traditional route won’t have passion, but I do feel a difference. Sometimes they’re asked to change a scene that’s dear to them or write out a character they love. Indie (especially self-published) authors love everything about it. They write long series following the characters that have become family to them, a world that’s grown so much it feels like a second home. It takes a lot of energy and money to create these books. Without passion, you won’t get there.
As a reader, especially one in Europe, indie books are much cheaper. Traditionally published ebooks are closer to the price of a paperback, or even more expensive. I personally think paying over 10 euros for an ebook is too much. For a little more, I can buy the paperback and get a better experience because I buy ebooks for convenience. Most indie ebooks are 5 euros or below. At that price point, I don’t mind paying the full price. Also because I know the author will get the majority of that money. I’ve read arc and review copies from indie and still buy the ebook because I want to support the author. But I’d rather buy a few indies for 10 euros than one trad pub ebook.