Why Self-Publishing Doesn’t Need To Meet Traditional Standards


I’ve seen a few threads recently on Twitter about whether indie books are supposed to meet the same industry standards as traditionally published books. It’s usually started as a question like: “Should indie books be of the same quality/level as traditionally published books?” The responses will be mixed though alot of people believe indie books need to meet the same standards as traditionally published books. The mindset behind this is usually something along this line: If a reader is paying for a book they should be getting a high quality product that is comparable to a book they’d buy from a traditionally published author.

I don’t disagree with the fact that any published book should be good quality – there should be minimal typos, no major formatting errors (How one formats their book can be up to personal taste, though), have an interesting book cover, and the author should be proud of their work.

Do self-published books need to be on the same level as traditionally published books?

As I mentioned above, all books should have minimal typos and errors and should be as polished as an author (or publisher) can make them, but why is it that some are expecting self-published books to be the same as traditionally published books? Think of indie music: While some indie music is indistinguishable from popular music, it often has a different mood/ring to it. Indie artists tend to want to offer something different to their listeners than the usual contemporary music experience. Think of independent artists. They also usually offer something different than the pieces you would buy at a chain store. You look up indie artists because you’re looking for something unique, local, grittier, artsier. That’s how I personally see indie books – they should offer something a little different from what you’d normally find at a bookstore. Maybe the formatting’s a little “off” for one’s taste, but it’s how the indie author decided they wanted it to look. Is art supposed to be perfection? If the story is good and there’s only a few typos (Every book is going to have them even in the mainstream world) then it doesn’t really matter.

Many readers don’t notice if a book is indie or traditional.

Another point to consider is that your average reader will buy a book online because they think it looks interesting. There are many authors on Twitter, for example, and a lot of people do buy books from there. They might not know if a book is indie unless the author specifically says that it is (or the reader specifically asks for indie books). While indie authors tend to offer something a little different (edgier, artsier, grittier) than a lot of traditional books, you will find unique stories at a Chapters or Barnes and Noble, too. Sometimes you’d really never know unless the book cover looked “low budget” or the formatting was so off that it had to be someone who did it themselves.

If an indie book isn’t on the same level as a mainstream book, it doesn’t mean it’s crap.

Some self-published books are so pro that you’d never know they were indie (Some people have a very critical eye, but even they wouldn’t know unless someone told them). Other self-published books have a bit of an independent flair. I don’t discriminate between the two types of indie books. I’m happy to support a small business regardless, but it’s interesting how some people don’t see writing as art and they look down on the more unique indie books that don’t have that “professional” feel. Obviously, I do agree that all books should be edited and presented in their best form (according to the author), but I also like stories that can break the rules or take us in a direction that most traditional publishers would never allow a book to go. The indie author can go all out with their idea. That’s really why I like indie books so much. I don’t like all of them, but I respect that the author created something that was good enough for them. If it’s good enough for the author, then the right readers will think it’s good enough for them, too.

It’s usually authors who are more judgmental about indie books that don’t meet industry standards.

I’ve noticed that it normally isn’t readers who complain about indie books not being up to snuff. As long as there’s no glaring errors or too many typos, they’ll usually view it as the book that it is. It’s normally other authors who have these strong opinions about the “trash” that’s out there ever since indie publishing boomed. Some traditionally published authors don’t like how the market has been flooded by “anyone who can upload crap and sell it on Amazon”. There are also some indie authors who see themselves as a cut above the others who name call the books that don’t meet their strict high standards. As someone who has read hundreds of indie books now, I can tell you I’ve never come across one that was “crap”. The vast majority of indie authors take their writing and publishing very seriously and they are proud of their work. No one wants to release crap. Maybe some can’t afford an editor so there are more typos than there should be and that is unfortunate. I assure most indie books are great reads and are worth paying for.

Why I don’t worry about people thinking my books aren’t professional enough.

Honestly, people who obsess over the quality of indie books tend to be perfectionistic, haughty, and not a lot of fun. My target audience is people who are looking for something unique, surreal, and gritty. That’s it. If they get thrown off over a perceived formatting error or because they think the story doesn’t follow an industry approved outline then that’s okay. My book isn’t for them in that case. I don’t really want stuffy people reading my work anyway (Those tend to be the ones who leave a nasty review or they’ll lie about certain details in the book because they didn’t read the whole thing). My books are good enough for me and for the people who like them.

On that note I do read them from time to time and if I spot an error or typo, I’ll quickly correct it and re-upload it. I’m not above correcting what I’ve published if I think there can be improvement.

Indie books are usually cheaper than traditionally published books.

Indie authors usually charge less for their books for the sole reason that they’re unknown and want to make sales. If you’re not a well-known author, it makes sense that you will charge less so a reader will give your book a chance. Why would you charge $8 for an e-book when no one knows your name? There’s a very low chance a reader will buy it. It’s not about quality of lack of pride in your work, it’s about practicality. I’ve sold way more books at $2.99 than I have at $5.99. It makes sense when an author prices their books at a level they can sell them at as opposed to not selling anything at a higher price. With a lower price, one can give an indie a break if their book isn’t 100% like a mainstream book they’d buy at Chapters or Barnes and Noble.


Some self-published books are indistinguishable from traditionally published books. I think that’s wonderful if that’s the case as the author may even get a book deal down the line if a publisher likes their story. Other self-published books have more of an “indie” feel and that’s also wonderful, because it suits the target audience who wants to read something more “grassroots” and different. I don’t think it’s fair to think all indie books need to meet some industry standard – that level of monitoring and control takes the fun out of everything. Some people get into self-publishing so they can publish the story they wanted to write. In my opinion, that makes indie books a little higher up in standard than a lot of traditionally published books.

Thanks so much for reading today. ❤


  1. Perhaps it’s because I’m considering publishing an indie poetry book, but I’ve always thought of indie books being as true and genuine to their intended message as possible.. There’s no one telling them that they cut x y z out to make more sales, the writer can choose what stays and what goes. And I think that’s why I’d go down the self publishing road first, because I might feel strongly about certain poems in my book that if I were to traditionally publish might not even be in the final book

  2. Excellent post. I read a lot of books on Powerlifting and they are written by people who know how to lift heavy weights and want to share that knowledge with others who are interested in lifting heavy. These are not professional authors by a long shot and so there are some errors in these books. However, for me the important point is the books content and not how closely these books resemble the books from mainstream publishers.

    • That’s such a great example and I love it. You make a good point that it’s more about the author being an actual power lifter who gives you the info you’re looking for. It’s the content that really matters. Thanks for your comment. :).

  3. I love indie books because they are not edited to death. You get a real feeling for the story. Not a sanitized version that has removed so much the story has gaps, in some cases the story makes no sense. Or is one dimensional.

Comments are closed.