Indie Books Don’t Need To Meet Traditional Publishing Standards

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

All published 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 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 and a lot of people 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 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 you that 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. 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 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 my own books 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. Sara, I wondered if you have ever had a problem with customers returning your books on kindle. Do you lose monies or is there a policy that must be followed before you lose any monies?

    • Hey that’s a good question. I haven’t had any issues with getting returns. It’s only happened once. I don’t know if the return policy has changed, but you can return a book within 30 days for a refund.

      • I want the author to receive the monies but I do believe they have the ability to see how much of the book is read. I need to research this further.

  2. I think, as a writer, we are tuned to spot the mistakes. Not in our own work, couldn’t spot a full stop in a row full of commas. If you read traditionally published books, there are still mistakes or a character development you don’t like. I read a book a month ago, which was from a famous author, but I didn’t like the way they treated the female characters in the book. I’m like you, it takes a lot of effort to write a book, and nobody should put that down.

    • I agree with what is being said and I’d like to add that with a traditionally published book (if you’re luck enough to be accepted), goes through several rounds of editing, often by the publisher’s editors. With self published books the author has to edit themselves (which as been stated, may not be the best idea since it’s harder to spot your own errors), or they need to hire someone to do this.

  3. I agree-your own mistakes are hardest to capture but yet when you need beta readers: good luck! I am asking the question because I am curious about the process for books published on kindle.

  4. Thank you for sharing.

    When I visited my sister from out of town, she strongly suggested to me to bring along a few self-pubished copies of my memoir. I had asked her if they would take self-published books and sell them. She said that a book is a book. And off we went to the family-owned bookstore.

    They did not hesitate. They took the book and were so grateful to have an Indie author local to California share their story.

    I, myself, can relate to several of your posts about not going the traditional publishing route and the hoops one has to jump through is something to be desired.

    Thank you for your candour and opening up to your readers about this topic that Indie Books Don’t Need To Meet Traditional Publishing Standards.

    Share your story. If you are a writer out there and you feel compelled to write, please share it with the world. You never know who may need to hear what you have to write.

  5. I often return kindle books to keep my inventory light, so I can easily identify the books I have not read. I was worried that I might be cheating an author of monies for me purchasing their book on kindle. From what I have read, I don’t believe this is so. I just wondered about your experience.

  6. I agree with everything you said. I’ve read many wonderful and unique self-published book, including yours, and in the past I’ve often read self published books that I did not know were self-published (now I pay more attention to that). Self-published books often have something special to offer and are often more personal. However, I have come across self-published books that actually were pretty bad. Two of them were pulled by Amazon after I posted a negative review. So it happens.

      • One of them I believe was originally written in Russian and then the author had copied and pasted it into google translate or similar to get the English translation. Google translate can be helpful but it is not good enough for that to work. The book featured several Russian idioms that made no sense in English, or were unintendedly comical, as well as unreadable sentences. Add to that several factual errors. In my critical review I gave a few examples of unreadable English and then the book was poff gone.

  7. As a writer, I found these explanations really helpful, Sara. Thank you for helping me understand the difference between Indie and Traditionally published books. Sending you big hugs xx

  8. I think you’ve captured my sentiments pretty well, Sara. I’m more tolerant about formatting regarding Indie books, but a book that is not edited well (either traditional or indie) is a major turnoff.

  9. The most frequent comments I get on my self-published books is about then being “unique” and “quirky”. I take this as a positive.

  10. I wrote a blog post last week about a number of indie books I read in April. What I find is that there is a broader variety of stories in indie than you get in traditional. So much focus in traditional publishing is on genres and copycat books written to take advantage of being similar to a bestseller. I mean Gone Girl begat Girl on a Train which begat Girl Next Door which likely begat a few dozen more “girl” books. If it’s a original idea, traditional publishing probably won’t touch it. I can hear the agent now … “I loved it, but I wouldn’t know how to market it.”

    But the indie books I read all offer something different. Including the one book you wrote that I’ve read. (which means I need to read more of your stuff)

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