Short answer: Yes. Long answer: well, read on…
Reason #1: Money Equals Power
Not all books are published equal. We know this. It is ridiculous to pretend otherwise. Books that sell the most are meant to be the most enjoyable. Of course, this cannot be the case when there is money talking for them. Advertisement, brand recognition, and just plain getting people to review it (professional critics and eager amateurs alike), traditional houses offer it all on the greatest scale. The majority of indie authors just don’t have that kind of power or money to propel their book to the centre of attention. The data is skewed.
And let’s not forget the real world: bookstores still exist, and I still borrow heaps of physical books from the library. The only books that are available in these areas are those published by big houses. How many self-published books have you seen in those places?
Reason #2: Hoops.
Books that are picked up by big publishing houses are meant to be of a higher standard. These books have impressed several someones (not just the publishers, but usually an agent too) enough to say “this book is better than the rest” or “this book does something new”. If it isn’t or it doesn’t, then I’m going to be far more disappointed than if I were reading an indie novel.
Let me put this into a little more context: if I find an indie book average, I will give it an average rating and think ‘well, it was worth a try’. If I find, say, a Penguin book average, I will give it an average rating and think ‘well, that was a waste of my time’. My attitude is very different depending on where the book came from, and this definitely comes out in the review. I am not a professional critic, and I do not claim to be without bias (actually, I don’t think any of us can, but at least if you’re aware of it you might be able to catch yourself). So while my review might depend on what emotions I’m running through at the time, I do try to make the star ratings on goodreads consistent.
Reason #3: It’s a tough competition.
This is where my bias rears its ugly head (um, more so). The fact is that I sympathise and respect people who are really putting themselves out there with no one but themselves to back them up. To create something that is wholly their own and ask people to judge it when there are thousands of others doing the same, and you are all starting at the bottom.
That is tough. It takes a lotta guts.
So I have more empathy for people who pretty much throw themselves into the unknown with nothing but their own wits to guide them. Of course, this is true for all authors, but (and this is my own, personal belief) indie authors have a greater disadvantage, in that their voice is SO much quieter than the non-indie author.
Then there’s the human factor. A lot of the indie books I’ve read so far are from people I have met online. That makes the read a little more close to home. Even if I have never met these people in real life, I feel like I know them, and I will review their work with this in mind. Basically, I find I treat indie books with more respect than I do with mainstream books. I might be happy to bag out a big name author out sheer annoyance, but I’m not going to do the same for people who I know. I’ll be more tactful in voicing my issues with a book.
So, really, why would I use the same scale to judge these books? They are not equal, so they should not be judged equally. If I’m reading an expensive hardback and I see a typo or a sentence that doesn’t make sense, I get really annoyed. That’s just slack (especially if I notice it – I know my grammar grasp is fairly minimal.). If I’m reading a 99 cent ebook and I see the same errors, it doesn’t bother me. But that’s only the little things.
Big things like an unoriginal story? Or authors rehashing the same old plot & character bundle? These are unacceptable in a Random House or Harper Collins. Your books are meant to be on another level, and I expect a higher standard. When you don’t deliver, I notice it.
Does anyone else feel the same?