The New York Times (Finally!) Reviews a Self-Pubbed Book

After featuring them on their best seller lists—mostly via the inclusion of ebooks a little over two years ago—The New York Times has finally reviewed a self-published book.

And guess what?

The appearance of the two-page review of the “The Revolution Was Televised,” by blogger/tv critic Alan Sepinwall by Michiko Kakutani, did not cause the world t0 end or pigs to fly.

In fact, it’s not until the fifth paragraph that Kakutani even mentions that Mr. Sepinwall’s title was self-published, marking we hope, the end to the widely touted assumption that all self-published books are crap and don’t merit the attention that even the worst traditionally published books do.

Does this mean that The Times will start reviewing other indie titles?  Doubtful.  In her piece in Forbes announcing the news, Suw Charman-Anderson states that “Most reviewers don’t want to deal with self-published authors directly because they don’t really want to deal with any authors directly…” (emphasis mine)…and that “reviewers depend on publishers acting as winnowers, sorting out the wheat from the chaff, and at least attempting to make sure that they are sent books they are actually interested in.”  All true.

Which pretty much leaves indie authors back where they started, having to rely on friends, neighbors, and in some nefarious instances, a drawer full of sock-puppets. Charman-Anderson says that, “What’s needed is something more robust, something which doesn’t try to put lipstick on any literary pigs, but which instead builds its business on picking out the brass from the muck and passing that on to the folks with the megaphones.”

It should be noted that IndieReader’s goal, since it was launched five years ago (an eternity in self-pubbed book years), was to help adventurous book-lovers sort out the plethora of new indie titles and authors…a road map of sorts to help navigate the rocky terrain.  Our hope is that we’re not just providing a service for indie authors (IR does not charge for its professional reviews), but also consumers, and yes,  mainstream book critics looking for great indie titles.

Towards the end of the Times review Mr. Sepinwall notes that, “As ‘the middle-class movie’—which couldn’t ‘be made on the cheap or guarantee an opening weekend of $50 million or more’—became increasingly difficult to get made, artists who might once have gravitated to the big screen moved to the little one”.  Which is pretty much the same situation being faced by today’s authors.

As the Big 6 publishers—now down to 5—spend more money on one-offs by Snooki than on cultivating mid-list authors such as Mr. Sepinwall, the onus is on self-pubbed authors to produce interesting, thought-provoking, quality books–of which we’re hoping The New York Times and other mainstream publications will continue to take note.


15 replies
  1. Peggy
    Peggy says:

    The article ends: “. . .which we’re hoping The New York Times and other mainstream publications will continue to take note of.” And, I suggest that as long as self-pubbed books use better sentence grammar than this, all will be well. Dangling prepositions: tsk tsk.

    And this: “. . .gravitated to the big screen moved to the little one”. <– tsk tsk, periods and commas ALWAYS go inside quotation marks – no exceptions.

    • Anonymous
      Anonymous says:

      Thank you for standing up for our dying grammar conventions, but I would have to argue that helpful advice like this–which is only meant to make the article better and to maintain the integrity of the piece and of the site as a whole–might be better shared in a private email, rather than pointing it out in the comments’ section.

      • Amy Edelman
        Amy Edelman says:

        No no no…I am TOTALLY OK with you guys bringing it up in the comments section. And thanks for caring enough to let us know!

  2. Stephen Tiano
    Stephen Tiano says:

    Well, that’s great! But if it isn’t the start of a new practice, the effect is nil, which is a shame. As a book designer who’s worked with some pretty talented self-publishing authors, I know there’s some very good self-published work being produced. And slowly the stigma that all self-publishing is “vanity publishing” is fading. If the establishment reviewers would give self-publishers a chance, especially with the drastically diminished chances for new publishers to break through to the now-big 5, the overall publishing landscape could improve.

  3. Marla Miller
    Marla Miller says:

    I just discovered your site. Very impressive that you saw what the industry has been forced to see—-the emergence of the independent author.
    Great site & I’m now a fan!
    Thank you.
    Marla Miller

  4. Allen
    Allen says:

    I agree with anon who says we should criticize in private and praise in public. Now if it were just easy to do, perhaps all we “grammar nazis”, who are just trying to be helpful, could do that without angering those commenters who don’t know how to write a decent sentence.


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