Monday, May 21, 2012

The Self-Published Book that Changed My Opinion on Self-Publishing

Remember a year or so ago when I said I didn't think the self-publishing model worked? Well, this weekend I got proved wrong - at least in part - by Ms. Rebecca Donovan and her riveting novel Reason to Breathe.

What happened?

I was in my Kindle store - I don't even remember why. Looking for another book, maybe? And somehow I stumbled on a very simple, black cover that featured what looked like the shape of  a door with light seeping from behind it. It was called Barely Breathing. I read the blurb and a couple of reviews, then realized it was the sequel to another book.

The original, Reason to Breathe, also featured a cover which I found intriguing because, despite it's simplicity, I felt it (see photo). After reading a couple of reviews - both good, and bad - I decided to try the reading sample.

I got hooked right away. So hooked, in fact, that I bought both books.

Now, here's where my reading experience differed to the usual:

Because I'd read reviews on both books, I was forewarned that the book needed editing. But almost to a man, the commenters who noted this point also noted that they didn't care. That they kept reading because they had to see what happened to these characters.

It went against every fiber of my internal editor to believe them... but the proof, as they say, was in the inability to put the book down AT ALL.

Ever since I started studying the craft of writing, I've become a very picky reader. But Reason to Breathe taught me that there comes a point where nothing else matters. If a reader resonates with your characters and is driven by your plot, they won't care about extra words, purple prose, or lengthy descriptions of rooms.

Well, this reader won't anyway.

So... what does this mean?

For me it means a recalibration of my opinions on self-publishing. Don't get me wrong, I'd have preferred to read this book when it had been thoroughly edited... but not enough to put it down and wait for that to happen. I was compelled to read. So that means, editing is a tool, but in a small portion of the book population, an optional one.

It also means that, while I'll never stop encouraging writers (including myself) to get critiqued and get edited, I'll also stop rolling my eyes every time I read a review that gushes about an unedited book. Kindle Samples are my friends. I can read the first few chapters and find out whether this book pulls me in or not.

The truth is, there are plenty of traditionally published books out there that don't hold my interest past the first few pages. Reason to Breathe didn't just hold my interest. It grabbed my by the lapels and got in my face and screamed READ ME NOW!

So, thank you, Ms. Rebecca Donovan. Whoever you are. I'm not surprised that the sequel has sold 5,000 copies in it's first week. I'm also not surprised that the level of writing in it is better. But I am convinced that I would have flipped right to it after reading the first book anyway. Reason to Breathe was that good for me.**

(NOTE: I wrote this blog a week ago and scheduled it for posting today. I've since found out that right about the time I wrote it, the author got an agent. GO REBECCA! WELL DESERVED!)
Your Turn: Have you read a self-published book that genuinely took your breath away? What was the title? Why did it grab you? I'm open to suggestions for other great reads.

** I'm not suggesting Reason to Breathe will be as compelling for everyone as it was for me. But we write to our own audience, right? And I'm smack-bang in the middle of the demographic for this one, apparently.


  1. So the end result of this post, Aimee, is that I am thinking much more favorably about the self-publishing industry...again. {It comes and goes. In waves.} And also that I sent the sample of Reason to Breathe to my Kindle. :)

    1. Welcome to my world, Melody. Welcome. Make yourself comfortable. You might be here a while...

  2. I'm glad you've had a change of heart.

    I've read a few self-pubbed things that are quite good and one that's really bad. I review them on my blog with the title "Unexpected Applause."

    Of course, there are also my own works.