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?
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-published 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-published authors to produce interesting, thought-provoking, quality books -- which we're hoping The New York Times and other mainstream publications will continue to take note of.