Mint Tries It So You Don’t Have To – Itsy Bitsy Book Bits

From time to time, I get unsolicited messages from bookish companies asking me to try their products. And I guess it works, because I’m always curious about whether these sites are legit!

Today, I’m reviewing the ARC/author service company Itsy Bitsy Book Bits so you don’t have to. (And to be honest, I don’t think you should).

Why I got solicited and why I’m skeptical

I got an email from Itsy Bitsy Book Bits a few months ago. It looked like this:

I don’t know about you, but there’s something about this email that gave me some orange flags. I’m not sure if they intended it this way, but the different fonts and spacings especially reminded me of a phishing email trying to get past the filters of email providers.

This email was also sent to me as a newsletter… and I don’t remember signing up for it. Maybe I did and I just forgot, which is totally possible But if I didn’t, it feels a little invasive. How did the company get my email address, considering that I don’t even publish my email address on my blog? Did another company sell my info?

To be fair, Itsy Bitsy Book Bits seems to be a legit company…

This company does many bookish things. They distribute ARCs, set up book tours for authors, offer beta reading, and offer social media management – among other things.

I was able to find legitimate authors speaking about this service on their website and in the front matter of their books themselves. I found that they had many positive reviews on Booksy and on their Facebook page. And, I didn’t get any hits when searching up “Itsy Bitsy Book Bits scam” which is a good sign.

… But I wouldn’t recommend them for ARCs/book tours

The first problem is that the website is incredibly difficult to browse. Especially when compared to their competitors like BookSprout and NetGalley. I don’t even know what to take a screenshot of for this blog, that’s how messy I find it! I can’t imagine it’s particularly accessible to people who use technology like screen readers either.

There doesn’t seem to be any filtering system for readers to find what they want. Also, reviewers have to apply to join the review team using their Facebook group and request books using Google Forms. I think this system is inefficient and poor for privacy protection.

Second, I’m very skeptical about their reviewer policy (from their Become a Reviewer page).

I’ve been an ARC reader for several websites before and I have never seen a website asking reviewers to sign an NDA. Unless I’m missing something, it’s not standard practise for ARCs. And fairly or unfairly, it leads me to believe that this company is unfamiliar with what book bloggers and reviewers actually do.

I’m not sure why the NDA is needed. What are the terms of the NDA? What do they try to bind reviewers to? Is it even legally enforceable? My law student spidey senses are tingling… and not in a good way.

I usually try to review a book with the service in order to give a full sense of the website, but I am very uncomfortable with signing an NDA to be an ARC reader. There are plenty of other websites with great ARCs that don’t require this of their readers.

I appreciate that everyone has different experiences with bookish companies. But from what I’ve seen from Itsy Bitsy Book Bits, I feel uncomfortable using it or recommending it to anyone else in the bookish community.

This is another one of my bookish site reviews. If you’re interested in reading more, I have posts on NetGalley, Readerly, Reedsy Discovery, and more. You can find a master list to all my discussion posts here.

Have you ever heard of Itsy Bitsy Book Bits? Have you worked with them before and if so, what was your experience like?


Why Book Bloggers Aren’t Obliged to Support Authors

I often scroll through /r/selfpublish, which is a subreddit for self-published authors. One of the themes that often comes up is book bloggers and the difficulty that self-published authors face when trying to get reviews.

In most cases, authors are usually very understanding of the book blogging community. But in a few cases I’ve seen, authors are much more combative. They complain that book bloggers need to accept reviews from self-published authors because they have a tough time getting their works seen. They complain that we’re asking for too much when we write a review policy or ask them to read it.

The implication behind a lot of these comments is that book bloggers should be doing those things because we have an obligation to support authors.

That’s something I want to explore in this post today. Whether it’s coming from a self-published or traditional author, it’s not a statement I personally agree with.

Everyone blogs for different reasons

It’s true that authors of any background often find it very difficult to get attention for their books. And it’s nice to support authors by reviewing their books or writing about them on your blog. However, I don’t think it’s something that all book bloggers should have to do just because they’re book bloggers.

For me, blogging is a hobby that enables me to express my thoughts about books and connect with the bookish community. I see my book reviews as a record of my thoughts. I hope they’re useful to other readers who aren’t sure about whether to pick up a book or not.

Maybe authors might find value in my reviews, but it’s not something I intend to have happen when I review. I like spreading the word about authors whose work I love but promotion isn’t the goal of my blog. And in reality, there are some authors who I don’t personally support and who I don’t wish to promote, even if only indirectly.

Promotion is often a one-sided relationship

I feel like there’s almost an unspoken expectation by authors and publishers that book bloggers will be there to promote for authors. ARCs are commonly part of the marketing plans for authors, whether self-published or traditional. But those ARCs aren’t really useful if there isn’t anyone on the other end to take them! Yet, there’s always an assumption that someone will pick up an ARC and someone will post a review.

To be fair, many authors and reviewers often defend bookish content creators by emphasizing that we shouldn’t be expected to support any author. Authors are often very appreciative of the support they do get from their readers.

But generally, I think that conversations around the book blogger/author relationship often centre around what we can do to support authors – and not the other way around.

I believe that whether we’re helping self-published or traditional authors, we’re unpaid marketers. And I also believe that our time and happiness is important!

In some cases, I think that the idea that book bloggers must support authors can lead to a slippery slope. It can lead to a situation where a blogger feels pressured by the community, or by an author, to accept an ARC or do more work than they’d otherwise like. It can lead to a situation where a blogger feels pressured to speak positively about an author and a book, even if they don’t feel that same way.

If doing ARC reviews, retweeting book release info, and so on is something you don’t want to do, you shouldn’t feel pressured to do it. If that’s something that you enjoy, go for it! It should be your choice what you want to do, not a choice that stems from the idea that book bloggers are all promoters and all people that must be supportive of authors.

I’m curious to hear what your thoughts are on this. What should the relationship between book bloggers and authors be? Do book bloggers have an obligation to support authors?

Blog & Life Updates: Or, Being a Real-Life Elle Woods?

I’ll be honest: I’ve not been posting as much to this blog as I have been over the past year. I’ve been sticking to discussion posts and not reviews, and I haven’t been as active in blog hopping as I used to be.

I wanted to write this quick post to give you a life update, and talk about how this is likely to impact the blog going forward. Don’t worry, I’ll still be around! I still plan to post, just in a different way.

In late August 2022, I started law school! I’lI feel incredibly fortunate to have the opportunity to continue my education (again) and to be at the beginning of a professional career.

I’m happy to be here, but oh my goodness is law school busy! So many classes. So many readings. So many cases. So many social events that we’re supposed to network at. (What even is networking!?) So many cool extra-curricular activities to get involved in. So much going on.

From upper years to professors to student services, everyone at the school has emphasized the importance of wellness and not letting law school consume us. Which, is why I still have this blog active and why I’m still working on scheduling more discussion posts!

At the same time, I just won’t be able to do as much as I used to do, even in my undergrad. I won’t have the time to be reading as much, nor will I have as much time to be posting in general.

Like I mentioned earlier, I still plan on keeping this blog up and posting while I can. I’ll likely be moving to a one-post-a-week format (if not something more infrequent), posting whatever I feel like – whether it be discussions, reviews, or something in between. I’ll be scheduling these posts to make things easier on myself. Heck, even this post is scheduled 😉

Thank you so much for your support over the past year! To find so many awesome readers through the blogging community has been such a blessing, and I feel sad to have to step back from doing as much blog hopping and posting as I used to. But at the moment, I think doing that will help me with my time management. Fingers crossed my second and third years will be less crazy… please?

If anyone has been through grad school or law school while blogging, please let me know if you’ve got any tips and tricks. Any advice is very appreciated!

5 Romance Novels Featuring Protagonists with Unique Jobs

Are you tired about reading romance novels with business people, professional athletes, rockstars, authors, and other ‘conventional’ jobs for the genre? If so, this post is for you! I’ll highlight 5 romance novels which feature protagonists with unique jobs.

This post is a follow up of a similar post, where I highlighted 5 cozy mysteries featuring protagonists with unique jobs. All blurbs are adapted and paraphrased from their original blurbs on Goodreads

Want by Emma Rider

The Unusual Job: Jade is a professional cuddler. Because of her criminal record, this is the first well-paying job she’s able to find.

The Story: This is a contemporary romance about Jade and MMA fighter Ryland. A motorcycle club threatens Jade’s best friend, so she does everything she can to try and save him while also paying off her debts. To do that, she signs a contract to cuddle Ryland. Ryland wants her and Jade wants him too, but she tries to keep their contact platonic – key word being tries.

The Secret Bridesmaid by Katy Birchall

The Unusual Job: Need someone to plan your wedding, pretend to be your friend, and be your bridesmaid? If so, Sophie is the gal for you!

The Story: This is a rom-com, where Sophie is hired by a bride’s mom to plan a major London society wedding. However, the bride is a bridezilla, making Sophie’s job difficult. Plus, she’s attracted to Cordelia’s older brother Tom, who’s definitely off-limits, there’s another big society wedding on the same day as the wedding she’s planning, and the bride isn’t happy with her mom’s decision to hire Sophie… this will be a day to remember!

The Sexorcist by Vivi Andrews

The Unusual Job: Luis exorcises demons for Karmic Consultants. Karmic Consultants is the throughline of the series – it’s a business where mediums help ghosts pass through to the other side.

The Story: Brittany’s never planned a wedding before. But here she is, planning a wedding, and a demon is threatening the event. She calls Karmic Consultants for help and Luis answers the call. They can’t afford to be distracted by a romance if they want the wedding to go well, but

Kiss an Angel by Susan Elizabeth Philips

The Unusual Job: Alex is a expert of bull whips. He manages a travelling circus (which is where much of the book is set).

The Story: Daisy has a choice: she can either to go jail, or she can marry a mystery man in an arranged marriage. Alex is that man, but he doesn’t think very highly of Daisy and doesn’t want to spend that much time with her. So, to the traveling circus they both go, where they will learn that there’s more to the other than they thought.

Morning Glory Milking Farm by C.M. Nascosta

The Unusual Job: Violet finds a job milking minotaurs (monster with the body of a man and the head of a bull). And uh… she’s not milking them like you would milk a cow for milk. It’s way more NSFW as the Goodreads reviews will explain.

The Story: Violet is badly in need of a job, so when she sees an opportunity at Morning Glory Milking Farm, she jumps on board. They offer great hours, great benefits, great pay… but she’ll have to milk minotaurs for her pay.

One of her clients begins requesting her for his milking sessions. Crushing on her client definitely isn’t in her plans. But, maybe her crush on this monster isn’t as one sided as she thinks…

Have you read any of these books? Do you have any recommendations for romance novels with unusual professions? If so, I’d love to hear your thoughts and suggestions in the comment section below!

What It’s Like to Not Be Able to Picture Anything When Reading

If I asked you to close your eyes and picture a sunset, what might you see? Maybe you see a vivid picture of the sunset, so vivid it’s like you’re imaging a scene from real life. Maybe you see something blurrier, with the colours of the sunset visible but no clear image.

Me? I see nothing. I know what a sunset looks like and I can describe one to you with words. But when I try to picture a sunset in my head, all I see is black.

The inability to create mental images in your mind is called aphantasia. I’ve read that aphtansia is on a spectrum, as some people with aphantasia can see some hazy images in their minds eye. However, I’m completely aphantasic as I cannot create any mental images.

I love reading (perhaps in spite of my aphantasia?) but I think my aphantasia might lead me to approach reading differently than other people without.

Overly descriptive language doesn’t do much for me

Learning about what a character looks like or what the setting is like does help me understand a story better. For example, I still know what a character with red hair looks like even if I can’t picture it in my head.

But it’s a different story when an author goes on about a character’s hair, or all their physical features, or the map of the city the book is set in, or the exact layout of the room the characters are in.

I’ll still process this information and it might give me some insight about the story itself. I personally find these sections very unhelpful and tend to glaze over sections like this if they start to drag on for too long. I think these sections are meant to help readers picture the story better but I can’t picture anything anyways!

What helps me better picture something is when authors give references to senses that aren’t just visual, like an author describing a plate of food not only by how it looks but also how it tastes and smells. Book illustrations that show a map or how the author pictures the character are also great since they give me a better sense of what everything is supposed to look like.

The way that the words sound, the author’s writing style, and the plot itself are more important for me since the words themselves are my main way of engaging with the book, not the pictures the author creates.

I’m a fast reader

I can’t speak for everyone with aphantasia, but I wonder if there’s a relationship between aphantasia and reading speed. My guess (with a sample size of one) is that people with aphantasia might read faster because they can’t visualize. Or, maybe people with aphantasia read slower because it takes a lot more effort for us to ‘see’ things?

I’ve heard some people say that reading is like a movie in their head and that they slow down to visualize the scenes they’re reading about. But it’s not something that I can do because of my aphantasia, so I never stop to try and do this. I just focus on the words itself and what they’re conveying, if that makes sense. Not stopping to visualize scenes saves me a lot of time when I’m reading.

If I felt like it and I had the time, I could finish a 300+ page book in a day and still remember much of the book afterwards! This was a really useful, but unintentionally developed skill in university. I was an international relations major and had a lot of readings for my classes. The ability to read quickly made it easier to get through what I had and to manage my workload. Though, it did make geography classes a bit tougher since I had a hard time picturing where things were and where places were in relation to one another.

Do you have aphantasia? If so, how does it impact your reading? And for those of you who can visualize, what’s reading while being able to picture things in your head like?

Revisiting Archie Comics as an Adult

I was super excited to learn that there are a bunch of Archie Comics available on Kindle Unlimited. Pages and pages of Archie all included with the cost of my subscription! So, I decided to borrow a comic (Archie Jumbo Comics Digest #322, to be precise) and relive my childhood.

Archie was my special treat when I was younger. A few times a year, I was allowed to purchase a new Archie from the grocery store. I’d read those comics over and over again. Life got even better when I found out that a used book store near me sold Archie Comics for a fraction of the price as the regular store and I got to pick up two comics at a time!

Because of how special Archie was to me as a kid, I expected to feel nostalgic and happy when I read the new comic. Instead, I found myself disliking the book. And I found myself asking:

Did I approach the comic with unrealistic expectations?

The Betty/Veronica/Archie triangle was a thing in the comics when I was reading them all those years ago and it seems to be a perpetual part of the story. Betty, the everyday girl and Veronica, the heiress are friends but also fight over Archie. A lot. I remember the comics I liked having the love triangle but I don’t remember (or don’t notice) it being as prominent as it was in this comic.

The other thing I liked about those comics were that they featured other characters too, outside of Archie and his friends (even though the series is called Archie). Sometimes we saw Cheryl and her friends, Josie and the Pussycats, maybe Sabrina the Teenage Witch. But none of them showed up in the edition I read. Maybe it’s a licensing thing, or a decision by the company to split their stories into different books now?

Ultimately, I do think I approached the read with unrealistic expectations. I expected a lot of the things I liked about Archie all those years ago to show up again and that wasn’t fair of me.

For one, the Archie of today isn’t going to be the same as the Archie I read about ten years ago. #322 is a pretty recent edtion. Comics and the stories they tell change over time, and I shouldn’t expect the comics to be exactly as I remembered them all those years ago.

Also, I’m remembering the Archie comics through very rose-coloured glasses. It could be that the Betty/Veronica/Archie triangle was just as bad, if not worse, in the comics I read, but I just didn’t pick up on it. It could be that the Cheryl/Josie/Sabrina features were infrequent and I just remembered the few I read. I was a kid then and I’m an adult now, so of course my preferences and the things I notice are going to change over time.

I think what hit harder was the realization that I’m growing out of a lot of the things I liked as a kid and Archie is one of the casualties. Did I enjoy reading the comic, yes, but I didn’t feel the same happiness that I used to feel as a kid.

Have you ever revisited a childhood favourite? If so, how did you feel after? Was it an experience like mine or was it something more positive? I’d love to know your thoughts!

What Does It Mean for a Book to Be Political?

Politics in books can be a contentious topic, and I get why some people aren’t interested in reading about it. It’s a contentious topic, it’s not always treated with care in books, and people often want to escape into books and away from the politics of the real world.

And I feel the same way too sometimes, but other times, I really love a political read. Considering that I recently finished four years of an international relations degree where I took a lot of political science classes in the process, politics is often something that’s on my mind.

And one thing I’ve noticed the more time I’ve spent in the bookish community is how narrowly defined ‘politics’ in books can sometimes be.

When books are criticized as being political, it’s often a very specific type of politics that’s being pointed out.

For example, in cozy mysteries, I’ve noticed Goodreads reviewers will sometimes use the criticism of ‘too political’ around issues broadly relating to diversity.

Take the reviews for Candy Slain Murder by Maddy Day for example. Some Goodreads reviewers called it ‘political’ (and also ‘woke’, ‘preachy’, and ‘PC’) because of its discussions of discrimination. In the book, a few background characters face Islamophobia from others in the town. There is also a known white supremacist, KKK member, and all around nasty man who is harshly criticized by other characters.

I usually only see the ‘political’ critique being levelled against books that tackle diversity and discrimination, but never against other books that could be read as having other political themes. I’m not as familiar with critiques against politics in other genres, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re similar to what I see in cozies. Which brings me to my next point:

Political issues often appear in books – even in books that aren’t considered political

There are a lot of different definitions of politics in academics. For example, Harold Lasswell’s definition of politics, which is about “who gets what, when, and how”. Joyce Mitchell says it’s about “the collective decision-making or policy-making common to the whole society”. Max Weber says politics is about “striving for a share of power or for influence on the distribution of power”

I don’t know if I can pinpoint what the best definition of politics and the political is in one blog post, and I’m sure this is a hotly contested issue among some academics. But to me, political issues are more than just diversity and identity politics. It’s more than elections and listening to what politicians have to say on an issue. Politics is all about power, the relationships we have with one another, and how groups of people make decisions.

For example, I’ve never seen a review criticizing a cozy for being political because it criticized police officers and/or the work of the local police station. This is an extremely common theme in cozies! And to me, it’s related to very political topics in many countries: police reform, police misconduct, and the role of the police in communities. This is something I hear a lot in the news, both in relation to Canadian current events but also to policing around the world, yet it isn’t called out as political?

Similarly, I’ve never seen a review criticizing a cozy for being political because characters are trying to save a small town business, a topic that comes up from time to time in cozies. Whether people (or the government) should intervene to support a fading business is – you guessed it – a political issue. So too is the question of how much to support this business and what this support should look like.

It’s important to remember that political issues and the way they’re interpreted change over space and time. An issue that appears political to one person might not be political to another because the issue is understood differently in another community. Still, I do think that politics shows up in literature more than many of us realize.

Maybe there’s even an argument to be made that every book can be considered political in some way. Maybe there’s one or more themes that intersect with politics, or maybe the very publication of that book and what it symbolizes can be politically contentious.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. How do you feel about politics in your books? What kinds of issues do you find are typically labelled as political? And what makes a book political?

Should You Review Self-Published Books Differently than Traditionally Published Books?

Since I’ve started book blogging, I’ve started reading more books by self-published authors. These authors do the writing, editing, publishing, and marketing by themselves – or they hire others to help them with the process.

Because self-published authors have access to different resources than traditionally published authors, I’ve seen some people argue that their books should be reviewed differently. The basic argument is those differences should be taken into account when writing a review and giving a star rating, and ultimately one should be more lenient towards the self-published author because of their situation.

However, I don’t agree with that. I think that self-published books should be reviewed the same as traditionally published books, for a few reasons.

Reviews are for other readers

It’s unfair for me to expect absolute perfection from any book, no matter how they’re published. And it’s true that many self-published authors face challenges because of their decision to self-publish. For example, an author might lack the money to hire an editor or to commission a stunning custom cover.

I do try to keep these limitations in mind when I’m reviewing. However, it doesn’t mean that I’m less honest about the book itself. I can understand why a self-published author might not have an editor, but if I think the book would benefit from editing, I’ll mention that.

Reviews are for readers who are looking for information about a book and I feel like I would be doing readers a disservice if I wasn’t honest about the book. Going too easy (or too hard) on a self-published book makes the review itself less useful.

Reviews aren’t written specifically for authors, but if an author were to read my review, being honest would hopefully help them too. Reviews are a marketing tool for them, and I’d think that having an honest review (whether positive or negative) would be more useful than one that’s dishonest.

Combatting the stigma against self-published books

By being more lenient on self-published books, it can create the impression that leniency is required because self-published books are inherently inferior, or because self-published authors need all the help they can get. Conversely, being tougher on self-published books than their traditionally published counterparts could also reinforce the idea that self-published books are inherently inferior.

Self-published books still face difficulty in getting talked about and purchased because of their self-published nature, and I don’t think that giving them special treatment helps to address this issue.

After all, self-published books are sold right alongside the traditionally published stuff. I think it makes sense to hold both types of books to the same standard – while being aware of the potential limitations that authors in both categories may face. At the end of the day, a book is a book no matter where it comes from.

I’m curious to hear your thoughts on this topic. Do you review self-published books and if so, what is your approach when reviewing them?

I’m Feeling Frustrated with Cozy Mysteries

Cozies have a special place in my heart. They were my first introduction to adult fiction and the first books I reviewed when I started this blog. Shoutout to Betty Hechtman who wrote the first cozy I ever read! I loved reading about the mysteries, I loved trying to solve them, I loved getting to know the characters, and I loved the coziness.

But lately, I’ve been feeling very frustrated with the genre. I’ve been finding myself reaching more and more for a romance novel instead. And the more I read romance, the more I reflect on my frustrations with cozies. There’s one reason that sticks out to me:

Cozies are starting to feel stale to me

I haven’t seen one commonly accepted definition of a cozy mystery but to me, I’d define it as having no explicit sexual content or violence, little to no swearing, and a ‘cozy’ feeling that invites the reader into the book. The main mystery should be solved by the end of the book and the ending should be happy.

Technically, this is a pretty loose definition and there are a lot of stories that can be told within this framework. However, I’m getting to the point where cozies are starting to feel somewhat repetitive. A lot of cozies stick to the same formula, down to the details.

Almost every single cozy I’ve read is set in the contemporary time in small town USA, featuring a white woman in her 30s or older. She is almost always financially comfortable. She likely owns her own small business, often in the areas of food, arts & crafts, or books. If she doesn’t own a business, there’s a good chance she’ll work in one of those three fields. She often has a pet (usually a dog or cat, maybe both).

She will have a close group of friends and/or family that aren’t too different than herself. If she’s in a romantic relationship, it will be with a man who also works a fairly conventional profession (eg. police officer, chef). She will use some tech but it probably won’t be used to solve the mystery.

As for the mystery itself, it’s almost always a murder. Often the victim is someone the town didn’t like or an outsider, or it’s an insider who the town loved. The suspects are often disliked by the town in some way, perhaps due to their moral dubiousness, while the protagonist is morally good and pretty squeaky clean.

There is always an understandable (but not justified) motive for the crime. The protagonist might make the police mad at first with their involvement but by the end, the police will be at least a little grateful that they solved the case.

I want to be clear: there’s nothing wrong with cozies that are written this way! It’s just that lately, I’ve been hoping for cozies that are a little different than this mold, that tell a cozy story but from a slightly different angle. I’ve been finding more success in millennial cozy mysteries and self-published cozy mysteries but it can be tiring to try and search for the right book that won’t feel stale.

It’s probably because I’m still pretty new to romance, but I’m not feeling burnt out or bored by it (yet). I’m at the point where I’m still reading at least something new in every book I read. I think it helps that romance is a pretty big genre, so there is relatively more to choose from than cozies. I still haven’t hit a wall with that genre yet.

Genres have their formulas for a reason. They’re there to help a book in that genre fit into that genre and they make sure that the reader’s expectations are met. But is it too much to ask for a cozy that plays around with this formula, even just a little bit?

I’m not going to stop reading cozies or reviewing them for this blog, but I do think it’s important to take a step back. I read for fun and it doesn’t make sense to be forcing cozies right now if that’s not what I’m finding fun. Focusing on the cozies that look the most interesting to me instead of reading it just because it’s a cozy is probably a better way to go.

Have you ever read a cozy and if so, how do you feel about the genre? Is there a genre that you’re feeling burnt out on and what are your tips for getting out of that slump?

5 Reasons Why I Won’t Pick Up a Self-Published Book

I read a lot of self-published fiction, especially through Kindle Unlimited. So this isn’t meant to be a knock against self-published books at all! There are plenty of self-published books that are as good as traditionally published books, if not better.

However, there’s also a lot of poorly written, unappealing self-published books that are listed alongside the more outstanding works.

The more I scroll, the more I notice the commonalities among the poorer self-published fiction out there. Here are the 5 reasons why I won’t pick up a self-published book, reasons that I think all self-published authors should be aware of before publication.

The cover looks unprofessional

I understand that self-published authors handle all parts of the publishing process themselves and it costs money to hire a cover artist. However, unless the author is a talented graphic designer with experience making covers, I really think that this is a necessary cost. It signals to the reader that the author is willing to invest time, effort, and money into their book and that the author is interested in creating a professional product for the reader.

It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, but I do think the cover should look like it wasn’t created on Paint or on Microsoft Word. Even an inexpensive pre-made cover or commission off Fiverr will look better than an author trying to do cover art on their own! Because I have seem some truly unfortunate self-published covers…

The blurb has issues

Traditionally published authors can have awful blurbs too, but I notice that the awful blurbs are particularly awful for some self-published books. Perhaps there are spelling and grammar errors in the blurb. Perhaps the author wrote one huge chunk of text but didn’t split it into paragraphs. Perhaps they are incredibly vague about what the book’s about.

One of the first things a reader sees is the blurb and it’s vital to make a good impression. To me, issues with the blurb may indicate that the book itself has similar issues. For example, if an author has spelling errors in the blurb, that may be a sign that their quality control is somewhat lacking and I should expect to find spelling errors throughout the book.

While self-published authors often lack the resources of traditionally published authors, I don’t think it excuses them from a poor blurb. There are many free resources that can help an author craft their own blurb from online guides to sourcing feedback from other authors.

The book doesn’t look like other books from the same genre

When I’m looking at a book, I should be able to tell what genre it’s from – or at least, what genre the book is trying to be. For example, cozy mysteries often have softer and lighter colours on their covers, so a cozy mystery cover with a lot of dark or neon colours could look very out of place.

In my experience, a cover not looking like others in the genre is often a sign that the author doesn’t really know the genre they’re writing for, and that will show in the book. Also, they probably haven’t done their research about the publishing side of the genre.

I often enjoy genre-bending fiction like cozy mystery/thriller combinations or romance/mystery combinations. Still, I feel like authors should be hitting the beats of at least some of the cover beats of one of those genres in their cover. Again, this can be an issue in traditional publishing but I’ve seen some self-published books that are particularly bad.

There are little to no reviews

Getting reviews can be tough for self-published authors, especially if they’re just starting out. But they really do make a difference in catching the reader’s eye – or at least, this reader. If I see that a book has zero reviews or nothing but short 5-star reviews, I often get nervous about picking up the book. And I’d say the same thing about traditionally published books as well.

There are many self-publishing communities where authors can learn more about how to market their books and get reviews. /r/selfpublish for example, has a wiki page with information on a bunch of different methods, some of which are free. In my eyes, being self-published isn’t enough to explain away a lack of reviews.

Do you read self-published fiction? Why or why not? Do you have any particular reasons for not picking up a self-published book or self-published books in general? I’d love to know your thoughts!