Guest Post: Jessica Bennett from Grub Street Reads

The Larks would like to welcome Jessica Bennett from Grub Street Reads to the Nest today.

Do Readers Judge A Book By Its Publisher? by Jessica Bennett

The Reading Lark audience is savvy enough to know that things have been changing in the publishing landscape in a big way over the last couple of years. The rise and dominance of Amazon and the coinciding extinction of the brick and mortar bookstore has ushered in what I’d like to call “The Age of the Indie Author”. 

 In the “old” days, success for an author meant finally getting an agent to represent their book, giving up control over editing and cover design, and gratefully accepting a low royalty rate just so that they could see their book on the shelves in bookstores. These days, authors are finding they have another choice. Amazon, Barnes & Noble and a slew of smaller online retailors allow authors to directly upload and sell their books without any gatekeepers. Not only do authors retain complete creative control of their book, but they can also earn up to 70% in royalties for every book sold. 

 As you can imagine, many authors are weighing their options and choosing the self-publishing route. In fact, the data company Bowker estimated that over 300,000 self-published books hit the market last year, and the company predicts we’ll be seeing as many as 600,000 new self-published titles in 2015. 

 So, you can see why all of these changes are having a stark impact on authors, agents, traditional publishers, book sellers, and pretty much everyone who has a financial stake in the book business. But what about readers? How have they been affected by “The Age of the Indie Author”? 

 My gut tells me that the majority of readers don’t give a hoot whether or not a particular novel has a publisher’s stamp on it. This notion is borne out by the fact that self-published authors are now regularly hitting the New York Times best seller lists and are consistently ranked in Amazon’s top sellers lists as well. 

What readers want – what they have always wanted – is a good story that will hold them tight and won’t let go until the last page (preferably at the lowest price possible). They don’t care if their knight in shining armor came off the presses of a big six publisher in New York or was dreamt up and self-published by a housewife in Mobile, AL. 

 What readers will not tolerate, however, are low quality novels, where the plot has more holes than a sieve, the pace runs fast as molasses and grammar mistakes seem to multiply across the pages like bunnies. Unfortunately, there are virtually no standards (outside of correct file formatting) that an indie author must meet before putting his or her book out into the world. As a result, many indie authors are publishing unpolished manuscripts, and readers are getting burned big time. 

 The next few years will be crucial for the legitimization of the indie book movement, and readers will act as the judge, jury and executioner. If readers get burned too many times by low-cost, low-quality indie books, they could retreat back into the comforting embrace of the traditionally-published authors they know and love. 

 That would be a real shame, because the literary world is filled with talented, top-notch indie books waiting to be discovered. Trust me, I’ve read a good many of them. 

 In a bold, (possibly crazy), attempt to support the indie book movement, my business partner, Leslie Ramey, and I created Grub Street Reads. Our company evaluates and endorses indie books based on a strict set of quality standards that can be consistently and fairly applied to all genres. Our seal provides an easy way for readers to distinguish indie books that have been vetted and given a thumb’s up by a non-bias third party. 

 Our hope is that the GSR Endorsement can give readers safe passage into the indie book world, past the dangerous shoals of poor quality, to where many amazing, wonderful stories await. 

 Let’s hear your thoughts. When searching for new books, do you care whether or not a book is self-published? What do you think about the Grub Street Reads Endorsement? 


Grub Street Reads, created by Jessica Bennett and Leslie Ramey, seeks to shine the spotlight on quality indie books by endorsing those books that meet GSR’s strict quality standards. Learn more about Grub Street Reads by visiting Enjoy our kooky video, read about our endorsement criteria and visit our growing library of endorsed indie books.


  1. I used to not care at all if a book was self-published or if it had some big name behind it. I started reading a lot of self-published books because many of them were free or very cheap. Well, now I'm more wary of self-published books because I've read too many of them that are just plain terrible. Like you said in your post, numerous plot holes and grammar mistakes. There are some grammar mistakes that I can ignore because I'm terrible with grammar too and I understand sometimes those things get by. But then it really irks me when I see "there" used instead of "their" or something else similar. And this happens not once or twice but multiple times! This shouldn't even be happening at all too! My brain can't help but think, this is wrong!

    Grub Street Reads is a great idea. I know not everyone will love the books recommended. I just hope that none of them are full of plot holes, run on sentences and other errors. I do see the bad side. Well, bad for the authors at least because many of them think that their work is good. I don't blame them for their thoughts. For all I know, they probably have friends and family who tell them that their books are the best thing ever. Trust me, I've seen it happen. Those authors are going to be mighty angry when they don't find their book on the recommendation list after submitting it. That will in turn bring people who will accuse Grub Street Reads of purposely discouraging aspiring writers. If it ever comes down to that, do not back down! Readers like me do need a site like GSR!

    Well, that's just my two cents. Best of luck to you!

  2. I don't care "much" is a book is self-published or not. I typically read the free preview off of Amazon before buying. If I can tell that it is self-published by reading the excerpt, then I don't buy. If I can't, then I put it in my shopping cart.


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