I got to thinking the other day about why I started to review the books I read. I started reviewing because I wanted to participate in the business of books, and learn from it. I eventually would like to write something of my own, but I realized my skills were far below the needed level. What better way to learn what good writing is, than by analyzing other writers? I also needed to find a good excuse to the Asian Overlord for why I needed to buy yet another book when I hadn't yet read all the ones I currently had on my shelf. "Sweety, it's the new Jim Butcher...I have to review it while it's still new"....so here I am, reviewing books.
It wasn't long into my reviewing career (HAHAHAHA!) that I was propositioned by some eager "author to be" to review their newest release. I was flattered that somebody would want my opinion on something they've worked so hard on. Since writing for FantasyLiterature.com I always research the author and the publisher before reviewing anything. They have a policy of no self published books, and no presses where the author has to contribute anything monetarily to be published. After searching around I did find that the book was indeed self published. That meant I wouldn't review for Fanlit, but it didn't necessarily mean I wouldn't review it personally to publish here.
Then I began to think about why a person who paid for their book to be published would want me to review it. Obviously they would hope I liked it and in doing so I would promote the book. What if I didn't like it? What if it was completely terrible? As a reviewer I have an obligation to my readers to be honest in my reviews and share any flaws I feel were in a particular book I just read. This person has paid MONEY to get their book in a published format. They obviously think it's good. What good could come from me giving it a negative review? It's not like I'm warning people away from a book that is sitting on the shelves at Barnes and Nobles. No, whether I liked it or not, anything I said about the book would be taken personal. So I chose not to review it.
I did offer to read the book and give him a critique via e-mail, but I would not publish the review regardless of whether I liked it or not. I was also not willing to read an EBook version, which was basically a word copy that he had typed up on his own computer. To say the least he wasn't willing to send a copy he paid for to me with no chance of promotion. I tried to explain why I wouldn't post a review, that the publicity could go both ways. If I loved the book then great, you might sell a few copies. If I hated the book then the fact that your life's work is a stinker will be forever stamped on the internet. Not to mention you would now hate me as much as I hated your book.
So that's it, I don't review self-published books. They have way too much baggage attached to them. I will however read them and offer as much constructive criticism as I can. I'm not mean, and not overly negative, but if your story has serious issues I will point them out. I assume any self published book to be a work in progress, since if it was truly great, somebody besides yourself would have already paid for the privileged to print it (however small that payment might be).