Is Self-Publishing the Non-Peer-Review Journal Publishing of Non-Academia?

I think I have reached the point where I am about 95% positive that I will self-publish but there remain issues that seep into my psyche as I work on my revisions. Until now, my professional writing experience has been within the realms of academic social science writing. For those not familiar with peer review, it is a process that some journals require where a researcher submits her work and several experts in the field read and review the work before the work is accepted for publication. In many cases, the work may require some mechanical editing issues and in other cases, the work may be flat out rejected due to design flaws, data collection issues, validity issues, ethical issues, etc. To avoid this, a researcher does have the option to pay to have their work published in a non-peer-review journal. Basically, you are paying to have your work published and the publisher is not going to thoroughly review your work for the abovementioned issues. That is not to say that poorly designed and conducted research never gets published in a peer-reviewed journal, only that it is very difficult to have poor research published in peer-reviewed journals. Because of the rigorous requirements among peer-reviewed journals, as an instructor, my students are required to cite journal sources from peer-reviewed journals for any research they do. I do allow my students to utilize information from non-peer-reviewed articles, however, they understand that the conclusions from such articles may be limited and in some cases, flawed.

Moving into the fictional publishing arena, I found myself comparing the peer-review process to the publishing options out there. With the increased popularity of the e-readers, self-publishing has risen in recent times. I wondered if the self-publishing option is akin to the non-peer-review publishing option and in a non-scientific way, tried to explore this comparison. I wondered if readers’ expectations of a novel would be based on publication type and so far, I have not gotten this impression. I must admit that I thought I would tend to hesitate on purchasing a more expensive novel if it is self-published rather than not, but in the interest of full disclosure, I look over the customer reviews and reviews on my favorite book review websites before I purchase any book. I tend not to seek out publishing information to start with and really only become aware of it if a reviewer comments on the publishing type. For me the reviews tend to tip the balance as to whether I will read a book or not.

My initial concerns regarding self-published books were not only concerning reader reaction and support but also issues of quality. I was concerned that self-published books would be poorly written, not only in terms of storyline but in mechanics which drives me up a wall. What I have found is that how a book is published may be independent of these issues. My initial instinct was to believe that the highest quality works would be published through publishing houses however; I have found as a reader that even large publishing houses release books riddled with grammatical, storyline, and anachronistic errors. Based on my non-representative reading sample of contemporary romance, I found that definitely quality is not necessarily correlated with method of publishing, which was a very surprising finding. I found a much higher correlation between author and quality than publishing and quality. This finding was also consistent when looking at authors that both self-publish and use publishing houses for their novels. Quality remained consistent regardless of publishing process.

What have you found in your experience? Do you think that self-published authors are akin to the non-peer-reviewed academic writers?

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