Self and small press books get a terribly unfair reputation. Many excellent books, as good or better than the New York Times Bestseller lists, are ignored and obscure simply because they didn’t go through a major publisher.
I repeat Sturgeon’s Revelation, which was wrung out of me after twenty years of wearying defense of science fiction against attacks of people who used the worst examples of the field for ammunition, and whose conclusion was that ninety percent of SF is crud. Using the same standards that categorize 90% of science fiction as trash, crud, or crap, it can be argued that 90% of film, literature, consumer goods, etc. are crap. In other words, the claim (or fact) that 90% of science fiction is crap is ultimately uninformative, because science fiction conforms to the same trends of quality as all other artforms.
Sadly many reviewers and people treat small press, or self published as being somehow apart from this, and 100% crud/crap/trash. This is unfair and untrue. The only difference between small press and self published is who puts it out there, a big corporation or an individual. At times it can actually mean higher quality work as a person editing for themselves or their friend might be inclined to do a better job of it. A self published author might be inclined to seek out only the best printers, with the best quality standards instead of just who can do it the fastest and cheapest.
Yes, we do believe that 90% of everything is crap. We believe that due to the ease of self publishing that there is an avalanche of crap out there. That doesn’t change that there is still that 10% of beauty and brilliance. Just as on the local Barnes & Noble store shelves, 90% of it sucks, and 10% of it will blow your mind.
We’re normal people. We don’t have careers as professional critics. This also means that the only thing we’re earning is a reputation. We will tell it how it is. If a book is great, it’s great, if it isn’t it isn’t. We’re unlikely to review a book that’s bad, we don’t have time to finish reading it, and besides, that fellow who put that book out doesn’t need bad press. Still, we’re not worried about getting fired because we dared to say something bad about Stephen King, so we will happily do it if we must.