An anonymous self-published author asks:
Why don't you review self-published novels along with the traditionally published books?
The short answer is: time and quality.
The long answer is that I don't have enough time to read but a fraction of the trade-published crime novels released in the U.S. each year. That number is somewhere around 2000 books per annum. Out of all those I read maybe 120 or so -- figure 10 a month*. The other 94% of crime novels, I don't have a chance to read.
That's a stunning number of books that it's simply impossible for me to get to. Now imagine if I were to add all the self-published novels to that figure. I can't imagine how many of them there are, but surely that number is in the high hundreds if not thousands. When would I have the time to read any of them? So I have to draw a line somewhere. (More later on why I draw the line here.)
The second aspect of time has to do with reviews. I review five books each month in my Chicago Sun-Times column. It takes a lot of books to get down to that five; at a minimum the 10 books per month mentioned earlier. Since newspapers generally won't run reviews of self-published novels, and since the majority of my reading is driven by my review obligations, I can't afford to give up any of the slots in my reading schedule to them.
The other factor, and this is why I draw the line where I do, is quality. In my experience the overall quality level of self-published fiction is not sufficiently high for the books to be given serious consideration. This is not to say that all self-published fiction is bad. The law of probability alone would indicate that at least some of it must be readable. But the vast majority of it is not.
There are many reasons for this (e.g., self-published fiction has no third-party vetting, most of it is not professionally edited, much of it was already rejected by agents/editors for a variety of reason), but the bottom line is that most self-published fiction just isn't very good.
I used to consider self-published fiction -- I even reviewed two books that I can recall. But those were the only two out of scores of books that I looked at. The rest weren't worthy of consideration. And nothing I've seen in the intervening years has compelled me to change my mind.
So that's it in a nutshell. I wish I had the time to read more books or were somehow able to read faster. But even if that were the case, I'd have to increase my productivity by an order of magnitude before I could even consider adding self-published novels to the mix.
*Note: Over the past three years I've averaged about 13 books read per month. That accounts for the new crime fiction mentioned above, along with older crime fiction and a limited amount of science fiction, non-fiction and other assorted stuff. But not much of it.