Since I first opened up to review requests, I've been open to self-publishers (despite my incredibly high standards on the basics of the English language). I take punctuation, for example, very seriously. Especially dialogue punctuation.
I've had a lot of requests I've declined for whatever reason - the book didn't sound like my kind of thing, it's not even a genre I read - but mostly I'll decline because I see basic writing errors in the blurb or the preview. Stray apostrophes, stray commas, incorrect dialogue punctuation: I understand the intent, but the errors change the meaning of the words. It's not my job to rewrite a book in my head so it makes sense.
With one of the first books I was asked to review, I actually replied to the author and said I'd read it if he got it professionally edited. He did, and it was a good book, and he's since then gone on to be a somewhat successful self-publisher. But that was a one-off. Now I'll simply decline if I see errors.
I was closed to any review requests for a long time while I caught up with my backlog, but a few months ago, I reopened. Since then I've had a steady stream of requests from self-publishers and their publicists. and accepted none of them.
I understand it's hard for self-publishers to find reviewers, I do. I feel for them. Self-publishing has a bad reputation that quite frankly it earned through the laziness of so many of its writers trying to make a quick buck.
Being that we've always got review books from big publishing houses anyway, we're auto-approved on NG and EW, and we've built relationships with good Australian houses to request whenever we want, not to mention our toppling TBR piles, yesterday my co-blogger and I decided to close our review requests to self-publishers.
To be honest, even though I have found a few gems through self-publishers, I didn't really enjoy writing emails explaining that their books didn't really appeal to me. It kind of feels like an insult. And I've had far more duds than gems. I believe most of my DNFs are self-published. There's a reason for that. Even if they've mastered basic English, they might not know how to craft a story and I'll be left bored by a floundering plot, bad characterisation, poor world-building etc. The kinds of things big houses have multiple editors for.
I thought this might give me some more breathing room to finish those few review books I have left.
But today I received a review request from a small-press published author whose book genuinely excited me and who I was gladly able to accept.
I think this 'no self-publishers' thing might work out after all.