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Self-Published Books, Novellas, Stories
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I regularly download, read, and review free and low-cost books for Kindle from Amazon. Many of them are self-published books or are from small publishers I've never heard about before.

They vary in quality. Not just the variations you expect in formally published books, but huge variability. A reader can expect everything from writers barely able to string a coherent sentence together to exquisitely crafted prose.

I have taken to reading the reviews in Amazon before purchasing. Every author seems to have up to a dozen close friends who will write favorable reviews no matter what; some of the authors have sent free copies to people with the request that they read and review the work, giving it an honest evaluation.

Many of the reviews are thoughtful and insightful, and I hope the authors use them to improve their writing. A whole community of reviewers seems to have coalesced, commenting on everything from character creation to plotting to scene description, from sentence structure to grammar and spelling.

That reviewers would put that much effort into creating thoughtful and intelligent reviews says much about the entire process. I've read books that others have reviewed and find that their insights into the works have been pretty accurate. (Though I have to admit that I would reserve a 5-star review for only the most exceptional writers, Frank Herbert or Neal Stephenson, for example. Some seem to give 5 stars out like candy). But for the most part, reviewers give authors honest, well-considered feedback.

Except for the trolls and the lackeys, of course, who have their own agenda(s). They are found everywhere, not just on Amazon review panels.

I, for one, am delighted that writers are finally getting a chance to be published and get their work sunshined. The whole process can only be to the readers' and authors' benefit, circumventing the publishing houses' stranglehold.

"Self-published" used to be opprobrious. No longer.

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