I'm going to admit something that probably will make some people angry: I am kind of biased when it comes to deciding which books to review or read, based on their publisher. I give much more consideration to books published by the three or four biggest publishing companies, and rarely, if ever anymore, accept for review books published by smaller publishing houses or via self-publication.
I'm conflicted about this decision process of mine. On the one hand, there has to be some way for me to sort through the plethora of books that are published each year: I can't possibly read all the thousands of books published annually, and so I have to narrow my pool somehow, and the ways in which I do this may not be the fairest, or the best way. But it is a way--it is my way. And after my first year of blogging, experience taught me that the books I enjoyed the most were the ones that were published by the major publishing houses.
In a way, I think that my "sorting system" makes sense, because the major publishing houses are the ones that have the money to snap up those rare but precious high-quality books that I love: the people who work at those houses are the ones who can recognize quality (and, okay, yes, financial success as well, but since my opinion on most YA bestsellers doesn't match that of the majority, I'll just be talking about my own reading preferences here), and who are in a position where they have the luxury of being able to choose the best of the best, the cream of the crop. Naturally, whether we readers, authors, and publishers wish to admit it or not, not everyone has equal amounts of talent, and not every book is equal in quality, which is extremely subjective anyway. So the major publishing houses get first pick of the potentially critically and/or commercially successful manuscripts (unfortunately those two elements are not mutually inclusive, sigh) and have the capacity to ensure that those chosen manuscripts receive the largest readership; smaller publishing houses get to choose from the remaining pool, and so on.
On the other hand, I do still feel bad that, in a way, I am judging books by elements other than simply the quality of the story and writing, by leaving it up to the (mostly) capable hands of professionals to do the "pre-selection" for me. For the most part, this decision of mine has worked well for me. Exceptions do occur: I have enjoyed books published by smaller houses in the past, and authors have opted out of the traditional publishing track for a successful attempt at self-publication and self-promotion. However, the writer in me doesn't feel too great about the fact that I cannot give each and every author's each and every book an equal chance to be read by me, because of the basic fact that I do not have infinite amounts of time, energy, or patience; I barely even have enough energy left over after work to keep up my blog.
Nowadays, more small and independent publishing houses are coming out with their own YA imprints, but I have yet to be motivated to pick up any of their books. (I admit that one small publishing house nearly gets me with their absolutely breathtaking covers every time, but I have resisted, which turned out to be a good decision when I had a spare moment in a bookstore one day, picked up one of the house's books, and read the first chapter.) I have just found most of my experiences with independently published books to be a disappointment: those publishing houses, I think, either cater to a very specific audience, or they seek to ride the wave of YA's everchanging genre successes. Neither of which appeal to me very much. I admit that I am the worst publicist because I cannot find it in me to promote something that I don't strongly believe in--but, of course, when I do find that special and uncommon book, I will talk about it to all those whom I feel share my reading tastes, and who I want to share a good book with.
I've rambled on for long enough about a potentially divisive topic in a manner that I can't even tell is comprehendible or not. I'd love to hear what you think. Do you find yourself "biased" towards a particular publishing house, or group of publishing houses? How do you sort through all the review requests that you get, or the books available for you to read? How do you feel about smaller publishing houses, or self-publishing? If you're an author and have experience either with the major or smaller publishing houses, what insights would you like to share?