Sometimes I feel like my posts at Indies Unlimited help too little, or maybe that should be they help, but complain too much. Largely, I see that as a difference between my logical role as a contributor here, and the majority of IU’s other contributors. While most of IU’s posts are written by authors, Cathy Speight and I are exceptions. We’re book reviewers. Other contributors can talk about how to craft proper dialogue, their experiences with KDP Select, and various marketing techniques, and all of us can pass on our experiences with social media or (in Cathy’s case), help with punctuation usage, but there are areas Cathy and I can talk about that the other minions can’t. We see the best indie books out there (largely written by IU readers) and the worst (the authors who I’m guessing frequent those other sites instead). When we see trends in those “worst books,” we can point them out. These can be reminders or cautionary tales for those faithful IU readers and, for those other people who stumble in from elsewhere, possibly help them see the error of their ways. They’ll not only become better at their job as an author, but may eventually rise to the level of the faithful IU reader. Raising everyone’s game, helps us all. Which leads to my current criticism.
What’s the first rule of … (Quick, Al, think of something like getting a book reviewed, uh, not pickup lines, uh) job interviews? Yeah, that’ll do. What’s the first rule of job interviews? I’m not sure what the experts say (and hope I don’t have to refresh my memory anytime soon), but I’m going to guess it goes something like, “put your best foot forward.” Guys, that 70s suit looked great on Leisure Suit Larry, but you can do better. Don’t forget to shave. Ladies, you might want to do the same, or whatever it is you do to look so good. Authors hoping to get a good review from a reader, blogger, or anyone else should operate under the rule “put your best book forward.”
What do I mean by “put your best book forward”? First, I’ll go off on a tangent (blame my Dad, his tangents sometimes go ten deep and you forget what the original subject was). The other day ?wazithinkin’, the pseudonym used by one of the Pals who reviews books on my blog, BigAl’s Books and Pals, sent me an email about her current read. (Second level tangent: I have no idea what she’s thinking, and thinking about it scares me – it scares me a lot.) ?Wazi expressed frustration with her current read by saying, “so far it is an interesting story but it has some formatting issues … Do the authors not care enough about their books to make sure you get a finished book to review?” She theorized that possibly the formatting was good on Amazon, but also didn’t see it as her place to verify that, yet she knew that if the formatting on the Amazon version was as bad as what she was seeing and she didn’t mention it in her review that it would be doing a disservice to our readers. Then she cracked her whip at me (I know, this seems backwards to me too; I’ll get my revenge with red ink) and suggested it would make a good topic for a post at IU.
When I thought about it, I realized I had several examples of this kind of problem in just the last few weeks. Multiple issues of formatting that, if I’d paid for this book on Amazon, would have prompted a quick return for a refund. One author sent an old version of his book, despite knowing it had been through at least one round of edits and proofing since. I could go on. Instead, I’ll tell you what this means to you, the author hoping for a seventy-bazillion star review.
Obviously, how an individual blogger will react is going to vary based on a number of factors. These include their review and submission polices, how well they like the book so far, if they’ve committed to reviewing the book (either in a query response or agreeing to be a blog tour stop), their backlog of books for review, and even their mood. (Reviewers can be so damn temperamental.) Here’s a short list of possibilities, all of which I’ve done recently (depending on that mood).
Contact the author and say, “you can do better than this, can’t you?” That’s the route ?wazithinkin’ ended up taking after she was done cracking her whip at me. That’s the solution where everyone ends up happy, at least potentially. The author of the book she was reading will be happy with the eventual review and I think ?wazi was too. She’s a much nicer person than I am. Although I’ve taken that approach at times, it’s also my least likely reaction.
Instead I’ll probably go into full-on “kid, get off of my grass mode” and do something else. I have an open submission policy and suffer from a too-many-books-too-little-time issue. Although it pains me to say it, I realized recently that I’m often in the same mode as the stereotype many Indies have of agents and publishers, looking for a reason to pass. (Those who don’t follow submission directions are also victims of this disease and no, it isn’t my job to help you create a Kindle compatible format from your scribbles in a Word document.) This leads to one reaction, the least harmful of the alternatives, which is a quick toss into the not-worth-bothering-with-it pile. The worst (and most likely) reaction is your book will get reviewed. That review will mention the formatting as a problem (I have to assume that what you sent me is roughly equivalent to what you’re selling to potential readers) and I’ll dock a star or sixty-nine bazillion from the rating. That isn’t going to make either of us happy.
The infamous they (those people who know all, but don’t want to be identified) say that you shouldn’t raise an issue without also suggesting a solution. Obviously the problem I’ve described only happens with ebooks (surely you aren’t sending out paper review copies that haven’t been properly vetted). Since I’m sure you made sure the ebook versions for sale on the various sites look good (right?), this only applies to cases where what you’re sending to reviewers is an ebook file created some other way and used only for promotional purposes. If your book is on Smashwords, why not just grab a file in the right format from there? Even better, if the reviewer will accept a Smashwords coupon code as a submission, use that method. That way, if you fix any minor issues before they pick the book up, they’ll be able to get the latest and best version. If you don’t request DRM be applied to your book on Amazon, buy a copy and use that (I promise, no one cares if you’re pirating your own book). If none of these ideas work, then at a minimum, before you start sending an ebook file with seventy-bazillion star reviews dancing in your head, use your ereader or an appropriate app to make sure you’re putting your best book forward.
Time to turn off my whiney mode. Go ahead kid, play baseball in the yard. The living room window as the home run fence sounds perfect. I need to loosen up. For my next post, I should pick a subject that’s fun and light-hearted. Maybe something about authors who write with a head-hopping point of view and guillotines?