Today’s Kindle Audience is now a Discerning eReader

JackieWeger-BioHeadShotGuest Post
by Jackie Weger

With the innovation of the Kindle released by Amazon in 2007, writers rushed headlong into the digital market. Mainstream publishers looked askance at the both the eReader and independent author, so we indie authors pretty much had the innovation to ourselves.

For the first few years, readers were forgiving of our missteps in story construction, formatting, and spelling errors. Early reviews reflect that forgiveness. Readers and writers both had a kind of awe for the innovation. It was new. It was exciting. We were learning new ways to market our work and readers were getting used to enjoying books on a new electronic gadget. Readers did not expect electronic perfection.

Now, they do. Here’s a heads up. Since 2010, the eReading public has matured by leaps and bounds and the smart mainstream publisher has embraced the digital market. eBooks published by mainstream publishers are well-edited and formatted. Blurbs and author bios are clean and crisp. Cover design is wonderful. Reviews, whether good, bad, or indifferent, seldom reflect anything other than story content.

What that means for us indie authors is discerning readers now have finely crafted eBooks and story construction to compare with our indie efforts. I don’t know about you, but my reviews reflect that. Get a reader who doesn’t like the story and next thing you see is an annoyed reader enumerating every dang flaw in the book with a one, two, or three star review. Vitriol flows like the Styx River.

I get it, because I get annoyed, too. Double spacing between paragraphs lifts me right out of the book. Inconsistent paragraph indents drive me nuts. A lack of scene breaks stumps me. I just tried to get through a really cute story, but the author started so many sentences with participles such as WaitingGoing… and Moving… Dozens of sentences began with As she turned her headAs she stirred the pastaAs she got out of her car… I discovered myself out of breath reading run on sentences. I do have empathy for the author. I paid for the book and I’m keeping it. I’m not writing a review. However, I’m not buying another of her books — unless I discover the title revised and I can actually read it to the end. The book is not short of reviews, and many of the recent ones have the same complaints. I hope the author notices and repairs the manuscript. A little tweaking and the book would knock my socks off.

What I absolutely love about digital is that we can repair and edit our books and republish. I discovered one of those vitriol-dripping reviews on one of my books. I cut and pasted the review and sent it, along with the manuscript, to Carolyn Steele, one of our IU gurus who is talented beyond measure, with the plea: Fix it, please. Another IU star, Rich Meyer, formatted the book to perfection. Since 75,000 readers downloaded The House on Persimmon Road in a free promotion, I’ve asked Amazon to mention the revised book in Manage Your Kindle. Readers who have ticked automatic update and have yet to read the book won’t find anything amiss.

Will a perfectly rendered book assure it of a raft of five-star reviews? Nope. But my hope and goal is that future reviews will reflect only content, whether liked or disliked, and not flaws that lift a reader out of the story. We need to remember that the consumer has the last word.

Say you buy a new fridge. It’s delivered. It’s beautiful. You open the door and there isn’t a shelf or cooler bins. Are you gonna squawk? I am. Same thing with a book if it’s not delivered right — readers squawk — and they are getting louder every day.


Jackie Weger is an award-winning author who has been writing romance novels, including for Harlequin, off and on for thirty years. When not writing she travels the good earth by foot, bus, canoe, sloop, mule, train, plane and pickup. You can learn more about Jackie on her website and her Amazon Author Central page.

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27 thoughts on “Today’s Kindle Audience is now a Discerning eReader”

  1. I can’t tell you how many authors have come back to me once they’ve gotten a rude awakening. after publishing prematurely. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again…invest in yourself!!! Get it done by a pro the first time!

    1. Teresa: Your words were some of the very first spoken to me by an acquisition editor at a conference. While we were having coffee a writer rushed up and begged the editor the consider her ms. She left it on our table and ran away. Moxie, yes! the editor opened the folder. The ms was on onion skin! Little has changed. if we want readers to invest time and $$$ in our books–we have to do it first.

  2. Great post, Jackie! Far too many authors don’t heed that advice, though.

    It’s worse if you know how to format an e-book, I think. I’ll get annoyed with chapter headings that are off-center because the author didn’t take the time or care to set things up properly. And something as simple as that can lose a star in my review.

    1. Which is why I hire you to format my books, Rich. I don’t know how. But, it is more than an annoyance. Scientifically–it is how our eyes are programmed and habituated to view print. I once worked in a grand hotel and in its bowels, hidden away was an old print shop, with an even older printer who set the type on letter heads, and printed our brochures. He showed me one brochure that would get read–two inch columns, like newspapers. Another, designed by the sales manager looked like a table-top art book. I lost my place trying to read across nine-inch long sentences.

    1. Thank you, Lynne. Getting those annoying glitches out–and really there were not a lot–is working. The latest couple of dozen reviews reflect the improvement. Thank goodness.

  3. The value of getting it right is not immediately apparent. It takes something like four years, as you point out!

    1. Big Al, I often lurk on Books and Pals reading reviews, learning from the five star and two star alike. I often get asked to review books. I send them to you, first! I am so proud of my Books and Pals 3, 4 and 5 star reviews!

  4. Great post, and it’s reminded me that we [authors] have a responsibility to our readers, and to each other. Now that the Wild Wild West is maturing, perhaps that message will start to resonate with more writer out there.

  5. How true this bell rings. A newbie indie must learn that what is written is not always right or good! I’m laughing from experience and my faith in Jackie to slap my hands. Thanks Jackie for this great article. I’m spreading the word.

  6. I agree, Jackie Weger, that to be professional in this self-published age is just that, be a pro at your profession. pay a proof-reader, a good editor and a cover artist. If you words are worth a read, it’s worth it to spend on a smooth and A+ package. I’m curious though, what do you say to authors who really can’t afford it to put out a professional looking product?

    1. Emelle: My first answer is save your pennies. However, in my short life as an indie author I’ve learned it is not that writers can’t afford professionals–it is that they don’t WANT to afford a cover artist, or a beta reader or an editor. Fine with me. I just figure those folks have skin as thick as an alligator when they read ten or a dozen reviews that complain about grammar or the author is illiterate or every paragraph was indented to the middle of the page. In my everyday ordinary life, I’m a mother, a grandmother, a great grandmother mother and a Bingo fanatic. I cook, wash, iron and clean. (I don’t walk the dog or do dishes). My day job is writing. When I’m not writing, I play. But I do not play at being an author. Some folks do.

  7. As always, Jackie, excellent advice! It’s a learning curve for everyone, and it’s so important to present a professional product. There’s a lot of competition now for author support services (such as formatting, cover design, etc.), so the costs for these can be had quite reasonably.

  8. I agree, Jackie, so many readers are “reviewers” when they realize that they are reading a sef-published/indie author. Some of these folks wouldn’t say a word if the same mistakes were found in a HarperCollins or Random House book. But as you note, our books reflect not only us, but the indie industry as a whole. Best to get it right on the first try. Great article. Thanks for sharing.

  9. Jackie, this was an excellent post reminding those of us (me) that laziness is no excuse to avoid doing all of the checks and tweaks that we must do, to end up with the best product possible. Reader reviews/comments are a great source of feedback towards improving our existing books as well as being a goldmine for how to shape the next one that we put out there.

    1. Dianne! Yes, readers are goldmine. I’ve had so many reader comments about Lottie, the ghost in the House on Persimmon Road, begging to know how she’s coping in our modern times, I may have to sit at my desk and tell them. I am such a dummy when it comes to the mechanics of our digital world–but I finally learned this: Before I even consider uploading a book to Amazon and ticking preview because I hate finding flaws when I’m at the exciting moment of PUBLISHING, I send the ms to my Kindle. That works to catch almost every flaw and dropped quotation mark.

  10. A professional editor is a must. I think it’s well worth the cost. Even though I may never recoup that. Same with cover art. But (sorry Rich), I do format my own and so far so good. Right? If not, somebody tell me! 🙂

    1. You go, Julie! 🙂

      I think everyone should do the parts of the job that they can handle after learning what needs to be done (and they feel comfortably doing). If you’re at a financial disadvantage, you may have to stretch your comfort zone considerably to get the job done.

      Formatting is usually pretty easy to learn. A workable (and salable) cover can usually be made by almost any author with the software that comes preinstalled on most computers (or with freeware/open source stuff like GIMP), at least as a placeholder until they can afford to have someone with more skills to do it better.

      I always look at it this way: If I can do it, YOU can do it.

      Proofreading and editing, however…you’re ALWAYS going to need another pair of eyes taking a look at what you wrote. You’re too close to it and unless you let it sit in a box for ten years, you’re not going to see all the problems because you’ll see and hear the right versions in your head. Unless you have a project that lets you do a sentence at a time (like my quiz books), you’re always gonna need an editor.

  11. Excellent advice, Jackie. If we are to be taken seriously by readers we have to take our work seriously and that means not only the story but everything else from proof reading to formatting. I’ve bought too many ebooks in which a really good story has been ruined by weird formatting, Now, if it’s an author I don’t know I dowload a sample first before I part with my cash.

  12. I completely agree. Another thing I personally dislike are gratuitous sex scenes in genres outside romance, which do nothing to advance the plot line and are overly explicit for the genre.

  13. Jackie, you are spot on. As big ink publishers move to make their e-books more competitive in price, we will lose that thin edge. We absolutely have to put forward the best product we can. Issues raised about formatting and layout must be taken seriously. We get submissions from new authors with formatting issues on a fairly regular basis. We always try to point those out. It is disappointing to see the number of authors who are willing to shrug it off and say, “It’s good enough.” Excellent post.

    And kudos to Rich Meyer. He has saved a lot of peoples’ bacon. Mmmm… bacon.

  14. Thank you, Stephen Hise. That is high praise and I appreciate it a lot. Rich Meyer formats all of my books and I will keep him in cat treats until one of us dies. And, Carolyn Steele picks over my ms with tweezers to find my bloopers. Between the two of them, I feel comfortable saying, I’m a professional indie author. And in case any of you don’t know it, Carolyn has an incredibly pair of sharp eyes. She was a volunteer on Project Gutenberg. It is no easy feat to put those scraps of ms together. Okay. I’m done. I’m going to Bingo. Thank you all for stopping by and commenting. I appreciate it.

  15. I think nothing of revising my manuscripts based on shared criticisms and then republishing the e-books. That’s my obligation as a writer: to offer the best story I can. Conversely, I’m not that hard to please as a reader. If a novel has a few flaws but is fairly well written and enjoyable, I tend not to be overcritical of the author. After all, no book is “perfect.”

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