As a newbie here at IU, I’ve developed a list of questions over the past few weeks. I had a virtual sit-down with the woman in charge to quench my curiosity about dealings with authors, feedback about their books, and how it feels to be constantly paying it forward. The answers surprised and disappointed me a little. I convinced Ms. Brooks to publish my findings as an interview, because I thought others might have the same questions, and might have drawn the same assumptions I had.
Kyle: IU gets hundreds of emails from authors. I know I only coordinate a small number of them, so that means you are doing the rest, which must take up a monumental amount of time. Why do you do this when you could be spending your time writing?
K. S. “Kat” Brooks, IU Admin: Honestly? Some days I ask myself the same question. But I do it for that email that gushes with thanks for showing an author a better way to do something, or for finding a mistake, in their book or book’s purchase page, that they didn’t know was there.
Kyle: How many hours do you spend working on IU-related stuff?
Kat: About 16 hours a day, seven days a week.
Kyle: That doesn’t really leave much time for anything else, like writing, promoting your books, or a paying job. Do you make any money from the IU site?
Kat: No, I don’t. And the Evil Mastermind and I have been using our own money to cover blog expenses. We don’t want to charge authors to be a part of the site. We want authors to be able to come here, for free, and find the information they need. Don’t get me wrong, we have had some very generous donations from a few authors which have helped, and some of the minions were wonderful enough to pitch in to cover some of the costs for the upgrade to a new server last fall. We are extremely grateful for those generous gestures.
Kyle: So – IU costs you money to run?
Kyle: Okay then. (Crossing aspirations to form a mutiny to rule IU off my list of goals.) But all these authors you help – they must have asked about and purchased your books, right? They made some kind of an effort to get to know you better?
Kat: No. I can literally think of two authors, during the querying process, who have asked what I write. I know for a fact one of them purchased a book. I’m not certain about the other.
Kyle: So your job is pretty thankless, then.
Kat: That depends on how you look at it. I’ve met some wonderful people because of IU – people who I now consider my friends, who go the extra mile to share my book promotions whenever I have the time to run them. They beta and ARC read for me, and are there for moral support. You can’t put a price on that.
Kyle: That’s good to know. Now, about the vetting process: it seems to me we reject more books than we accept.
Kat: That’s correct. I’d say we reject about 60% of the books submitted. About 50% of those are rejected in the first round because of the cover. The other 50% are usually rejected in the second round because of the book description. Of course, to clarify, as you know, we don’t just flat-out reject. We always include input as to how the person can enhance their book to make it pass the vetting process.
Kyle: I’ve noticed that some of the book descriptions just need to fix some typos or change a sentence or two – which seems like a really easy thing to do. Yet, I never see those books come through again. Why do you think that is?
Kat: I really couldn’t tell you. I don’t understand why an author wouldn’t take the opportunity to make their book description the best it could be – especially if it only needs a tweak.
Kyle: Do you get frustrated when authors don’t take the vetting committee’s advice?
Kat: That depends on my mood. If I’m in a sour mood, then I look at the amount of time the committee is dedicating to help the author, and it annoys me that the author disregards the input. Sometimes as many as seven or eight people have looked at the book – so that’s a pretty large investment in time on our part – and we ask for nothing in return. If I’m in a good mood, I shrug, and look at each critique as a learning experience.
Kyle: Recently, Martin Crosbie wrote an article about what reviewers want – and it seems like the reviewers hit with precision on the committee’s focuses. Did that give you some satisfaction?
Kat: Actually, it did. And there was a post by a reader, recently, called Whoops! Your Indie is Showing, that reflected the same sentiments. (One person even thought I might have written it.) But it’s one of those things, you know – when you tell your significant other that his shirt is on fire, he gives you the brush off – but if one of the guys at work tells him that, then it must be true. As long as authors get the point, and it inspires them to make their work more professional, it doesn’t really matter where they got that jolt.
Kyle: You haven’t actually set someone’s shirt on fire, have you?
Kat: No. Burning flesh smells awful – but not as bad as burning hair.
Kyle: I don’t even want to know how you know that. Anyway, before I started here, were there any authors who went bat-sh*t crazy over receiving a rejection for their book?
Kat: Yes. There have been a few ugly incidents. But for the most part, we either get no response (the majority of the time) or we get a thank you for the insight. I really appreciate the latter as it shows the author wants to put out the best work possible. We strive to give honest input privately, which is more than any other site out there will do.
Kyle: I’ve noticed that a LOT of authors don’t follow the submissions guidelines. I find it kind of funny that people who write books do not READ well.
Kat: That’s not a question – are you just venting?
Kyle: Yes. You know I’m a little scared of you, right? Big Al told me some stuff that makes me glad I live in a different time zone.
Kyle: On that note, I will thank you for your time, and thanks for the opportunity to be a volunteer at IU.
And now, I’ll open this to questions from the audience. (Ha, I’ve always wanted to say that.)