Thursday, March 31, 2011

Self-Publishing for Kindle? - writing tip

Nikki Leigh sent an email with a link to a review for an author who self-published a book that the reviewer said had lots of typos and grammar errors. And who then argued with the reviewer about the review:

and added by way of explanation:

Nikki Leigh: "The post is a review for a book that is published through Kindle -- and the review commented on the massive amount of typos and grammatical errors. The author went off over and over again on the reviewer and other people posting their comments. Her actions have definitely gone viral - on the 28th she had 10 4 and 5 star reviews on Amazon, Now she has 97 reviews and the vast majority are 1 star. Just an interesting example of what happens when an author releases a book that isn't polished and when their behavior is very unprofessional. Just thought you might want to share with authors as an example of what NOT to do."

Now that Kindle has introduced it's own publishing platform, instead of picking up virtually all it's titles from, just about anyone can figure out how to publish a book on Anyone. But is that a good idea? The directions are simple, easy to follow--you can use a Word.doc file--and the product shows up looking like all the other products for sale on the site.
Self-publishing is not uncommon, but the plain fact is that most of us can't find the errors in our own work, because we just don't see them. We don't pick up on typos because we see what we think we typed.

In addition many authors don't know which style book to follow (or that books require a "style" at all) and go ahead and use whatever they were taught in English 101, while the rules for typesetting a book are very different than those for writing exposition. For one thing the period always goes INSIDE the quotation marks.

Then to complain when the reviewer pointed them out was, indeed, unprofessional. It's best to mind your manners with reviewers, even those who make you wonder if they read the right book, and to send notes of thanks to reviewers, even if their comments were not positive. Remember, any publicity is good publicity. If their experience with YOU is pleasant, they will remember and work with you again. Chances that they will remember whether or not they liked your book -- given the vast amount of titles they read -- are slender.

The number of this author's reviews posted since this controversy started indicates that she has, indeed, sold additional copies. But the readers were not happy with the product as indicated by their reviews. What do you think will happen when her next book comes out?

Will the present reviewer look at it? Doubtful. Because she will surely remember the arguments she got. Will the present readers want to spend their money again? Not likely, with all those one-stars that will remain forever on the amazon site. The review may have gone viral on the Internet, for now, and given the writer a lot of free advertising, but will it lead to fans??? Fans who will come back and buy the author's titles again, and again? What do you think?

Now everyone makes mistakes and even in our own professionally published books there are mistakes from time to time, though we do our best to make sure no one uses a "pear of scissors" and that the English spellings of words like cheque, neighbour, and colour are changed to American English and we do know that the Dedication ALWAYS falls on P. 5 and so on.

There IS no perfect book. And there is certainly a movement among authors these days, urging them to "keep control of the work" and to self-publish, because "what-the-hell, anyone can do it!" It is true that today, anyone can publish a book. But can they make it look professional enough to reflect well on their skills?

If you do self-publish, please don't think that "mistakes don't matter" in e-books. Mistakes always make a publisher or author look bad.

Most publishers attempt to put out a professional-looking product. They know the rules of grammar and typesetting, which authors do not, and should not be expectedto, know. They can at least discourage authors who want to do things that will make their book look less professional, like putting the dedication on the blank page opposite Chapter One.

Professional publishers use the Chicago Manual of Style as the standard for a well set out work. Professional publishers know that, however pretty a cover may look, it is less than useless if the title can't be read in thumbnail size. Something that even graphic designers, who work only with the actual book-sized cover and don't think about on-line buyers, may not take into consideration.

In short, e-publishing has its own rules. I have been an e-publisher for 10 years and knew absolutely nothing when I started. But I had help along the way from more-experienced publishers and I have learned a lot, though I still have to look stuff up all the time.

If you are planning to self-publish, my advice is to at least hire an editor who knows the business to look over the manuscript, before you put it on line yourself.


  1. I feel less guilty about all the trouble I caused over the mass of errors in MAIDEN RUN. I'm about to order more copies, and am praying you were right about the corrections! So many glitches weren't proofing at all, but had to to with reproduction and printing. Fingers crossed! Those first copies made me feel I couldn't ask the full price for them.

  2. I do understand how you feel, Joan. Let us hope things are straight this time.