Readers Deserve Respect

This image of the NYC Library Reading Room by Craig Dietrich was used by permission under a CC Attribution License. The image has been cropped from the original.

This image of the NYC Library Reading Room by Craig Dietrich was used by permission under a CC Attribution License. The image has been cropped from the original.

There are a huge number of self-published authors who get big kudos from us. Not only have we enjoyed their books, we know that it’s tough to do for oneself what traditional publishers have always done for the lucky few. Self-published authors not only have to write the book, but they also have to create or pay for cover art, format it for its various electronic editions, pay for editing and proofreading, find beta readers, and market their book without access to the resources of a large publishing house. It’s a great big bunch of work, and it can be costly if the writer does not have the necessary artistic or technical skills. Not every writer is prepared to undertake it.

The problem with writers who are not prepared to undertake the work is that they often publish their books anyway. They don’t get help from people who are proficient in editing and proofreading. They have their teenager photoshop the cover. They format it based on advice obtained from a badly edited, free, Kindle ebook which is chock full o’ grammatical and formatting errors. Then they take to their blogs, Twitter, and Facebook, and scream out to the world (three to four times a day), “READ MY BOOK, BUY MY BOOK, LOVE MY BOOK!!!”

Sadly, those authors make up the bulk of the self-published. The intent of IndieHeart is to try to take some of the crap off of the ebook reader’s radar through honest reviews and posting a few free books a day that we hope live up to their initial appearance of professionalism: to be one of the Gatekeepers, if you will, in this new era of digital publishing in which any man, woman, or child can upload complete nonsense to Amazon, set their price, and call him or herself a published author.

So, dear authors, we’re here and we’re taking a stand. Readers deserve respect. We won’t cut you a break because it isn’t easy for you to deliver us a professional product. We won’t cut you a break because you’re giving it away for free. If you placed it for sale on Amazon, or Barnes & Noble, or Smashwords, you’re saying to us “this is my finished product and it is ready”.

Let’s make this analogy: you are the owner/barista at a newly opened café, and I have ordered my $4.99 Chocolate Mocha Latte with great anticipation. Instead of the delicious, frothy confection I anticipated, you hand me a cold Folgers in a plastic bag. You are sure I will be understanding — cups, whipped cream, and heat are simply too expensive for your startup coffee shop. Of course I’ll be understanding. I’ll be understanding that I won’t be returning to your shop. I’ll be understanding that I will also tell everyone I know to cross the street to avoid it.

A few weeks later, your shop still isn’t doing well. You advertise a free promotion. You can’t understand why people have the same reaction to your cold bag of Classic Roast even when it’s free. Your business folds. You tell everyone who will listen that people just have no respect for your hard work! They want something for nothing and, even then, they’re not happy!

After you vacate the premises, the new coffee shop that moves into your old space has trouble finding customers because your shop left such a bad taste in the public’s mouth. You not only ruined it for you, you ruined it for the other guy, too.

This is the way a lot of people view self-published authors, but we know that there are many, many fine writers out there who respect their readers by offering us only their finished products. Until the marketplaces find a way to judiciously weed out the exercises in illiteracy, the homeschooled fifth-grader’s English assignment, and the author/charlatan selling a book composed of pages scraped from websites as a scholarly account of the subject, we will be here to try to point at least a few readers in some right directions.

Sadly, reviews at Amazon and other ebook marketplaces are badly compromised and may not help when choosing a book. The reviews for many books are written by relatives and friends of the authors. Sometimes they are actually written *by* the author under many different names. Sometimes the author paid for the reviews.  (If this is news to you, we suggest reading the excellent piece at bestfantasybooks.com.) If you are going to plunk down your hard earned money, try to find independent reviews for the book on blogs and websites like this one.

As readers ourselves, we hope that we can provide other readers something of value. If we have (or if we haven’t), please let us know through your comments or through our contact form. We would love to hear how we can improve.

Posted 4/12/2013

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