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by Stephen Hise 10/13/2011
In Part 1 of this series, we discussed what reviewers do and do not want to see from books they review. In Part 2, we covered the etiquette of the relationship between an author and a reviewer before and after a review. In this segment, we find out how reviewers feel indie authors stack up against the traditionally published authors, and where there may be room for growth and improvement.
Reviewers are certainly as diverse a group as authors. Each has his or her own style, preferences, and ethos. Add to this the fact that while these reviewers may have read some of the same titles and same authors, the overlap in the titles they read is likely small, potentially leaving each with an entirely different impression of the quality of indie writing. One could reasonably expect to see some variance of opinion on the quality of indie authors.
Big Al, of Big Al’s Books and Pals says, “Indie authors cover the entire spectrum of possibility. Some need a responsible adult to ground them from their computer until they learn how to write, others compare favorably to traditionally published authors. Many are traditionally published authors. The majority that I’ve read compare favorably although I also don’t think those I’ve read are a representative cross-section.” Al is quick to point out that his definition of the term “independent author” is very broad, and includes everyone from self-published to authors affiliated with small press imprints to authors independently re-publishing a book that was previously published traditionally.
Kim Fowler, of Wistfulskimmie’s Book Reviews says of the comparison, “I would say that indie authors hold their own really well and in some cases are better than traditionally published authors.”
Cathy Speight of Cath ‘n” Kindle Book Reviews states, “I would go so far as to say that in some cases there is no comparison, i.e., they stand up proudly side by side. Reading matter is very, very personal. One man’s junk can be another man’s treasure. It doesn’t matter if the author has the best publishing industry behind him; traditionally published authors can still write a clanger in the same way that an Indie Author can write a best-seller. The problem for an Indie Author is getting his/her foot on the first rung of the ladder and get that very much coveted readership.”
Vickie Johnstone, an author and reviewer agrees that in great measure, reading is a matter of taste and puts it quite colorfully: “One man’s mouldy carrot is another man’s chocolate gateau with cherries and whipped cream on top.”
Vickie feels part of the issue lies in where the benchmark is set. “I’ve read some good books. The problem I guess is that people are comparing to the great authors such as Shakespeare, Dostoevsky, Faulker or Austen, to name the first that came into my head. And these writers are the greats. So far, I haven’t read a Crime and Punishment or a Sound and Fury, but I’m sure they’re out there among the indie books.” Vickie adds that she has read indie works that could rightfully take a place on the shelves alongside traditionally published works.
Big Al sees a somewhat different problem in the attitudes of some authors. He feels it is a mistake for indie authors to think their work will or should be judged by a different standard than that applied to a traditionally published book.
Susan Palmer, of Sue Palmer’s Book Reviews finds the quality of indie-authored books to be a mixed bag. “I have read some really good books by indie authors who, in my opinion, give traditionally published authors a run for their money. However, I have come across a few that don’t stand at all,” Sue says.
The reviewers all agreed that the lack of proper editing, proofing and polishing were sometimes a problem. Big Al recommends any author considering self-publishing start by reading David Gaughran’s book “Let’s Get Digital.” This title is available as an e-book from all the major e-book stores or free as a PDF file from the author’s website.
Reviewers also see indie authors making regrettable mistakes in pitching and promoting their work, and find that humility is sometimes lacking. “An ego the size of a small country is misplaced in such a competitive market. Every single author believes (quite naturally) that he/she is going to be the next Big Thing. Ensuring your book is going to stand out is a tough task amongst the mountain of books available – an author is going to fail at the first hurdle if he/she is bombastic and over-opinionated about his/her ability.” Cathy Speight says.
This concludes our series on what reviewers want. I extend my thanks to Cathy, Kim, Sue, Vickie, and Big Al for their help and for the wonderful insights they shared. I think it is fair to say they have helped me fill a large hole in my authorial plan, which till recently, looked like this:
Step 1: Write a book.
Step 2: ?
Step 3: Reap profits!
Don’t act surprised. I know some of you guys are using the same plan.