It’s heartbreaking to me when I hear self-published authors wondering why no one is reading or buying their books when the answer seems so obvious to me.
It’s usually because your book is, quite simply, not well-written.
As a supporter and promoter of indie authors, I do try to read as many self-published books as I possibly can. I often find out about these books on twitter and then I follow the link to get more information about them. The first thing I do is read the description, or blurb, of the book. I skim it first to see if it sounds like it was written by a professional. If it the writing is choppy or contains ANY grammatical errors, I click off the page and don’t look back. If I know there’s no way I will be able to give a book a good review, I simply won’t bother reading it. I won’t give any book fewer than three stars because I want to help writers and not hurt them. I won’t publish a review of two stars, but I also won’t bother to buy or read a two-star book if I can avoid it.
Your book MUST be written and edited professionally or it won’t be taken seriously. It’s as simple as that. Readers are savvy, and they can tell if you didn’t bother to get your book professionally edited and they can tell if you are a newbie because your book reads like it. I don’t care if it is your first book – I shouldn’t be able to tell that from your writing. With traditionally published books, you usually only know it’s a first book because it has the word “debut” somewhere on the cover.
One of the most common mistakes I see in a book’s description is run-on sentences. The writing is choppy, unclear, and in need of editing. For example:
Rebecca Miller is seeking answers to her past because she was abandoned as a baby and has heard rumors that her parents were unicycle-riding clown performers in a traveling circus and she has always wanted to be in a circus so she needs to unlock the truth of her past before she has to take the bar exam and spend the rest of her life as a tax attorney in Las Vegas.
Rebecca Miller has always longed to entertain. Abandoned as a baby, she’s heard rumors that her parents were unicycle-riding clowns in a traveling circus. She embarks on a quest to find her parents and unlock the truth to her past, lest she be forced to spend the rest of her life as a tax attorney in Las Vegas.
Ludicrous plot aside (well maybe it’s not that bad after all…don’t steal my idea!), the first plot description needs serious editing for clarity and readability. If the plot description doesn’t sound like it was written by a professional author, you can bet that the rest of the book will be no better. And there is absolutely, positively NO EXCUSE for typos in the plot description. NONE. In a 200-400 page book, the occasional typo is inevitable no matter how many editors you’ve hired. It’s human nature to make mistakes, and you will even find the occasional one in traditionally published books. However, there is no reason on the planet why you should have typos in the plot description. That’s like having a typo on a movie poster. You CANNOT allow that to happen.
If the book description passes the test, my next step is to download the sample. Same deal. If it looks poorly written or contains typos, that means I will pass on it.
I almost feel bad for traditionally published authors.
It used to be a very big deal if you were an Author. Being an Author meant you were represented by an agent and/or your book was good enough to pass through a bunch of gatekeepers. It meant a publisher was willing to spend a lot of money on it to get it into libraries and bookstores. Nowadays, there are absolutely no barriers, no tests, no obstacles to getting published and calling yourself an author. Absolutely anybody and everybody can do it. Though I believe you should spend YEARS learning your craft before you publish, nowadays you don’t have to. You can publish a crappy first draft without editing it and Boom! Congratulations, you are now a Published Author without having to pay any dues whatsoever! No learning curve, no rejection, just publication!
But it doesn’t mean anybody other than your mother and a bunch of writer friends are going to read and review your work.
I know I sound a little harsh here, but believe me. I WANT you to be successful. I just want you to work for it like everybody else. I’d like to say “If it were easy being an author, then everybody would do it”, but sometimes I feel like everybody DOES do it, but not everybody works for it.
The truth is that many self-published books are as good or even a lot better than traditionally published ones. Always remember that traditionally published authors don’t have to prove that their books were good enough to get published. YOU DO. Like it or not, you already have major strikes against you as a self-published author. People are looking for a reason not to read your books. Even pro-indie people like me are looking for those reasons. I read the book description on books in the library to see if I like the story idea, but I’m not scanning for typos and choppy writing because I know I don’t have to. I know that a team of people have already corrected anything that might be wrong with the writing. I want to be able to do the same with self-published books. Don’t let any errors stand in the way of your story.
So, if you find that nobody is reading your books, take a good hard look at your description and your sample. Does it read well? Are there errors? Did you get it professionally edited? It’s not easy to accept that you may have made some major mistakes as first-time author, but it’s not too late. Be brutally honest with yourself. If you published too soon, before you were really ready, pull the book. Fix it. Publish it again and this time do it right.
Once you do that, I can’t wait to read it, review it, and share it on my WannabePride blog.
Good luck and Happy Writing!
– Linda Fausnet