I am and will always be proud to be an indie author. Long before Amazon “opened the gates,” I struggled with the process of seeking traditional publication. Some of you have heard it from me before, how I was able to publish everything but “big fiction” (I had no problems getting my poetry, short stories, articles, and academic writing published, though). So when I finally learned of what Amazon was doing, I dusted off the keyboard (okay, so it had never really been neglected!) and started learning everything I could about the process.
And what a feeling that was—to have a book out there that people could read and review! There was nothing I’d done before that could quite compare. It was scary and exciting and…agonizing. But I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
It didn’t take me long to learn, though, that indies were getting a bad name—and quickly! One of the first things I’d done as an indie author was to make my published books as professional as possible—not just in look and feel but in content. Not only did I make sure I had a copyright page and things of that ilk, but I also made sure the insides were as perfect as possible. Don’t get me wrong—booboos still slipped through—but I wanted them to be the best they could be. I bought all kinds of traditionally published ebooks and worked my ass off to make mine feel like those. I didn’t want readers to virtually open the book and have it scream INDIE! I wanted their experience with my book to feel like their experiences with traditionally published books. And I know a lot of other indies feel the same way.
So, the longer I was out there in the indie realm, the more upsetting I found it that not all indies think alike. Some indies, it seemed, just didn’t give a crap about quality. Oh, sure, they’d pay a buttload of cash for a hot cover or they’d sink a ton of money into a blog tour, but they wouldn’t spend a dime on finding a quality editor to clean up the mess in the interior of the book. That made me angry, because their lack of attention to their book reflected on me, on all indie authors. A good many of us were lumped together.
But many readers seemed to be fair and gave indies a shot just the same. Lots of readers told me they overlooked errors if a story was good. I wanted to scream, “But you’re telling the writers that it’s okay to sell inferior work!” (That’s the English teacher in me.) Some readers would note errors in their reviews; others didn’t care. Myself? If a book was too overladen with errata, I couldn’t keep reading it. When the itch to correct and grade came over me, I was done. I find lots of errors far too distracting. As I said, one here or there is acceptable. Even traditionally published books have mistakes. But one or two per page is not okay in my book.
And it shouldn’t be in yours, either. If you’re paying $2.99 a book (or more), it should be of high quality. Period.
And Amazon feels that way too. They’ve always had a bit of a quality assurance focus. They’ve contacted me twice with “issues”—the first one, a long time ago, was not having a TOC link in one of my books (actually, none of my books had them—I had overlooked that requirement). I quickly fixed that book and all the others, adding that link. The second issue was a typo a couple of readers had reported in one of my Nicki books. I was horrified—and quickly fixed it. What I’ve been told is that Amazon is now stepping up its game. In many ways, that makes me feel more relief than I can express to you. It’s like putting a “Quality Assurance” seal on indie books (even though you’re “innocent—and quality” before being proven guilty—and error-prone).
I have to admit that part of me worries, though. So far, my experiences with Amazon have been mostly positive over the years and most of the good folks there listen to reason. But what about when you have a reader who is either an idiot or a bully? For instance, I received a review three years ago that began this way: “Aside from all of the spelling and grammar errors…” I made it a policy when I first began publishing to not address reviews (although recently, with the blessing of my readers, I have started “liking” reviews on Goodreads—and I’m now questioning my judgment there…but that’s a blog post for another day), but this particular review made me very angry. You can tell me everything you hate about my books (and I’ll take it, because I understand—not everyone likes the same thing), but when you lie—yes, flat-out LIE—to people reading your review by implying that one of my books is laden with spelling and grammar errors, you are not only potentially costing me lost sales, but you are hurting my reputation. Fine, I’ll deal with it, but now I worry—what if Amazon takes that reader at her word and then punishes me for it?
As I said earlier, mistakes happen, even to the best of us, and I have no doubt there are a few errors in all my books that have been overlooked—not just by me but by all the eyes scouring it and helping me edit and make it perfect. It happens, but my books are as perfect as possible. If a snarky reader who didn’t like my book decides to take another jab at me just because she knows it will make my life difficult…uncool. But I’m going to trust that Amazon will do the right thing, and I’m hoping this new policy is the godsend it’s promised to be—ensuring quality to unsuspecting buyers who want a good (and non-distracting) read they can get lost in.