I can't think of anything more disappointing than finding an exciting new read, a book with a tons of buzz begging you to spend your time and your money on the promise of a sweet escape from the stress of the week, a supposed fantastic reprieve from life and its sad lack of magic and Hogwarts letters, only to find its absolute shit. And any buzz about the fantastic, 'must read' work was exaggerated fluff from friends and family.
You've suffered the Indie Author Con my friend.
It happens to the best of us and I've had my fair share of absolute duds that stopped me on page one. Then again on page two. And I nearly puke right onto page three just to stop myself from ever picking up the book again... (Any author who thinks putting the 'N' word outside of a racially fueled context or purposeful dialogue [and dear god, please have a purpose for it...] really needs to rethink their line of work.)
In a publishing world that now makes anyone with the slightest motivation and a semi-interesting story to tell an 'author', how the hell do we sift through the duds to find the good ones we've been dreaming of?
Publishing companies, of course, do that for us. They find the good ones, edit and revise the shit out of them, and then distribute and market it until everyone and their moms have heard about it whether they've read it (or plan to read it) or not. They put a hell of a lot of work into ensuring their books will sell, which means they pick the best and they make them better.
That being said, of course there are books that publishers print that are duds and don't sell well, but I can guarantee there won't be many spelling mistakes ;)
The thing is, out of the hundreds of books publishers do decide to print, there are thousands more rejected, and some of those books are very worthy reads.
That's where self publishing comes in. I've spoken with several self published authors and the reason for self publishing is always different. Some were tired of rejections and ready to move on to the next project, some say they were considered 'too old' to start a writing career and decided to show them just how viable their writing career truly is, some decided working with a publisher and the contractual demands were simply not for them. (And sadly some decided they were perfect all on their own and didn't need help with their book from anyone but themselves...)
So, they self published. And suddenly they became their own campaign managers and learned how difficult selling a book truly is. Especially when you're dealing with readers who have suffered the Indie Author Con and swore off all self published works in the very near future.
I've done it a hundred times. Luckily though, I've only truly wasted my money once... And I'll tell you about that in another post. That's a whole 'nother rant I'd love to share...
For years my Indie reads came only from Goodreads giveaways or freebies on twitter (which is one option to testing out an author before spending money on their future books). I don't know how I did it, but in the first year I was on Goodreads I won 20 books. (Yes TWENTY)
It's how I started reviewing actually. With every Goodreads giveaway there is a notice saying that if you win, you are not required to, but it would be nice if you left a review since that's what the author is truly looking for with giving away their book. They want feedback to help convince others to spend their money and read their work.
So, besides learning ways to collect books and read for free, I've learned a bit about how to, and how to not, choose a self published book to read.
Again, keeping an eye out for freebies and giveaways is always fun (and please do leave a review if you win), but if there's a book that's caught your eye and you are ready to spend your money, check out a few things before you do.
First- Check out reviews.
Either on Goodreads, Amazon, Smashwords, anywhere the book is listed, and see what people have to say. If the book only has 4 reviews since last May... I'd be a little wary. One of the biggest frustrations Indie authors face is gathering reviews, it's a ton of work and a hell of a lot of networking magic, but in a years time I'd expect to see close to 20 reviews. If the book was just published and has 4 reviews, that's a little different. At that point, look at the quality of the review. Is it a simple, uninspired blurb, or is it a gushing short story about how the book changed their entire weekend plans?
If the first, I'd wait to hear back from the giveaway you entered. If the second, it's a safe bet you should buy it.
Second- Check out the author's pages.
Look at their Facebook and Twitter accounts. I wouldn't expect too many followers after a first book, maybe 100 or so, but after a few books, I'd expect over 500, up into the low thousands at least. But that's not really what we're looking for here (especially since you can buy followers). Look at how they run their page, how they interact with followers. And better yet, talk to them. Tell them you're checking out their book and thinking of giving it a read.
*Side Note: Please remember the 'Don't Be A Dick Rule' applies here...*
My rule of thumb is this-If they're desperately blasting their book with every single post, or begging people to read, chances are it's not good enough to garner readers on its own. Plus it's seriously annoying to follow an account that blasts their book every hour... When I look at a self published book, I want to see people other than the author talking about it. I want to know people enjoyed it and I want to see the author engaging their readers and encouraging them to get to know them as a person, not just an author. A likable person, someone a reader can think of as a 'cyber friend' is more likely to have a great support system and to produce well written books.
Third- How many times has that author complained about editing?
Look for authors that bitch about editing. The ones who really know the pains of editing... and more editing... and OMG I am still fucking editing... and If I have to edit one more freaking page I will eat someones freaking face off!-Those are the authors you want to watch out for (probably quite literally if it gets this bad... Which it can...)
But, you can rest assured their book will have as few grammatical errors as possible. And if it does have an error, tell them. Let them know and watch them cry and post their depression for the next 3 hours as they try to cope with missing that mistake. After all those hours editing...
It may not be the best plan, I may be entirely wrong, but this is what I've learned in dealing with Indie authors and being scammed into reading dreadful books. Check out those reviews, see what kind of person you're dealing with, and look into whether they've used an editor and beta readers. The authors that take the time, and spend the money, to make the best out of their cherished works truly care about their readers and more importantly about their story. They're not doing this for the money, they're doing this to share and to engage people.
Writers write for themselves, sure, but the end result is for the readers, and we don't settle for less than the best.
A few side notes, because I ramble, watch out for books that appear a little too often on giveaway pages (never trust an author losing that much money on a book) and know that your reviews do impact the life of a book tremendously. If I don't like a book, I don't review it on my blog. Period. I may make a few notes on Goodreads and let others know it's a dud, but if I'm on the fence, or if it's simply not a book for me, I leave it alone. Don't ruin a books rep just because it wasn't your style.
And finally, please do not give up on Indie authors. I always keep a spot open for self published and small publishing companies because there truly are amazing small and self published books out there. And that will be another, later post, listing all the Indie books I've enjoyed and reasons you should read them!