Just before I made this post, I was having an interesting discussion with another independent author. Although I am reluctant to give off his name, I think it’s perfectly OK to share what happened between the both of us. As usual, I did my best to explain to him why I would not give him a positive review. Despite what I wrote, the author replied that he agreed mostly with what I had in mind. However, what became the most striking part of the email were these words:
I’m mad that there are issues. Upset at myself. Upset at Createspace for putting that damn BCF on my file. Upset at e-books for not being more accessible to word files…and upset at you for being so clumsy and cocky in the way you pointed it out. What a pain.
Before I make my crucial point, let me mention a couple of things. First, we both knew there were problems the author knew that would detract his book from ever catching the eyes of the reader. The cover was crappy; the format sucked. There is no other way to express this concern. Secondly, the author failed to grasp the gist of self-publishing altogether. Anyone who decides to go into the field of publishing without going through the traditional route, he or she should be willing to be wearing the hats of all aspects of the publishing trade.
Initially I did not think I would become part of the mix of creating humiliation through my ‘cocky’ ways of point out the obvious. Honestly, I thought he was willing to accept my honest review and leave me with the option of posting it online. In light of what I said about his book, let me point out this: if the presentation of the book is awful, then the chances of reader’s impression of the overall contents of the book don’t look so great either.
How can you say that? That’s unfair!
Readers, like publishers, editors, and literary agents are on a time budget. They will go through books like sampling a three course meal; essentially, everything has to appeal to taste. Food that has way too much sugar, salt, or vinegar will most likely be discarded while foods that are bland or spicy will make someone think twice before trying it out again. Books are like this, all the time. Sure, books have a ‘subjective taste’ to them i.e. if someone prefers one genre over another. However, let that not be ultimate standard to determine how to write correctly.
Time after time and from having multiple submissions, oftentimes I run into writers who have poorly formatted and designed their books with the expectation that the readers will sympathize with them. Unfortunately, the opposite is true: readers get overtly sarcastic and vicious. Part of the reasons they are not kind is because they expect all books to be in a ‘nearly perfect’ condition. A few grammatical mistakes every couple of pages and word choices are fine, but not when it comes to a point when they are riddled all over the place. This goes without mentioning the aesthetical factors e.g. the covers, page numbers, paragraph formatting etc.
If I think book looks bad, what makes you think anyone else would want to read it?