A recent minor ruckus online has inspired me to talk about matters of quality and customer service as they relate to the book publishing marketplace. This ruckus came about because a book reviewer—an author and editor in her own right—posted a review in which she pointed out the many grammatical errors and poor writing/construction that appeared in a large swath of the book.
Now, this reviewer still rated the piece at 4 stars (pretty darned good), because she enjoyed the underlying story and characters. However, she struggled with the poor writing in many spots, and felt it important to point that out, along with the specific issues at hand, in her review.
The result? The author responded negatively, asking the review to be taken down. The author claimed that the reason for all the mistakes was that her book was published by a traditional publisher, which hired their own editor, and the author “didn’t have control over the boo-boos.” Well, first of all, writing them in the first place is the ultimate control, but never mind that. This really raised my hackles, and led me to want to discuss two separate issues.
ISSUE #1: Reviews are for readers, not authors!
In this new indie environment, there’s much to admire about how authors are taking control of their careers. However, we run into a few problems in this environment, too, not the least of which is the sense of entitlement a fair number of indie authors seem to express. Now, let me be clear about this: many indie authors are fantastic, doing it the right way, and I’m not trying to lump ALL indie authors together. However, this movement has spurred some new problems.
The author in question seems to think that reviews of her book are all about HER—helping her to market and sell her book. Wrong! Book reviews may indeed accomplish that, but their first purpose is to provide valuable information to consumers so that THEY may make informed decisions about which books to buy, and conversely, which ones to avoid. Reviews are for readers!
Really, it’s hard enough for readers to navigate the morass out there, and to find excellent, entertaining books—those raindrops in the vast ocean—without authors colluding/cheating/manipulating the system. And yes, an author contacting a reviewer, asking her to take down a review because “the mistakes weren’t her fault” is the worst kind of manipulation. It should never happen.
ISSUE #2: Traditional publishers do not guarantee quality, any more than small publishers automatically indicate poor quality.
This one truly gets under my skin at times, for obvious reasons. After all, I run a small publisher. And you know what? When we say “Quality is Priority #1,” we’re not just tossing around platitudes. We agonize over every piece we publish. At least one of our editors, and often two of them, pore over every single paragraph of a piece—every sentence, every word, every little punctuation mark—before we call it publishable.
Why do we do this? (It’s a ton of work.) Well, that’s easy to answer: we’ve always believed, since Day 1, that EP would distinguish itself from the new maddening crowd—the wild, wild, wild, wild west that is self-publishing—by providing the highest quality books possible. Indeed, we believed that we would only succeed in the end if we established a strong reputation for doing precisely that—and the brand recognition that would ultimately foster.
Are all of our pieces perfect? Of course not; no such thing as perfection exists, especially in the subjective arts. However, we get as close to “perfectly clean and professional” as we can. In fact, we quite often put up revisions to address the 3 or 4 or 12 errors that managed to sneak through the initial process, so that we eventually (might take 2 or 3 versions) have a mistake-free product out there. That too is a lot of work, but we do it because we’re committed to giving readers the best possible book.
The sad truth about traditional publishing is that, in response to the hard economic times they fell on starting in 2008, they laid off a bunch of editors. In some cases, they cut over half their editorial staff. And guess what? Quality has often suffered as a result. Go figure.
As in any business, customer service comes first.
Publishing is no different than any other business that provides a product. We must give you a quality product at a fair price to ensure a happy and positive customer experience. If you take the whole of our catalog, across all genres and styles, you would find we maintain an average of roughly 4.5 stars per review. This has been the case from our first book, and has continued right through to this point where we’re approaching 100 books. Each new book merely solidifies that grade, our reputation, and your reading experience.
Additionally, we continue to rack up awards (see our Awards Won page) and to build our base of reliable repeat customers. We’ve heard from many readers that they’ve enjoyed 3, 4, 6, even 12 or more of our books—across multiple authors and genres.
All of these things tell us what we need to know about how we’re running our business. And they tell you, dear reader, what you need to know, when you’re deciding on that next book to read, about what you can expect from our books.
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