Over the past six months, I’ve had the chance to read a lot of independently published books, and I’ve learned a lot about the state of publishing independent fiction. It’s full of life and determination – I’ve loved hearing about everyone’s work, and I’m convinced independent fiction is here to stay and to grow. Independent authors are also learning about the vast expertise required to professionally publish a book, and I’ve seen several growing edges in the books I’ve read, whether in story development or design or cover copy.
But I’ve also learned a lot about book reviewing – and myself as a book reviewer. I feel far too beholden to the author to help them improve their work, which isn’t the point of a book review and doesn’t help an already-published book. I also find myself incapable of just being a reader – I can’t seem to keep myself from thinking about editing, or design, or marketing techniques – again, not appropriate for book reviews. In other words, I find myself wanting to serve the author rather than the reader – and I’m interacting so deeply with each book that it’s hampering my ability to get my other work done.
So I’ve decided to get out of the book review business and focus on helping authors develop and edit works before they’re published, where I think my feedback may have the best effect. To those of you who have submitted books for possible review – thank you so much for entrusting your work to me. I still intend to read through them and spread the word about the stories that have taken root in me, so your submission was not wasted. In fact, it’s been treasured so much that I’ve found it difficult to thoughtfully read each one, responsibly write up my response to the best, and take care of my current clients too!
For those of you who are concerned about your book sales and wonder if it might have to do with the quality of your book (rather than marketing techniques or market relevance, for instance), I’m now offering quality-control reviews of published books that will comment on story development, writing quality, and design, to help you know for sure – and to help improve your process for your next book (which you’re already working on, right?). Prices will be on the same scale as manuscript reviews (which review unpublished manuscripts on a broad and comprehensive level) – approximately $500 per 70,000 words. If you want to talk more about this option (or about a manuscript review for your next book), just contact me and we can talk about it.
In the meantime, I’d love to send you to two sites that have greatly enriched me as a writer and an editor: Writer Unboxed and its new sister site, Reader Unboxed. The first offers encouragement and tips on the craft and business of writing from well-published fiction writers and industry experts (agents, editors, etc.). Although most have found success with traditional houses, several respected indie authors are interviewed or contribute directly. Reader Unboxed reviews published fiction, and they even have an Indie Alley category. Here’s a sample review. They’ve done a lovely job developing their sites, as has the book review site Uncustomary Book Review, edited by the generous Kat Kiddles, and I can’t compete. Another thing I’ve learned is that it’s almost impossible for only one person, as a labor of love, to review books consistently and well. These sites wisely solicit reviews from a pool of passionate reviewers who firmly identify with the readers they’re writing for, and the Unboxed sites are considering using targeted ads to fund their effort, in addition to donations. Unless someone is independently wealthy, value deserves to be paid for – which is why I will always be willing to pay for books (and inherently distrust free or 99 cent books). I know the countless hours of effort that goes into a well-produced book, and the creators deserve to be compensated.
Bottom line: I’m much better suited to serving authors by developing, improving, interacting with, and polishing their work before it’s published, rather than judging it after its finished when I can’t really help change anything. Thanks to everyone who has borne with me through this experiment.
Keep sharing your stories,