10. Weird Title
Okay, so after my rant about titling things, I know this seems odd. But there’s a difference between picking a great title for your work and then just picking some words to plaster on the cover. If I don’t see creativity and a collective sense of what the book is and who the author is from the title, I keep on walking.
9. No Author Bio
I don’t care if you’re never written a day in your life, if I’m going to be considering spending the next XX hours with you, I want to know who you are. I’m not looking for “wrote 80 books” or “won this and this and this” at all. I’m looking for an inkling of a real person who cares enough about their work to make sure they have a presence. I don’t like reading — and I especially don’t like being a fan — work by non-existent entities.
8. Improper Back Cover Blurb Use
I should call it blurb abuse, but whatever. I get that with indie works, sometimes we have to preface blurbs with notes about an edition or whatever. That’s fine; I’m all good if I see that. But, if I don’t see a real blurb in there, too – you know, explaining and hooking me on the story – I won’t be reading it. If you can’t be bothered to set your work up in a professional manner to ensnare me and make me want to read it, I can’t be bothered to read a fake/abused back cover blurb. I’m looking for a hook, a draw — something that makes me go, “Dang, I can’t stop thinking about what’s in that!” If it’s just a summary of your book, I’ll pass. I mean, I already read it just then, didn’t I? If it’s an excerpt, I’ll pass. I can get that from the sample on my e-reader, thanks. I want to know why I should bother even reading the sample. It’s just a step of professional presentation that I can’t go without. Neurotic? Probably, but it’s the truth and I know I’m not alone.
7. Unrealistic Pricing
This goes for both high and low. I do download free books, but I rarely get to reading them. Why? Because you get what you pay for — sometimes. That, and when I pay for a book I’m interested in, I’m more invested. I want to get my money’s worth – even if it’s just 99 cents. If I see an outrageously high price, and you’re not a well-known author (indie or traditional), I’ll pass. I’ve passed on plenty of traditionally published authors for high e-book prices, and I don’t feel bad about it. The most I’ve ever paid for an e-book is $6.99 and that was because I’ve been a fan of that author for ten years and I spent a week debating it. I mean, I’d almost have a paperback for that price, you know? And there’s a library…
Anyhow, I’m digressing. If you’re an indie author, new or well established, please be mindful of price. Don’t go asking for a lot from ebooks, the way the market is, there isn’t much room for that. I’m not saying you should sell yourself short either — not at all. But don’t go asking for $6 on your debut. Ain’t gonna happen, at least for me.
6. Reviews – fake, bad, good, etc.
I’m leery of indie author reviews. Heck, I’m leery of any author reviews on sites like Amazon. Why? I know people can pay for them. I know people can be mean. I know family members can be nice. I know that reviews are almost always written by sensationalists. That means people who are either super in love with it or super hate it. Why? Because I write and receive reviews, too.
If a book has hundreds of sparkly reviews with the same repetitive nature over and over, I stay away. If a book has a few bad reviews, I probably won’t be deterred unless it’s the same issues for every reviewer. I get it – not everyone is going to like someone’s storytelling style and/or writing style. That’s fine. But, if I see an indie author harping on “another 5 star review” on Twitter I get a bit “meh” and I’m sure that’s a weird thing for me to do, but in my experience with people trying to get me to buy reviews for my own work, I’m thinking… yeah, I’ll pass.
Of course, I read all the reviews to see what others think and I’ve found plenty of books that I freaking love with 3 stars, so I wish indies wouldn’t put so much stake in it… but, at the end of the day, reviews aren’t why I pick up an indie book at all. So don’t bother plastering it all over your sales page on Kindle (book description). I can see what ranking you have already…
5. No Editor Listed
Again, probably a snobbish thing to have, but I hate when books aren’t professionally edited. And it doesn’t have to be a world renown editor. I’d be happy with some starving English major at the local university. And yes, I check. If they aren’t listed clearly in the book listing itself, I check the front matter. Why? Because I’m a developmental editor and I get it. I think that writing is a process and every writer needs editors. That’s not to say that an edited book won’t have misses. Every major author I’ve ever read that’s been traditionally published has had at least three misses by editors. It happens. No editor is perfect no matter how much they cost. But, the fact that an indie sought out another set of eyes speaks volumes. If they aren’t listed, I’ll probably pass unless the blurb is so hooking, I can’t stay away.
4. No Author Presence
Sort of like the bio, I like to see what kind of person I’m reading. That’s just my personality, for sure! But, I like to know! I want to see how this indie author presents themselves and treats their fans/readers. I want to know if they’re learning and growing, and just being indie awesomeness. So… I guess I’m admitting I stalk authors I’m considering reading. But you can tell a lot about a writer by doing it. If you’re an ass to your fan base, screw you. If you make weird comments about how you hate other writers, buh bye. If you’re just you and being yourself? I’ll be all over that like a coffee addict on a chocolate covered espresso beans.
3. No Sample To Try
This sort of rarely happens, but it’s a major turn off. If you aren’t willing to give me a tease… a taste to wet my appetite, I’m out. Indie authors unfortunately have to abide by this because we’re less vetted for than traditional publishers (be that right or wrong) and most traditionally published authors do it, too. So, when I see an indie author who hasn’t okayed the sample or provided an excerpt somewhere (I always check to give them the benefit of the doubt), I pack my literary bags and head for the hills. If you can’t have confidence in an excerpt of your work hooking readers, I can’t have confidence that I won’t be wasting my reading time.
2. Nothing New or Original
I can sometimes tell there’s nothing new or unique about a story by the back cover, or at least from the sample/excerpt. There are times when I don’t know until about 20 pages in… but I always find out. I’m of the camp that there are a finite number of master plots in the universe but that there are an infinite amount of ways to tell those stories. If I see that an indie author’s story is so unoriginal and mundane and common that there’s nothing unique about it–no twist or new take? I’m out. I mean, shoot… even Stephanie Meyer had her vamps sparkle. Was it the best new twist on something done a lot? No. But it was there. It means she was trying to be creative and make the story her own, and I can (at the very least) respect that attempt.
1. Crappy Cover
People judge books by their covers. I especially judge books by their covers. It’s part of the publishing industry. You need to entice readers visually before you can ensnare them mentally with your words. I’ve accepted that and become expectant of that. So, if I see a weird font or weird photoshopping or some other weirdness that makes no sense visually to the story in question, I say no thanks. I do respect that not everyone can afford an expensive cover. But, indie cover designers are more affordable than ever (you can get a great basic cover for $40, folks) and it’s important. If you’ve put that much effort and sweat and blood into your story and then just slap a weird cover on it, who are you really hurting and disrespecting? You!
I’ll also add that if your cover is just… I don’t know how else to say this but stereotypical for your genre without consideration to catching my attention in a sea of fish, I probably won’t spend that much time checking your work out. I might read the blurb, I might not. This especially happens in the romance/smut category. I love those books when I’m in that mood. They’re fun, quick, flirty…. but oh, goodness! They all have the same damn cover! And I can’t stand that. I’ve literally skipped page after page of probably amazing indie reads because I was so bored with all the shirtless men in kilts or daring half-dressed women in bodices. Like… sure, that’s the genre but have a little spark of creativity, yeah?