The Writer’s Corner: Authors and Their Books (and other Fairytales from the Internet)
J.C. here to introduce Barb’s new entry in this article series. You might think the internet’s rapid growth makes information more accessible to all. “Information” is not the same as “fact” or “truth.” Add in that the amount of misinformation (and disinformation) is growing exponentially, and the internet now empowers rumors like nothing else before it. It is probably not surprising to any of you that there are people who actually think those rumors are true… a fact.
All of this applies to what some readers think about authors and their works. Worse so, now that the e-self-publishing craze is approaching critical mass. Perhaps too many (or more) think all authors are now self-publishing every work that appears for sale on the Internet.
Does anyone look at the publisher of the works they purchase? Do they realize that the author is separate from what is listed there? Okay, so a lot of the e-self-publishers are faking that part with a made up imprint or house in order to look like a professional publisher produced the “product,” but still…
Here is a little tale from Barb concerning a reader who came across a listing for the coming first book in The Mist-Torn Witches series. The topic of Barb’s post might even become the first in a subseries about myths concerning authors and their works. I hope not too many of you are surprised by what we (still) hear about how people think we authors work and play…
The Writer in the Middle
A few days ago, I received a somewhat unpleasant email from a “fan” who had pre-ordered The Mist-Torn Witches on Amazon. She said she’d been quite pleased that the initial printing was in mass market paperback at $7.99 and then informed me that she would boycott the series if I got greedy and made the “decision” to move to hard cover.
She also expressed that she thought it was horrible when writers make the choice to price new e-books at $12.99. In her conclusion, she said that she hoped I was at least partially accurate in how the characters were depicted on the cover of the book.
I stared at the email for a while and then decided not to respond. I also refrained from banging my head slowly on my desk.
When an author signs a contract with a professional publisher, that author gives up nearly all control in exchange for an advance and (hopefully) future royalties. The author works with an editor who will decide “when” the book is finished and ready for publication. At this stage, the author does have a voice in editorial matters, but… the author has no over control of the following:
There are only three possible choices regarding book format in hard copy: mass market paperback, trade paperback, and hardback. The publisher decides this, not the writer. The first three books in the Noble Dead Saga were published in mass market paperback.
When Sister of the Dead was about to be published, J.C. and I were privy to a press release that our publisher was showing to book reps at Borders and Barnes & Noble. JC read it and said, “Barb, come and look at this.” I walked over, looked down, and read, “The next book in this series will be released in hard cover.”
We were stunned. That is how we found out our publisher was moving us up to hard cover When Traitor to the Blood came out that following year, several angry readers gave the book one-star reviews on Amazon.com. They called us greedy and said we were only interested in profits for having made this decision. (Those reviews are still available at Amazon, if you want to check for yourself.)
Fact: We had nothing to do with the decision.
The same thing is true here as with format. With a traditional publisher, the author has absolutely no say over price. In all honesty, J.C. and I were a little uncomfortable when the hard copy edition for Of Truth and Beasts was released with a cover price of $26.95. But the most fur has been flying over the price of e-books.
Again, $12.99 for an e-book can give any buyer cause to pause. I remember eagerly awaiting Ken Follett’s sweeping WWI novel Fall of Giants and couldn’t wait to download it to my Kindle. Then… it was released with an e-book price tag of $18.99. I was flabbergasted, but it never occurred to me to write Ken Follett a flaming email or go on Amazon and give his novel (which I had not read) a one-star review in protest of the price.
Ken has no more control of price than we do, and a one-star review doesn’t hurt anyone but the writer. Now, his book was going to sell a million copies even with those one-star reviews (by people who hadn’t read the book). For lesser known writers, if potential readers pop into Amazon and see a culminate rating based on those reviews, they will probably move on without bothering to read all the “reader” reviews to understand that low rating.
The book will sell much fewer copies, and the publisher will blame the writer.
NOTE: Since that time, Amazon (and other online vendors) have made efforts to curtail people reviewing a book they have not bought. It has had some positive impact, but not always.
Fact: Giving a one-star review to a novel because of price harms no one but the author; those who actually made the decision almost never read such falsely executed reviews.
Now here, sometimes the author is allowed a bit of input, but usually not until sales on previous works show sound success. For The Dog in the Dark, J.C. and I were told that the cover art would depict Magiere, Leesil, and Chap on the deck of a ship. We were shown an initial draft and allowed to offer feedback—but our thoughts were filtered through our editor to the art director, who then would decide what to the tell the cover artist. We weren’t making decisions, just offering suggestions.
Most writers don’t see the cover art until it’s finished. I didn’t see the cover for The Mist-Torn Witches until it was nearly ready for press. I love it, and I’m almost certain the cover artist even read the first part of the novel.
Fact: Authors generally have no control over the content or accuracy of the cover art.
Online and eBook Errors
Ugh! This problem seems to be improving, but too many e-books are released by major publishers with coding errors and words / paragraphs / scenes smashed together. A friend’s novel somehow had its last quarter replaced with the ending of a different novel (by a different writer) in the ebook version. I’m not joking. This really happened.
This drives authors to drink. We have no control over the situation and can’t correct anything. All can we do is tell our publishers and raise a red flag. Unfortunately, the main reaction by readers is to again go to Amazon (B&N, Kobo, etc.) and give the book a one-star review.
Fact: Again, this only hurts the author, who is not responsible for the “product” content and any errors.
In the End…
For some reason, too many readers think authors are in complete control and making all decisions for the “product” as well as the novel it presents. Most accessible authors have websites, and most even provide contact information.
It’s easier to yell at the author than the publisher, because publishers aren’t as accessible to the public as are some authors. But before you send the author a flaming email or give a one-star review to a novel online due to price, format, issues with the e-book, consider…
Who are you really mad at, and do you have the right target? Chances are, you don’t, if you are leaning on any of the fairytales others use to justify such actions.