What I Found in Reviewing Your (Indie) Book

It is rare for an outstanding article or book to be published without some type of peer review. I know I receive valuable insight when my writers group critiques my work. That’s why–when time permits–I truly like to oblige writers who ask me to review their books. Often the requests come from writers who choose to self-publish/independently publish (indie).

In 2006 when friends and I founded the Mad Anthony Writers Conference, self-published books were widely viewed as inferior. Usually the manuscript had been turned down by traditional publishers and the writer ended up paying to have the manuscript printed–note that I did not say published. Published books benefited from a process of agent, editor, publicist, and publisher feedback, dozens of eyes that caught and corrected mistakes. But self-publishing companies were not in the business to find authors and books or to edit their work to meet the company’s literary standards. Independent “publishers” simply printed what the author paid them to print even if the work was riddled with errors in grammar, vocabulary, and content. They did little, if any, of the footwork the term publishing implies. That’s why I call them printers.

Today though, self-published books have gained respect. A writer can either find an independent publisher who offers some degree of editorial services or he or she can seek editorial services online, in writers groups, writers conferences, and through other writing resources before paying a company to print the manuscript.

Here are some problems–in no particular order–that I have found with the independently published books I have reviewed:

  • The author touts himself or herself as the authority in a particular topic or makes other grandiose statements of the book’s superiority
  • The author uses initials behind their name to show academic degrees that have no bearing on the book. A reader would want to know that a book on psychology was written by a psychologist, but doesn’t need to know that the author of a modern fairytale has a bachelor’s degree in physical education (even if it did, there are other ways to let the reader know this)
  • Reviews on the back cover or beginning pages are obviously written by friends and family and contain misspellings and exaggerated statements of importance
  • The first sentence or paragraph isn’t easily understood (I’ll reread it twice to make sure it isn’t just me but after that, I put the book down)
  • The author makes up a term and uses it in the title without explaining it immediately
  • The action in the story is a collection of separate events, not one event causing the next one to happen
  • The same word is used two or more times in same paragraph, page, or chapter
  • It isn’t clear what person, place, or thing a pronoun is referring to
  • The hero or heroine act in less than heroic ways: example: they stop to rest in the middle of a chase
  • Overuse of exclammation points
  • Overuse of dots in ellipsis. Three is all that is needed, four if at the end of a sentence (I once counted 26 on page one)
  • Telling everything that is happening instead of showing the reader what is happening
  • What happens isn’t believable
  • Spelling errors
  • Grammatical errors
  • Word usage errors

What do you think?