Many of you know I do book reviews. I read a lot of books. I love reading a good story and those stories aren’t confined to strictly traditionally published authors. Many of the books I do review are from traditional publishers. I also read books that are published by small indie publishers, and self-published. I’ve reviewed them.
I'll be honest and say that I tend to approach some of the Indie and self-published with reservations—especially for reviews. Not because it's self-published or from a small press, but because so many, while having a good story premise, haven't been edited as well to overall story presentation.
I’ve upset a few by refusing to review a book. I have many reasons why I may refuse a book. The number one reason is my schedule is full. But there are books that I’m not the target audience for and I don’t feel I can do it justice in a review. I don’t read horror and I don’t watch it either. I occasionally read YA—and that depends upon the genre. I’m not a big erotic and kinky sex stories fan, although there are a few erotic romance authors I enjoy because they tell a compelling story and not just loosely connected graphic sex scenes. I rarely read memoirs. If you write in those genres you want to find those who can read and appreciate the story you’re telling. They’re the best reviewers for your work.
Then there are those books that are just not ready to be published, but they are. They should be going to a good critique partner not a reviewer. I know this because I’ve read or attempted to read some sample chapters. Sorry, I’m not writing a review for it.
Because I know the effort and hard work that goes into writing and completing a manuscript, I’m not going to trash your poorly edited or written book—especially when I see potential for a really good story in it. I’m not fond of snarky, wise-assed reviewers. They make fun of books-whether they are well edited or not, or ridicule the author. That’s not professional behavior on the part of reviewers or review sites, in my opinion. Better to have your book turned down for a review than have a reviewer fill twitter feeds with ridicule or drop a 2 star review on Amazon or Goodreads.
This brings me back to my reservations for some small press or self-published books.
Some small presses don’t have the money to employ diverse enough editing staff to successfully edit their books. That is especially true of self-published authors.
A properly edited book is more than reading for misspelled words and improper grammar usage.
The story also needs an editor who knows fiction. This type of editor enhances the story because they know the genre and the market. They pay attention to word usage (does it fit the genre and characters?), plot (is there enough plot for the length of the story?), building the proper tension for each chapter and scene, and they look at conflict (internal and external) is there enough in each chapter and the overall story?
Fiction editors are particular when it comes to story elements—character point of view, character voice, does the story start in the right place (or is the first chapter all back story?), they check to be sure there is a good balance between dialog, action, and narrative. Does the ending fit with the beginning’s promise? Is the middle sagging and going nowhere?
For the self-published, this means having a good set of honest beta readers who can read for story content and spot the those weaknesses. This allows the author to catch it the story glitches and fix them before sending it to a good fiction editor.
This is why you hear authors who are traditionally published moan and groan about edits and rewrites. Most of those edits have to do with story content, not grammar and spelling. Ask them. They’ll tell you about the chapters cut or slashed because they detracted from, or didn’t fit, the overall story. Ask them about the list of story elements that need reworking. They’ll tell you. They’ll also tell you about the glitches that were caught by their beta readers before the finished manuscript even reached their editor.
Whether employed by a publishing house (small or large) or a self-published author, a good fiction editor is worth their weight in gold. Fiction editors take a good story and make it better.And that’s the kind of story I want to read or review.