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An analysis of our ebook talk

As I gathered up responses to my question about what you all wish for in an ebook, I mentioned that I was happy so many readers mentioned good proofreading and quality control.

And then a few people chimed in and said, "Well, I thought that was assumed!"

(I'm smiling as I type this, by the way, because I really am fascinated. Wouldn't it be fun if we were all in a big room together having an in-depth, face to face conversation? I'm imagining a room with free snacks.)

The top three issues were:
Good Cover Art (10 mentions)
When I was on an ebook panel at OddCon, someone in the audience who'd never read an ebook chimed in and said wouldn't it be sad that when ebooks took over, cover art would go away, and immediately the other panelists and I all said, oh no, cover art is still CRITICAL. I'm pleased so many of you mentioned it. I think cover art is one of my strengths, and it's one of the main reasons I self-publish.

Good Proofing (8 mentions)
I get the impression that we're not talking about an occasional error slipping through, but consistently bad usage and typos, even as bad as documents that looked like they'd never even been spellchecked.

I'm curious what you do in this case: avoid the publisher entirely? Write to them? Semi-avoid them (in other words, only buy from them if the blurb really, really grabs you), note your dissatisfaction but not let it affect your buying habits?

Good Formatting (7 mentions)
No weird line breaks, no weird blank pages. No weirdness!
I think this could be lumped under "quality control" with proofing...and in a way with good cover art too, come to think of it. Some other concerns could have been added to this category, like font and line wrap, which would have put it at the top of the list.

Other mentions:
Good story - 6
Appropriate price - 5
Intriguing blurb - 4
Compact file size/pages - 3
Appropriate end matter - 3
Pleasing font - 3

Still more mentions: word wrap, availability, page numbers on PDFs, table of contents, no DRM, multiformat download

One thing ocotillo_dawn just mentioned to me was that she thought "good story" was presumed. Is it? Sometimes when I look at top-sellers, it seems like writers who write faster have higher sales numbers per book than writers who can only put out a few things a year. Or is that just a critical-mass kind of thing? Having multiple series going might give you a chance to hook in more new readers.

I'm pretty damned chuffed that cover art is at the top of the list.

Another thing I was happy about was that while price was an issue, it wasn't that everyone thought everything should be 99¢ or something ridiculous like that, but that you wanted to pay what seemed fair. An ebook should cost less than a paperback; a novella should cost less than a novel.

End matter was another area where you were moderate in your preferences. Make sure it fits with the book (no m/f in our m/m, no sci fi in our contemporary) and make sure it's not 20 pages long.

Do any of you find these results surprising?



( 20 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 18th, 2010 12:55 pm (UTC)
Nope, I don't find the results surprising. :)

Re: authors and/or publishers with quality issues. I'll avoid buying from them unless the book is at extreme discount via FW. I'll mention the errors in my reviewette (such as the book I read last week, which I wondered if it had even been edited or spellchecked - "distain" on the second page?!).

Your cover art is good stuff! You probably know that I track stock photo use. :) I think you do a really good job when you use stock photos, to make them not look like the same old, same old.
May. 18th, 2010 01:49 pm (UTC)
I love your cover art model tracking! Hilarious stuff!

I do my best to use obscure guys and to really alter them. Though not by putting fake long hair on them. (Er, wait, I did put fake hair on my Channeling Morpheus for Scary Mary cover, but I think in a way that worked.)

It's so funny, but "blog about it" wasn't even in my realm of possible responses to crap editing. Sometimes I feel like authors have to walk this weird tightrope of niceness that bloggers don't need to follow.

I would think other publishers would be more worried about people blogging their pet peeves. That has a cumulative effect in the erosion of their reputation.
May. 18th, 2010 08:08 pm (UTC)
Thanks!! Hmm. I'll have to take a peek at that cover - the fake hair was done well enough that I'm not remembering it as example of how not to do fake hair. ;)
May. 18th, 2010 01:08 pm (UTC)
"she thought "good story" was presumed. Is it?"

HAHAHAHA No, it's not. There are certain authors I refer to as my Dorito reads. I expect a fair number of typographical errors and what I call continuity errors (a character gets the wrong name or suddenly takes on the wrong traits from a pervious book), has plot holes you could drive a bus through and stereotypical characters, and yet I enjoy them like I enjoy Doritos. I'm entertained but I certainly wouldn't want that quality of book to be my main staple, just as you don't want Doritos to be your main meal day after day. Once in a while sure, they are tasty, but no one is every going to confuse them with fine dining.

What do I do when I find tons of errors? Umm. Whine about it on my blog. LOL I will tend to shy away from that publisher but if I REALLY want to read a book because it's next in a series or the blurb sounded really great, then I suck it up, know what I'm getting, and whine some more. Most of the publishers who do it have a rep for it, so I'm sure they know, although I suppose if enough of us wrote to complain maybe they'd do something about it. I'm not very proactive that way, perhaps I should be.

I said I love your cover art, what I HATE are those computer generated SIMs people or whatever they are. Ugh. I'd rather have random naked torsos or the same guys that Chris tracks on dozens of covers, than those things.
May. 18th, 2010 01:55 pm (UTC)
The CGI people are from a program called Poser. Changeling staff think they look great.

I like your Dorito-read explanation a lot!

Another reader who blogs about errors! Yikes, I would be mortified to have my mistakes blogged about.
May. 18th, 2010 03:20 pm (UTC)
They have to be pretty major for me to mention it in my blog. If it's the odd spelling mistake or a their instead of they're, it doesn't bother me but if Jeff turns into Mike for 3 paragraphs then switches back to Jeff? Yeah, you'll hear about it. :-)
May. 18th, 2010 03:23 pm (UTC)
I should have added I don't blame the author completely for major editorial stuff. I know how hard it is to edit your own work because your brain sees what it meant to say, not what your fingers type, but that's why, presumably, publishers hire editors or proof readers, to catch that stuff. BUT, the author suffers if I stop buying their work because of the annoyances.
May. 18th, 2010 05:29 pm (UTC)
I've seen authors take ownership of errors like that in their manuscripts, but honestly -- if a publisher is going to keep 60-75% of the proceeds, I think they need to make sure the story is clean. And the authors who do their own publishing need to hire someone do provide that service.
May. 23rd, 2010 08:59 am (UTC)
Ugh I fracking hate those CGI Changeling covers!

I know it's completely stupid but they just put me off buying the books. I have no idea why. Plus it puts me off browsing their site.

In fact I can't remember the last time I went there and brought a Changeling published book
May. 18th, 2010 02:27 pm (UTC)
Those issues are on the top of my list, too, both in paper books and e-books.

I detest Poser-people on covers. It makes me not want to buy the book, no matter if the author is known to me or not. There is an author I quite like, but his latest novel had a poser-chick on it, and I thought no, just no, ew.

Spelling errors annoy the heck out of me. I can't not see them, and it takes away from the enjoyment of the story.
It's even worse when I discover that a character gets a wrong name, either when the author has changed the name but not managed to change it through the whole story, or seems to have confused the names of his/her own characters.
Proofreading of manuscripts seem to have become worse during the last 2-3 years.

May. 18th, 2010 05:31 pm (UTC)
That's interesting that you've observed the errors becoming worse. I seem to spot more tiny errors in mainstream books lately, but I figured that was just me reading super-close. (A habit I'm trying to break out of.)
May. 18th, 2010 08:23 pm (UTC)
I'm just surprised that the errors don't rate higher! *grin*

My reaction to multiple errors tends to be very much mood-of-the-moment. Formatting errors I blame on the publisher - the inappropriate italics or gibberish strings. Misuse of words, typos and continuity errors I let the author and publisher share the blame. We all make mistakes and no one is perfect, but I'm not complaining about a few hiccups, I'm complaining about large chunks of irritation and consistent misuse of words.

The better the story the less likely I am to notice minor, occasional mistakes. Conversely the more mistakes the less likely I am to think it is a good story and I will go into beta mode and see even more mistakes.

Errors are more likely to affect me with a new-to-me author. For instance, earlier this year I read a novel by a fairly prolific and very popular author who I had never read before and she consistently misused 'you're' and 'your' throughout except for a couple of times when she got them right. I blamed the editor who really should have picked up on the trend and checked them all, but I did feel that the author should have been aware of her problem even if she was unable to get it through her head how to use the words properly. She should have had a back-up plan to fix them. The story itself was a bland piece of mental-chewing-gum that might have fitted the 'Dorito' category cdn_tam suggested. But because of the errors it wasn't a painless, pleasant read - it was annoying. I won't be buying anything else by that author.

Sometimes I'll tell the author or the publisher about errors, but more often I'll just snarl about them here and there. Now that I'm trying to use Goodreads I mention them in my reviews there because I know that they bother other people too.

I've noticed that the poor editing/ proof reading problems happen in paper books too (ebooks just seem to be worse) - maybe the industry as a whole is trying to save money by employing cheaper editors or not spending so long on the process?
May. 19th, 2010 02:05 am (UTC)
Wow, yes yes and yes. I feel the same in all these instances!

I think very, very few readers are going to contact the publisher and say, "Your stories are full of errors!" Nearly none. I think what they are going to do is either complain about it to their friends, or stop shopping there, or both.

I wonder if in the paperback industry books have been getting fewer passes through proofing. I've been noticing more errors than usual too.
May. 19th, 2010 12:33 am (UTC)
I'll get drawn in by a good cover, while an ugly cover makes me think the book will be bad. I see the books I edit before I see the covers, so I'm unaffected by those impressions while I'm working on one.

I know that certain publishers will have books with a lot of typos and grammatical errors. If it's an author I really like, I just suck it up and try to ignore them. If the press doesn't have any authors I'm a huge fan of, I'll just note to myself to not get any more books from them. It's unfair to authors I might have tried and liked, but you could also argue that the publisher is being unfair to the authors.

I've seen so many manuscripts that certain erotica/erotic romance cliches throw me right out of a story. I think, "I would have marked that as a cliche."

Some publishers put twenty pages of excerpts from other stories and blurbs at the end of a book. I expect that there will be more of the book I'm reading, and then it turns out to be seventy-five pages long rather than one hundred. I feel cheated. Sometimes I'll read the blurbs for the other stories, but it's even worse if they don't appeal to me or if I don't have the money to get more books.

I'd rather have learned about these things by hearing about them, instead of just having the experiences, but now I know what to expect or avoid.
May. 19th, 2010 02:06 am (UTC)
I find it irritating that I can't divorce the cover from the story. I should know better! But I just can't! There's some sort of alchemy going on that's affecting my judgment.

Ah! Cliche is a big no-no for me. I particularly hate cliche tropes and cliche characterizations.
May. 19th, 2010 01:07 am (UTC)
I haven't been on Lj for a while so I didn't see the original post.

I think you know that I rate covers highly, which is obvious by all the Poser covers that make it into my Ugly Covers competitions. :)

Spelling errors I find almost unforgivable. For example, one writer used the word "prostrate" throughout her novel for "prostate" and it was clear that she didn't the know the function of the prostate. She needed M/M 101. :) Editing errors, are up there with spelling. Some publishers are just awful - I wonder whether they bother to hire editors - maybe it's one way of keeping costs down. :(

My other beef is blurbs that are too long which contain spoilers. It's unbelievable but true that authors now have spoilers in their blurbs because they are so long.

I don't want to sound too critical because I have a post this week about whether M/M readers are too critical (more so than fans in other genres) so perhaps I shouldn't go on and on. :)
May. 19th, 2010 02:10 am (UTC)
Hi Wave! I'm stunned that prostate/prostrate thing got through. That seems important enough to kill a fragile new career before it even gets started.

I'm spoiler-phobic to the max, so I'm totally with you on the blurbs. I did once inadvertently put a blurb out there with an important spoiler in it, and I found out be reading one of those temper-tantrum type reviews (the kind full of eyerolling and mocking me for self-publishing) but I really did deserve a headsmack for that spoiler. Nowadays I wouldn't read the review to begin with for fear of sending myself into a tailspin, so I'd miss that useful molecule of critique.

I had no idea I'd get this much feedback. I'm thrilled.
May. 19th, 2010 07:17 am (UTC)

I did get an email from the author who mistook the prostate for prostrate and she was mortified. Until I mentioned it in my review she had no idea - I guess she was moving to M/M from het, but apparently no other reviewer noticed. :) This is where a good editor can be helpful. Anyway, her next book was much better.

Yes, it's true, some of the biggest spoilers are not the reviewers but the authors themselves. :) A few weeks ago Leslie, a guest reviewer on my site, refused to post the blurb in a review because it contained spoilers.
(Deleted comment)
May. 19th, 2010 01:47 pm (UTC)
OMG, that cover is totally hot! And you got a chance to tell the model! Whoo!
May. 23rd, 2010 09:14 am (UTC)
Spelling & Stories
It does get on my wick when stuff is spelt wrong in e-books, well any book of course. I've been reading e-books for several years now and the editing is get worse.

If an author self publishes then it's totally on them and I roll my eyes and perhaps not buy from them again. It's when publishers let books slip through with mistakes that really p's me off. If you are a company then you should really make the effort to make your company look good but I'm pretty sure many of these internet publishing companies don't actually hire proof readers and just publish as provided by the author.

I think many problems stem from lots of independent internet publishing companies springing up. I sometimes wonder if they actually reject anything because it's a poor story, it certainly doesn't seem that way. After all it's not like it costs them much to publish a rubbish story and stick on their site along with everything else.
( 20 comments — Leave a comment )

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