As readers, we have certain expectations when we buy a book. These expectations influence whether or not we make a purchase. When those expectations are met, we put that author or series on our to buy list. When they aren't met -- especially if they fail spectacularly -- we stop buying books by that author or in that particular series. Those expectations have been fairly static over the years but, of late, a new set of expectations have emerged and with them have come some misconceptions about the publishing industry and who is responsible for what.
I'm going to admit right now that this blog entry is written in defense of some authors I happen to enjoy and respect. Authors who are being slammed in reader reviews and online fora for things they have little or no control over. But I'll get to that shortly.
Expectation 1: The book we find on the shelves or order online will be properly edited and proofed before ever reaching our hot little hands. Unfortunately, over the last decade or so, that hasn't always been the case. There are a number of factors that all play a part in this. The first is that too many of us simply rely on spell-check and grammar-check to make sure everything is correct. Another factor is that publishers have, in an attempt to cut their costs, let go a number of their copy editors and proofreaders. If you search the blogs of late, you'll see a number of entries about how agents are now playing the role of proofreader and copy editor. Moreover, it's a role most of them don't want because it takes away from the time they have to do their traditional duty -- promoting the authors in their stable.
The companion misconception that goes along with this is that e-book retailers such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc., have editorial and proofreading control over e-books they sell. Nope. They don't. They simply put up the electronic file they have been provided with. If you are an author putting your own work up through the Kindle store, once you upload the files, there is a way to check it before it goes live for download. I'm sure the same ability exists for publishers. Just as it is unreasonable to expect the mom and pop corner bookstore to be responsible for proofing every book that hits their shelves, it is unreasonable to expect online retailers to do the same thing.
Expectation 2: If an author starts a series, that series will be completed. The unfortunate truth is that a series will be completed only if each book sells well enough. If those books don't sell well enough to justify the continued investment by the publisher, there is a very good chance subsequent books will not be released.
Misconception 1: Authors make lots of money so they should be writing our favorite books more quickly than they do. There shouldn't be years between books in a series. The vast majority of authors don't make enough from writing to live on. Real life happens and interferes with the writing process. And, most importantly, publishing isn't a lightning fast industry -- not even if you are publishing electronically only. At least not if you want to have any quality control of your product. So, readers clamoring for more books from that favorite author, sit back, chill a bit and read another book. Better yet, send a letter or email to that favorite author's publisher telling them how much you like books by Author X and hope to see more soon.
Misconception 2: The agency model of pricing e-books will only affect Amazon. WRONG. Each e-book retailer will find, sooner rather than later imo, that they are going to be forced to either agree to the model or not carry that publisher's books. And, just to remind you, under the agency model, the publisher will set the price of the e-book and the retailer will have little control over changing that price. In other words, no sales without publisher approval. No competitive pricing. No shopping around for the best buy.
If this doesn't worry you, it should. I can see the publishers also trying to enforce this model on hard copy retailers later, as their contracts come up for renewal. If that comes to pass, gone will be the discounts at your local Wal*Mart or Target. Gone will be the discounts if you are a card holder for a certain bookstore or other. We will be back to purchasing books at cover price -- and how many of us actually do that for most books we buy these days? More importantly, how many of us will continue to buy as many books if the prices are set to cover prices?
And now for the real reason for this post. The sheer foolishness that is happening now. Readers, listen closely, when buying a book and gnashing your teeth at the price, don't blame the author. He isn't the one who set the price. This is true be it hard cover, paperback or electronic version. That is left up to the publisher. Let the publisher know how you feel by writing to them and by refusing to buy a book that is priced unreasonably. Do not, I repeat, do not give an author a 1-star review based solely on the price of the book.
That's right. There are people out there right now who are downgrading books they haven't read simply because of the price. Folks, listen carefully. This hurts the author. When people go to sites like Amazon or Barnes & Noble, Powells or Borders, they see the reviews. They don't have to read them. The "stars" are listed right there. And if the book has 47 starred reviews and of those 47, a large number of them are 1-star reviews, that will keep people from buying. And that is money out of the author's pocket. If you have to, note in the text of your review that the price is unreasonable. But don't give a book a bad review just because of the price.
So, what are your expectations when buying a book? What do you do when those expectations aren't met? How about misconceptions you see about the industry? Do you see any misconceptions the industry might have about the buying public?