Before chronic pain and illness crippled my grandma, she made the best treats and the cutest crafts. I’m not talking about cookies that merely tasted good or crafts that are cute only because they’re made by a loved one. What I’m referring to is award-winning desserts you almost hated to eat because they were stunning in appearance, even though you knew a delectable delight awaited you. Her crafts could have successfully sold in stores. Mema was more than a baker and a crafter. She was an artisan, a woman truly gifted both in the kitchen and in her craft room.
Until a few years ago, as I held her latest creation–a creation originating from her mind but a creation she could not make herself due to the pain and lack of use in her fingers–I never realized everything Mema put into the gifts she bestowed upon us.
I’ve noticed something similar between authors and readers. Unless a reader is an author (someone who has published), they will not understand how we strive to bring them the best book we can present and what that entails, and what goes into writing and publishing. I’d like to offer you, dear reader, a glimpse into an author’s life.
Publishing is an Act of Love
It really is. We put in uncountable hours writing, polishing, editing, polishing some more, and editing some more. We lose out on sleep, worry about whether our story is good enough, and if readers will like it. We just know something’s going to go wrong or we’ll miss a typo or a formatting error. We’re sleep-deprived, emotionally and mentally drained (living our own lives plus our characters’ lives is difficult). Late nights, stress, lack of sleep, and residing in two worlds or two centuries takes a toll on us, but we continue writing because we love it. It’s our passion.
There are Only so Many Tropes
I recently saw a review where the reader was complaining at length about how the book she was reviewing contained the same trope as another book by the author. What the reader failed to realize is there are only so many tropes. Authors don’t make the tropes, nor do we devise new ones. Instead, we take a trope and spin it in an unique way. That is how our creativity shines through.
Readers, please don’t complain about the trope not being “original”, meaning the author did not create the trope herself. In your reviews, please don’t complain about the utilized trope in general. Focus on how the author used the trope and put her own creative twist on it.
Books Take Years to Write
This piggybacks off the same issue: the reader complaining about the same trope in two of the author’s books. What this reader also refused failed to realize is those books were published seven years apart. Seven. Years. The author did not go, “Okay, I’ve written this book. Now I’m going to write another one with the same trope.” No, that’s not how writing a book works.
When you open a book, it may have been originally written a decade or a few years ago. By the time that manuscript was finished, the author moved on to another story. Then another. Then another. The author may have returned to the first story, polished it, and published it, or a publisher may have taken a century to inform the author they wanted the manuscript (this is quite common). If you read an author’s books and find the same tropes, please realize those books were not written back-to-back, and please don’t complain about it.
Publishing a Book is a Complicated, Lengthy, and Trying Process
Whether traditional or indie, publishing a book gives us gray hairs and wrinkles. For traditional publishing, it can take anywhere from two to three or four years for a book to be published. First the manuscript and proposal must be submitted via agent or, if the publisher is a smaller house, by the author herself. Then there’s a long waiting period that can span up to a year, if not longer. If the manuscript is then accepted, it goes through numerous different edits. The author may be asked to change scenes, add scenes, or even alter a character. Then it goes to the formatter as the cover designer works their magic. Then final edits, the author looking over it, and, finally, publication.
Indie publishing is even more intense in most instances. Unlike traditionally-published authors, indie authors don’t have a publishing house backing them, which means they must find their own cover designer, editor(s), formatter, and so on.
A lot of time goes into publishing a book. We’re trying. We really are. But there’s a hefty to-do list we must accomplish before releasing our books into the world.
No Book is Perfect: Please Don’t List the Book’s Typos in Your Review
Do you remember the saying, “No one is perfect”? The same concept applies to books. There will always be an issue, whether the writing style needs tightening, there are typos or grammatical errors, or formatting goes awry.
Please, please, please don’t list these issues in your review. Instead, approach the writer directly. Be polite, be respectful. We’re human and, despite our best efforts, can’t catch everything. Or, in a traditional author’s case, the editor is the final person who looks at it. Those typos may not be the author’s fault, but the editor’s.
Regardless of the responsible party, please realize listing the errors in reviews doesn’t help us.
We Don’t Expect Everyone to Like Our Books
While that would be nice, it’s impossible. We do expect, however, that you be respectful and follow the Golden Rule if you deem it necessary to write a review. Being a spiteful, vindictive meanie in your review leads possible readers to call your testimony into witness and it just makes you look bad.
Legitimate concerns in a review are fine. They really are. I respect reviewers who tastefully write low-star reviews. Downright hatefulness, on the other hand, is unacceptable.
Spoilers are our Kryptonite
Please, please don’t include spoilers in your review. I’m not talking about content warnings, but spoilers, which basically are the review version of Cliff notes. When you write spoilers, you tell readers to not bother purchasing our books because, “Here’s the book in a nutshell! No need to read or buy it, because I’m blabbing about everything that happens”.
I have flagged reviews for containing spoilers, and I will continue to do so. Authors can’t control what readers put in their reviews, but we have every right to flag a review if the review contains spoilers. Spoilers, after all, affect the amount of income we gain from our books.
We’re Humans Too
It’s a shocker, I know. But authors aren’t mindless automatons or programmed droids or robots who mechanically write and publish. We have feelings. We experience emotions. Words hurt us the same as they hurt you. Please remember that as you’re writing your reviews.
Reviews Make or Break Our Career
“But it’s just a review!”
To the contrary. It’s not. A review either recommends the book or warns readers away. If I wanted to submit a manuscript to a traditional publisher, one of the things they’d look at are the reviews for my previously-published books. If they see too many low-stars or if they see my overall rating is 3.2 or if a book’s overall rating is 2.3, they are more likely to pass. Readers will pass on a book if they see too many low-stars.
If you like a book, please review it. We need to know when readers enjoy the fruits of our labor. If you dislike a book, consider the reason for that dislike and please craft your review in the most respectful manner possible.
We Can’t Make a Living off Publishing
Very few authors can make a living off publishing. Most of us work at least two other jobs so we can survive. That $15.99 you paid? We receive a fraction of that. And I mean a fraction. A microscopic, itty-bitty, teensy-weency minutest amount. An author sells an indie ebook priced at $0.99…and receives $0.35 of that. It’s even less for traditional.
We don’t write for the money, because there’s often not a lot of money to be gained. Please don’t assume authors are rolling in greenbacks, because we’re not.
Publishing is Expensive
We print our manuscript, which uses paper, ink, and electricity. We hire editors, which can cost in the thousands. We hire cover designers if we want quality covers, which, again, costs a pretty penny. Then we publish the book.
If you’re traditionally published, the publisher and agent (if you have one) take a share of the earnings, as does the company through which the book is printed and dispersed. If you’re an indie author, we pay to have our books printed and shipped out along with paying the printer/dispenser. I paid around $550 for DECEIVED, and that’s cheap. I did my own formatting, found a reasonable cover designer (if you need a cover, go to Lynnett Bonner; I highly recommend her), and an editor that didn’t charge me an arm, leg, lungs, and kidneys.
We Know When a Review is Intentionally Being Cruel
Some of us don’t take the time to think before we write reviews. It happens. We authors understand that. We are also capable of detecting when reviewers are being intentionally malicious.
Again, we don’t begrudge tasteful low-star reviews. They’re part of life, and we accept that. We do, however, have an issue with readers who rant and rage.
We’re Baring our Souls and Hearts, Knowing They Might be Destroyed
We put uncountable hours, tears, pain, and stress into writing, only to publish the book and bare ourselves to the world. You see, a book always contains part of an author’s heart. This is a dangerous business, as it is more than likely our hearts and souls will be stomped on and obliterated. We’ve put everything into our books, and you, the reviewers and critics, decide whether or not a book will go far or dissolve into just another book no one wants to read.
This quote from Bilbo Baggins (LOTR, J.R.R. Tolkien) is fitting: ““It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” Authors publishing their books embark on a dangerous business. We never know how it will be received.
Some Days We Want to Give Up
Some days we just want to call it quits. A lot of times, writing doesn’t seem worth it. That’s why words of encouragement mean so much. They tell us you appreciated our efforts to present a quality story.
Our Writing is a Way We Address and Grapple With Our Own Burdens
In my unpublished manuscript, Dark Secrets, I gave the main female character an issue I was struggling with at that time. Through her attempts to understand the whys and as she waded through the emotions that came with the painful circumstance, I realized I was addressing that very same pain in myself. If something feels so raw and real in a book, that may be because the author was facing the very same thing in her own life.
We Grow in Our Faith by Writing
My upcoming release, IRON, tackles trusting God in everything, even when His plans don’t align with ours. Another upcoming release, Shattered Reflection, walks characters through their own struggles in their faith. Elements from both IRON and SR are ones I’ve struggled with, and I’ve learned the same lessons the characters have..
Writing forces us to delve into the Bible and to turn our writing to Him. There can be so much depth to a simple scene discussing faith, or a paragraph where the character cries out to God. You don’t know what research we did to write that scene. You don’t know, don’t see, how God grows authors as we write.
Most Importantly, We Write to Glorify God
For Christian authors, writing is a way to bring glory to our Heavenly Father. It is an act of worship, Using our words we can extol His majesty, spread the Gospel, and tackle difficult topics we pray the Lord will use to touch a reader’s life. Through our writing we strive to honor God, to show the importance of His Word.
Authors, do you have anything to add? Readers, what were some things you didn’t realize?
Too Much Faith?
A Word About Writing Low-Star Reviews