Dear Indie Author,
Congratulations on your amazing accomplishment. You’ve written a book, which is an incredible achievement. I’m so proud of you!
Unfortunately, I was not able to review your book. I know how important reviews are, so I really hate that I can’t give you that glowing, five-star review you were looking for. I enjoy our interaction on Facebook and I think you’re a really nice person. Rather than embarrass you by leaving a two-star review, I decided to contact you in private instead. I hope we can still be friends.
When I downloaded your book during its Kindle Free weekend, I had every intention of reading it. I really did. Your cover is gorgeous and the blurb is very intriguing. I couldn’t wait to dive right in. I’m sorry, but the story didn’t grab me. There were so many errors, it became distracting. Whether was confused with weather. There, their, and they’re are used interchangeably. The lack of, or overuse of punctuation made the book almost unreadable. And when you switched tenses from past to present and back again, it was so confusing, I had to stop reading.
Maybe you asked your friends to read your book before you published and they gave you good feedback. Maybe you even had a friend edit for you. Maybe, to you, the book is perfect. But it isn’t.
Not all of us have perfect grammar. I understand that. But if you want to be a writer, this is a skill you MUST master. You can’t rely on editors. You can’t hope the readers won’t notice. Readers will notice. Most of them won’t bother to review. They won’t even bother to download your book, because when they use the “Look Inside” feature on Amazon, they’ll realize your book is nowhere near ready for publication.
If you want to be a writer, you need to read. A lot. You need to understand more than how to construct a sentence. You need to learn how to construct a novel. The best way to do that is to read. Read books in your chosen genre. Read classics. Read critically acclaimed books. Read indie books. Read everything you can get your hands on. Which books appeal to you? Which books left you cold? Why? Make notes and incorporate this into your own writing.
I know you’re hurting right now. You gave away thousands of free books and no one has left a review. Not even your friends. Trust me, you’ll get some reviews. Some of your friends will cave in to your desperate pleas on Facebook and they’ll give you a five-star review that says, “This was a really great story with lots of action and drama.” Strangers will review it, but they won’t be as nice. Their one-star reviews will mention the excessive grammatical errors and lack of plot. You’ll feel the truth somewhere deep in your heart, but you’ll tell yourself that some people are only jealous, and that a couple of one-star reviews won’t really matter.
Some authors won’t agree with my approach to reviews. Some will think I shouldn’t review at all because it’s a conflict of interest. Others will say I should leave an honest review no matter what. Still others will claim I’m not really your friend and say I should give you five stars in order to show support for the indie community. If you’re serious about your writing career, you won’t want hollow five-star reviews. You won’t want something you haven’t earned. As a writer with integrity, you value honesty and constructive criticism.
I hope you’ll keep writing. I hope you won’t promote this book for months or even years, wondering why your sales aren’t increasing. I hope you won’t become bitter and jealous of other writers who find success. I hope you’ll accept the fact that an author’s writing skills are always a work in progress. There is always room to grow and improve. As you continue to learn and continue to write, you will become a better writer. You will craft a novel that will deserve glowing five-star reviews. But only if you commit yourself to being the best writer you can be.
An Indie Author, Reader, and Friend.
7/11/14 Note: The above letter is NOT intended for all indies, nor is it intended to be sarcastic (though it’s obvious I missed the mark). I apologize to those I’ve offended. I should have taken some of my own advice and reviewed this post more carefully before posting it. As someone who claims to be a writer, I should be able to express myself clearly. I don’t think it’s fair for me to alter the letter since people have already commented and shared it, so the original will remain.
This is what I really wanted to say to new indie authors who are in a rush to publish: Take your time. Put your best work forward by seeking editors, critique partners, and beta readers. Trust your intuition, and if you feel there is something not quite right about your manuscript, give it another editing pass. The more you write, the better your writing will be. If marketing and promoting is leaving you feeling frustrated and bitter, you should get back to doing what you love–writing your next book. Not everyone will like your book (some reviewers can even be cruel), but if you truly believe in your dream, never give up. Any author who has written an entire book HAS accomplished something most people only dream of. It IS an amazing achievement and no one should take that away from you.