TBR Giveaway Thursday: Digital Book Quality Control

Proofreading red pencilHave you ever made an impulse Kindle book purchase and wonder how the heck the book ever got published?

Starting on February 3, word zoomed around the web last week, Amazon will institute more quality control over self-published books. If readers complain about a book they’ve downloaded having enough typos, grammar or punctuation errors, or formatting issues that make it difficult to read, Amazon will post a warning on the page and perhaps even pull the book’s buy button until said issues are fixed.

I honestly don’t know if this is true or total fabrication. All books have typos, no matter who publishes them or how many sets of eyes look at them. I have some doubts that Amazon employees have time to sit around counting typos.

But, true or not, it raises an interesting point about quality control. Don’t get me wrong. Indie publishing, as self-publishing is now called, has given authors a lot of options and opened the doors to publication to everyone with the guts to try. I’ve always been very cautious about featuring blog posts from indie authors I don’t know, if I haven’t read their books, because I feel as if I’m at least partially endorsing anything to which I give significant space on this blog.

I recently opened my doors, so to speak, to indie authors because so many traditionally published authors are going indie these days–I’ve even put one out myself (PIRATESHIP DOWN). Should my publishers decide once and for all not to finish out my Penton and Sentinels series, I will definitely finish them myself. And yeah, they’ll probably have typos no matter how hard I try.

As time has gone by, a lot of indie authors have realized it’s worth their money to hire editors and cover artists to help them publish a quality book. But a lot of others aren’t doing these things because it’s expensive and it eats up most of your potential profit (i.e., you end up in the red), unless you have the rare breakout. I hired out cover, developmental editing and formatting for PS Down (and probably should have hired a copyeditor). I haven’t broken even yet, although I’m close and I’m okay with that–I saw the book as a thank-you to the readers who have patiently endured the two-year gap between novels.

Anyway, here are the criteria I use as to whether or not to consider an author for a guest post or an interview on this blog.

* Is it an author with whom I’m familiar and whose writing I trust? If so, I will move to my next criterion unless the author is writing a genre I rarely cover (category romance, inspirational, erotica, light contemporary, young adult, or historical romance, for example).

* Does the book have a professionally done cover? Is the art amateurish? Is the type properly kerned? Are the fonts legible, and are there a minimum of compatible fonts on the cover? If so, then…

* I read the book blurb. If there are typos or grammatical errors in the blurb, I turn the book down. If it is clean and the story sounds interesting, I’ll probably offer the author a spot.

Does that sound harsh? Maybe, but with more than a million books published each year, there has to be SOME quality control, even if it’s just me trying to decide what to put on my blog. Or maybe Amazon pulling books that, when told of the complaints, authors refuse to fix.

What about you? Have you downloaded books (either indie or trad) that bother you with cover choice or or inferior spelling, punctuation, or formatting? Did it make you put down the book. Do you pay any attention to who a book’s publisher is, are you just looking at the story?

Leave a comment for a  TBR giveaway!

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About Suzanne Johnson

Author of urban fantasy, paranormal romance, and suspense. As Suzanne Johnson, she is the author of the Sentinels of New Orleans urban fantasy series (Royal Street; River Road: Elysian Fields, Pirate's Alley, Belle Chasse, Frenchmen Street (March 2018). Writing as Susannah Sandlin, she is the author of the Penton Legacy series (Redemption; Absolution; Omega; Storm Force; Allegiance; ILLUMINATION); The Collectors series (Lovely, Dark, and Deep; Deadly, Calm, and Cold); and the Wilds of the Bayou series (Wild Man's Curse; Black Diamond).

42 thoughts on “TBR Giveaway Thursday: Digital Book Quality Control

  1. I honestly never look at who publishes a story and until I made a bunch of friends in the indie community I never had a clue about Indie publishing. I look for a good story. The story that sucks me in and that I have to pry the book out of my hands when it is done. As for typos yes it has stopped me from reading some books. If it is bad enough that it is keeping me from being sucked in then there is no reason for me to keep trying. Now that said I mean there has to be some major typos a misspelled word here or there or a missed word all together isn’t a huge deal. Even a missed punctuation I could careless. Just as long as they aren’t back to back to back. It is all good in my book. Lol

    • I have stopped paying as much attention to publisher now that so many of my favorite authors are indie publishing. A few typos won’t turn me away (as long as they aren’t on every page), but I’m a stickler for grammar and punctuation and point of view. More than one or two of those in the first chapter or two and the book is likely to be a DNF unless the story is AWFULLY compelling.

  2. If the cover looks unprofessional I won’t buy the book. It might sound shallow, but if the author clearly didn’t bother with a professional looking cover, I fear for what lies inside.

    • I totally agree with you. That’s my first criteria in deciding whether or not to highlight a new release by an author I don’t know. Even shopping online for ebooks, the cover is the first thing people see. It’s so important.

  3. I had one miserable reading experience with an indie author. It was a local author that had a book signing I went to. The book singing was a very nice event. The story was a fairly decent effort. Printed copy not electronic.The printing and formatting were very bad. The type was over size, 24 point, bold face, 28 widows [some just one word], chapters starting on the left side, etc.. Those combinations just made me mad. I have been very careful about indie publishing since.

    • I’m sorry that I’m laughing but holy cow–24 point bold text. I learned the hard way with PSDown and, from a distance, the Dark Secrets anthology, that it’s easy to make formatting a mess. I don’t like chapters starting on lefthand pages either, and although I got stuck with quite a few because of last-second editing changes (because I should have hired a copyeditor prior to formatting), I try to be careful about widows and orphans.

      For those of you who don’t follow the jargon of typesetting, orphans are single words (or less than a quarter of a column width) left dangling at the end of a paragraph. Widows occur when a single line of text appears at the top of a column or page, followed by a paragraph break.

      • And maybe worse than widows, the type was left justified, means a lot of jagged white space on the right side. Must be full justified….to please the eye.

        • Yes, in books–in magazines with multiple columns, justified type is a nightmare, leaving rivers of space that take the designers forever to adjust. So I like rag right in magazines but justified in books (or magazines with wide margins). And never consecutive lines ending in hyphens…so many rules!

  4. Horrible cover design is a big turn-off for me and it pains me when I do end up reading such a novel (generally because it’s been recommended to me by bloggers/readers I trust) and it turns out to be a fantastic read, because I’m certain it’d be a lot more successful with a good cover.

    Thypos and grammer erors … don’t even get me started. I once read a traditionally published book and all was well until I made it past the first third of it, then I felt the need to strangle the editor. It was like they figured no one would even read further, being a non fiction tome and all, so why bother. While I am not happy about stumbling over typos/errors I am more forgiving when it comes to indie authors (unless there’s one on every single page, but two or three throughout a book is fine by me).

    • Yes, covers are my guidepost. When I get approached by tour companies for tours, I look at the cover first and if it looks like I did it (unprofessional, in other words), I don’t sign up for the tour.

      We all make typos and errors. There are more eyes that a trad-published book goes through–editor, author (three times), copyeditor, proofreader–at minimum, and still things get missed. The indie author should be held to the same standards–I learned from publishing PS Down that I’ll never skimp on a proofreader again, even though I do copyediting for a living. It’s hard to proof your own stuff.

  5. I pretty much agree with what every one is saying. Covers are very important that is how I found you at the library, there was DJ looking back at me on the cover of Royal Street. My grammar is probably horrible but I’m a good speller! I just finished a kindle book that was triple spaced…drove me nuts. But it was a really good story so I plodded on. There are kindle freebie books that I can’t get beyond chapter 3, so poorly written..delete delete.

    • Another vote for covers! It’s funny–when I got my first Kindle, I downloaded every freebie or 99-cent book. Then I tried to read a few. Now I will read the first few pages before I buy or download–a lot of wonderful authors use the 99-center or freebie as a great way to introduce themselves to new readers, and those are real deals. Sometimes you get what you pay for. I love that you can read a sample of a book before you download.

  6. I like your criteria. I’m a sucker for an enticing book cover. It will lead me to the blurb. If the blurb engages me, I’ll probably by the book.

    I never really paid attention to the publisher.

    Grammar and typos are very important to me and yes, I have not finished a book because the author was not invested in putting out a quality product. But, we are just human and having recently put together a family history book for Christmas, I have great empathy for authors regarding formatting,, grammar and typos!

    • I don’t think I paid much attention to publishers until I started writing and looking at what publishers were putting out the type of books I wanted to write. Spelling, typos, formatting…they have the same rules as writing. If it’s done well, it’s invisible or appears effortless. We know better 🙂

  7. hum i guess that iof a cover does look really unprofessional i will probably not even check teh blurb
    after that a few typo i don’t mind we can all make mistakes as long as the story is captivating that’s if, if it’s not good then typo can be the last straw taht would make me put it aside without finishing it ( i guess)

    • I used to feel guilty not finishing a book. Then I create the hundred-page test–if it caught my interest (mistakes or not) in the first hundred pages, I’d read it all. Then came the 50-page test.

      I’m at the three chapter test now. That’s what authors have to submit to publishers when they submit a book proposal. It’s supposedly enough for the publisher/editor to decide if the author has the story-building and voice chops to carry a full novel.

      Doesn’t mean it’s a bad novel, either. It just means I either didn’t like it for some reason, it didn’t resonate with me, or the timing was bad. I’ll admit it took me three or four times to make it through the first Hollows book, and it ended up being one of my all-time favorite UF series.

  8. I’m a cover snob, so I know that I’ve overlooked a lot of self pub’d books b/c the cover was terrible. but I have tried others and they were fantastic! I tend to not really notice grammar or punctuation errors unless they are many and glaringly obvious. It’s only really stilted writing or wooden characters that get me to stop reading.

    • Stilted characters and wooden characters are DNF-makers, I agree. I definitely do make judgments based on the covers, though, ESPECIALLY if it’s an indie book. Because indie authors make the decisions. Not so with trad published books in a lot of cases. There is one of my Sentinels covers that I really do not like, but I didn’t even see it until it went up for preorder and was already a done deal. In other cases, the publisher has given me a lot of say in the covers. So with trad publishing, sometimes a bad cover isn’t the author’s fault. In Indie publishing, it’s ALWAYS the author’s fault.

  9. I don’t pay any attention to the publisher. I love a good cover but a good blurb is what grabs my interest. One of my pet peeves though is when I finish the book and wonder if the person who wrote the blurb even read the book. Spelling errors tend to pull me out of the story so I don’t like too many of them.

    • LOL, you hit a nerve! I always try to worm my way into writing my own blurbs. Sometimes it works and sometimes it’s already a done deal before I see it. Although I don’t think I’ve ever had any that misrepresented what the book was about–that would make me furious as a reader and an author!

  10. don’t bother reading the book if I don’t like the cover, blurb, or there are grammatical errors in the title or excerpt

  11. For ebooks, any time I’m trying out an author I’m unfamiliar with (unless either 1) they have 100+ glowing reviews that are explanatory and not just “OMG! SO GOOD! BUY THIS NOW!” so I can decide whether I think I’ll like it or 2) it’s free so I’m not wasting money on it if it’s terrible, I ALWAYS do the free chapter sample first so I can see what I’m potentially getting into. And yes, if it’s full of easy mistakes and formatting errors, I’ll pass. I don’t have the time to waste on middling books when I know there is a pile of really great books that I’m guaranteed to enjoy already waiting for me.

    • Yes, I do the sample chapters too on authors I don’t know. One of my favorite artist/art teachers, the fabulous Jane Davenport, says of art: “Life is too short to use crappy paper.” That’s kind of how I feel about books 🙂

  12. It does not sound harsh at all.

    I once got burned by a book that has two typos in the first sentence.

    I don’t mind how a book is published, but the quality must be there.

  13. I don’t worry about who the publisher is. I’ve read and enjoyed a number of indie authors. I’ve found some indie authors have badly edited books. I probably won’t finish reading it, would put a review on Amazon noting the editing issues, and wouldn’t try anything by that author again.

    But I’ve also found print books with typos, a dog who changed color from one chapter to the next, and keys being left in the ignition of a hot wired car when the thief abandoned it.

    • Ah, the old continuity editors. That’s the type of thing copyeditors usually should be catching. I always ask the copyeditors to pay careful attention to continuity errors, location errors (did DJ sit down when I had her sitting down two paragraphs earlier?), and timeline errors. Those are the ones I’m most prone to make. A good copyeditor is priceless!

  14. Guess I’m an old dinosaur, I don’t download books. I just prefer real books. Typos do drive me crazy, though!

  15. I don’t have an ereader, so I tend to read print books. I can forgive an occasional typo–they happen to everyone–but what really drives me batty is when an author uses the wrong word. I read a YA novel recently in which the author used “amok” when she meant “amiss” on page 2, and I spent the next 250 pages or so obsessing about it. And since it was a historical novel, it sent me down an etymology rabbit hole, in which I was trying to determine whether 13th century Europeans would even be familiar with the word “amok.” Not the author’s intention, I don’t believe!

    • Ugh–that is one of my pet peeves. I had a recent DNF that kept using the word “conformation” when it should have been “confirmation.” Once is a typo; four or five times is a misspelling. I’m also brutal on historicals. I’m reading one now that’s set in Viking days and keep coming across modern (at least 19th-century) British terms. Uh…NO. 🙂

  16. The cover draws me so if the cover is bad, I don’t even bother with the book. And if I read a book with numerous errors, I won’t read that author again. BUT if the book is an ARC, I will forgive the errors and assume/hope the final product has corrections. I don’t pay attention to the publisher at all. I also strongly dislike when various authors use the same actress (in the same outfit even!) on their kindle book covers. Total turn off.

    • I’ve been blessed (I think) with really good covers. There have been two that I’ve disliked. One I disliked parts of, and one I really hated.

      I don’t mind the same actress/model on the covers of a series if they’re all about the same heroine–DJ is on all my Sentinels covers. I don’t like that she’s wearing the same tank top and jeans in every cover–obviously, it makes sense if you have a custom photo shoot (very expensive and I am lucky to have gotten one instead of just stock photos) to use multiple shots from the shoot. I want DJ to look the same on every cover. However, my editor and I were talking last week about covers for Belle Chasse and she asked about the tank top and did I want to use it again. We both felt the tank top needed to go–I mean the book is set between Christmas and New Year’s. No wonder the poor girl is hibernating! LOL.

  17. I never pay any attention to the publisher. What draws me in is the blurb. This better be awesome and hook me. I don’t expect to see misspelled words or typos here. The cover generally doesn’t make any difference to me although it may have been the trigger that got me to read the blurb. Once I start reading the story better drag me in within 50 to 75 pages. If there are a lot of typos or grammar errors, I’m probably not going to read long because if it’s jarring enough that it distracts me from the story and breaks my concentration, then it will quickly go into my DNF pile.

    • The blurb is SO SO important. If I haven’t rejected the cover, the thing that really decides me on whether to read a book, or put it on the blog (except for Reader’s Choice Mondays, when everything runs) is that blurb. Does the story sound interesting? Do the characters’ dilemmas sound enticing? Does it reflect a “voice” that I find appealing? And is it free of typos or grammatical errors? It has to have a “yes” on all of those things. LOL. Picky, eh?

  18. I am much more interested in the story as opposed to the publisher. However, many and glaring grammar, or punctuation errors really take me out of the story itself.

  19. I seldom look at the publishers and don’t choose by covers so much because for an awful lot authors with the bigger publishing companies I much prefer the US versions of the covers as the UK ones here are often bland and boring. It’s the Blurb that is most important to me and will make me buy. I can handle occasional errors but repeated bad grammar and spelling mistakes are a turn off and I won’t buy a book by that author again even if the Blurb does tempt me.

  20. Hey, super interesting topic! I’ve actually discussed this with friends a while back. I used to not look at book covers, author, publisher, etc, but book covers and publishers actually tell a lot about a book’s contents. For one, the cover tells the genre and whether or not it’s with a traditional publisher or otherwise. Being published with a traditional pub is important, cause that means it’s been through rigorous (and probably more experienced..?) editing. Over the years, I’ve become more fussy about the writing style and of course grammar, cause if the writing style is super simple then I find it lacks depth and stimulation (for the mind).

  21. Your criteria is not harsh at all! I’ve really wary of indie books- usually, it’s the horrible covers that turn me off. So I usually check the publisher before checking a book out.

  22. Occasionally there is a great book behind a less-than-awesome cover. Example – @Melanie Nowak’s Almost Human. It’s hard nowadays to find a fresh take on the vampire romance genre, but her concept of vampire blood as a collective sentience is intriguing, and her characters can make your heart bleed for them. The cover of Almost Human features the author as model. I bought the book on a friend’s recommendation, but would never have been drawn in by the cover, as I was when I first found Royal Street in the local library.