Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Top 3 Reader Expectations from Self Published Authors

Today's readers expect no less from a self published author than from the traditionally published big name author. Whether they spent $1 or $25, readers demand a professional product and an engaging experience.

1. A Good Story to Tell
This is a basic requirement. Why would a reader devote hours to a story that meanders without a goal, populated with one-dimensional characters that speak with the same voice? Your story should move the reader and resonate with his emotions. It should have a structure that pulls the reader along with an interesting plot that follows well established storytelling patterns: a beginning with a hook, a series of escalating try-fail cycles in the middle, followed by a dark moment and a climax, ending with a satisfying resolution. Whether happily-ever-after or tragic, the reader must leave fulfilled by a damn good story.


2. Edited and Polished to a Spitshine
Nothing kicks a reader out of your story faster than tripping over typos, grammatical errors and amateur sentence construction. Do you and your readers a favor. Have your work either professionally edited, or take the time to pore over grammar books and study the levels of editing: structural, content, copy, and proofreading. A few of my pet peeves? Overuse of introductory present participial phrases, autonomous body parts, head-hopping, and misplaced modifiers.

Don't overlook book formatting. Being self-published is no excuse for surprising font changes, crowded line spacing, paragraphs without leading indents, or a shoddy cover that looks like Uncle Bob pulled it together with a child's first paint program.

3. Professionalism
Just because you're a self-published author does not give you license to behave like a kid in the playground. Readers do not expect Stephen King to roll up his sleeves and join in a brawl about a one-star review, nor do they think J.K. Rowling would get her friends to send e-mail defending her decision to kill off Voldemort. Being a published author means being a public figure. And that means taking lumps with grace, shrugging off the vitriol tossed at you in reviews, forums and blogs. True, no one likes to receive criticism, but never respond to a review even if the reader completely misunderstood your book, or confused it with another author's book that is diametrically opposite to yours. Commiserate privately with friends, or fuggedaboutit.

Conclusion
What can you do to beat the expectations of today's savvy reader?

8 comments:

  1. As a reader, I am so glad you posted these. I do look for professionalism in any book I read. I recently read an ebook published by a blogger and was disappointed. It was amateurish and not well written. Yet so many other bloggers raved about this book a year ago. I am afraid too many people want to be cheerleaders and not realists. Maybe that's why I haven't thought about writing a book.

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    1. Thanks Michelle. I was a reader well before I wrote anything. Give it time and patience and the book will come. Have a blessed day.

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    2. Michelle, it is an unfortunate reality that too many bloggers will rave about a book that doesn't deserve high praise. I read a book recently for a book tour that I despised. It was poorly written with a weak story and one-dimensional characters. I responded to the organizer that I disliked the book and was asked to post only the book synopsis and to hold my negative review for a later date. I was bewildered when, only a few days later, I saw blogs touting 4- and 5- star reviews. I try to read between the lines.
      Ashley (Closed the Cover)

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    3. Hi Ashley, I've simply told the organizer that I cannot write a review. Yes, I was told to post only a synopsis and at the end, I chose not to write a review. Nowadays, I've decided to only read books I want to read. Simple, right? I used to want to participate in blog tours and book communities, but it does get tiring promising people reviews and then being disappointed. So... don't give up. Just read what you want to read.

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  2. Good points, Rachelle. I don't care if I received the book for free... I still want it to be professionally done and an enjoyable read.

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    1. Exactly. The most valuable commodity is the reader's time. If a reader spends 10 hours with my book, I want them to enjoy it. 1000 readers = 10,000 hours

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  3. Rachelle,
    I agree with everything you said but especially #3. I had an encounter recently where an author, his wife and another relative were upset with me for pointing out the negatives in the book. There were issues with spelling, word choice (corporate vs cooperate), past vs present tense and punctuation. Instead of taking the necessary steps to correct the book they became irate with me for noticing them.
    Ashley (Closed the Cover)

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  4. Hi Ashley, They should be upset at themselves for letting the product out the door and thankful for a customer pointing it out. Sorry to hear about your experience.

    Rachelle

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