Read-an-Ebook Week: One Reviewer’s Experience

Help! I'm frustrated!

Help! I’m frustrated!

A funny thing happened this week. I received the following email from Amazon regarding my novel Moonlight Dancer:

“We are writing to let you know that at least one of your readers has reported some problems with your book.”

Uh-oh. Was Amazon planning to pull my book? Don’t laugh, I’ve heard stories. Gulp. I read on.

“There are typos in your book…‘Hunter’ s BMW’ should be ‘Hunter’s BMW’.”

Did you catch the problem? I didn’t at first. There’s an extra space following Hunter. Egads! Who knew there were punctuation police out there ready to rid the world of unsuspecting typos? I sure didn’t.

Was I annoyed? Not a bit. I’ll tell you why. This is the first and only such notification I’ve received concerning typing or grammatical issues with the book. Perhaps this is a tribute to all my reads and re-reads, all my book buddies’ reads, all my beta readers’ reads, my daughters’ reads, an editor’s comments, and one reviewer’s tip.

I’ve heard that a traditionally published book contains an average of six errors. So, I actually took a perverse sort of pleasure in this one extra space.

I forwarded Amazon’s email to the tech department (my husband), who took it under advisement. Translation: he is unlikely to reformat and resubmit the manuscript for a problem involving one extra space.

What has this to do with Read an Ebook Week? Last year I participated in ebook week by reading and reviewing Ghost Island by Bonnie Hearn Hill. This year I wanted to read a truly indie ghost novel, as I feel indie publishing is at the heart of the indie phenom. Like Goldilocks, I began searching for an indie ghost novel to read and review. I encountered some frustration, namely e-books with errors.

The Search: Book One

I didn’t even download the first candidate I had planned to read. The novel’s description was, well, nondescript, beginning as follows: “It began very incidentally.” Aside: an important rule of writing: Avoid adverbs. And here we are subjected to two in the first sentence. What does incidentally mean anyway? Casually? Parenthetically? Pass.

The Search: Book Two

This book was more promising. The cover is lovely, featuring a rose and typewriter, professional in appearance as well as evocative of the book’s contents. The premise: A self-proclaimed hack writer, with the aid of a centuries-old muse, aspires to pen a literary oeuvre. The formatting is quite good, and, at first, I felt I was in the hands of a skilled writer. Still, early on, I found a few bumps such as their/there and cliental/clientele word confusion.

I had to accustom myself to an omniscient narrator—not much done these days, but I was willing to ride along. The advantage of omniscience is a sort of satirical overlay. The disadvantage is that it distances us from the protagonist. In this case, the disadvantage held sway.

Then the errors started to pile up—misused phrases, misspelled words, as if the writer had grown weary of editing. Mostly, though, I sensed a lack of tension and/or sub-plot to pull the reader through the story. I finished but didn’t feel I could write a review. The book wasn’t ready.

The Search: Book Three

Again, interesting premise: For reasons mysterious, an abandoned estate is slated for demolition with protagonist as lead contractor. Opportunities abound for bumps in the night (or day) though I worried it would be a re-make of Session 9, and I did find some parallels.

The problem in this ebook was the lack of scenes. Most of the novel unfolds through summary as the narrator experiences vague “uneasy feelings” from time to time, but little in the way of scenes other than workers stripping a lot of paneled walls. The ghost/demon seems to be an afterthought.

Different editing issues arose here: confusing dependent clauses, unvarying sentence structure, missing punctuation, for instance cant, wont, etc. As with Book Two, I finished but didn’t feel the novel was ready for a review.

The Search: Book Four

This one came to me from Tasha via a Goodreads discussion. Victory! An e-book with a strong opening, a protagonist with an engaging voice, a grammatically intact work with standard spelling.

I am currently in the reading phase and will discuss this novel soon. What is it, you ask? The Home by Scott Nicholson. Stand by for review.

So, here’s my question concerning the two books I read earlier and consider not ready for review. Should I contact the authors to let them know what I found? I say yes, but my daughter says no. What do you think? I’d love to hear from you.

(photo credit)

About Deb Atwood

I am a writer, editor, tutor interested in literary and women's fiction, ghost stories and all things Korean.
This entry was posted in ghost novels, Reviews, Writer Unleashed and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Read-an-Ebook Week: One Reviewer’s Experience

  1. Cynthia says:

    Hi Deb, love your posts. About your question, I think that chances are these authors aren’t interested in criticism because they didn’t even care enough to get the book edited before they put it out there. But if you think they just don’t know any better you might send an email asking if they are interested in feedback on typos…or constructive criticism about the writing. I would be interested to know their response!

    • Deb Atwood says:

      Hi Cynthia,

      Thanks for your response. It’s so hard to know if an author really didn’t know about punctuation and style or simply didn’t care. Obviously, in the first case that person might appreciate some tips; in the second case, that person might only become snarky.

  2. kyung ae says:

    Hi Deb – despite not commenting, I do love your blogs and keep up on them.

    Great question and appreciate you asking for our specific thoughts. I think asking them if they’d like your feedback is the best way to know as Cynthia advised. I am also curious to know if you would want random feedback from those who pick up your book. I saw all the comments on Amazon re: your book – very nice.

    I tried to buy your book today. I am impressed that it has tripled in price! Unfortunately, “This title is not available for customers from: Asia & Pacific.” Of course, I sent a complaint to Amazon.

    • Deb Atwood says:

      Hi Kyung Ae,

      Thanks for your comment. and thanks for reading! I think I will try to contact the authors mentioned thanks to support from you and Cynthia.

      I’m honored you tried to purchase Moonlight Dancer. I think the book is available in Japan, but not other parts of Asia. I really wanted the book to be placed in Korea (for obvious reasons), but Amazon doesn’t operate there and so far it’s not possible for me to enter the Korean market. I’m trying, though. Soon, Moonlight Dancer will be available on my website for anyone. I’m still working out technical details on that. Anyhow, I am happy to send you the book in the meantime. Just let me know if you’d like the kindle version or the nook version.


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