Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Dividing Amazon into Edited Indies and Un-edited Indies

I’ve had several guest editors on my blog that have written about the importance of getting your work edited before you self publish. The general consensus is that (and I agree with this) all writers should have their work edited prior to self publishing.

But there is a conundrum when it comes to the market. Readers want books that are inexpensive and often won’t take a chance on a new author if the book is over .99. They are afraid to put money out for a book that isn’t put together well. I don’t blame them. I have seen a number of e-books by self published authors that are not only riddled with mistakes, but also look as if the author hasn’t cared to even attempt a proper e-book design.

You know, the book is missing things like chapters, an attempt at formatting, spell check. Basics that should be done no matter what you decide to charge.

So I don’t blame the readers one bit for not wanting to take a chance on an e-book. I get frustrated too.

There are authors who say that they can’t afford editors if they are only going to be putting the book up for .99. Their argument is something along the lines of what do you expect for a .99 book? Again, I can understand that. Let’s say you put $1000 worth of editing into a book (that’s not a lot by the way, that is a mid-low range of cost) and then you put your book up for .99. Under the current royalty rate at Amazon, you need to sell over 2800 books just to break even. That’s a lot of books.

But what if there was a different way to go about this? A way to, in a sense, reward authors who’ve taken the time and money to properly edit their books prior to publishing them?

Stay with me here. I know that there are flaws in what I’m about to suggest, but it’s an idea that may prove some merit if you give it a chance.

What if when you uploaded your book to Amazon (just for simplicities sake I’m going to use Amazon as my example) there was a section that said “Tag your Editor”. And then there was a list of *(1)*Editors registered with Amazon. You scroll through, find your editor and then tag them.

In my case that would be Jessica Klassen and Melissa Breau.

Then Amazon sends an email to these to lovely gals asking for confirmation that they did indeed edit my work. The click on the yes and now my book has confirmation of being edited.

What would this accomplish you ask? Two things.

1.It would show readers that the book was, at the very least, edited.

2.It would allow the author to charge a higher price for their book if they chose to.

You see, my idea is that if you aren’t an edited author, you can still publish your book, but you can’t charge more than .99 for it. Quality and cost can now intersect on Amazon.

In fact, to take this a step further, why not have Amazon break the Indie Authors into two sections? Edited and un-edited. That way the reader can decide where they want to spend their money and their time, with authors who *(2)* can’t/won’t/don’t edit or they can spend their money on authors who think enough of themselves and their work to put in a little time and effort.

If you have editors you could still choose to do a discount of .99 for your book, but again, readers would be able to see that you have CONFIRMATION of editing have been done.

Like I mentioned, there are flaws to my plan, but they could be worked out. This would give readers some idea of the quality of book they were purchasing and allow them to feel more at ease with a slightly higher price for an indie author’s book, which would in turn help the author make a living.

After what I’ve read in indie books, I can tell you that while there are a large number of authors who would never publish their book without editing, there are also a large number of authors who don’t, for a variety of reasons even make an attempt at having their work edited. The unfortunate part of this is that the people who need to get editing done are rarely the ones researching and finding out what the industry standard is, because if they were, there would be no need for this discussion.

*(1)*The editors would have to somehow prove that they were indeed legit before being able to get on the list and it could be broken down into country too. Perhaps they would have to supply Amazon with either a reg. Number from an editors association or proof of employment with a publisher or perhaps just website. I don’t know the answer to this one, it’s one of the flaws in my system that could easily be taken advantage of.

*(2)*There are a LOT of editors out there who are reasonable, I don’t think it’s a matter of can you afford to edit, but can you afford not to. Save your pennies, you can hire an editor, even if it’s for a single pass through the manuscript, it’s worth it.


Fred Brooke said...

You are so right and I love your ideas! I hope Amazon is listening. But also authors can only help themselves by listening to your arguments. Punctuation and grammar mistakes are distracting and will make people put aside an otherwise great story. What's worse, they'll never recommend it and maybe never look at that author's work again. Thank you for this post!

Lynn Hallbrooks said...

I'm loving this concept.

I'd give a shout out to my editor Pat McGrath Avery who is a fellow author as is Joyce Faulkner (who did our initial book layout).

They are both wonderful women and fellow authors that created and run River Road Press.

Ciara Ballintyne said...

Brilliant! Absolutely brilliant! I am a frustrated reader of indie books. In fact, I won't pay $0.99 for a book. Some people may look at it as that's all they'll pay for a new author. After bad experiences, I look at it as a book that has to be priced at $0.99 to sell probably isn't worth my time. Sad but true.

I would LOVE to have some way of knowing that a book had or had not been edited to give me some measure of comfort of quality.

Kelly Stone Gamble said...

I like where you are going with this, too.

Sarah said...

I really liked this idea, but I as I was reading it, I was definitely thinking about the concern you mentioned--how any "editor" would have to somehow provide proof of credentials for this system to be meaningful at all. That kind of vetting would come with a cost and would be tricky to work out. I hope they take a closer look at how to do it, though!

jenniecoughlin said...

While I like the idea of making a distinction, my concern is with how you determine who an "editor" is for this purpose.

My editor is somebody who doesn't edit for a living, but — speaking as somebody who *is* an editor in my day job — is a fantastic editor who easily could be a professional if she wanted to make that her career. For a variety of reasons, she doesn't. Under almost any standard of qualifications, she wouldn't meet the test. I've had an acquaintance who's a book editor for a publisher tell me she routinely recommends my book to people in the industry as somebody who's doing the indie approach correctly. And yet, under your proposal, I'd probably have to shelve my work in the unedited category.

I'm not saying it's a common situation, but since this is a new model, with people trying different approaches, it's very likely there are a small group of people who have an unconventional approach that still produces good work. How do you account for those in this plan?

Cary Caffrey said...

In a perfect world, it would be great. But I have to agree with jenniecoughlin. Deciding who's gets accreditation as an 'editor' is difficult and bound to become corrupted.

I think you'd either end up with a very small list of Amazon accredited editors, or a massive list of anyone who wants to call themselves an editor.

It really is too bad about all those unedited (and unreadable) books out there. Self-publishing presents a great opportunity for so many, but it also means there's going to be a lot of crap out there.

I always cringe when I see the 99 cent price point on Amazon. I've come to equate that with 'unedited book, not ready for publication.' Or, crap. Of course, there's good books at that price, but more often than not...eek.

Thank goodness for the free samples though.

Shannon said...

Sarah, Jennie and Cary-

My thoughts on "accredited" editors is this. They would have to have some sort of credentials, that doesn't mean they would have to be an editor full time. Proof of employment through the industry, a certificate through an editing course (which lets be honest can help anyone become a better editor) or proof of another form of education that would allow them to be tagged such as an English teacher.

As I mentioned, there are flaws to this idea and proving an editor is one of them.

As to the formatting and typos, that's what copy editors and proofreaders are for and maybe copy editors could become a tag too, who knows? As this is my idea and Amazon has not come knocking on my door to borrow it, we may never see these kinks worked out. :)

Thanks all for commenting, I hope more readers do as I love this back and forth of ideas!

Pete Grimm said...

you have a very good idea. Authors can already advertise in their book's description that their books are edited, and perhaps should.

cheral said...

Great idea, but I use an editor that isn't a full time editor, but one that is really good. Therefore my editor doesn't have any type of proof that she is what she says she is. That would put me also in the unedited group, even though my books are edited. Good luck with this.
Cheral, D.C. White

Shannon said...

It occured to me that the answer to the question of a qualified editor is simple. When they register as an editor through Amazon there would be a short test. If they are a great editor, it would be easy to find the errors in the paragraph and voila, you have yourself an editor.

Just a thought . . .

Jessica Klassen said...

I think this is an excellent idea, Shannon. Nothing is more off-putting to me as a reader than typos and awkward phrasing. When I come across any, I'm snapped right back to the real world and I lose interest.

When I'm searching for an e-book, I look for reviews that mention that the text is clean. It's not a fool-proof method by any means, but it helps me find decent-quality books.

I've recently launched a book review blog, StarLit, and I intend to start reviewing indie e-books. As part of my review, I rank the books on an editing scale, so potential readers know how clean the text is. I think if more book reviewers started doing this, it would help e-book purchasers like me.

Neal Hock said...

You've put forward some interesting ideas. As a freelance editor myself, I'm not sure how I feel about this. My belief is that the market will separate the wheat from the chaff (there's always usually someone who will post a negative review for a poorly edited book). It'd be interesting to see how something like this would play out.

When it comes to pricing, I think the market is going to start moving away from the $0.99 model as being the norm. If this does happen, readers will be expecting more from books, and things like proofreading, copyediting, and concept editing will become even more valuable.


Steven J Pemberton said...

What problem does this solve that can't be solved by bestseller charts, Amazon's "people who bought this also bought these" feature, and, if all else fails, the reader downloading the free sample and deleting it if they can tell within a couple of pages that it hasn't been edited?

The free sample is one of the best features of the Kindle, and Amazon don't promote it as much as they should. It's made me much more willing to try new authors, and has saved me from wasting money on those who... let me be generous and say "published before they were ready."

What you want is not books that have been edited, but books that meet some minimum standard of quality. Paying an editor to edit the book is only one way of doing that.

Have a look at my book and tell me whether you think I paid someone to edit it: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0059HBSRI

Alan Tucker said...

No work is ever "perfect" when it comes to typos, grammar, etc. I've read many traditionally published books over the years and found typos in nearly all of them in one place or another.

While I like some of your ideas, I think the system would be either too easy to circumvent, or too cumbersome to be effective to use.

The "first page test" to me is usually enough to make a decision on whether a work is worth my time to read. If people are too lazy to not read a short sample of something before they purchase, then I don't see where they have much room to complain.

Marie Loughin said...

I believe in the value of having your book edited before self-publishing. But, as Cheral said, not all good editors are in it as a business. I trade editing services with a couple of friends. None of us want to go into the editing business because it would take time from our writing, but we are all competent editors. Under the suggested plan, we'd be forced to hire editors from a list, and they may or may not be as good as ourselves. Waste of money. (Or we would have to qualify ourselves as editors at Amazon, which may or may not be a problem, depending on how it's handled.)

Recently, Amazon has begun responding to reviewer complaints about poorly edited books. This approach has its own problems, but it could work if someone at Amazon verifies the complaints before booting the book off their site.

Patricia Lynne said...

Those aren't bad ideas, but like others have pointed out, some people have skills to edit their own work or have friends who are amazing at editing. I used betas to edit and tweak my story, and then I hired an editing service to proofread because I am hopeless at figuring out where to put commas in my writing. So where would my book fit? Because, in a way, my betas are editors but I think only one had any real editor experience.

I do think you could be on to something useful, something to help sort out the good indie books from the bad.

Shannon said...

One of the problems as I see it is that the good books, that are well edited are often put into the same pile as those that aren't. A system where books are "marked" as edited would give readers a better idea than even the first few pages. As we all know, those first few pages could be done quite well, only to have the book fall apart in chapter 3.

Of course there are flaws in this sysem I've put forth, but I like the idea, as an author, of being in a sense rewarded for doing a good job, for putting the time and money into my books that some authors won't.

Why shouldn't those people who go the extra mile have a leg up on those who don't?

Shannon said...

Forgot to acknowledge that there are editors who are not accredited that will do a good job and though I don't know the answer to how all the editors would be registered, I think that as long as they are doing a good job, they should be a part of the system I've suggested.

I laid the idea out they way I did to keep it simple and to keep the post from being 3 pages long. :)

Cyndy Drew Etler said...

Dig the idea, and dig the different thoughts of those responding. (And dig Sarah's stick figure drawing of a cheerleader, too...) I'm a freelance editor--English degrees, Master's, English teacher--but not one employed by an official "Editing House." I've edited, and re-edited, and re-re-re-edited my book to the point where now, it's so sharp you could shave your friekin' legs with it. Also, my PhD BFF has done the same. It's won contests and been endorsed by Ellen Hopkins. But officially...it's not edited? Um, nah.

With all of this in mind, I liked your idea of including a link to the website of the editor. If a potential reader goes to my site, she or he can judge my credentials for her or his self, and act accordingly. That's what the whole indie movement's about, right? Readers judging for their damn selves?

Amberr Meadows said...

I don't hesitate too much to buy a $.99 book, but I have to read the sample. If the sample sucks, I'll keep my dollar.

Just Another Day in Paradise said...

Couldn't agree with you more. What a great idea. I would gladly pay more for a book I knew was edited and not just copy editing.

Who wants to put their work out there and not have it be the very best it could be. Not me. I'm currently working/struggling with and editor right now. She's always right, and it is making my story shine through in such an incredible way.

Mimi Barbour said...

I think you have a great idea Shannon. It might deflect some of the scoundrels out there who think being an author is just writing a book. I'm sure glad that they have such things as e-readers today. I have a kindle and it enables me to get a sample of a book to read before buying it...best darn thing they've come out with. I can't tell you how many times I've deleted stuff without buying because it wasn't edited.
I have a wonderful beta reader and an editor who kicks my work into shape - couldn't imagine life without her!

Dawn Chartier said...

I also think this is a great idea. I would never self-publish if my book wasn't edited by a Pro.

However, I'm not sure if readers will pay more if edited or not. Maybe? I know authors who are readers would, but not so sure about everyone else.

My ebook was professionally edited, but I still couldn't figure out the darn format. At least the editing looks good. lol

Dawn Chartier

Samantha Warren said...

I'm sure this has already been said (I haven't read all the comments), but there really is no excuse for someone to not get their book at least proofread. Nearly everyone has a friend, family member, or internet buddy who would be willing to read it and mark obvious mistakes. And there are always people willing to swap work (you do my cover, I'll edit your book, for example). Even if you don't have money, there are ways.

The idea of sorting books is interesting and a good start. As you said, there are issues, but it's one of the more helpful suggestions I've seen. Sadly, I don't think it'd make much difference. A lot of people just want their work up there. They don't want an editor to read it over and tell them what's wrong. And that won't ever change. Thank God for samples. :)

Haley Whitehall said...


I realize this is an old article, but I just stumbled on it. What a brilliant idea. Is there a way to pitch this to Amazon?