Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Just when you think you're out of the woods, here come the copse!

Did you know that reader of a kindle book can clink a little box on the margin of the book's description page on Amazon Kindle Books and generate a negative report all sorts of transgressions--profanity, obscenity, inappropriate language, racial slurs, false advertising and SPELLING ERRORS!  And because KindleDirectPublishing is particularly sensitive to allegations that Indie Books and books from small houses are inferior, they will investigate the claim and YOU GUESSED IT, threaten to take you off the  market unless you fix it.  Now, how many of the millions of readers out there have ever found typos, grammatical errors and weird formatting in books produced by Saint Martins or Random House or Simon and Schuster?  You betcha, James Patterson makes mistakes.  My acquaintance,  successful and meticulous best-selling writer Robin Maxwell reports that there are numerous errors in her latest books,and that no one in the production end is the least bit interested in having them corrected.

By way of perspective, I have three books on the market.  The first one, my debut novel is The First Marie and the Queen of Scots, and it sells respectfully in the Kindle version.  The second book, The Last Knight and the Queen of Scots, also with an average 4.3 star rating, has never really caught on, and the third, The Midwife's Secret: The Mystery of the Hidden Princess, only came out for a week in late November under another title, and was being revised in early February due to formatting errors.   And guess which book was reported to the KindleKops--The First Marie--my star performer.  The result is that I was told by a staffer at KDP to fix the errors.  Sounds easy if you have a source document, but mine went the way of all lap top crashes, and Createspace no longer had one in a writable format. Eventually my hysterical emails reached a live human and Createspace who came up with a plan.  It required CS to generate a source document that did not have all of the extra features of the first version,  but it did allow me to generate a new edition of the book. And because I was doing my best to correct a bad situation, KDP put First Marie back on the market in the interim.  Naturally all of this rigmarole required some mailing of a proof, and I did pay for CS to do the kindle conversion  because it is worth the money, but the Design Team generated the source document free of costs. February sales offset any out of pocket losses I incurred.  In another ten days I should have a second edition on the market in all formats including the ebook versions, which are the ones that sell.
I and the writers with whom I network have been worrying  over the dreaded one sar review, thinking that was the worst thing we would ever face. But had the  person who wrote the dreaded one star review written a report to kdp instead, the reader could have forced a whole or partial rewrite based on spelling or formatting errors that other readers were willing to overlook.  In  my case,  it forced a book with a 4.357 rating and growing ebook sales off the market for three  days and required me to line edit and correct a 786 page epic.  Do not misunderstand me--it was something I had contemplated doing and I am glad I did it.  The mistakes reported were there, and there we plenty of others that I dealt with in the line edit. The new First Marie is a better book than the old one.  
But beware, Indie writers.  It is not a level playing field.  Nobody ever forced a Tom Clancy book off the market for misspelling au contraire or having extra spaces between occasional proper nouns and their apostrophes.   And that is Linda  's word to the wise for February 2013.

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