Sunday, March 22, 2009


So if you think once you get an agent and a contract it's all fun and games, you are wrong. So wrong.

(1) Today I got yet another review pointing out the various historical mistakes that (a) were supposed to be cleared up by copy-editing, but the corrections we agreed on were never implemented into the final manuscript file by the editor, and/or (b) were historical inaccuracies that were not part of the book and were slapped onto the back cover and all the promotional material by an overworked assistant who hadn't read the book. Every single review has hit on at least one of these mistakes, neither of which were my fault. Of course I don't respond to reviews, because as an author you don't do that, but I have addressed the issue on my website and in interviews, which of course means nothing to the person who is a discerning historian and just picked the book up in a store. Eighth month after publication and I still want to hit myself in the face whenever I see a review mentioning them and therefore downgrading my book.

(2) The cover for another book of mine went unapproved to Amazon for the pre-order. Now technically I have no control over the cover, but it is a confusing cover that makes no sense and is downright misleading, and I will have to stamp my feet and be really annoying to the already overworked production department to get them to change it, and even once they do Amazon will not bring the changes up until months after it's published. If I can get it changed at all.

(3) has a funny additude of putting a book into pre-order again instead of admitting that they are out of stock, claiming the book hasn't been published yet and will not be published until whatever the next shipment date is, even if they've been selling it for six months. This wouldn't be so annoying if it didn't automatically delete pre-existing reviews (most of my reviews are positive so I don't want them deleted, or the negative ones either so people know what they're getting), because the website thinks this is a whole new book. I wrote about this, to which their response is, "Send us proof of the original publication date," as if they can't check their records to show they've been shipping the same book for 6 months, they're just out of copies. So I send them a screenshot of the page with the ISBN and publication date, and they don't do anything about it anyway.

(4) Amazon does not believe I'm the author when I say, "Hi, I'm the author and you're incorrect about the description of the book; you should fix this." Even if my publishing company insists that I am, in fact, the author.

This isn't really anybody's fault in terms of being mean or evil, but more a combination of people who are overworked, people asked to do a job they aren't given proper information about, or companies with better things to do with their time. The manuscript passes through a bunch of hands before it makes it to yours, and any one of those could make a change and either not tell me or tell me well after it's possible to fix it. So next time you're reviewing a book, consider that a seemingly minor mistake it might not be the author's fault.

If Philip Dick was alive I would feel really bad for him, as the current edition of his books has summaries on the back that either give away the ending or are just plain wrong about anything that occurs in the book. And Philip Dick books often have twists at the end, so this is a really big problem for the reader.


Anonymous said...

Wow. I guess that's the risk you take when you decide to write a nonfiction or historic fiction though.

This is why I prefer to write works of fiction. Though plot holes are still a problem.

Gina Black said...

Ouch. Ouch. Ouch. Ouch, ouch.

1979 semi-finalist said...

Man this is depressing.

Good luck Rejecter.

Rick Daley said...

Boy, I hope you drink, or have some other crutch to fall back on at times like this ;-)

Semi-kidding, of course...

Anonymous said...

I've given up on Amazon making changes that we've asked for since 6 months prior to pub date. I know my publisher has requested the changes many times and frankly, I don't even see a place where the author can do so on her own. My main beef has been that you're allowed to be listed in 3 categories, but they only have me in 2, and a pretty lame 2, at that. I'm not even asking that they change those 2, just add the 1 that I really belong in - "biography & memoir, travel." Now, what's really weird is, they have me on their "top book club picks" page in the - you guessed it - "biography & memoir" category.

Anonymous said...

I read a PKD book called "Confessions of a Crap Artist that the bookstore filed under science fiction.

This makes a modicum of sense since so much of his work falls in this genre. This particular book, however, hasn't a single science fiction element in it. It's a modern day, virtually technology free, story about a hugely dysfunctional family, told through the eyes of the eccentric and probably brain damaged brother.

Anonymous said...

But Jacob -- it's not exclusively a "historical fiction" problem. Copyeditors final edits not making it into your ms can happen to anyone. And the book will be less because of it.

I'm with you on the Amazon thing. I write YA and there are a ton of weirdly categorized books on there. One book containing suicide themes, sex and violence, clearly for the 14+ crowd is listed as a book for 9-12 year-olds.

Other books that are middle grade books are listed as for ages 14 and up. It destroys your ability to reach you intended demographic and reduces your sales. Also, people are irate with you, when they, as a seventeen year-old buy your book that was meant for a 10 year-old. They can't get their money back, and meanwhile, the kid you wrote your book for, is forbidden to buy it, when their mother is swayed by the screwed up intended age bracket.

Anonymous said...

(I was the last Anon, too, sorry...)

I wonder if you can expand on your reasons for not responding to reviews? Are you talking about "real" reviews, by Kirkus, Booklist, etc... or do you also mean reviews online by book blogging sites?

I often see an author chime in on the comments section of book bloggers -- not to argue, but to say, "Hey, thanks for that great review," and then they defend their cover or tell everyone thanks for liking their book and whatnot. To me it seems bad form to comment because it often changes the conversation -- after that no one feels free to have an honest discussion about the minor character they didn't like or the ending they felt couldn've used tweaking for fear the author is still "listening."

I think authors shouldn't comment, good or bad, yet I see that they do ALL the time. Thoughts?

Anonymous said...

Many autbors do respond to reviews. I think it's an old stereotype that authors respond to reviews. Especially today, when you want your name out there as much as possible, responding is a way to do that.

As far as your reviews pointing out histoprical inaccuracies, at least you're getting reviewed--be thankfoul for that! Bad reviews are better than no reviews.

none said...

I feel your pain, Rejecter. Ow.

Somewhere, I have a copy of a Heinlein book that quotes the first line on the back cover...and gets it wrong. It's not a new problem.

All PKD's books are listed under SF, however mainstream. Poor chap. He tried hard most of his life to get recognised as a mainstream author, and even after death he can't make it.

I'd love it if he were alive, tho! Cos then he'd have written 'The Owl in Daylight' and I could read it....

(word ver: thinksp)

The Rejecter said...

To clarify: I do respond either privately or in a blog comment post with a "thank you" to people who review the book, and answer some questions if they seem to have any, but what I mean to say is, I don't respond to reviews on Amazon or random reviewers on other book websites and argue with the points in their review that I didn't like.

THAT'S the thing not to do. And yet so, so tempting.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I would agree not to respond to reader reviews or every little independent review in public. For the big industry reviewers, I think a response, as you say, thanking them for the review, whether good or bad, without discussing specifics, is in order.

Anonymous said...

(4) Amazon does not believe I'm the author when I say, "Hi, I'm the author and you're incorrect about the description of the book; you should fix this." Even if my publishing company insists that I am, in fact, the author.

I don't know what company you're publishing with, but where I work, we have a dedicated group who handles Amazon corrections--when an author notices an error on their Amazon page, they send it to me and I pass it on to our online corrections department who handle. Because Amazon actually listens to them because they come from the publisher.