We Are the Gatekeepers

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One of the accusations made about Independently Published books is that the quality of indie published books is poorer than traditionally published works because there are no ‘gatekeepers’: that the book does not have to go through an agent and the rigorous editing, copyediting, proofreading and all the rest that goes into Traditionally Published books.

Now, while it is true that it doesn’t have to go through all these processes, that does not have to mean that it won’t. Just that it won’t all happen ‘in house’ with one of the large publishing firms.

But it does still need to happen.

Indie Authors, we must become our own gatekeepers.

In order to refute the allegation, we must help one another achieve the highest standards of publication that we can. How?
Well, for one thing, we must make sure our own manuscript is absolutely as good as it can be, then we must be honest with our fellow Indie Authors.

I advocate honest reviews.

It is too easy to think that by ‘banding together’ and giving one another five star, great reviews, we are supporting one another. I don’t believe we are. I welcome the odd three star review if it gives me pointers as to how I could improve my writing – especially if the reviewer happens to PM me too with more of their reasoning. I want my work to be taken seriously. If it takes a few stinging reviews to help me improve, I’m up for that.

To give five star reviews just because it is a fellow Indie Author is not actually helpful. It perpetuates the accusation and it doesn’t help the author improve in the necessary areas. Yes, it may help them make a few sales of their book, but it won’t help them sell the next one.

If a book you are reviewing needs editing, why not PM the author and explain what the problem is. Is it the spelling and punctuation? Tell them. Is it the paragraphing? The plotting? The character development? Tell them. Offer helpful advice. Add some links to expert advice on the subject. Give them a second chance, an opportunity to put the problem right before posting the review, before deciding on the star rating.

What if you are on the receiving end of such a PM or a three-star, stinging review. Don’t feel hurt or annoyed. Look at the reasons. Be honest with yourself. Is there room for improvement? Every one of us can become a better writer. Try not to be daunted by the prospect of all that editing again. Your book is worth it. Your readers deserve it.

In short: if we want to compete with Traditionally Published books in the marketplace, if we want to hold our own or make our mark in this fiercely competitive business we are in, we must be our own gatekeepers.

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33 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. islandeditions
    Aug 25, 2015 @ 22:25:43

    This is what I’ve been saying all along: we – the authors – need to be our own gatekeepers, and be professional every step of the way. We must write and produce and publish the best book that we can. Thanks for covering this important advice, Christine! A good reminder to everyone.

    Thanks too for discussing the 5-star reviewing of fellow authors. While it’s great, as far as some authors are concerned, to tally up lots of rave reviews from their colleagues, I prefer to see fewer, and more honest, reviews for my books. I have written privately to several authors about their books, suggesting how they might make their very good book even better, and I’ve always received thanks from them. But I’m careful to whom I offer my advice. Definitely I have welcomed advice from a few colleagues myself and always appreciate their second set of eyes pointing out something I or my editor may have missed. That, to me, is the better way authors can help fellow authors. I wonder anyway if many readers actually read many of those rave reviews when they’re choosing their next book.

    Liked by 3 people

    Reply

    • cicampbell2013
      Aug 25, 2015 @ 22:31:25

      Thank you for your comment.
      When I got the email that you had ‘liked’ this post, I popped over to your blog to read your post about reviews and reviewing. We seem to be of the same mind about these things, Susan. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply

  2. authorleannedyck
    Aug 25, 2015 @ 22:26:45

    I think both independent and traditionally published authors would benefit from such an honest review of their work.

    Liked by 3 people

    Reply

  3. Katy Huth Jones
    Aug 25, 2015 @ 22:52:09

    I read a lot of books, both indie and trad, but only review them if I can honestly give 4 or 5 stars. I’ve found that many people (not just authors) don’t appreciate advice unless they ask for it, so I don’t offer it unsolicited. If they ask why I didn’t review their book, I’ll tell them. Thanks for encouraging indies to hold themselves to the highest standards. It’s the only way we’ll be taken seriously by the Establishment. 😉

    Liked by 2 people

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  4. Mary Sage Nguyen
    Aug 26, 2015 @ 00:11:24

    Well as another writer once said.

    “We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.”
    Ernest Hemingway, The Wild Years

    When you write and publish a work. You leave behind a legacy. Whether it was good or bad. You will be timeless, and remembered.

    I don’t think we should be our own gatekeepers. Criticizing leads to nothing but useless dispersing of energies. To be honest, I think it will create more negativity. When what the writer community needs empathy. Lets put our energy into encouraging every author to write as much as possible. So future generations, will remember us and learn from us!

    If you disagree, leave a reply….

    Regards,
    Mary Sage Nguyen

    Liked by 3 people

    Reply

  5. Margaret Lynette Sharp
    Aug 26, 2015 @ 09:38:40

    It’s not easy to review the work of fellow Indies, and I do agree with you that it’s best to say your piece. 🙂 It’s not always an easy option, though.

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply

  6. The Story Reading Ape
    Aug 26, 2015 @ 09:59:57

    Reblogged this on Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog and commented:
    Authors – This means YOU 😀

    Liked by 3 people

    Reply

  7. drewdog2060drewdog2060
    Aug 26, 2015 @ 10:46:57

    I agree with you, its important that editing takes place and honest reviews obtained. I have read poor quality books from traditional publishers so it isn’t just indie publishing where such issues occur. Kevin

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply

  8. Tricia Drammeh
    Aug 26, 2015 @ 11:42:46

    Great post. Even an edited book can have a few errors. If they do, we should definitely go back and correct them. An author friend of mine has emailed me with a list of typos. I’ve done the same for other authors. A “real” author wants to fix problems with their manuscript and welcomes helpful critique. We can’t change what other people doing – there are always going to be authors who refuse to learn and accept advice. But we can make sure we are producing the highest quality book possible. And we can band together with our friends to make sure they are doing the same.

    Liked by 4 people

    Reply

  9. Jools
    Aug 26, 2015 @ 15:49:20

    This is a very thought-provoking post, and I agree with some, but not all of your reasoning. My approach to reviewing fellow indie books is absolutely to be honest. I’m happy to publish a 4 or 5 star review to Amazon and Goodreads as I know it will help the author with sales. However… I’m not generally prepared to publish a review of 3 stars or less. I wouldn’t pretend that a 2 or 3 star book is really a 4 or 5 star, but I would probably *not* review it at all – in public at least. I have once or twice communicated privately with an author and asked them if they would like my feedback privately. But mostly, if I read a book I would otherwise rate as 3 stars or lower, I just don’t leave a review.

    As an author myself, I know how hard it is to write a novel and first and foremost, I don’t want to discourage anyone from writing, if they enjoy it.

    But here’s where I thoroughly agree with you – that editing is absolutely vital. And it’s an aspect of the job of writing which *some* self-published authors either race through inadequately, or don’t do at all. As a result, books which could be much better than they are, end up being published, and serve the drag down the reputation of self-published books in general.

    So it’s a dilemma. I’m a prolific reader and I’ve learnt a great deal about story writing and editing, but I still ask myself, what gives me the right to critique where I can’t be positive? I know I *should* be prepared to do this, but I’m afraid I’m not. Mea culpa.

    Liked by 2 people

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    • cicampbell2013
      Aug 26, 2015 @ 16:35:03

      Thank you so much for your comment, Julia, which is also thought-provoking.
      I think we agree on most of this. Just that I am presumptuous enough to offer advice…which I possibly shouldn’t. 😏 I don’t profess to be an expert, but there are some areas where I know the ‘rules’ of writing and then I try to help a fellow indie who seems not to. I try very hard not to be negative, only constructive, and usually in private. I have sometimes published a three star review, but never lower.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply

  10. Z. R. Southcombe
    Aug 26, 2015 @ 21:18:35

    Fantastic post, Christine. Reviews are incredibly important – but only if they are honest. As authors, we should not ask for, offer or accept dishonest reviews, no matter how favourable they may be.

    As I was familiar with Goodreads before Amazon, I tend to go with their rating system. 5 is amazing, 4 is good, 3 is okay, 2 is bad and 1 is terrible. So – I don’t consider three stars a ‘stinging’ review. It’s still above halfway 🙂

    One point I disagree with you on, as another couple of commenters have noted, is giving advice to people whose books I would rate poorly. I personally wouldn’t want a reader emailing me and listing everything they think is wrong with a work I’ve published, and how they think it can be better.

    What I’d do instead is ask if they would like my feedback / critique and then go ahead from there.

    Clearly, this post resonates with so many of us. WE are the only people who can change the perception of indie publishing. I will be re-blogging this xx

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

    • cicampbell2013
      Aug 26, 2015 @ 22:07:21

      Thank you, Zee.
      I agree with your perception of the star ratings. I would not necessarily consider the three stars ‘stinging’ but sometimes the review that goes with it might be 🙂
      I try not to jump in and tell other authors everything I think is amiss in their manuscripts without checking they want to know, although I do sometimes mention one thing first and, if they seem to want to continue the conversation, I might expand on that a little. Several times now it has ended up with them asking for help with the book, which I’ve been please to give….with the understanding that I don’t set myself up as an expert on anything. I have to confess though that there have also been a few times when my help has not been welcome. Perhaps I need to rethink and be less forward in offering it. It was always well meant, and I do still think indie authors should help one another make their books as good as they can be.
      I know I am always grateful for any help offered me.
      Thank you for reblogging if you do decide to. It’s as you say, the subject resonates with so many of us, and I’m sure there is so much more to be said on it 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply

  11. cicampbell2013
    Aug 26, 2015 @ 22:20:10

    I wonder if I ought to make it clearer that I suggested perhaps we could ‘explain’ why we feel we cannot give a five star review and ‘offer helpful advice’. I really didn’t mean that we should give them a list of negative, critical comments or pick holes in their writing. I’d hate if someone did that to me and I certainly hope I haven’t done that to anyone else.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

  12. Bette A. Stevens
    Aug 27, 2015 @ 00:44:38

    Right on! Sharing on Twitter… 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply

  13. Fiona Tarr
    Aug 31, 2015 @ 09:40:09

    Great advice, but getting reviews is really tricky. With two published books I have had a total of 1 completed book review by a reviewer. Even with Chris the Story Reading Apes long list of options, it has been really difficult to find reviewers willing to help out. Suggestions most welcome 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

    • cicampbell2013
      Aug 31, 2015 @ 13:04:58

      Yes, it is difficult, isn’t it? They say it gets easier the more books you have published. We shall see. My sixth book is about to be launched.
      I’m not sure what would help, Fiona. If you find out, do let me know.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply

  14. Neferjetjet
    Jan 16, 2016 @ 05:09:35

    Reblogged this on WiP [Work in Progress] and commented:
    “Indie Authors, we must become our own gatekeepers.”

    I can’t emphasize this enough.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

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