Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view

When I bought your book, I didn’t sign up to be...



[NOTE: I originally posted this at my personal blog, VacuousMinx. Jane thought it was a topic that Dear Author’s readers might find interesting, so she suggested we repost it here.]


Robin has a thought-provoking post up at Dear Author on reader expectations, book quality, and the dearth of multicultural romances. Only she could make those topics hang together and work in one post, and not surprisingly, there are a ton of comments. In it Robin quotes a section from my recent post on the published first draft. That post has gotten a lot of hits and comments and retweets, which surprised me a little. Clearly it struck a chord.

I recently ran across a published-first-draft problem that I hadn’t encountered before. I hope I never encounter it again, but somehow, I have a feeling that this is just the beginning. I bought a book by a new-to-me author which was recommended by a friend. The sample was fun and the book was only $2.99, so I purchased, downloaded, and read on. The story hook is unusual, the historical research is miles better than many traditionally published books, and I really like the voice. There are a number of small errors in it, which is pretty common in self-pubbed books and increasingly common in epubbed and trad pubbed books as well, and the first half of the book is much better than the second, for a variety of reasons. But I mostly ignored these niggles because I was enjoying the read.

I was curious about the author, so I went to check out the Goodreads reviews of the book, and I ran across this comment in a review by a reader who was recommending it to her GR friends:

This first-time author has taken the trouble to respond to several of the [Amazon] reviews, thanking the reviewers (gasp!), and agreeing with some of their criticisms (gasp! gasp!) … Miranda Davis has written a very good book here. I commend her for wanting to make it even better, and it’s in that spirit that I offer this review.

I wondered what she meant by “wanting to make it better.” The book is done and for sale, after all; I bought it. The next book could be better, but how would this one change? I went over the check the Amazon comments, which I hadn’t seen because I’d bought it from Barnes & Noble.

The author commented on several of the reviews. She was polite and receptive to the criticism, thanking the reviewers and taking the comments seriously. As the GR reviewer said, a refreshing approach. But a few sentences in her responses to several different reviews really jumped out at me:

I wish I had earned a fifth star but I understand what you’re saying. In fact, I’m revising it to realize what I intended more fully. It’s almost ready to go live in place of current version which I agree slowed a bit.

More errors, more my bad, now fixed. Storyline decisions some of which I address in revised, some not — by choice.

you should be able to get it by removing the old from your device and retrieving it from your archive (New will have 34 chapters).

The benefit of being self-published is that I can review and revise as I see fit … If you would care to be a reader of the next before I publish it, let me know via the email in the `about author’ section. I would appreciate your unvarnished opinion when I get it done. I’m a struggling writer working in a vacuum. If you’d like to help, let me know. I may not agree with you on every point but I know I will be a better writer for it.

At that last comment (which was made in response to one of the earliest reviews of the book), my jaw dropped.

Let’s leave aside, for the moment, the whole issue of authors responding to reviews at Amazon, Goodreads, etc. I don’t like it (I don’t even like it when authors “like” reviews on GR), but I know other readers feel differently.

I also realize that many times it is a great advantage for authors and publishers to be able to substitute new versions for ebooks. When Neal Stephenson’s most recent book was released, it was embarrassingly rife with errors in the Kindle edition. The publishers were  quick to swap out the original and put in a corrected version. It’s much easier and cheaper than having to pull physical copies and do a second run, as HBO is discovering with Game of Thrones right now.

BUT. But. Not every reader is interested in keeping track of the changes an author decides to make to an already published book. The author made choices and then published the book based on those choices. An author decides to put out a version with better proofreading? Fine. But putting out a version with storyline changes? New material? WTF?

Some readers, clearly, like the idea of an “interactive author,” as the GR reviewer quoted above put it. And sometimes I do too. But not when it involves keeping track of the many hundreds of ebooks I’ve purchased, on the off chance that an author has decided to “review and revise” as she sees “fit.” I bought your book. I read your book. If you change it to make it better (in your eyes), I have to read it again to get those benefits. And at the end of that reread, I may not agree with you, which will not result in a happy reader.

All we need is for authors to decide that “selling” is just the first stage in an ongoing author-reader relationship, and WIPs will turn up masquerading as finished products. That way lies madness. In some ways it’s worse than the published first draft syndrome, because readers now have to be on the lookout for new! improved! versions of books, rather than treating the book as a finished product the author thought was in the proper condition to sell.

There is a great and funny and true line that gets repeated a lot online, about reviewer expectations for authors and the sense of entitlement some readers have:

George RR Martin is not your bitch.

Well, here’s a line about reader expectations for authors:

I’m your customer, not your beta reader.

I bolded that, just to make it easier to read. And clearer. And louder.

Oh, and one last thing. Authors, do not troll for beta readers in your Amazon reviews. It is not the place. Find a critique group. Join RWA. Frankly, I don’t give a flying fig how you find them. Just don’t do it in places whose purpose is to help me learn about books. I read BOOKS, not AUTHORS.

Sunita has been reading romances almost as long as she has been reading. Her favorite genres these days are contemporary, category, and novels with romantic elements. She also reads SFF, mysteries, historical fiction, literary fiction, and the backs of cereal boxes. As of January 2015, all the books she reviews at Dear Author are from: (1) her massive TBR, (2) borrowed from the library, (3) received as gifts from friends/family, or (4) purchased with her own funds.


  1. HellyBelly
    Jun 26, 2012 @ 05:24:46

    Hear, hear. I completely agree. Brings to mind my confusion, at times, when I go to the iTunes store to download a good song I have heard and there are a gazillion re-mixes. Now, which was the version I heard on the radio…
    Also, once you put your book out there, not only should you as an author not keep revising and fixing the finished product, you do not get to explain the content and your thought behind it to “stupid readers” who did not get it.

  2. Adrienne
    Jun 26, 2012 @ 05:34:18

    I review books on Goodreads and my youtube channel. I bought and read a debut self-published novel off of Amazon ($2.99) and gave the book an honest review on both sites. Surprisingly, the author saw both versions of the review and decided to give me some feedback. I don’t mind authors reading and reacting to reviews but I don’t like it when they use it as an apology letter. This author tried to tell me I had purchased an earlier draft and that he was in the process of getting a new editor. Then he went on to tell me how I could obtain the more recent version and then plugged the sequel. No buddy, you put the book out there before it was ready to be read. I’m not going to waste more time on an average book or give you more time and publicity on the sequel. I guess this is just one of the bad things about ebooks.

  3. Meri
    Jun 26, 2012 @ 05:47:19

    I can understand some mistakes making it into the published version, and in that case, I have no problem with an author politely thanking whoever points it out and uploading a new version ASAP. It can happen to traditionally published authors, too (IIRC, Eloisa James’s first book had quite a few errors in it, which were corrected in the MMB release). But I’m disappointed that an author would treat the review process as an opportunity to rewrite the story.

    This is not a peer review process, you are not doing a revise and resubmit for your readers. These things should be taken care of before, not after, the book has been published.

  4. Meri
    Jun 26, 2012 @ 05:51:20

    I meant that an author would use reader reviews to rewrite the story – it *shouldn’t* be a process at that stage.

  5. Lynne Connolly
    Jun 26, 2012 @ 06:23:34

    Sometimes it’s a matter of updating. For instance, I had a book published ages ago, and when I got the rights back, decided to put it up on Kindle. Since it had already had a professional edit, I didn’t want to fiddle with it too much, but I did re-read it. I was very surprised by the number of exclamation marks in! this! book! But looking back to when it came out, that was what many authors did then. It was normal. So I did a quick run-through to take them out where I could.

    Also, I’ve been involved in a big project with Loose-Id, revising the Department 57 books for republication, as well as writing new stories for the series. There was some story tweaking needed, as they came out in a different order to the originals, but I was really surprised to discover how much my writing voice had changed. These days I use far fewer passives, for instance. So should I substantially rewrite, or do a full revision? I decided to rewrite. But I did have the help of several editors to help me. However, the books are new editions, and it clearly states that in the blurb and at the front of the book.

    BTW, new editions of books were frequently revised, but not substantially. For instance, my edition of “Lord of the Rings” is the first edition published in the US, the eighth in the UK, and it does contain a few light revisions.

  6. Lisa J
    Jun 26, 2012 @ 06:27:05

    If there were enough mistakes or pieces of the story I was not happy with, I’m not likely to go back and read the “corrected copy”.

    I totally agree, I’m not your beta reader.

  7. Fangs for the Fantasy
    Jun 26, 2012 @ 06:33:37

    Definitely a trend I am wary of. As reviewers, we’ve already had authors approach us asking us to “review” a book that hasn’t been published yet so they could check for errors – yes they’d confused reviewing with beta reading

    The number of books I’ve read, especially books in series, would make it completely impossible to keep with book version 7868 with more rewrites and updates – the idea gives me a headache and I’d certainly not go back and edit a previous review because a book has been changed – I see that as another bad, creeping idea.

    I think, ultimately, it shows that oh-so-common mistake authors make – while a review may be helpful for you, a review is not for the author, it’s for the reader.

  8. Patricia Rice
    Jun 26, 2012 @ 06:45:10

    This is a wide open topic on an issue that you’ll see more frequently in this Brave New World of ebooks–the breakdown of barriers between authors and readers. I’ve been around too long to be interested in changing my words for any reason but an experienced editor or my own satisfaction, but authors are being encouraged to “interact” with readers as a form of promotion. Apparently the most successful authors have found means of reaching out to readers through the internet’s social media. It was only a matter of time before Amazon reviews and Goodreads, et al, became just another source of promotion. I can scarcely blame a new author for using every means at hand. Publishing is a scary place these days.

  9. Angela
    Jun 26, 2012 @ 06:48:34

    I like everything about this post Sunita! I feel the same way. I once read and reviewed a self-pubbed ebook on Amazon that was rife with grammar and basic sentence structure errors. It was so bad that every other sentence could not be coherently understood. The author replied to my review and said that she’d uploaded a “draft” by mistake and if I wanted to download a new copy she’d corrected that. That’s great, I’m glad it’s corrected, but I’m not going to read it. Double and triple check what you’re publishing.

    @Lynne Connolly: I’m not arguing against minor changes, corrections, grammar and spelling, or the like. Even something that corrects a fact or reworks a line – in short I shouldn’t really be able to notice it if I read both editions unless I’m comparing them side by side. Tolkien submitted corrections to nearly every edition published during his lifetime, and it’s something his son keeps up (as with each correction new errors are introduced). I’m fine with that. What I’m not fine with is an author expecting me to point out plot problems so they can fix them on a product that I paid for.

  10. Mimi
    Jun 26, 2012 @ 06:48:43

    Perhaps some authors aren’t taking self-published e-books seriously, and, in my opinion, it’s high time that they did.

  11. DS
    Jun 26, 2012 @ 06:54:42

    Some reviewers act like beta readers though. I’ve repeatedly seen individuals who have reviewed books state that they sent the author a list of corrections that needed to be made. .

    I wonder if Amazon would consider creating a sandbox environment for that sort of thing. It might reduce the number of first drafts that are put up on the sale pages. (I’m honestly not too hopeful about that. )

  12. joanne
    Jun 26, 2012 @ 06:56:32

    I am one of those readers that doesn’t want to ‘interact’ with my favorite authors. I’ll certainly go to their site for updates but I don’t want to take them to lunch or have them write all over my copy of their newest book or to comment on my comments about their work.

    I also don’t want to speak to the president of Verizon or Sony. I buy the product and it either works for me or it doesn’t. I’m not going back to buy a second version if the first one didn’t work for me.

    So yes Sunita, you’re right, I’m not a beta reader and I’m not going to search reviews to see if the author’s doing some sort of mea culpa.

    If the book is revised because it’s dated or too politically incorrect for today’s readers then that’s a different situation altogether but I’ve never bought a revised copy of a beloved book unless it’s the only way to get it on my ereader.

    @Lynne Connolly: Someone once told me that I would put exclamation points in a bereavement notice and since then I’ve tried very hard to edit myself but it still makes me laugh at myself when I see that sometimes I haven’t succeeded!!!!!

  13. Katherine Grey
    Jun 26, 2012 @ 07:08:25

    A published book should be a finished product. Not a work in progress.

    It is one thing to fix minor mistakes, like grammar, with new editions. Or to years later release an anniversary edition with light revision. Or to take a previously puplished book, update it and market it as a new edition. But to publish a book then fix the plot and major structural issues based on review feedback? And then expect the paid customer to then reread and let you know what he or she thinks? Come on.

    Get a critique partner. Have a brutally honest friend beta read. Hire an editor if you want to self pup. Some are really inexpensive. Flooding the market with inferior books because your too impatient to do the work helps no one. Especially the writer.

    Does any writer really want their professional reputation to be, “That guy who expects people to pay for the privilege of fixing his rough draft”?
    I don’t think so.

  14. Author on Vacation
    Jun 26, 2012 @ 07:17:06

    I have frequently purchased and read ebooks where I was less than satisfied the quality met the standard of a final draft of a professional manuscript. However, I also comprehend this is what you get when authors are producing novellas every other month and/or 2-3 novels a year. The publishing industry also appears to be investing fewer resources (time and talent) into editing and polishing books to a highly professional standard.

    While I empathize with why a reader/customer would feel irked with an author editing and rewriting a published work, I’m a tad more respectful of an author willing to accept criticism and make a reasonable effort to improve quality than I am of an author who releases substandard work and continues to sell them. (On the other hand, as trends have shown, many readers will cheerfully pay for substandard work and hawk it as high qualty entertainment.)

    I think an artist’s creativity would be best served by using the criticism (and the praise) to help shape his subsequent works rather than attempting to fix a previous or current work.

  15. Lynne Connolly
    Jun 26, 2012 @ 07:18:32

    @Angela: I agree with that. The reader is the customer, and is entitled to expect a decent “product” for her money. However, it’s a two way thing, always has been.
    Actual errors? No. No book is perfect, though. There are any number of published books by traditional publishers that have gaping plot holes. Should they be allowed to correct that? I’d say yes, but in a new edition, so it makes clear to the reader that this is a rework. Not just reupping the old file with correction incorporated.

  16. Katherine Grey
    Jun 26, 2012 @ 07:21:22

    @DS: And if a reviewer said to jump off a bridge…

    Those should be suggestions. Not notes that have to be applied. And in any case, if the book is already published and it isn’t something like, “You used the wrong version of they’re/their/there in chapter two paragraph three sentence four,” then it should probably be interpretted as, “This is what you did wrong in this book. Keep in mind when you are writing the next one so you can improve instead of repeating your mistakes.”

    Honestly, I do blame Amazon for a lot of the inferior work out there. There are reasons why there are gate keepers to the publishing world. Some self pup rocks but others…

    Reviews really need to stay a Buyer Beware tool rather than a tool to help the author’s writing or readers suffer. In this publishing world with too many weeds in the garden, readers need help distiguishing roses from dandylions. I for one don’t want to waste my money on crabgrass based on the premise that it might one day be transformed into a tulip if I decided to go out of my way to download the latest revision. Just sayin’.

  17. Katherine Grey
    Jun 26, 2012 @ 07:23:26

    @Lynne Connolly: I agree. Done as a new edition. Not reupping the old file.

  18. Renda
    Jun 26, 2012 @ 07:24:53

    I wouldn’t mind so much the revisions if we weren’t forced to have the newer e-edition only. If you think you have made a better version, you want to do a mea culpa, you decide the heroine’s name doesn’t portray her soul, whatever, and you want a do over, fine.

    But don’t think you can take my (maybe beloved) version of your published work and erase it from existence.

    And no, I am not your beta reader. You wouldn’t want me to be your beta reader. I would want to be paid for my time and consideration.

  19. Mireya
    Jun 26, 2012 @ 07:27:44

    I apologize to authors who self-pub that actually are careful to put out a perfected product… but the more I read about self-publishing and how some people are handling it (and the numbers of those people whose practices are dubious at best keep increasing), the LESS inclined I am to spend a dime on self-published books by authors I don’t know. The above case brought two thoughts to my head: the author is using her customers as proofers (which is WRONG, as they PAID for the ebook. I call that bait and switch) and that the author probably will be submitting that book to a trad publisher (be it digital first or paper first) when she feels it’s “perfected” enough, which again brings us to the use of paying customers as beta readers. Unless the author proceeds to send the “final” copy of her ebook to those that purchased it with errors, not in the hopes that the reader will read it but rather as a simple replacement like manufacturers do with defective products, the author is using paying customers to do work that SHE should be doing herself or paying a professional to do for her. If she has no money, then she should try a critique group, which is a rather OLD and WIDELY KNOWN concept. This sort of thing pisses me off, in all honesty.

    If an author wants to do the “cooperative” thing with her readership, fine, but he/she should be upfront about that, and call the book “an innovative cooperative between author and reader, come have the fun” and then she will have to be sending “perfected” copies every time a change is incorporated, which it most definitely would be impossible to do UNLESS, she establishes a database webpage where people register (after paying) and work together in the “perfecting” of the book.

    I am sorry, but I am not going to spend anything more than .99 cents on self-published work, unless it is a tested and true author that is including self-publication in his/her bag of tricks. As a reader, wading through the chaotic self-publishing world in search of a “gem” used to be a daunting experience, now, with all this “creative” ways of using paying customers, it is turning into an outright nightmare. This is not the first case of someone doing that that I’ve read about in a blog.

    Mind you, as a reviewer, I got mistake-plagued ebooks for review from epubs and print pubs. One specific case, the first one I ever encountered, involved Shelly Laurenston’s “Pack Challenge” when it was first published at Triskelion. The managing editor promptly proceeded to send replacement copies to all reviewers that had received the book, after she had me and a couple other reviewers pointing out that the book was good, but had quite a number of mistakes, she also issued an apology. That was handled professionally, and of course, they didn’t expect the reviewers to point out the mistakes, they went and proofed the whole thing themselves. All this being said, now I wonder how many of the ebooks I’ve accumulated through the years (I can tell you the collection is over 3000 titles now) have been “altered” without my knowledge. That never used to be a concern.


  20. Sheryl Nantus
    Jun 26, 2012 @ 07:48:30

    The biggest problem here, as I see it, is the ease with which corrections and rewrites can be done. It “only” takes another upload to Amazon and/or Smashwords to correct the problem and whoops, there’s another edition.

    If these authors had to physically paw through paper galleys and pay for each and every edition I think they’d be less keen on passing off unfinished work to the public. But since Amazon doesn’t charge anything in the first place it’s a snap to just upload their newest version of their half-baked work and pass emails off to their readers.

    Look, I *get* that this is a whole new world where authors can interact with their readers a whole lot easier than in the past. But that doesn’t negate my responsibility as an author to give the reader the best work THE FIRST TIME OUT, not have my book be a constant work-in-progress with ten editions every year.

    And as a reader I usually only read a book ONCE. I’m not going to go back over and over for “improved” versions when I can move onto new material. Unless it’s a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure book or a new “In Death” from La Nora I only read a book once. The idea that I’m somehow going to be a serial reader of the same material over and over and over again strains credibility. Not to mention common sense.

    But that’s just my take.

  21. Sarah Morgan
    Jun 26, 2012 @ 07:52:35

    Perhaps she should consider using a professional editor.

  22. Jennifer Leeland
    Jun 26, 2012 @ 07:54:04

    Well, I’m not sure what I think about this. As a reader, I don’t like to buy “previously published” works that have been revamped. I never really understood why I don’t like it, but I don’t. I think that’s why I’ve never pulled my older books (which I could probably redo MUCH cleaner/better/stronger) from my publishers and revised them. Several authors have said I should pull them. And I go back and forth. They’re there. They have my name on them. Should I take them back because they don’t represent the writer I am now?
    I know we’re talking about self-published titles, but I wonder how big NY authors feel when their publisher “re-releases” some of their older work, work they did when they were a newer writer with an entirely different audience.
    But it’s a tricky question. If I DID pull those old books and wanted to publish them again, I would revise them.
    As you said, though, when someone buys my book, they’re not my proof reader/beta reader. They’re a reader.
    I’m a firm believer in crit partners and editors. It’s probably why I don’t self-publish. I don’t have confidence in my own editing abilities. The authors I do know and respect who self-publish are their own harshest critics and would never put up a book unless they KNEW they’d be proud of it. And they have people vet their work. People who aren’t readers or paying for their book.

  23. DM
    Jun 26, 2012 @ 08:27:43


    I don’t want to read subpar work either, but this:

    “I’m a struggling writer working in a vacuum. If you’d like to help, let me know.”

    struck me as one of the biggest problems aspiring genre writers face. We’re mostly self-taught. MFA programs in creating writing won’t accept us if we’re honest about our preferences–and even if they did admit us, they’ve been so resolutely anti-plot for so long that we wouldn’t graduate with an understanding of story. Yes, there are self-taught geniuses out there (Nora!) but most of us could use a little help once a in a while.

    Readers, though, are not this help.

  24. Author On Vacation
    Jun 26, 2012 @ 08:42:42

    @Lynne Connolly:

    I have mixed feelings about new editions of books as well. For years I was addicted to Feehan’s Carpathian series. When I started reading ebooks, I wanted ecopies of some of my earlier favorites. I discovered that the premiere book, “Dark Prince” had been re-vamped to better match some of the later books in the series which feature (IMHO) excessive world-building, a lot of invented dialect/language, etc..

    I’m very disappointed that an original copy isn’t available to me, especially since I loaned out my paperback to a friend who promptly lost it. I’m sure lots of readers love Feehan’s redo, but I don’t.

    I also recently bought ecopies of some Nancy Kilpatrick paranormal novels originally published in the late 1980’s or early 90’s. Was thrilled to have ebook versions, but when I read the first one, I discovered it had been edited and rewritten to appear more contemporary (examples: technologies and pop culture references were updated to appear more current.)

    I’m thrilled that epublishing is giving old books a chance to live again, but it’s irksome to scoop up an old favorite and discover it’s really not my old favorite.

  25. Ros
    Jun 26, 2012 @ 08:45:58

    @DM: Seriously? If you’re an aspiring genre writer with access to the internet it is NOT HARD to find crit groups, writing forums, beta readers, and even people who you can pay to edit your work if you really can’t connect with anyone else. There are problems facing aspiring writers, but I really don’t believe that finding constructive criticism for your work is one of them.

  26. Jennifer Estep
    Jun 26, 2012 @ 08:46:23

    Interesting post. I write books so I can share the stories that I want to tell. Getting feedback is important, but as others have said, that’s what critique groups are for. If you are constantly revising this or that based on reviews, then the book isn’t really the story *you* wanted to tell anymore — is it?

    Every time I read through one of my books, I always see things that I want to tweak, typos, sentences that could be rewritten to be stronger. But at some point, you just have to stop, realize the book is the best you can make it, and let it go. It won’t be perfect (no book will ever be perfect), but you’ll know that you’ve done the best job you possibly could with it.

  27. Katherine Grey
    Jun 26, 2012 @ 08:48:32

    @DM: I think their are a lot of resources out their for genre writers as long as with know where to look. Nearly every genre has an association. For romance there is RWA. Horror has Horror Writer’s Association and Sci-fi and fantasy has their own as well.

    Trade publications exist, too, with many helpful articles like RT Book Reviews.

    Also their are freelance editors who will help struggling authors with their content as well as their line edits. Online book critique groups like critique circle, authonomy, bookcountry ect.

    Doing it this way is lazy and unfair to the consumer.

  28. Sunita
    Jun 26, 2012 @ 08:51:28

    I think there are a few different issues going on here.

    (1) Most readers don’t want to feel as if they’re getting an unfinished piece of work unless they explicitly sign up to be part of the process. Revising more than proofreading errors on a product that was sold as finished breaks an implicit compact between reader and author.

    (2) New versions of older books. I totally get why authors want to do this. And some readers like it. At least as many don’t. It makes it more difficult to have a conversation about a book if we’re not talking about the same book. Commenters at my VM blog brought up the Whitney, My Love example, where one of the most talked about parts of the book isn’t in the revised version.

    (3) The mechanics of keeping up with revised versions in an ebook landscape. With printed revisions the fact that it’s a new edition is pretty obvious; it says so on the printed copy and you either buy a new copy or you buy your first copy knowing it’s a revised version. That doesn’t change the Whitney, My Love problem but at least you know what’s going on. With e-versions, how do you even know if there’s a new version, and what control does the reader have over whether she has to take it or not? If you bork a downloaded book and have to redownload, you can’t choose to download the original.

  29. CassieK
    Jun 26, 2012 @ 09:03:23

    @Sheryl Nantus

    This. Exactly. That’s the thing that is fundamentally a problem with self-publishing. Instead of writers finding a critique group or someone to help with their writing, they now use Amazon and readers to do this. I have a friend who is CONSTANTLY revising her book – a book she is currently selling on Amazon. It’s so easy. And each time I hope my Kindle library, I see new covers. Sure, some an improvement but it makes me wonder if that’s all they changed. It’s too easy for green authors to post and run. Get that income and make changes then push it out as new and improved and like someone said above, maybe even leverage a NY deal.

    It’s lazy, pure and simple. And it’s not going to stop until consumers fight back.

    HUGE props to those who have worked hard to put out an excellent self-published book that has a good story and shows the care he/she took in the finished product. To me, those are the ones worth lauding not someone who recognized she needed to learn. Not on my dime, baby!!!

  30. Katherine Grey
    Jun 26, 2012 @ 09:07:16

    Like if I had taken the time to proof read my last post, I could of changed the “their”s to “there”s….


  31. Tellulah Darling
    Jun 26, 2012 @ 09:14:11

    I think it is exciting that we have a landscape in which authors can find an audience directly through self-publishing. That said, I absolutely believe the author MUST be putting their best product out there. Readers give authors a gift of their time and money. Authors must give the gift of their best work possible. Not a beta version or a work in progress to be revised in subsequent published drafts. That behaviour understandably, and sadly, fuels many people’s aversion to ever going near a self-published author’s work.

  32. K. Z. Snow
    Jun 26, 2012 @ 09:26:25

    How very odd . . .

    I’ve never heard of this happening. Then again, I don’t treat reviews as forums for reader-author interaction, much less as brainstorming sessions. Aside from this type of exchange seeming presumptuous on the reader’s part and amateurish on the author’s, it’s ultimately an exercise in futility. Any work of fiction can, theoretically, be revised ad infinitum to suit different people’s tastes, different notions of solid crafting. And that in turn means any story can devolve into a never-ending work in progress.

    The creative process has to end somewhere; the author and his/her editor (if there was one) has to own it at some point. And that should be when the book is published.

  33. Isobel Carr
    Jun 26, 2012 @ 10:12:24

    As I said in the comments on Vacuous Minx: I do NOT want to see authors taking Walt Whitman and Leaves of Grass as the ideal model. It’s one thing to correct a typo, or even fix an incorrect form of address, it’s something else to alter the STORY. And it’s utterly ridiculous to have any expectation that readers or reviewers are going to go back and re-read your updated version. And if you’re reissuing an updated version of an older work, then it needs to be clearly labeled as such (e.g. The Rake and the Reformer vs. The Rake). We all know what devilment updates have played with reader discussions of Whitney, My Love (Rape? What rape?).

    Personally, I’m still being scarred by the fact that what is uploaded to NetGalley is often clearly not the finished book (based the errors pointed out in my debut, it appears to have been a PRE-copyedit version!). I don’t know about other authors, but I tend to make quite a few changes during the copyedit phase, as my eyes have been off the book long enough for stuff to jump out at me.

    @DM: That’s why groups like RWA exist. That’s why you can find groups of like-minded people everywhere from Yahoo Groups to Live Journal. There is no “big problem” for those who actually seek out solutions. And BTW, there are MFA programs for genre fiction. And there were people writing genre in both of the MFA programs that I’ve been involved in.

  34. Author on Vacation
    Jun 26, 2012 @ 10:52:18


    Authors and aspiring authors owe it to themselves not to publish anything until their mastery of the writing craft is sufficient to produce polished, professional quality work.

    An MFA in Creative Writing isn’t necessary to do this. Many accomplished authors have produced impeccable works and made their presences felt sans MFA. (Education IS an intellectually enriching process and I encourage everyone to seek as much formal education as s/he believes will benefit him/her.)

    At the very least, an author wishing to be taken seriously should be able to write competently. Words and language are the tools of the storytelling process, if a writer doesn’t understand the purpose and correct use of these tools his work will suffer for it.

    Other necessary tools include understanding and application of structure, pacing, characterization, character development, emotional writing/language, tension and conflict, drama, voice and style, etc. in constructing a written work.

    The more working knowledge an author has of these elements, the easier it is for the author to produce a higher quality of work than s/he might have produced relying exclusively on raw talent and imagination.

    Formal classes aren’t the only resource open to aspiring authors. There are various books and magazines geared toward an author audience. Author conventions and workshops are other possibilities.

    In the end, it all depends on how much an author or an aspiring author is willing to invest in himself and whether s/he believes s/he has anything to learn.

  35. Michele Stegman
    Jun 26, 2012 @ 11:15:02

    Reminds me of the old “Choose Your Own Adventure” books!

  36. Quynh
    Jun 26, 2012 @ 11:27:20

    I just bought this book after reading your post. There are so many books that I’ve encountered
    where the first 1/4 starts out strong, and then becomes a DNF. I’m a snobby reader who really doesn’t like fluff, so I appreciate an author who revises not to please the reader, but to examine her book again through fresh eyes.

  37. Linda Hilton
    Jun 26, 2012 @ 11:39:17

    @Sarah Morgan: Many of the “professional editors” I’ve seen cited by self-published authors are really proofreaders. They correct spelling and punctuation errors, but not much else.

  38. Sunita
    Jun 26, 2012 @ 11:48:10

    @Quynh: I liked the book overall, and I’ll be reviewing the version I bought. But I don’t see how you can say that this author did not revise to please her readers. If the readers hadn’t brought up the points they did in reviews of what they thought was a finished product, would she have changed the book? That’s really what I’m responding to here.

  39. Diana
    Jun 26, 2012 @ 11:52:07

    So interesting. I sympathize with new self-published authors who are “writing in a vacuum”, but I very much agree with the sentiment that readers are not your betas. They are your customers, and a part of self-published writing is discovering the resources that are available to you (like writing associations and guilds) which will help you to produce a finished product. Because, really, when you put something up for sale, it should be finished to the best of your abilities. I mean, selling your book on Amazon shouldn’t be the same thing as posting a chapter up on, which has an audience that is more accepting of re-writes and re-releasing work to fix typos (for the obvious reasons).

    Regarding new editions… I’m more of two minds about this. Sometimes, I like it. I’ve seen a few new editions of books which fixed problems the original book had with pacing, plotting and grammar, which I’ve liked. BUT. I’ve been badly burned by an author publishing a new, revised edition of a book. A (former) favorite author of mine did this with one of her popular books and it’s sequel. I loved the original two books this author had written, but she went back a few years after the book had been published and completely “revised” parts of the sequel to allow her to write a third book for the series. I suspect this was because the first two books were more popular and successful than anyone had been anticipating. But the third book was, in my opinion, so terribly written and just plain awful that it ruined the previous two books for me forever.

    TL;DR, I’m sure. Just, for me, the new edition re-release is something I approach with caution, but wouldn’t necessarily rule out buying. And if I feel like I’m reading someone’s first draft, that author goes on my never-again-don’t-buy list.

  40. Vanades
    Jun 26, 2012 @ 12:05:21

    As a writer I try to edit as much as possible and sometimes am even scared of over-editing. And I would love to have at least two beta-readers, or even three. But all that happens before publications.

    Readers aren’t beta-reader or editors. That’s not their job and that’s not why they paid for my book. Of course I would love to have people willing to pay me, so that they could have the pleasure of editing my texts. :-D . But that’s a different business-model ;-).

    Readers are readers.

    Now, typos happen. Even to editors. I’ve dealt with texts that had been edited by two people and there were still typos hiding. If a new edition corrects those, then I’m fine with that. Anything else, I’m a bit torn.

    Some writers are now putting out ebooks where they finally are getting the rights back. Some say newly edited and revised. Unless I know that the revision might include massive changes and maybe the addition of numerous pages or chapters, I’m never sure what to do with such books.

    I kind of like seeing how a writer progressed over the years, how her writing, her style changed, improved and adapted. With revised versions of earlier books I might not get that. Yet I also appreciate that the writer cares enough about her work to revise novels she wrote ten, fifteen, twenty years ago. And I re-read books, so encountering a changed version of a favorite book? Not sure whether I might like that.

    That being said, I’m currently looking at short-stories I wrote years ago and that are currently all out of print. Maybe I’ll edit and revise them.

  41. Cara Ellison
    Jun 26, 2012 @ 12:06:43

    I recently published my novel, At Any Cost, on Amazon. It’s gotten good reviews so far, but almost universally readers say the ending sucked. I was surprised by this but open to the criticism. I thought about re-writing it and putting it back up, but decided against it. First of all, that isn’t fair to the people who bought this version and secondly, when I decided to publish it on Amazon, I did it with the conviction that it was the best I had to offer and that I should be judged on that – not on how well I took other people’s criticism. So what I’ve decided to do is write an epilogue to the book, about 20 pages or so, and put it on Amazon for free, so those who want a more fully developed ending can have one, and those who don’t care won’t be bothered with multiple versions of the same book.

  42. Meljean
    Jun 26, 2012 @ 12:15:07

    Agh. I like that typos and other small errors are so easily corrected, but to significantly alter the story — No.

    I don’t have a problem with expanded or revised editions being reissued, but the changes should be significant enough to warrant a reissue and be clearly marked as such (I’m thinking of something like SK’s The Stand.) Continually updating an existing book with revisions? No.

    My primary problem with the latter is that I lose the book I bought. If an author puts out a book that I enjoy, and then uploads a revised version (perhaps erasing everything I liked about the original version) I’m going to be pissed. That means I’ve lost the book that I liked — and it was essentially stolen out of my library. I don’t care if they fix typos, but don’t screw with my books. After an author sells it, it’s not hers anymore. It’s mine, dangit — and she’d best leave it alone.

  43. Lada
    Jun 26, 2012 @ 12:21:21

    This is a great post, Sunita and highlights one of the many reasons I don’t buy self-pubbed authors. Ever. My time is too valuable to risk on dross and it’s becoming depressing clear that many readers are willing to overlook much which make their reviews suspect. I know I’m missing out on some great books but the only voice I have in this battle is my pocketbook. Until such a time when internet publishing establishes some serious guidelines, I’m voting “NO”. Fortunately for me, there are lots of books by authors I know and enjoy to keep me happily reading.

  44. Linda Hilton
    Jun 26, 2012 @ 12:21:29

    What Ros said about the so-called lack of critiquing and mentoring is spot on. There is no excuse for an aspiring writer to whine that they can’t find critique partners or mentors; both online and in person resources are readily available. Especially in the romance genre. And I have to say that some of the very worst self-published books I’ve read (or at least tried to) included dedications to the author’s friends and mentors and critique partners and the published authors who read her first chapters and her daughter-in-law who did the (?) proofreading. I don’t think most of these people are operating in the vacuum they complain they are; they’re just making excuses.

    And look, I know it’s possible to make a stupid mistake and upload the wrong version or have an error that doesn’t get caught. I’m mortified to say I did it myself and I damn well should know better. But I don’t use the defense that “Hey, whaddya want for $2.99/99 cents/free?” or “But but but Amazon musta screwed up.” No, *I* screwed up. No excuses.

    And I think that’s what torques me off more than anything — the excuses. I want to take the author aside and say, “No, honey, I don’t care about your excuses. It’s a terrible book, your grammar sucks and your plot has enough holes to drain pasta. Your heroine is TSTL and your hero is a total asshat. And there were no granite castles with crenellated towers in Roman Britain.” But I don’t want to listen to her tell me “But my friends all think it’s wonderful and they posted five-star reviews on Amazon so obviously you don’t know what you’re taking about and you’re hurting my feelings. I love my book!”

    I don’t care if you love it or hate it: I just want it to be well-written, cleanly formatted, and free of the pennies in the pocket** that drag me out of the story. That experience, after all, is what I paid for, whether in cash or time or both.

    **reference to Richard Matheson’s “Bid Time Return.”

  45. Ridley
    Jun 26, 2012 @ 12:30:15

    That soul-shattering scream you just heard? That was my inner GR librarian reacting to the knowledge that authors are substantially re-writing books without any sort of version control.


  46. DM
    Jun 26, 2012 @ 12:34:55

    Wow. I’m surprised my post inspired so many scolds.

    The author identified herself as a, “struggling writer working in a vacuum.” One way to escape an artistic vacuum is to enroll in an MFA program and surround yourself with working creators. If you write literary fiction, compose music, paint, or make films, you have lots of immersive education options, including some that will open very sticky doors for you. If you write romance, you have critique groups, beta readers, and the RWA. Two of the most competitive writing programs in the country, Iowa and the Stegner Fellowship, discourage applicants from submitting romance samples. Ours is a genre written by and for women. Until we have an equal place at the academic table, I would say that we do have a problem.

  47. Mara
    Jun 26, 2012 @ 12:54:26

    @Author on Vacation:

    Easy to say. Problem is, the process of figuring out how bad you are takes time, too. A new writer doesn’t necessarily realize or understand why certain aspects of his work are weak and may not even realize he still has plenty to learn. That was certainly my experience.

    Without an editor to step in your path and tell you the story’s not ready for publication, you’re stumbling blind onto the freeway and doomed to be mowed down by reviewers and readers. My sympathies toward new writers in that regard are immense. The internet makes it possible to annoy a whole new level of readership with every misstep you make.:)

    As far as the whole “writing in a vacuum” thing, I’m not sure why that calls for sympathy. The solitary nature of the job is necessary and the challenge of uncovering resources that will help you improve is, in the long-term, very satisfying. If you’re the type of person who doesn’t like to spend long hours dissecting what you read in order to learn what works, or you don’t revel in lots of alone time with just your characters for company, writing fiction may not be your best career choice.

  48. Isobel Carr
    Jun 26, 2012 @ 13:02:08

    @DM: It got so many “scolds” as you call them, because 1) the author’s excuse was pitiful, and 2) the idea that an MFA is necessary to write fiction (of any kind) is ludicrous. And someone feels they NEED an MFA to write genre fiction (I don’t agree at all) there are programs out there that accept it (even if they’re not Iowa, Hollins, or the Stegner Fellowship, which isn’t a program at all, it’s just a very prestigious workshop that’s nearly impossible to join).

    Also, the idea that an MFA opens doors is hilarious. The biggest complaint from all my friends who have MFAs (in various mediums, and from some various prestigious programs) is that their biggest failing is their lack of focus on preparing writers and artists to actually practice their craft professionally. There’s no class on how to get published. No instructions on how to submit to magazines, how to land an agent, how to review a contract. RWA was a thousand times more helpful in meeting my goals as a writer than my MFA program was.

  49. Miranda Neville
    Jun 26, 2012 @ 13:06:12

    Correcting typos or the occasional egregious error, yes. But I can’t even imagine wishing to re-write a book once it’s published.

    Perhaps this is a difference between self-publishing and the traditional model. When one of my books is published, months after the final proofs, I’m deep into another book. The last thing I want to do is work on the “old” one. It’s done, finished, and I’ve moved on.

  50. Author on Vacation
    Jun 26, 2012 @ 13:19:50


    Learning how to do anything competently takes time (and usually money, too.) How many professions are you aware of that require no form of training, education, and investment? Even jobs society may regard as relatively “simple” and “basic” require some amount of knowledge, skills, and abilities.

  51. Linda Hilton
    Jun 26, 2012 @ 13:33:31

    @DM: One way to escape an “artistic vacuum” is to associate with other artists, whether they’re writers or potters or painters or poets or sculptors. Working artists, them as can and do, rather than them as can’t and only teach.

    How many successful authors have MFAs? How many have worked and studied and read and written and joined critique groups (and listened to their critics) and attended workshops and entered contests and queried agents, then went home and revised and edited and started all over again?

    What MFA program teaches basic punctuation of dialogue and when to use rain, rein, and reign? What MFA program worth its accreditation would offer a course in “Peerage of the Regency: Married daughters of earls and other conundra”? Why should anyone have to pay tuition and sit in a classroom to learn the intricacies of plotting when they can spend $50 (give or take) for Larry Block’s “Writing the Novel from Plot to Print” and Chris Vogler’s “The Writer’s Journey”?

    Because these are the kinds of problems that I see most often in what I guess should be called unvetted self-published books, and no MFA program is going to fix them.

    But I could be wrong.

  52. DM
    Jun 26, 2012 @ 13:41:21

    @Isobel Carr

    I didn’t assert that an MFA was necessary to become an artist, but for some people, it’s a terrific way to learn–immersive and transformative. Particularly for women, it can provide that Room of One’s Own. My experience has been very different from yours. My MFA did open doors for me and my classmates. While I was working on my degree I had peers who talked about the vacuum they were in before school, and how an immersive program was their way to escape it. It definitely provided that for me and others, but I remain disappointed that my program and those similar to it didn’t (and still don’t) encourage work in genre subjects, particularly genres focused on women.

  53. Author on Vacation
    Jun 26, 2012 @ 13:45:23


    DM, it is not my intention to scold anyone. I’m attempting to point out that resources and options are open to authors. They need to look for them and to be appreciative of them, and to work with them.

    I recognize you feel romance is treated as the stepchild of some more high-toned education programs. What I don’t understand is why an author, a person proposing to build a career producing and selling written works, would believe s/he shouldn’t be expected to have mastered competencies in writing. Where and how the competencies are achieved is less important than the author achieving and using them.

  54. Sunita
    Jun 26, 2012 @ 14:03:54

    I don’t think the difference is self-publishing v. traditional publishing, although they are definitely different processes for a writer to go through. I do think that we now have many writers self-publishing who are not necessarily thinking of writing as a profession or career. They write a story (short story, novella, maybe even a full-length novel), with or without revising and getting substantial feedback, and then put it out there and see what happens.

    Some of these stories strike a chord and sell well. A lot more languish in obscurity. But either way, they’re not necessarily the harbinger of a career. If the writer gets good feedback and sales, she may take that as a signal to write some more, or to try and sell some other unpublished work. But in reading aspiring writer boards and comments, I frequently see people who seem to be writing without much of a plan.

    It’s not that I think authors are putting out substandard work on purpose. Certainly in this case I don’t think that was at all what was going on. But I do think the calculus is different (not necessarily intentionally) when your first publication isn’t part of an overall strategy to become a professional author. And that doesn’t necessarily mean supporting yourself on your writing alone. Lots of great authors have had day jobs. But they were authors first.

  55. Moriah Jovan
    Jun 26, 2012 @ 14:04:31

    What’s worse than no beta reader? A BAD beta reader, who believes s/he is good/qualified.

    I have enough experience now to know when someone doesn’t know what they’re talking about, but I didn’t always. When I was young and ignorant, I was in a critique group for six years where NONE of the members (including me) knew what we were doing, yet we were teaching each other. Pffftt. I’m still trying to get rid of that training.

    The problem is with the “Oh, please, you can find a beta reader in countless critique groups and online thisses and thats and somewheres” is you don’t know a) what you don’t know and b) what THEY do or don’t know.

    This goes for “professional” editors, copyeditors, and proofreaders. (In another thread, there was a commenter disgusted with grammar and spelling errors, and yet the comment was riddled with usage errors. *I* would not likely hire that person to proof my book, but someone who doesn’t know spelling and grammar and are actively seeking someone who does, how would they know?)

    It takes time, it takes a rudimentary knowledge of how to spot the holes in other people’s expertise (usually self-proclaimed), and, in my case, a LOT of luck to find a beta reader who a) has an innate and brilliant talent for spotting problems and b) “got me” as a writer.

    Does that mean I think people should write by committee? Absolutely not.

    Do I write in a vacuum? Hell yeah, and I like it that way.

  56. Patricia Rice
    Jun 26, 2012 @ 14:05:43

    >> absolutely believe the
    author MUST be putting their best product out there. Readers give authors a gift
    of their time and money. Authors must give the gift of their best work possible. <<

    Amen, thank you. I'm a reader as well as an author. I won't buy an author again if her work disappoints me. As an author, I totally respect that and fear giving anything less will cost me my wonderful readers.
    But I fear I see an awful lot of bad books out there that are selling well, so this theory may not hold true. Reading is far too subjective, and if books are finding a market without good editing, then it's hard to blame people for selling drafts. But charging them for the privilege is a wee bit out there.

  57. Meredith
    Jun 26, 2012 @ 14:15:07

    When one of my books is published, months after the final proofs, I’m deep into another book. The last thing I want to do is work on the “old” one. It’s done, finished, and I’ve moved on.

    I was struck by this too, Miranda. The appeal of going back and seriously revising a book after the copyedits, revisions, and final proofing is puzzling to me. Once a book is out there in the world, it really doesn’t feel like it’s mine anymore — or, to put it slightly differently, it feels “closed” to me, impenetrable to my own critique. But I imagine that when you’re self-publishing, the timeline from first draft to final draft/publication might be shortened, so perhaps that accounts for part of this impulse on the part of authors; the book still feels “fresh,” for lack of a better word. Another significant component might simply be the ability to edit a book that’s already out there in the world — an option which is not available to the traditionally published.

    I am also sympathetic to how difficult it must be to write in a void, without trustworthy feedback. But I agree with those who say that it’s not the reader’s job to provide this feedback. To that end, the analogy I’ve seen drawn in other discussions of this trend — namely, altering the conclusion of a film after “test audiences” have deemed the original ending dissatisfying — doesn’t quite work for me because the test audiences are 1) not paying consumers; and 2) their explicit role is to react with constructive criticism. Conversely, readers–whether purchasing a book on Amazon or plucking it off the library shelves–open a book with the assumption that the book is finished, final, fully complete. And I think that expectation simultaneously reflects and engenders a kind of tacit contract between reader and professional writer (whether self- or traditionally-published). To (extensively) edit (the substance of) a book after its publication feels to me, as a reader, like a violation of that contract.

    That said, even as I’m writing this comment, I do find myself wondering how much of my understanding of the writer-reader contract is shaped by the technologies through which books have been produced until now. Perhaps my intuition that substantive post-publication editing is “wrong” is shaped, in large part, by the fact that I’ve always considered and experienced books as fixed and final products. That has obviously changed, and my gut instinct is that new book-making technologies will probably alter our basic understanding not only of what a book should be, but also of the contract between writer and reader. I think here of the epilogues authors have provided in response to readers dissatisfied with the endings of particular novels — while this was probably done before the internet, it has certainly become more common with the advent of the internet, which allows for new content to be posted and widely disseminated with minimal effort. The analogy between post-publication editing and a post-publication addendum is FAR from exact but it does point to one way in which writers’ output might speak to readers’ input in ways we could not have foreseen fifty or twenty years ago.

    Erm…I’m not sure where I was going with this rambling comment. I guess my takeaway is: Whether as readers or writers or both, we book-lovers live in interesting times.

  58. Stella
    Jun 26, 2012 @ 14:21:31

    @Ros: Yes, that jumped out at me as well. But it’s astonishing to me, how many people write in that vacuum…

  59. library addict
    Jun 26, 2012 @ 14:33:17

    Updating typos is one thing. Also, if the book was previously published and scanned to be released in digital format, correcting all of the 1’s instead of l’s and other OCR errors is a good thing (which really should be done BEFORE the book goes on sale, but I digress).

    But I don’t like it when books are “updated” and things like cassette tapes are changed to CD or MP3. It makes no sense for the characters in a story to be listening to an iPod, yet not use their cell phone to call 911 when they break down on the side of the road because the book was originally published before cell phone use was widespread.

    I repurchased all of Jennifer Greene’s Jove books she wrote as Jeanne Grant which were republished digitally by Carina Press. They were all “updated” and while I understand the reasoning behind doing so, I disagree with it. If I had been able to purchase the original versions, I certainly would have. But I bought them because I wanted to reread them digitally, plus all of my Jove copies had been purchased second-hand when I first glommed her back in the late 80s and I wanted to support the author. Although the Carina site does mention in the blurb they have been previously published, the only reason I knew they’d been updated/revised before I purchased them was due to a blog post here at DA.

    But changing plot points due to reader feedback is even more egregious IMO. I realize authors may not always be happy with what they have written at the time or reflecting back years later, but what you now hate and want to change about a story may very well be what many of your readers loved about the book.

    If authors do choose to rewrite/rework/update a book, it should be clearly stated in the blurb this is a revised edition. I would prefer this also be in bold lettering on the cover, but at least put it in the blurb. Then your readers have a choice if they want the original work or the updated version. And they shouldn’t be upset when readers don’t want both.

  60. Ros
    Jun 26, 2012 @ 14:51:12

    @DM: Fair enough, that one way of escaping the vacuum might be hard for aspiring genre writers (not least because of the time and expense I imagine are involved in doing an MFA). But there are a lot of other ways of finding likeminded people working towards the same goal, who want the fellowship and support of a writing group or crit partners. There are forums full of published authors who will give great advice on how to approach the publishing industry. Publishers such as Harlequin and M&B even have their own forums where aspiring writers can chat to editors and published authors and get critiques and so on. There are RWA chapters. There are online courses for plotting, editing, dialogue and so on. (I did Angela James’s Before You Hit Send course, which was great and I would recommend to anyone). There really isn’t any need for someone to be writing in the kind of vacuum that means the first feedback they’re getting is from paying customers, which is what the author seemed to be claiming.

  61. Angela
    Jun 26, 2012 @ 15:02:15

    Wait, what? Whitney, My Love has been reissued with that scene removed? How did I not hear about this already?

  62. Author on Vacation
    Jun 26, 2012 @ 15:41:06

    @Moriah Jovan:

    What’s worse than no beta reader? A BAD beta reader, who believes s/he is good/qualified.

    This exact same sentiment applies to would-be mentors and critique partners as well.

  63. Isobel Carr
    Jun 26, 2012 @ 16:21:59

    @Author on Vacation: Hell, yes! I bailed out of two critique groups before I was published. I ended up finding fantastic beta readers who *get* me via contests (judges who offered to read more), and a plotting partner via random luck of the gods. What is key is that you have to actually LOOK for these people if you want/need them.

  64. Courtney Milan
    Jun 26, 2012 @ 16:37:37

    @Isobel Carr:
    Personally, I’m still being scarred by the fact that what is uploaded to NetGalley is often clearly not the finished book (based the errors pointed out in my debut, it appears to have been a PRE-copyedit version!).

    This. One of my books they uploaded — and sent out as ARCS — was not only the pre-copy-edit version, but the very first draft I handed in. The final version had 30,000 words changed and a character totally replaced. I still get screaming horrors when I think of anyone reading that first version.

    And I’m with Miranda Neville. Even though I’m self-publishing now, the thought of having to go and change a book after I’ve published it… just no. No no no. By the time I’m done, I know what the unfixable flaws are and I’ve convinced myself that every cure I could implement is worse than the disease, and I’m so done with it. Done done done.

    I can’t imagine going back and trying to crawl inside a story, and it gives me screaming horrors to think that someone might want that to become the norm.

    I really think that one of the biggest mistakes I see early writers making is not moving on.

    And by “not moving on” I do not mean “publishing too slow,” but taking a book that cannot be fixed to above a publishable threshold and working on it and working on it and working on it.

    When you finish a book, start another. Chances are some of the issues with your first book are not things you can fix by “becoming a better writer.” Some of those things will be really basic things, like, “There’s nothing remotely compelling about this book.” Some of those things you won’t realize until you write a truly compelling scene and step back and look at your first efforts and say, “Oh, wow. THAT’S what was missing.”

    It is good for you as a writer to write something new. That’s how you discover what kind of story lends itself best to your particular talents.

  65. Mireya
    Jun 26, 2012 @ 16:48:07

    @Cara Ellison: That is something Julia Quinn did with several of her books in the Bridgerton series (of course, her publisher charged). Either way, I think that is a very smart idea. You are showing that you listen to your readers, and you are also establishing an extra layer of “good will” by your willingness to offer an alternative ending that way.

  66. Ann Bruce
    Jun 26, 2012 @ 17:11:43

    I don’t treat my readers like beta readers…but some of them think they are. At least that’s how I interpret e-mails from readers with a list of things they would like to see changed in the current book or happen in the next book. A few even had the guts to tell me that I should pay them to edit my future books for me.

    And frankly, all the updates I’ve made to my books have to been include word count labels on the covers and warning notices for sexual content because there are a lot of readers who don’t seem to realize naked people on the cover may mean the book includes explicit sexual content.

  67. Ann Bruce
    Jun 26, 2012 @ 17:14:49

    As for critique groups… No, thanks. I’ve heard the horror stories.

  68. chris booklover
    Jun 26, 2012 @ 17:19:54

    It’s perfectly acceptable to fix typos and minor errors, but I really, really do not like it when authors revise a published work long after it has been published, unless the new edition is clearly labeled as such. One point that has not been emphasized enough is that the changes will not necessarily be for the better. Most authors believe that they improve with age and experience. Nevertheless, I can think of many writers (including some of my favorites) whose early work is, in my view, far superior to their later novels. I shudder to think of what might happen if they were to revise established classics to suit their current styles/tastes.

  69. Andrew
    Jun 26, 2012 @ 17:38:09

    So much to rant about…I guess I’ll start with a quote from MIB2 that I feel describes the mindset: “[you (commenters)] Old and busted… [me (self-publisher)] New hotness.”

    Business models need to change. Businesses that do not change their business models fail when a disruptive technology/idea is released. It is happening with the music industry and the motion picture industry. Why should the publishing industry be any different? There are many good blogs discussing this, so I’ll only discuss the aspect related to the article: writer revisions.

    The world is an interactive place. Social media and the like have taken it to a whole new level. Authors willing to revise their works based on constructive feedback from reviewers are a product of this environment. In the past, the only economically feasible way to be published was through a publishing house. As we know, it takes years for books to wade through the process of being published traditionally. Revising in this medium is a ridiculous endeavor. Now, we can go online and have something ready for publication nearly instantaneously. It’s called electronic media and it is a game-changer. As with so many other game-changers, the enterprising fellows will take advantage. I’d be willing to bet that if emedia was available before paper media (I know, a nonsensical idea), perpetual revisions would be the norm.

    Why do you, ‘I won’t buy from self-publisher types,’ insist on trying to perpetuate a dead business model? So, it costs you $.99 or $2.99 for a book that may or may not be the best possible product, big deal. How much did that cup of coffee you drank this morning cost? How much did it cost you to drive to that place to get that cup of coffee? Yeah, exactly!

    If you read the book (at whatever version it was on) and you liked it, great. If you read it and did not like it, too bad. You have the right to patronize that author again in the future (for the same book or a different one, at different versions). If a newer version is worse than the original, then the author will get that feedback and change it again. If the author wants to spend their entire writing career in revision, then that is their choice. But, if they are still selling, then who are you to say what is right for them? The fact is, they own the intellectual rights to their work. They can do whatever they want with it. And, you can do whatever you like with your money. Get off your high-horse of ‘they aren’t doing it the way it’s always been done and therefore shouldn’t be doing it’ attitude and step into the 21st century.

    In the future, I believe we will be seeing more of this sell-by-draft process. Those who publish crap-drafts that require multiple major revisions will be known as such and likely fail. Those who publish mediocre drafts that require few revisions, may go on to greater success. Those who publish stellar drafts that require minor corrections will probably be known as such. What’s going to happen is that the reader will become more and more immersed into the writing process of their favorite authors. This is a good thing. It will provide a stronger connection between the writer and reader, and will likely build a stronger fan base.

    Of course, these predictions are predicated on the idea that the concept and story are good ones in the first place. For example, let’s take the Harry Potter novels. If JK were to publish revisions of some of these works with radical changes, her readers would eat it up. She’d probably sell a few million more copies. If the changes were bad, the readers would be pissed. But, then this would allow her to change it again (after apologizing). If she made them even better, her fans would jump right back on the bandwagon and she’d sell another million. I guess what I’m saying here is that this revisionist tactic will work great for the hardcore fan. The casual reader won’t care, and as someone mentioned, they only read a book once, anyways. Thus, what they think is meaningless.

    This brings me to my next point: many people read the same book more than once, especially kids (but not exclusively). I know people that tend to only read the same books over and over. Why? You’ve got me on that one, but it’s their prerogative. Let’s say it’s because it’s a favorite book. Well, even with our favorite book we may have issues. If those issues were fixed, we might like it even more. If we don’t like it, well, maybe we’ll get off our backsides and read a new book. What a concept!

    More with the multiple revisions and costs: how many of you upgraded your iphone to the 4? 4s? etc.? This cost you how many hundreds for minor changes? Why is it OK for Apple to release new versions of their phones with only minor changes? What if there are major changes? Now, translate this concept to novels. I hope you can see the point. This comment is already way too long to explain better.

    Onto true beta readers, reading groups, and such. Get off DM’s back, her point is valid. In the U.S. culture, we are socialized to believe that a formal education is the only valid form of education. Thus, an MFA is a logical step for someone of this culture. Few people have the wherewithal to learn something on their own. Are you saying that people who want a traditional education are in the wrong, or shouldn’t be writing? I hope not; that would show some serious arrogance.

    You say get in a critique group. I say piss off! There are a myriad of reasons why someone may not want to join one of these groups. There’s accessibility, intellectual property, and personality issues, among others. My biggest issue with them is reciprocity. How can I expect everyone to critique my 100k+ word novel if I won’t do the same for them? Even if it’s a small group, the need to reciprocate can be overwhelming. I won’t have the time to work on my novel, for one. I won’t have time for casual reading, for two. I won’t have time for other entertainment, for three. I won’t have time for my family, for four. I won’t have time to do all this and do my regular job (which is where the real money comes from), for five. You get my point, I hope.

    And, speaking of real money, very few authors (self or traditionally published), make any kind of money off of their writing. Why would I spend money to hire an editor to process my novel when the likelihood of even making enough money to counter that expense is negligible? The lack of rationale astounds me. As we’ve seen with the Twilight series, good story trumps crap writing any day. Therefore, I choose to publish a good story, whether grammatically/formulaically perfect or not. And, you know what? I’ll revise it as I get feedback, because as a self-respecting author, I’m not going to put out total crap the first go around, but I may put out slightly dirty water. The reason: I didn’t think the water was dirty when I put it out.
    The way I see it, beta readers are doing me a huge favor, therefore I have to play nice with them and wait…and wait…and wait, because I can’t push them too hard. They’re doing me a favor! Paying customers, on the other hand, chose to purchase my product. I didn’t force them to buy my book; I can’t. What I can do is listen to what they have to say, and that is something I will do if there is a chance of retaining their patronage. So, I’ll make revisions, where appropriate.

    Finally, I’d still like to say that I, too, cannot agree with using people who purchased a book as beta readers, unless, that is, the product has been explicitly identified as such. That is, it has been identified as a complete product in the available form, but with a stipulation that the product may change in the future. And, I am allowed to retain the form I originally purchased. Given this final thought, there’s another parallel that is pursuable: the video game industry. But, I won’t go there.

  70. Susan
    Jun 26, 2012 @ 17:42:03

    You know, there was a self-pubbed book touted on July’s open thread for readers that I had to check out on Amazon. The ratings varied, but many of the reviews and comments pointed out the numerous typos and grammatical errors. There was actually a lot of back and forth between those who felt the volume of errors made it a deal-breaker and those who felt the storytelling trumped other concerns/issues. I was tempted to download a chapter, but then decided this was something that I couldn’t put up with as a reader. I want an author to show a little more respect to both her own work and the readers who buy it. I’ve pretty much written off not only this book, but the author, too.

    I know that being a self-pubbed author doesn’t equate to having low standards or putting out a bad product. I’ve already pimped one of my fave authors, who happens to be self-pubbed, so I won’t name her again. She’s not just a good story-teller; she’s a good writer, too. As much as I get engrossed in her stories, I also enjoy her mastery of language—and the virtually error-free text. She manages a high level of excellence despite an equally impressive volume of output. I finally checked her website where she credits all of the professional services she uses, including an editor/proofreader. This just makes me love her all the more. But it also sets a standard, and anything less is lazy and unacceptable.

  71. Sue Rees
    Jun 26, 2012 @ 17:51:08

    Thanks for a thoughtful article. I couldn’t agree more. As a soon to be published author, under a pseudonym, I cannot fathom why any writer would consider the approach you describe as appropriate. I am labouring with my editor to make the best possible version for readers to enjoy. I don’t expect my readers (what a lovely phrase!) to proofread for me. After all, they have paid good money for my work. It is not a product with a replacement guarantee for faulty workmanship; it is entertainment that has its greatest value first time around. Lose readers the first time and they will never bother to try your work again.

  72. Christine M.
    Jun 26, 2012 @ 18:36:22

    @Andrew: I wish you wouldn’t have published that comment anonymously so that I could actually avoid buying anything by you cos I’m not looking for dirty water. Boo.

  73. Author on Vacation
    Jun 26, 2012 @ 18:45:45


    I can honestly say I am more annoyed by the time invested in a poorly written, poorly edited book than by the money spent on it.

    You compared buying/reading a self-pub book to driving out to buy a cup of coffee.

    The investment in that drive and coffee is probably under $5 and less than twenty minutes (if that.) If the coffee’s weak or cold or stale, I’ve lost $5 and twenty minutes of my life. Annoying, yes.

    If I invest several hours in reading a poorly written, poorly edited book, I’ve wasted hours that could have been spent entertaining myself with better quality books or other entertainment.

  74. Linda Hilton
    Jun 26, 2012 @ 18:45:56

    @Christine M.: I’m with you.

    @Andrew — What a pompous . . . .

  75. Lauren
    Jun 26, 2012 @ 18:46:15

    I think it is a horribly bad/good idea! It reminds me of the kids books that I read in my childhood, with the optional endings!! Go to Page 444 if you want a HEA. Go to page 504 if you want one last misunderstanding, followed by a HEA.

    Now, if they could only incorporate finding Waldo into them.

  76. Kris Kennedy
    Jun 26, 2012 @ 18:48:21

    They did this with re-releases of the Star Wars trilogy, the original three movies. “Enhanced” and improved them. It sucks.

  77. Katee
    Jun 26, 2012 @ 19:01:25

    Andrew, does the motion picture industry put out an unfinished movie without sound editing or special effects added into theaters, charge people to see them and then make changes to improve the film based on viewer feedback and invite all those with old movie stubs back to the theater to watch the revamped version?


    Do music artists release their singles to radio stations and iTunes without sound production then go back and re-record when their fans leave bad reviews on itunes?


    Both industries release finished products when the finished product is ready. Publishing should be held to the same standards whether the book is paper or digital.

    You say we shouldn’t be upset that we bought a horrible book that was basically a rough draft because it only cost 99 cents, and you, condescendingly, point out that perhaps we should consider the amount of money we spend on coffee. (Also asked how many of us have up graded our iPhones which I kind of interpreted to imply that you think we are all materialistic bimbos who think of nothing but pretty new toys and caffeine fixes and have oodles and oodles of money to waste but I digress.)

    I call bullshit.

    I should be upset if I wasted any amount of money on a piss poor book and it shoudn’t matter what else I spend money on, because I sure as hell didn’t intend to spend it on somebody else’s work in progress.

    I look at it like this: If Toshiba put out a DVD player and when customers got home and hooked it up, there was no sound or a big black bar appeared over the screen, we’d all be wondering why they didn’t pop a disc into the proto type before making it available for consumers, right? And if Toshiba offered us all new DVD players as replacements for the ones we already wasted our time with, we’d still be annoyed, wouldn’t we? Because they wasted our time with a product that wasn’t finished.

    Why should books be any different? Because writers are in a rush to put it out and don’t want to be bothered with agents or editors? So readers should suffer? How does that work as a business model?

    BTW the romance novel industry is still a billion dollar a year industry, even during the recession. You know, that horrible time when some of us actually had to choose between whether to buy that cup of coffee or a an e-book. SPOILER ALERT: A lot of us chose the book and here are the numbers to prove it:

    Dying business model? Why don’t you ask the ladies at Carina Press or at Entangled Publishing or, hell, even Harper Collins, just how business is doing. They are releasing e-books and are somehow putting out both quality and quantity. And turning healthy profits.

    As for those who claim publishing should become a more interactive industry where fans influence the way an author writes, that way lies madness. Can you imagine if Charlaine Harris wrote her work based on what fans wanted to see? The Bookies would want Sookie with Eric, the True Blood crowd would be screaming for Bill and trying to please everybody would turn a beloved series into a hot ass mess. Julia Quinn would be writing about Bridgertons indefinitely. Stephen King would have to incorporate an evil clown or haunted hotel into every story. G.R.R. Martin would have to devise countless ways to bring characters back to life.

    And every single one of those works would have one thing in common: They’d all suck. Hard.

  78. Cassie K
    Jun 26, 2012 @ 19:02:19

    Sell-by-draft – my stomach turned at that. I hope I’m long gone before such a thing becomes the norm.

    As to why people reread books? I can tell you why I did and still have on occasion – money and some of them I loved so much they stayed with me. But I buy one now and love the original and the author decides to change it based on feedback that is one or a few people’s opinions and the story is no longer what I loved, that’s flat out wrong. It’s not what I wanted. Not what I bought. Not what I paid money for (no matter how much). In the retail world, that’s called bait and switch and it’s illegal.

    @Andrew you know not of what you speak.

  79. Rebecca
    Jun 26, 2012 @ 19:12:12

    Andrew – because it’s not about the money, it’s about the *time.* It takes me several hours or longer to read a book, as opposed to 5 minutes to drink a not-that-great drink. I don’t wish to invest that amount of time into a product that hasn’t gone through some kind of filter. I also only read print and self-published print books are more of a pain to get than traditionally published print books (the opposite is probably true with e-books, but I don’t read them). So I only will read a self-published book if a friend I trust that has similar reading tastes recommends it. I’ve read some bad traditionally published books as well but at least I have a guarantee of some kind of filtering process, something I don’t have with self-pubbed books unless a friend has read the book.

  80. Bronwen Evans
    Jun 26, 2012 @ 19:30:54

    Isn’t this what TP authors do with backlists? They polish and sometimes even change signifcant parts of the book. Only now, with eBooks, you don’t have to wait years. I understand what you are saying, perhaps it’s the amount of time an author puts in before publishing a book ie. i use beta readers. I actually think the author’s problem is trying to appeal to every reader. Readers view books differently. Write the best book you can and stand by it.

  81. coribo25
    Jun 26, 2012 @ 20:03:21

    @Lynne Connolly: I agree with all you’ve said, Lynne. One of my favourite authors, Elizabeth Chadwick has reworked some of her older novels. Children of the Grail was one, I have both versions and some scenes are quite different. With older books some authors just want the copy rewritten in their current writing voice.

  82. Sunita
    Jun 26, 2012 @ 20:19:38

    @Andrew: The Dear Author commentariat has responded to many of your points. I’ll just add a couple:

    (1) DA’s reviewers and readers are quite receptive to self-published books. We review a lot of them, and while we have healthy disagreements about quality at times, we keep looking for ones to recommend. This column isn’t a rant against self-publishing at all. It isn’t even intended as a rant against the author’s book. I liked it and would read her next book. I objected to the idea that she was dithering around with this one rather than using the feedback to make the next one better.

    (2) There are already authors who are using crowdsourcing and reader feedback to shape their books. For readers who want to engage, the options are there. My argument is that this option should be clear and voluntary. I don’t want to be involved, but if others do, more power to them.

    Good luck with your dirty water. In today’s publishing world, there seems to be a reader for every type of book.

  83. Loosheesh
    Jun 26, 2012 @ 20:23:43

    @Christine M.: What you said! *shakes fist at Andrew*

  84. Sunita
    Jun 26, 2012 @ 20:27:21

    @Courtney Milan:@Miranda Neville: Amen to what both of you said. I hate rereading what I’ve send out into the world of published work, because I can see all the errors and weaknesses. But they’re mine and I’m stuck with them. I try to make the next article or book reflect what I’ve learned since then.

    Just out of curiosity, leaving aside Tolkien, are there other genres in which there is the kind of revising and retconning of older work that we see in romance novels? I can’t think of any in mystery or literary fiction (aside from changing racial epithets, etc.). Why do we do it so much?

    I also realize that Miranda was right in pointing out differences between self-publishing and trad publishing. With trad publishing, authors are all too aware that they are not the sole contributors to the finished product. The final version of the manuscript, the cover, the blurb, the marketing: all of these are shaped by other hands. In self-publishing the author has the option to have no one else involved at any stage, and the temptation must be strong sometimes to control everything. Good self-published authors, those who put out high-quality work, are noteworthy because they work hard to ensure that they are listening to other voices. But it must take real discipline and effort to do that.

  85. Ridley
    Jun 26, 2012 @ 20:43:37

    @Andrew: tl motherfucking dr

    If it’s not one asshat mistaking the comments for their own personal blog, it’s another.

  86. Meg
    Jun 26, 2012 @ 21:34:20

    I know a number of authors who do this sort of thing on their blogs, which seems to me to be the best place for that sort of thing. Not everyone is blessed with being able to find beta readers (it’s much harder than it looks, speaking from personal experience), but trolling for them on Amazon is not a good idea.

  87. Kelly
    Jun 26, 2012 @ 22:07:28


    ^^^ What she said. All of it. ^^^

  88. Linda Hilton
    Jun 26, 2012 @ 22:18:13

    @Cassie K: And why not just sell blurbs and synopses? Let the reader flesh out the rest of the story the way she wants. I mean if she’s not happy with the way the author wrote it, she can write it herself!

    :slams head into desk:

  89. Andrew
    Jun 26, 2012 @ 22:34:04

    @Christine M. and Linda Hilton: I can only guess that you don’t read blogs or articles on the publishing industry because if you did, you’d know that publishers are doing less and less editing, and it’s not because the writing doesn’t need it. It is simply something going the way of the dinosaur, whether good or bad. Let me translate for you: you’re already reading dirty water, but because it’s under the guise of a major publishing house, it’s OK in your mind.

    Also, the reason I post anonymously is exactly because of people like you. People who cannot separate someone’s comments from their body-of-work. You hate my opinion so you automatically hate what I create.

    @Linda Hilton: re-read the first sentence of my first post. By your response, truer words haven’t been spoken. Flame is as flame does.

    @AoV: You’re assuming the novel is poorly written and poorly edited. It may not be professional quality, but it could still be well written and decently edited. You’re basing your assessment on extremes, of which is a small percentage of what is available. And, as I mentioned in my first comment (I know it was long, you may not have read it all), the reviews will out the poor writing authors. You have the choice to purchase. If they do regular revisions, you have the choice to buy it at a more favorable reviewed place. Chances are, though, that if it is as bad as you want to believe, then you probably wouldn’t have heard about it in the first place. I sympathize with the loss of time spent reading, if it is total crap. At the same time, if it is total crap, you probably wouldn’t waste too many hours on it. I imagine you’d stop reading. So, $.99 for an hour or two of bad entertainment isn’t the end of the world. There are new, old, and current television shows and movies and other media you probably waste as much time on (many of these are also bad); not to mention commercials kill an equivalent amount of time, and few of them are worth it. You’ll make adjustments for the future. But, that 20 minutes you wasted on a bad cup of coffee cost you five dollars.

    @Katee: films, not necessarily, but guess what? A quick Google search brought up as the top link. So, um, yes they do put out a product with errors, and quite often I may add. Do they re-release them with adjustments? Yes, they have been known too. However, what this industry prefers to do is what is called a re-boot, meaning they just do a whole new movie on the same subject with different actors and CGI.

    Musicians: it happens. Music gets released without complete processing. Think independent artists self-publishing. Music processing is expensive, requiring specialized equipment. It’s getting more affordable with software, and it shows in the quality of the independents’ releases. But, artists don’t get to release their work to radio stations these days. The 3 major broadcasters control 99% of the industry. You get to hear what they want you to hear when they want you to hear it.

    The point with respect to these two industries is that they’ve based their distribution channels on a dying model, and using government intervention to keep it on life support. You do realize the music industry does not like iTunes? You do realize they fought, and in some ways are still fighting, to quash it? Same goes for the TV/movie industry and Netflix and YouTube, and the like. iTunes is the only thing keeping the traditional music industry alive. If it wasn’t there, the industry would be in even worse shape than it already is. The publishing industry also needs to adapt its model, or die.

    Let the consumer make the decision. If a bad writer can get away with pay-by-draft, then the market has spoken. What’s the average recommended number of drafts? Five? OK, so draft one cost you $.99, as does drafts 2 thru 5. Total cost: $4.95. Guess what? That’s less than the average cost of a paperback these days. Not only did you get to see the base, but you got to be involved with the revising, you had some say in the ‘world’. And, you got to see the whole process from near beginning to end. It’s a different kind of entertainment, but it is still a form of entertainment for those who support the idea. For those who don’t, buy the fifth draft for $.99.

    iPhones: You’re not answering my questions. You’re responding with a defensive deflection. Stereotypes exist for a reason. Anybody with any sense knows they do not apply to everyone. However, for popular culture references, everybody needs to be on the same page for it to make sense. I’m not saying the ‘page’ is the best one, but it is a reference point. The point I was making was that we spend all sorts of money on random things that are constantly being re-worked.

    Let’s expand on software since the above point was somehow missed. How many of you use Windows? How often does the little pop-up tell you there are updates to download? How many of these are critical updates? We’ve come to accept that our OS has tons of flaws before it was released. Why isn’t it acceptable to think of books this way? I guess the primary difference is that Microsoft doesn’t charge for the fixes. So, there is a valid counterpoint. Nonetheless, the concept is acceptable. Windows is a mostly fully functioning product, as is many of the rougher drafts. But, there are many improvements that can be made.

    Again, you’re assuming it’s piss poor to begin with.

    Books are different in eformat. A proper analogy would associate the DVD player with a physical copy of a novel. There are other things to consider in the manufacturing process than pure information. However, the point about it being annoying is still valid. This is why I made the point that the writer should be upfront about it, and versions should be noted (just as they are with software).

    It is a dying business model. If these publishers you mentioned would work on every book that is pitched to them, then you wouldn’t have the quality issue you’re so concerned with. But, that is not the way it is; and, is not even a reasonable idea because there are expenses involved in the putting out these quality ebooks you speak of. The people doing sell-by-draft are those not affiliated with publishing houses. They may not be for many reasons. They may suck, or the publisher may be too focused on formula to consider anything else. The author may decide the publisher takes too proportionately large a chunk for doing minimal work. The publisher may feel the author didn’t do enough work to begin with. Reasons can come from both sides of the table, and they all have valid points much of the time.

    Is it so bad if the fans get what they want? After all, they are the ones purchasing the books. If you don’t give them what they want then you may leave a bitter taste in their mouths with regards to your works. But, still, true. The works are the product of the author’s imagination. They have the final say. They can either choose to listen to the readers or ignore them. No one is forcing them one way or the other.

    With respect to Martin, he kills those he wants to kill. He is on the side of the table that doesn’t want to publish the same formulaic product. His readers know this. If they do not like what he does, they can choose not to read any more. However, there are those who love being concerned about their favorites. No one is safe after all. It creates a heightened tension level, which some people like.

    Would they all suck? Not necessarily. If you only read the final product, ignoring the preamble, you may find you like it (we’re assuming there is a final draft, although this isn’t a requirement for the idea). People’s opinions aren’t always bad.

    @Cassie K: It is only bait-and-switch if it is not labeled as being a revisionary product. I firmly believe they should be labeled when they are. The product you bought was still complete, just not up to your standards maybe. The revised products are a different product, of a similar (nearly identical) nature. They do not affect your prior purchase.

    Can you say with absolute certainty that if you’d never read the original you wouldn’t have loved it?

    @Rebecca: But, there are still bad print books. On the other hand, there are excellent self-pubbed books. And, most have gone through some form of filtering process. That filter may have only been the author’s head, but it is still a filter. But, I do get it. This is why the first step for most first-time authors is still the traditional route. It’s a form of validation. Sadly, this is also why traditional publishers are able to steamroll most of them (i.e., take advantage of them). Fortunately, more and more authors are realizing alternatives exist. Hopefully, this will have a positive change on the traditional publishers. It would be good for the industry.

    @Sunita: (1) I’m not denying that DA readers are receptive to self-published books. However, some of the commenters have indicated they refuse to buy them. (2) Exactly. Let those who want to do so, do so. Let those who do not, not. It is a good thing that there is a reader for every type of book, is it not?

    One more thing, if you prefer I not respond to other’s comments, feel free to tell me to stop. I’d be disappointed, as most of my responses aren’t derogatory, but it is your blog and I would respect your decision.

  90. Andrew
    Jun 26, 2012 @ 22:43:15

    @Ridley: Really?! Is it that you cannot handle differing opinions, or that you aren’t a nice person? Comments are for discussions. If you simply want a circlejerk, then I feel sorry for you. You have every right not to read the long post, but maybe you should keep the defamation in check.

    Would it be better etiquette to leave a simple comment and then post a link to my blog saying something like: for a serious, contrary opinion and rebuttal, go here? Seriously, I would like to know your opinion on this. I believe that would be worse. I’m not hijacking Sunita’s blog. If nothing else, I’m drawing more attention to it. Is this not a good thing?

  91. Hatori
    Jun 26, 2012 @ 23:07:27

    I want my twenty minutes back.

    Wait, no I don’t. :P Seriously interesting and thought provoking post.

    Just don’t feed the trolls, er, troll in this case. It seems to me like he’s just out for some conflict and enjoys ruffling feathers.

    He mentioned something about the future model being selling by drafts and I honestly threw up a little in my mouth at the idea of future readers expecting something like that. I’m not sure how people can go back to something they’ve spent months on and correct it according to readers expectations. In my case, I would want to throw the damn book out the window as I’d be too sick of it to even look at the front cover, much less the first chapter.

    On the other hand, I can understand why certain writers might welcome the chance to break that fourth wall between them and the readers. It invites comment, people to what readers perceive to be an opportunity to not be thrown out into the cold with critiques/comments. As you know, there’s been a multitude of authors slamming reviewers (agents, too…) so I can see how some authors might take advantage of this situation and say “Hey, I’m a writer and I like ALL comments. Don’t like the mean writers. Like me instead!” As a reader, I have to admit, I do find this mentality to be kind of refreshing in contrast to, oh, I dunno, Lauren De Stefano telling critiquers to basically eff off. Most people want to be accepted and loved and writers are certainly no different. If catering to their general audience is what helps their popularity, then of course some writers will resort to this tactic.

    However, using readers as beta readers is just underhanded and somewhat distasteful to me. At the very least, couldn’t she have made a note, stating the book is not yet in its final stage and she would welcome readers input into turning out a good, finished product?

  92. Hatori
    Jun 26, 2012 @ 23:09:49

    Also, I apologize for my somewhat incoherent post…but the gist of it is: I understand it but I DON’T LIKE IT!

  93. Moriah Jovan
    Jun 26, 2012 @ 23:12:23


    As for those who claim publishing should become a more interactive industry where fans influence the way an author writes, that way lies madness. Can you imagine if Charlaine Harris wrote her work based on what fans wanted to see?

    I thought that was what fanfiction was for…?

  94. anon
    Jun 26, 2012 @ 23:30:22

    I’ve been published in print, digital, and recently self-published. If I had to release a book and then go back and revise it every time someone left a comment I would lose my mind. Formatting and spelling issues are fine. If they are changed the integrity of the book remains the same. But not storyline. Once I put it out there that’s the way it will remain forever. I work alone.

  95. Linda Hilton
    Jun 26, 2012 @ 23:40:46

    @Andrew: tl/dr/fo

  96. Sunita
    Jun 26, 2012 @ 23:45:12

    @Andrew: Just a clarification: This is my post, but it is definitely not “my blog.” Dear Author is a group blog that is managed and owned by Jane Litte. There are a number of reviewer/contributors here, of which I am one, and we all speak our mind (and are free to disagree). This post was originally written for my personal blog, which has about 1/1000th the size of DA’s readership (OK, I exaggerate. Maybe 1/500th the size).

    Jane doesn’t draw attention to the fact that she and Jayne do most of the work to keep this blog going, but since they get blamed for everything posted here whether it’s written by them or not, I wanted to point it out.

    I get the feeling you haven’t looked around much at the other posts on DA. If you do, you’ll find that we (Jane mostly, but sometimes others) have been paying attention to technology, the new digital media, and the publishing industry for a long time and are kind of known for that. You might find it interesting.

  97. Nadia Lee
    Jun 26, 2012 @ 23:53:04

    I can see authors fixing typos or crappy formatting. But anything beyond that? Substantially changing the story or characters? No. I don’t have any urge to go back and re-read a book just because the author decided to “revise”. There are so many new-to-me books for me to read, and I have a few books that I like to re-read when I’m in the right mood. Authors don’t get to dictate what books I should reread by issuing “revised drafts”.

  98. meoskop
    Jun 27, 2012 @ 00:16:10

    Bad Form: Posting free comments on a message board, then editing them in response to every subsequent comment.
    Good Form: Charging someone for your book, then editing it in response to every subsequent comment.

    Yea, adding money doesn’t increase my interest in rereading the evolution of your thoughts. I’d never buy from an author who did that again.

    Also, the customer Andrew describes in his tl:dr sermons is a customer I know, a customer I am not, and a customer that I’ve never seen in the DA comment threads. This isn’t the genre you’re looking for.

  99. Readsalot81
    Jun 27, 2012 @ 00:21:00

    If I saw an author that I bought actually do this, I’d go bananas. If the author is constantly revising and improving upon suggestions from early readers, then perhaps the book was not ready to be published in the first place. All those improvements are going to suggest (TO ME) that they don’t have a fine grasp on what the hell they’re doing, and they’re just fine with people purchasing a shitty version of the novel. NOT OK. I’ve bought some awesome self-pubbed books and some really crappy ones. That’s fine, I get that with traditionally published books too. I look at the finished product as a reflection on the author.. put out something with egregious errors, and you’re going to get the stink-eye. Sorry.

  100. Andrew
    Jun 27, 2012 @ 00:53:03

    @Sunita: Correct…and corrected, to an extent.

    I followed from a random twitter link, saw some comments, and had a dissenting opinion accompanied by the motivation to address them. Unfortunately, I’ve found that several of the regular commenters are hypocrites, closed-minded, and all around bad people. It is sad when adults can’t have a civil discussion, but it is the way of the world, especially on the interwebz.

  101. Rebecca
    Jun 27, 2012 @ 01:10:57

    @Andrew: However, I can guarantee that a traditionally published book had some amount of filtering and editing. I can’t guarantee that for a self-published book. So I personally feel the average traditionally published book is going to be of higher quality for that reason. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t bad trad pub books or good self pub books, but I am talking about averages. For what it’s worth, most (90%) of the traditionally published books I read and didn’t enjoy, I disliked because of characters, plot, and themes that were not to my personal tastes, and not because I was distracted by an excessive amount of mistakes.

  102. Rebecca
    Jun 27, 2012 @ 01:18:50

    Oh, and I didn’t mean that to say I hated 90% of what I read, because I probably enjoy 90% of what I read, but of the books I do happen to dislike, almost all were disliked for those reasons. So I feel I have a decent success rate with mainly reading trad pub books and only reading self pub when a friend recommends it and it’s available in print. I’m perfectly happy to pay to keep those books around, and if far fewer trad published books are published in the future, I would read a lot less once my TBR pile died (although it would last quite a while since it;s a monster).

  103. Ann Somerville
    Jun 27, 2012 @ 02:17:43

    @Linda Hilton:

    <3 :)

    [and that's the first time in my life I've typed that symbol for *any* reason!]

    Ridley said: "If it’s not one asshat mistaking the comments for their own personal blog, it’s another. "

    Isn't it hilarious when two anonymous trolls too gutless to put their reps behind their words go at each other?

    Andrew, there are whole forums over at Amazon devoted to people with your mindset. There's 'Meet the Authors,' and this one is particularly pertinent to you


  104. Ren
    Jun 27, 2012 @ 05:36:30

    1) A finished story should be an intricate piece of machinery–take out one little gear, and the whole thing stops functioning. If the parts are interchangeable, they’re not working together to make anything happen. That’s a garbage dump, not a story.

    2) After you have a book on the market is not the correct time to ask someone to teach you how to write.

    3) If readers know more about storytelling than you do, you have no business calling yourself a writer. Their entertainment. Your JOB.

    If you put the time and effort into doing it right, you can stand by your work, look like you actually know what the hell you’re doing, and inspire the sort of reader confidence that sustains a career.

    Or you can spend all your time defending your sh*tty writing, editing, and marketing strategy against the whole world minus the three people who tell you you’re a genius courageously blazing a trail in the New World, as do all those to whom ego is more precious than craft.

  105. Katee
    Jun 27, 2012 @ 05:40:37

    Andrew, perhaps if you spent as much time editing as you do writing pompous essasys on blogs in an attempt to defend your mediocrity, you wouldn’t be self-publishing “dirty water” but perhaps producing a polished product you wouldn’t have to sell by draft. Or maybe you’d just find time to join that critique group.

  106. Loosheesh
    Jun 27, 2012 @ 06:52:08

    @Rebecca: ^This. For all the years I’ve been reading trad-pub books, I’ve never come across the level of egregious typos and overall bad editing I’ve found in self-pub books. Maybe I’ve just been lucky? *rolls eyes*

    When I first got my Kindle I spent lots of money on lots of self-pub dreck. I’ve since learned how to filter the ‘dirty water’ (I like this term, Andrew; thank you :P) to get to the more Evian-like stuff (or at least Poland Spring quality? =D). Most of the self-pub I buy now is either reviewed/rated favorably or recommended in some way by someone/site I trust. I have less regrets that way.

  107. Linda Hilton
    Jun 27, 2012 @ 07:12:09

    @Ann Somerville: LOL — My fingers got the better of me. Sometimes I just can’t help myself and I spew out what *I’m* thinking and what I think others are thinking but are too polite to say, and as soon as I’ve hit the send button, the more sensible part of me chides, “You moron, you’re gonna get in trouble for that.” But of course by then it’s too late to be sensible.

    “@Andrew: sbdra

  108. DM
    Jun 27, 2012 @ 08:18:49


    “…does the motion picture industry put out an unfinished movie without sound editing or special effects added into theaters, charge people to see them and then make changes to improve the film based on viewer feedback and invite all those with old movie stubs back to the theater to watch the revamped version?”

    You raise a really interesting point here. The motion picture industry, that is to say the major studios, generally produce films with high tech specs. But content distributors–DVD distribution companies, Netflix, Youtube, film festivals–release industry products alongside independent products, often with much lower production values. Amazon isn’t the motion picture industry in this analogy–it’s a distributor–and the publishing houses are analogous to the studios. Self-published authors would be analogous to independent film producers, those individuals who put their own money into a project and get it made. For decades this has been one way for directors to break into the industry. They make the best product that their money and technical skills allow, and try to get their product distributed to an audience. Sometimes the studios will see a product with terrible tech specs, but amazing potential, that strikes a chord with audiences, and polish this product and re-release it. El Mariachi is probably the most famous example. Audiences saw through the tech problems to the great story, directing, and performances, and embraced the film. And the studio that purchased and polished the film did likewise.

    But as a viewer I have a much easier time sitting through a film with poor sound and unintelligible dialogue than I do reading a book with choppy sentences and missing or misused words. I’m not certain if this because of a fundamental difference in the experience of viewing versus reading, or if this is because I have been conditioned to adjust my expectations with an independent film, but not with books. There was a time when the tech skills and equipment necessary to make a film were beyond the reach of most laypeople, but that’s no longer the case.

  109. Who has time for that? |
    Jun 27, 2012 @ 08:41:04

    […] I was reading this blog post over at Dear Author… a self pubbed author who basically uses the comments in reviews to fix […]

  110. Linda Hilton
    Jun 27, 2012 @ 08:53:30

    @DM: I think your comparison to film — major studios vs. indie — is fine as far as it goes. But I think there are some differences, too, that need to be taken into consideration.

    1. An indie film maker probably does not have acce$$ to the same kind of equipment and the same technical experts as the major studio, so that consideration is built in to the viewer’s expectations, pretty much as you said. While I’m not a big movie buff by any means, even I know what kind of quality to expect from a major studio production versus an indie. Given that there really is no $$ or technical barrier to a self-published author producing a quality product, the reader should at least be able to expect — and get — something approaching standard English and readable formatting. Anything less indicates not a lack of $$ access, but a lack of skill and/or an abundance of laziness.

    2. When an indie film is viewed and garners the attention of a major studio for distribution and/or technical improvement, that is an investment on the part of the major studio on which it expects a return. Comparing that indie film to a self-published book would be to suggest that the indie producer gets people to buy tickets to the film AND asks the viewers to improve the product so he can then sell more tickets to more viewers. While it is true that occasionally an indie book is picked up, like the film analogy, by a major publisher for distribution, that’s not the scenario (pun intended) being discussed. This isn’t about selling the book to a big publisher; it’s about putting out what is often admittedly shoddy work — as in the author admitting she didn’t edit or proofread and didn’t give a shit about the grammar because she didn’t think anyone would notice given how wonderful her story is (not) — and getting someone to fix it for free.

  111. Andrew
    Jun 27, 2012 @ 08:55:27

    @Ann: I followed the link and couldn’t find the relevance. At a stretch, but given the tone of your email, I would guess you were using a passive aggressive insult of some kind. To modify your words, isn’t it funny when a troll is too gutless to make a direct insult. Yes, I am calling you a troll. Why? Because by the definition of troll you seem to be using, you fit the description. My point. You obviously have no idea of the type of person the term troll actually applies to. Let me educate you some, you obviously need it. Trolls aren’t people who disagree with you. Trolls are not people who have a different opinion than you. Trolls post merely to instigate conflict. They say nothing to add to the conversation. However, I do understand that someone of your…venerability and narrow viewpoint…may have a hard time understanding modern colloquialisms. Oh, and just because you write about a minority doesn’t mean you’re open-minded. It, apparently in your case, means the opposite. Also, half the commenters posted anonymously, but I don’t see you denigrating them. Sorry, I forgot, they agreed with you so therefore it’s OK for them. BTW, this post is more indicative of troll-like behavior than any of my previous posts, but still not as troll-some as yours.

    @Linda: You can’t make up acronyms as you see fit…unless you’re twelve. I would like to think that anyone with a modicum of linguistic knowledge would be aware of this concept, especially one purporting to be against badly written works.

    @Katee: Where in my post was I pompous? This is the second time you’ve used this term. The first sentence? Maybe, but I’d think someone so associated with writing could identify levity when they see it. Maybe you’re not as much of an expert as you claim to be.

  112. Linda Hilton
    Jun 27, 2012 @ 09:02:03

    @Andrew: I can and I did.

  113. Cassie K
    Jun 27, 2012 @ 09:06:53


    This >>as do all those to whom ego is more precious than craft.

    I love that as it encapsulates exactly what I believe is going on. But there’s one more piece: money. I think that’s a huge part of it. Those success stories and the new arrogance of some authors who think that self-publishing rules the world (thanks Konrath and that ilk) is behind this drive to put up substandard work and call it good. Who cares? It’s a brand new world of publishing. Well, while certain aspects of the brand new world has been wonderful, the idea that we readers might be forking over our money (and I’m sorry – for me, it’s about money, not time) to read a book that the author didn’t work to put out the best product, just saddens me.

    And @Andrew, it is bait and switch in the purity of the term not the legal applications. I’m buying a book and reading it in one form. That’s what I “signed” up to do. What I went in looking for. The author comes along and changes it based on feedback that I don’t agree with. How is that anything but bad?

    Huh. I think this is the most I’ve commented here on one post. Good job, Sunita!

  114. Katee
    Jun 27, 2012 @ 09:18:55

    @Andrew: Or perhaps you aren’t as accomplished a writer as you believe you are.

  115. Christine M.
    Jun 27, 2012 @ 09:21:34

    @Andrew: You do sound like a pompous ass. You consider it useless to hire an editor to deliver a *finished* product AND say it’s ok for you re-pub your product endlessly to your customers.

    And to answer your earlier question. I have an old Motorola RZR that I’ve had for closer to seven years. I have a $10/month mobile plan that I stick to. I buy one of those $5 coffee about once a month (if that), I bring my lunch to work every day, etc. AND EVEN IF I DIDN’T DO ALL THOSE THINGS, I’d still be pissed at being ripped off my time and money by an author who couldn’t be bothered to sell me a COMPLETE book to begin with (having all the necessary or appropriate parts; entire, full; having run its full course, finished). If you can’t deliver, don’t bother.

    And now I’m stepping out of this thread.

  116. Author on Vacation
    Jun 27, 2012 @ 10:15:03


    Must this turn into another dust-up where particular posters make their rounds attacking anyone whose viewpoint and/or word count doesn’t suit them?

    The topic and the conversation are very legitimate, I think.

  117. Jody W.
    Jun 27, 2012 @ 10:25:15

    I only reread for critique partners. Hell, I hardly even reread keepers anymore. Isn’t that sad?? I would never care that an author “improved” a book I’d already read, because I don’t reread. And if I encounter a book I dislike — particularly if it had the kinds of issues a finished product never should have had to begin with — that would be one less author’s books to buy. Perhaps one day, considering my general ill nature, I’ll hate All The Books and get around to rereading those keepers…

    Speaking as an AUTHOR of a few selfpubbed books, I’ve uploaded new drafts when I want to change the frontmatter or backmatter, like the lists of books available, and a few times for typos or formatting wonks. If I got what I felt was a great revision idea from a review, I don’t know what I’d do, but I highly doubt I’d revise at that time. Perhaps for a future, clearly-marked edition, to preserve the sanity of those Goodreads librarians :).

  118. Louise Marley
    Jun 27, 2012 @ 10:39:54

    This practice, in my view, is like writing by committee. Where’s the author’s artistic integrity? Belief in her own concept? I love your line about being a customer, not a beta reader! Well said.

  119. Mara
    Jun 27, 2012 @ 10:53:59


    That was so beautifully and precisely phrased. Can I just say I <3 you exceedingly.

  120. Ridley
    Jun 27, 2012 @ 10:57:27


    Would it be better etiquette to leave a simple comment and then post a link to my blog saying something like: for a serious, contrary opinion and rebuttal, go here?

    Yes, though that’s still self-aggrandizing. It does, at least, save me the hassle of scrolling past a too-long post on my phone.

    Ideally? Be more concise. If your comment is as long as the original blog post, you’re bloviating.

  121. Mara
    Jun 27, 2012 @ 11:20:07


    I think you’re being disingenuous. You were antagonistic from your first post. Did you really think there’d be no reaction?

    “But, that 20 minutes you wasted on a bad cup of coffee cost you five dollars.”

    I wouldn’t waste either the twenty minutes or the five dollars. If the coffee’s bad, I’d return it for a drinkable cup. The same with your book, if I purchased it from a place that permitted returns. I’m more likely to waste the 20 minutes on your bad book, just to make sure it stinks before I give up on it.

    I’m sorry I don’t know your full name, because I’m afraid now I may have a kneejerk reaction to any author named Andrew. And not because your tone in your comments is so condescending and dismissive, but because you have so little respect for me as a reader that you feel comfortable putting out less than your best work for me.

    At this point, it would almost be a kindness for you to share your full name. If you really believe we have a right to know which authors are putting out substandard work, easy in their hearts and minds that they can “improve” it later on, then you will label your dirty water. Do it for the readers here, who now have as much respect for you as you’ve shown for them.

  122. P. Kirby
    Jun 27, 2012 @ 11:21:50

    Well, if this is the new model for things to come, I’ll stay “old school,” thank you very much. As an author, the last thing I want to do is spend my time in an endless loop of revisions, trying to please random commentators and reviewers. Therein lies madness. I’m not self-published (yet), but even if I were, the only changes I can see making would be to correct typos. Even then, I wouldn’t expect readers to go back and reread the shinier, newer version.

    Similarly, as a reader I don’t reread unless a book is a keeper–a rare occurrence. If the book is a keeper, I love it warts and all and would be seriously cheesed-off if the author made substantial changes to plot and characterization. Otherwise, I read a book once and have absolutely no desire to ever read it again, no matter how “improved” it may be.

  123. DM
    Jun 27, 2012 @ 12:44:13

    @Linda Hilton

    Here’s the thing I find interesting about the parallels between the two industries. Up until even ten years ago, it was true that independent filmmakers couldn’t afford the same technology as the studios, but today that’s no longer true. The last hurdle is gone–there are now affordable cameras that capture feature film quality images. But I am still cutting independent filmmakers the same slack when I see a poorly shot film–even though I know it is no longer a problem of technology, but one of time, devotion and skill. And yet I can’t even finish a poorly written book. Is this a difference in the mediums? Is it because I think filmmaking is harder than fiction writing? Do these things bother readers are much as writers? Do filmmakers get as upset about poor quality indies as writers do about poorly written books?

    Fifty Shades of Grey was not a polished product in its original form–but I suspect that like the success of El Mariachi, it will encourage a huge number of aspiring authors to put out a product that might not be ready–because they have seen one rough product succeed. I personally am not interested in reading works in progress, but I will watch rough cuts of films–even stand on line to see footage of a picture I’m particularly interested in–even without finished sound or special effects. Since films and books are both story vehicles, it seems possible that as the process of writing becomes more transparent, more people may be interested in seeing work in an unfinished state. What I doubt they will ever be interested in buying a book that purports to be a finished product, but is really a rough draft. It’s the misrepresentation the author is engaging in that is the problem for me.

  124. DM
    Jun 27, 2012 @ 12:59:34

    If an author publishes a book and expects me to pay for it, it better be pro quality. If not, I won’t be buying a second time. If you’re an author in training, then don’t unload a draft to Kindle and slap a price onit. Put it up somewhere for free and ask for input. You can’t expect expect paying customers to find your mistakes and take the time to contact you with a list so you can make the changes.

    Yesterday, I picked up a Patricia McLinn freebie. I was floored when I opened the file and found this paragraph right up front:
    Dear Readers: If you encounter typos or errors in this book, please send them to me at [email protected]. Even with many layers of editing, mistakes can slip through, alas. But, together, we can eradicate the nasty nuisances. Thank you! – Patricia McLinn
    Is she kidding! I thought she was a pro. Evidently not. A pro who cares about the quality of her work would spend the time to go through the book herself, not expect her readers to do the work for her. This is unbelievable.

  125. Andrew
    Jun 27, 2012 @ 13:14:41

    I’m grinding my teeth in an effort not to respond to every negative comment for a few reasons: because they didn’t specifically address me, because it is off-topic, and because flame wars are stupid. However, there are some who did. I will now respond.

    @Mara: nice hasty generalization. Did I expect a reaction? Yes, I was hoping for a civilized debate. It truly is a sad day when all you want to do is pat each other on your collective backs for bullying the person with a different opinion than yours. You say the post was antagonistic. I can’t wholly disagree. There are multiple layers of reasoning as to why I wrote the posts the way I did. I expect a prolific reader/writer to be able to discern them. As for respect, well, that is one of the layers. If you read through many of the comments before my first post, you should be able to notice the ‘respect’ they were offering. I gave them what they ‘asked’ for. A reasonable reply to my posts would have been to comment on my tone, constructively, then point out what you agree or disagree with and why. Granted, I fell into the same trap I’m proposing against, but as I said, layers. Finally, sorry, but this is a personal attack towards you: if you would rather dismiss an author because he or she shares the same name as another author than judge each individual author on the merit of their work, then you need to seek counseling.

    Despite the few flames being thrown back and forth, there is some good discussion going on. I won’t ‘endorse’ anything because, as Mara has shown us, there are those lacking the maturity to distinguish one individual from another.

  126. Linda Hilton
    Jun 27, 2012 @ 13:36:17


    1. You admitted to coming here after seeing a twitter post/retweet/feed/whatever. Rather than introducing yourself and getting to know the people, you threw out an enormous diatribe in which you disagreed vehemently with just about everyone on just about every issue. That’s arrogance. That’s rudeness. That’s flame throwing. Sometimes the throwers of flames get burned. Here, have some aloe vera.

    2. My grandson’s name is Andrew, so I assure you I have no visceral negative to your name (which may in fact not be your name at all) so I don’t have an automatic bias. But like Mara, yes, I’m going to have a reaction to every self-published author named “Andrew” based on what you did here, because I won’t know which, if any, of those Andrews are you or not you. Of course, I realize that you think anyone who has a reaction like that needs counseling — more of your arrogance for presuming to diagnose someone’s “illness” on the basis of a discussion post, rather like Bill Frist diagnosing Terry Schiavo from videos — but in fact these are normal human reactions. We don’t know who the eff you are, and you’ve walked in here and vomited all over us. (And I’m not even a regular here, so maybe I’m just as bad.)

    3. You were expecting civilized debate? After the way you barged in here? Look at what you proposed as an invitation to your alleged blog — even in that you let everyone know your blog would be a rebuttal. In other words, you’re just letting us all know ahead of time you don’t agree with us and all you want to do is argue.

    4. If anyone is contributing to an atmosphere of not being able to distinguish one individual from another, it’s you, Andrew. As Ann Somerville said, you’re hiding behind a screen name. You could be anyone. You could be several people. We don’t know who you are, what you’ve written (if anything), nothing. You’re just a screen name, and one with an attitude. What else did you want us to think? That you’re the only Andrew on the whole effing planet? Well, you’re not.

    5. I’m Linda Hilton. As I’ve said in other places, that’s my real name. It’s on my driver’s license, my voter’s registration. My full name Linda Ann Wheeler Hilton is on the deed to my house and my facebook account. I’m not hiding. I don’t write under a pseudonym, and I’m not world famous and I’m pretty much a WYSIWYG kinda gal. I’ve taken my lumps here, and I probably will again.

  127. Ridley
    Jun 27, 2012 @ 13:46:23

    I propose we ignore Andrew. All he’s done is refocus the conversation to make it all about him. Continuing to feed the troll would give him exactly what he wants: attention.

    And, honestly, I’m tired of the Tuesday discussion threads being taken over by authors (speaking as authors, not readers) anyways. This used to be a reader blog.

  128. Sunita
    Jun 27, 2012 @ 13:48:41

    @Andrew: You’ve violated any number of online norms for blogs, newsgroups, and other internet community venues:

    (1) Your first comment was considerably longer than my original post and sounded like a screed rather than an opening for discussion.

    (2) When you begin with “So much to rant about…,” you’re not exactly inspiring confidence among commenters.

    (3) You then go on to inform the readers of a blog that is widely known for breaking and commenting on publishing industry news that “There are many good blogs discussing this.” This makes some of us think you have no idea of who we (the DA bloggers and the DA readers) are, and more importantly,

    (3) that you don’t care. Which suggests that what you care most about is having an audience. That is not our job.

    (4) You tell people who disagree with you to “piss off” in your first 1400-word comment and then complain that other people aren’t being polite? Good grief.

    You have some potentially interesting things to say, but I don’t feel like wading through your disorganized, multi-thousand word comments to find the pearls of wisdom. I spend eight months a year untangling undergraduate and graduate-student writing. I’m off the clock right now. If you want to stick to the point, I’ll read it and respond. The rest is just noise to me.

  129. Sunita
    Jun 27, 2012 @ 13:50:51

    @Ridley: Since this post was about author behavior and one reader’s response, I don’t see how it’s out of line for authors to engage in the conversation. Perhaps your criticism would be better directed at our choice of post topics?

  130. Ridley
    Jun 27, 2012 @ 14:03:10

    @Sunita: It’s not out of line for authors to participate, but they seem to be dominating discussion lately. If it’s not answering “How can we grow the MC audience?” with endless excuses of why that’s too hard for white authors, it’s writing 1500+ word monologues to make a thread all about them.

    Whatever. If people like being condescended to by authors who wouldn’t know pithy if it bit them on the ass, then I guess I’ll live. But it bugs me lately.

  131. Andrew
    Jun 27, 2012 @ 14:11:02

    You have your facts wrong, Ridley (the other troll). I have not made it about me. It is people like you, Mara, Linda, and Christine who have made it about me (and are continuing to do so). I brought a dissenting opinion. You did not like this opinion. But, rather than say you did not like it, you attacked me. I have no compunction about defending myself against bullies.


    1. the discussion was taking place at that time (and nearly dead btw). To get to know people takes time, time in which the discussion would have been completed for some time. I can admit there may have been some moments of arrogance. Rudeness, not so much. Flames, no, not really, unless you consider a dissenting opinion a flame.

    2. In all fairness, a reaction like Mara’s is in the extreme. But, your point has some merit. Hence, I stated it was a personal attack. Personal attacks don’t necessarily have basis in reality. And, correct, my name may not be Andrew.

    3. Argue is different than debate. And, yes, I did disagree on some things, but do you want to have a discussion only with people who agree with you? If someone has valid points, you should welcome them, regardless of where they are in relation to yours.

    Ridley made one legitimate point, although the way it was intended is different: If you don’t want me to fight back, don’t attack me. Attack my assertions all you want, but do not attack me. I’ll try to refrain from responding to anything, unless directed towards me, and unless someone makes an egregiously false point that someone else fails to correct.

  132. janicu
    Jun 27, 2012 @ 14:29:01

    I’m not a fan of an author revising a book over and over after it has been published. If I’ve read a book I bought, then I find out that huge edits have been made so that the story itself is changed, that would irritate me because I don’t want to reread the book again to see if it’s better. The book got the chance to impress me the one time. I only reread books that I read and liked the first time! It’s a huge imposition in my mind for an author to tell me to spend my free time to reread a story because s/he fixed the part I didn’t like. I also don’t like the idea of my book changing under me. Changes to a story can be subjective: the part some people didn’t like could’ve been my favorite part.

  133. Andrew
    Jun 27, 2012 @ 14:50:02

    @Sunita: Ugh! Your post showed up while I was responding to Linda. Sorry for another post, but you made assertions I feel obligated to respond to.

    1. Are the two mutually exclusive? I do not think so.
    2. It was intended as a courteous warning.
    3. I did not, and have addressed that already. DA can be included in that list of good blogs discussing this. Now would be a good time for the author to be able to go back and correct an error, eh?
    4. Don’t care, yes/no. Would knowing have been better? Yes. I could’ve referenced the site itself and recommended others review it. Did many of the points I made depend on knowing: no. Is it good to hear different opinions? Yes. If I didn’t care how other people thought, I wouldn’t have felt the need to provide an alternative (and just as valid) argument. The conclusion you’ve drawn regarding my motivation is a logical fallacy given the evidence you used. The audience I am concerned with are those who made comments I was rebutting, and those who read the post/comments and hadn’t necessarily considered the alternative.
    4. The ‘piss off’ was with respect to a specific argument, one I justified immediately thereafter. It is a pet peeve I have when people say things like ‘get in a critique group’ without considering why it isn’t necessarily a viable option, as if anybody can snap their fingers and suddenly be part of a good group. And, besides, that was directed at people who weren’t being polite in the first place.

    Hopefully done.

  134. Sunita
    Jun 27, 2012 @ 15:10:08

    @Ridley: I wonder if there are just a lot more author-readers these days. With the changes in the publishing landscape, I sometimes feel as if those of us who don’t have any desire to write and publish fiction are way outnumbered by the people who do. Especially in this corner of the internet.

  135. Linda Hilton
    Jun 27, 2012 @ 15:17:29

    @Sunita: Well, y’know, there’s this other thing. Writers have this really disgusting habit that they (we, I) can’t seem to kick. As off-putting as it is to some people, and as obnoxious as it makes them/us/I on occasion and especially on blogs, writers, well, sadly and unashamedly, writers (and I’m blushing with facetious shame even as I post this) writers WRITE. It’s like, you know, it’s what they/we/I DO. Maybe that’s why when the subject is writing, writers tend to write about it.

    :shrug: Maybe?


  136. Maili
    Jun 27, 2012 @ 15:22:07

    @DM and @LindaHilton:

    But I am still cutting independent filmmakers the same slack when I see a poorly shot film–even though I know it is no longer a problem of technology, but one of time, devotion and skill. And yet I can’t even finish a poorly written book. Is this a difference in the mediums? Is it because I think filmmaking is harder than fiction writing? Do these things bother readers are much as writers? Do filmmakers get as upset about poor quality indies as writers do about poorly written books?

    I don’t cut indie film-makers any slack, especially when I know they haven’t made short films before making a feature-length film. I get really annoyed when their feature film is shoddily made. That’s what a short film is for. It’s supposed to help them to learn the basics and craft of film-making. In any case, I will (and do) get upset if they continuously re-edit their film after releasing it to a festival circuit or wherenot. And finally, camera/editing technology isn’t an issue. Hasn’t been since the 1950s or thereabouts. That’s what guerrilla film-making is, anyway, basically.

    The real problem, which you both have already noted, is distribution. The Internet, digital film-making and improved connection speeds are loosening the iron grip the studios and distributors have on this country, which makes it easier for indie film-makers. Most recent example: Paranormal Activity. It was originally released online via a video streaming venue. However, studios have learnt to re-invest heavily in technological gimmicks (3D!), viral campaigns and advertising campaigns, which are seriously killing indie film-makers. Exactly like it happened in the 1960s. When indie/lowbo film-makers began to flourish, studios invested heavily in technological gimmicks (3D! Vision-o-rama! Smell-o-rama!), print and TV advertising campaigns. But I’m digressing wildly, so I’ll shut up.

    Studios do tend to show working cuts at closed screenings to vet audience’s opinions, but those screenings are free and the final cut hasn’t been yet been released. Not quite the same as releasing a book for sale and re-edit/write it afterwards, surely?

  137. Liz Mc2
    Jun 27, 2012 @ 15:28:35

    @Andrew: Although many people are annoyed by the insulting tone of your original comments, they’re also engaging with the substance.

    You are free, of course, to dismiss the established writers who are saying they’d never do this, and the readers who are saying they’d never want this, as old, busted dinosaurs. Many of these writers and readers, however, ARE exploring the opportunities offered the new world of publishing: they’re trying serial e-publishing, for instance, or combining self- and traditional-publishing. They’re reading the kinds of self-published books that would never be picked up by mainstream publishers.

    What they’re saying is that they don’t like the “pay-by-draft” model. I frequently read “dirty water,” work that is less than the author’s best–and the author knows it. I provide feedback and then read the revised version. I don’t pay for that, though; I GET paid. It’s my job (like Sunita, I’m a college teacher). Nothing would induce me to pay to replicate that experience in my pleasure reading.

    There may well be readers who WOULD do that, as meoskop said above, and you’re welcome to them. But unless you have a virtual monopoly (like my cable company), you can’t force customers to accept whatever service model you want to provide. Customers here are saying “no thanks” to your model, and not because we haven’t considered it. It doesn’t meet our needs as readers.

    I’m also really, really suspicious of the idea that people who paid 99 cents for your story are going to provide any more useful feedback than a random critique group. Finding and learning to use good feedback takes work. If you want to be a good writer, you have to do it.

  138. Tellulah Darling
    Jun 27, 2012 @ 15:46:19

    Having come from the indie filmmaking world to the novel writing world, I’ve noticed a similar tendency – which is to rush a story into being before its ready. Whether out of ignorance or enthusiasm, sometimes, the desire to get one’s story to an audience results in it being put out there too soon. I remember this with indie filmmaking when decent consumer video cameras and editing software became accessible and now we have the ease of self-publishing.

    For me, good storytelling trumps poor technology if onscreen, or some typos in a book. I remember when Ed Burns released his first low budget indie called The Brothers McMullen. Shot, I think, on 16mm it looked kinda crap. But the story was great. Suck me in and I will forgive a lot.

    I think we storytellers owe it to our audience and ourselves to take the time and rewrites necessary before putting a story into the world. Even when I don’t enjoy someone’s story, it’s not a big deal so long as I feel like the storyteller really was putting the best version of that story out there. I’ll buy another book or see another movie by someone whose last product didn’t jive with me. But when I feel like it was put out half-baked and “good enough” – then it’s insulting. And at that point, dollars will dictate who ends up having a career.

    It’s too bad that it results in a lot of people having a poor opinion of certain storytellers but the more wonderfully crafted and executed stories show up, the more people will embrace storytellers no matter how the story came into being. Anyhow, its what I want to hope for.

  139. Author on Vacation
    Jun 27, 2012 @ 18:13:32


    You’re assuming the novel is poorly written and poorly edited. It may not be professional quality, but it could still be well written and decently edited.

    I don’t want a “decent effort.” I want the best book the author can produce.

    the reviews will out the poor writing authors.

    Good Heavens! So as long as I personally don’t get “scammed” into buying a crappy book, it’s okay that someone else did?

    The point is NO consumer should have to pay for and read substandard books. And no author worth a drop of ink would screw over a reader that way.

    You have the choice to purchase.

    Every consumer has the choice to purchase or pass on merchandise. However, merchants and manufacturers have an obligation to recognize consumers harbor certain expectations concerning the goods and/or services they buy.

    I don’t mean this insultingly, but you sound like a criminal or an emotionaly disturbed person who can’t come to terms with his own responsibility for wrongdoing. The book is the author’s creation, his artistry, his product. No author can guarantee everyone in the world will love his book, but he CAN control his book’s quality.

    I sympathize with the loss of time spent reading, if it is total crap. At the same time, if it is total crap, you probably wouldn’t waste too many hours on it.

    Wrong (again.) I am one of those stalwart souls who reads the book cover to cover. Even if it’s lousy. I refuse to review DNF books. However, I WILL read a lousy book to completion and promptly regurgitate its lousiness on the internet.

    Either way, it should not matter whether I spend five minutes or five hours reading a book. If the book is amateurish and poorly edited, the author didn’t do right by his readers. Or himself, for that matter.

    There are new, old, and current television shows and movies and other media you probably waste as much time on

  140. Author on Vacation
    Jun 27, 2012 @ 18:16:59

    There are new, old, and current television shows and movies and other media you probably waste as much time on…not to mention commercials … that 20 minutes you wasted on a bad cup of coffee cost you five dollars.

    Il s’excuse s’accuse.

  141. Ann Somerville
    Jun 27, 2012 @ 18:33:21

    @Tellulah Darling:

    “I’ve noticed a similar tendency – which is to rush a story into being before its ready. ”

    As Mara wisely said

    If you’re the type of person who doesn’t like to spend long hours dissecting what you read in order to learn what works, or you don’t revel in lots of alone time with just your characters for company, writing fiction may not be your best career choice.

    But even the most minor of indie film makers can’t imagine the isolation of the unknown, unpublished, first time author. Indie filmakers at least need lighting and sound people, and maybe other technicians, not to speak of any actors involved. In their working day, they will speak to humans. Many authors won’t.

    Artists (most of them) crave validation, and for writers, we need this both as a spur to carry on, and to have some idea if we are doing things right. (I speak of writers who want an audience, and aren’t happy to keep their scratchings in an underwear drawer. That would be most of us, I think.)

    The trouble is that too many of these isolated first time authors also crave big bucks, and that’s where they come a cropper, insulting their readers and alienating a potential wider author. Too many of them believe the NaNoWriMo idea that they should be rewarded just for making the effort.

    These authors need to be encouraged to seek validation without financial gain. Greed is a rotten motivator for creativity anyway.

    Moriah Jovan said “I thought that was what fanfiction was for…?” regarding revising one’s work according to reader demands. But fanfiction is almost designed to give the validation and sense of worth to the newbie writer. There are equivalents for the original fiction writer, expecially in genre writing. I put my work up for free on my website, and got a lot of satisfaction from the reader response. It’s also a way of building a support network around a writer.

    Unfortunately, too many inexperienced writers have bought into the lie that they can make a huge pile of cash out of their first book because the market is apparently starved of good original material y those ebil publishers, and they also believe the lies they’re told about what makes for good marketing. Like creationist climate change denier birthers, they won’t listen when older, wiser heads try to tell them about reality, and they panic because they believe (possibly rightly) that they only have one novel in them and if this one doesn’t make it, they will never succeed. They listen to fools like Andrew and swallow the conspiracy theories and dumbass advice, because the alternative is to accept that they just might continue being unknown. No one is allowed to tell them they simply can’t write their way out of a paper bag. They believe that the 99% perspiration part of the famous adage applies to flinging the words down on the page.

    I know what the answer is to the problem here, but I don’t know how to make it stick. Putting one’s work out for free has benefits but also disadvantages. The problem is that it takes courage to take that risk, and too many authors, in addition to having very little talent, lack that essential trait as well.

  142. Moriah Jovan
    Jun 27, 2012 @ 19:10:45

    @Ann Somerville:

    Moriah Jovan said “I thought that was what fanfiction was for…?” regarding revising one’s work according to reader demands. But fanfiction is almost designed to give the validation and sense of worth to the newbie writer.

    I’m basically talking about an author turning his/her work in progress into a choose-your-own adventure story. It makes me think the author has no vision or has no faith in that vision. At some point, the reader should write his own damn book.

    But you know, I’m sitting here thinking about this and typing things and deleting things and now I’m coming to this: “What business is it of mine if authors want to do that?”

    Of course, the business is that I buy the book and then review it (if I feel so inclined) and then move onto the next book, never knowing or caring that this was a work in progress or if the author took anything I said about it to heart.

    My bottom line is, after I’ve read a book and possibly reviewed it, I don’t keep tabs on where it goes from there. If the book I BOUGHT was Dirty Water (by primary intention, secondary intention, or Andrew Intention), I’ll be pissed off and my review will reflect that and I’ll never think to look for a corrected edition and I’ll remember that author’s name unfavorably the next time I see it. If I found out there was a corrected edition, I’d go, “It’s about fucking time,” and promptly forget about it.

    So I guess it doesn’t really matter if it’s Dirty Water by Andrew Intention. Andrew Intention will have shot his one chance with me (and a whole lot of people), which, in the long run, harms him substantially more than it harms me.

  143. Erica Anderson
    Jun 27, 2012 @ 19:42:00

    There’s a couple of different issues being batted about here. No one wants to buy a book and be an author’s beta reader. Published books should be editorially clean. Period.

    However, an author has the right (assuming she holds CR) to modify, delete, completely rewrite, etc. *any* book she’s published. I certainly don’t do it–I want to move on to a WIP, but I don’t understand the outrage here. If you chose to read a book and enjoyed it, you’ve had the experience you presumably paid for.

    Sunita writes “If you change [your book] to make it better (in your eyes), I have to read it again to get those benefits.”

    Good heavens! Who is forcing you to read a new edition? Did your enjoyment get stripped away with the commas and plot elements that the author chose to delete?

    From my perspective, there are only two problems with an author changing a published book: 1) failure to signal a new edition; there must be some indicator of a revision or new edition so that readers can distinguish between books; 2) readers must be able to keep their original purchased books; the original shouldn’t “go away” because an author decided to make changes.

    While I hope major revisions and altered storylines won’t become the norm, I absolutely defend an author’s right to do whatever the heck she wants to with her book.

  144. Author on Vacation
    Jun 27, 2012 @ 20:24:11

    @Erica Anderson:

    I support the author’s right to do as s/he pleases with his/her own intellectual property. However, I also support my right to feel ripped off by the author should the author provide revised, rewritten editions after I’ve consumed the original.

  145. Ann Somerville
    Jun 27, 2012 @ 20:51:58

    @Moriah Jovan:

    Andrew Intention will have shot his one chance with me (and a whole lot of people), which, in the long run, harms him substantially more than it harms me.

    Absolutely. I’ve also reviewed books which are horribly edited, had the author assure me that they’ve uploaded a clean version and so I added a note to the review – only for newer readers to tell the book is still full of mistakes. So…I don’t do that any more.

    I was just using your remark about fanfiction as a jumping off point. I knew what you meant. I think fanfic is a great laboratory, and all kinds of things that won’t fly commercially can be tried out risk free writing it. Doesn’t mean the author should do that when they put their writing up for sale.

    “At some point, the reader should write his own damn book.”

    Also quoted for truth.

  146. Carolyn Jewel
    Jun 27, 2012 @ 23:05:40

    @Katee: I love you, Katee.

  147. CassieK
    Jun 27, 2012 @ 23:25:23

    @Erica Anderson:

    “If you chose to read a book and enjoyed it, you’ve had the experience you presumably paid for.”

    That’s true except that if I loved the book and want to revisit it (and I must be rare based on the comments but I do revisit my keepers), it’s no longer what I paid for. Sure, the author can revise but I don’t get a choice – I get stuck with whatever the author does. That’s what I’m outraged about. I bought, paid and read one book but the author, for whatever reason, changes it and it’s on my Kindle as an entirely different book. The thing is, I bought a book. It’s “mine.” In it’s current form. Don’t bloody change it. That’s the objection I have. And that’s not fair. Sorry (no I’m not), authors don’t have the right to do that. They don’t have the right to use me as a beta reader. They don’t have the right to change/switch what I bought because some other reader didn’t like it. Too damn bad. Then put out a better product.

  148. Sunita
    Jun 28, 2012 @ 00:01:15

    @Erica Anderson: No one is forcing me to read the new edition. And yes, of course authors have the right (moral and legal) to issue revised versions of their books.

    In this thread, other commenters have laid out a number of the issues that arise when authors revise substantive aspects of the books they’ve already put up for sale. I’ll reiterate two.

    (1) As a reviewer, I review the copy I have in my hand. If that’s an ARC, I treat it as a less than finished product. If I buy it, it’s a finished product. If the authors then decides to make substantive changes after the fact, I can add a note to my review after the fact if I know about the changes. If I don’t, the review can be misleading to new readers. Why do I want to put myself and the future readers of my review in that position? Better just to avoid authors who engage in post hoc revisions. If authors prefer that, fine by me.

    (2) As a reader, I like to talk to other readers about books. If we’re talking about different versions of a book and don’t know it, it can be very confusing. Don’t assume that everyone knows when a book has changed. Upthread Angela was surprised to find out that a key plot aspect of Whitney, My Love had been revised. That’s a very well known book. Angela is a long time romance reader. So it’s not a rare event.

  149. Linda Hilton
    Jun 28, 2012 @ 06:50:13

    @Sunita: No argument with either, but I would add:

    (3.) As a reader, I dislike deceptive practices. I’m starting to see books that have been published in raw form, have apparently gone through a de facto “beta” process that produces some revisions, and then are republished with new cover, new title, new pseudonym, but no indication even on the front matter (including copyright notice) that the book has been “published” before.

    What an author does between writing and publishing, I don’t care, so long as they’re honest about it. When they stop being honest, I stop being understanding.

  150. Ridley
    Jun 28, 2012 @ 09:13:15

    Liz Mc2 posted this video last night on Twitter and I agree with her about its relevance to this thread.

    Also, it’s friggin hilarious.

  151. Sirius
    Jun 28, 2012 @ 10:55:10

    As many have said on the thread, as long as the author clearly marks the new edition as revised edition and does not take away the previous version, I do not care. I mean, I am personally of firm opinion that the author should not listen to the reviewers as to where to go with her creativity, but as I said, I don’t care. My respect for you as an author will go way down if your first edition would be a book badly edited, filled with mistakes, but if you want to improve it, your product, your business.

    Here is what I do care about though, I encountered it maybe couple years ago for the first time and was very surprised. From time to time I go back to mini reviews I do on Amazon for various reasons – be it wanting to remind myself what was the name of the book I have read in order to recommend it to somebody else on discussion threads, or just because I loved the book and wanted to see what new recommendations Amazon may offer me as somebody who purchased this book, or for other reason. Anyway, I noticed that quite a few links to the reviews did not work and I could not figure out what the heck happened, especially since when I searched for the book, it was clearly there on Amazon. So, a friend of mine (not connected to publishers in any way) told me that she heard that apparently many mm publishers put on the amazon unfinished drafts and continue to edit it and then in a month or two put out completely edited version, which as we all know often still not perfect, but what in the name? I have no idea if my friend was correct, but all I know is that at that time for quite a few of the books were broken and Amazon was not showing that I purchased that book. What gives???. So, anyway, I basically stopped buying the new releases right away (not completely, sometimes I get impatient and do it, but most of the time I wait) and you know what happened? Most of the reviews stay put now. If this is what was happening and still may be happening, I think this is deceptive practice and highly annoying one. Push your release date back if you do not have time to do a proper editing. Oh. Actually recently I noticed it with the specific book again – I did not write a review, but I wanted to recommend it, so I went searching for Amazon link and there were no reviews there, I went looking under author’s name and I saw both versions there, without even indicating that it was a second edition.

    Again, let me stress, I have no problem with revised second edition whatsoever, as long as it is clearly marked – several of my favorites were reissued recently that way – both in ebook and print with clearly marked second edition and I am totally fine with it.

  152. Linda Hilton
    Jun 28, 2012 @ 11:09:36

    @Sirius: @Sirius: Exactly.

    But as I said, it’s even more difficult when you discover the “author” has republished under a different title, different pseudonym, same book.

    @Ridley: Just to drive your librarian brain (further) over the edge, both versions are listed on GR.

  153. Sirius
    Jun 28, 2012 @ 11:21:27

    @Linda Hilton: I agree that this is even worse (if the author republishes same book under pseudonym without letting anybody know). I also wanted to add that the books I am talking about are *not* 0.99 and not even two or three bucks. They range in prices from 6.99 to 8.99 (price variety for mm novels). And then to find out that you sold me even less edited product that you would put on the market? Ugh.

  154. Dawn G
    Jun 28, 2012 @ 16:09:47

    I’ve had notices from amazon recently that several (I think there were 7) of the ebooks I bought had been “updated” or “revised” since my purchase and did I want to get the revisions…. It is somehow discouraging to me that some of these (mostly) new authors are so hot to get published that they do so before the book is truly ready. OR, alternatively, they are sooo weak they feel the need to make changes according to what their buyers say!

    This is book writing a la George Lucas: Whenever there’s a new technique, platform, whatever, let’s change the previously finished product to keep current with the times. I find it very rude.

  155. Friday Fry-Up — Speakeasy
    Jun 28, 2012 @ 19:34:03

    […] The fluidity of content in ebooks allows authors and publishers to make quick updates, but it seems this freedom comes with a downside. Dear Author vents their aggravation in When I Bought Your Book I Didn’t Sign Up To Be Your Beta-Reader. […]

  156. Anon76
    Jun 29, 2012 @ 00:01:08


    Ren, I’ve been weighing both sides of this issue but I find your comment spot on.

  157. Sunita
    Jun 29, 2012 @ 00:08:32

    @Sirius: @Linda Hilton: @Dawn G: I went back and forth about whether I was too ranty in this post, but your examples are making me think I wasn’t ranty enough.

    There are some fabulous comments here, but I think maybe @Ren: wins the thread.

  158. Dawn G
    Jun 29, 2012 @ 07:44:40

    I’ve just spent some more time reading the comments and will now comment (again) as the reader and fledgling proof-reader that I am:

    I honestly don’t think that a lot of first-time self-published writers know the difference between “proof-reader” and “copy editor.” Whenever I offer to proof-read, I find myself having to explain that all I do is grammar and spelling corrections. I do not edit, I don’t change the order of words, I do not cut (or suggest cuts) to anyone’s work. If I have to explain this over and over again, I’m thinking that there are a lot of people who don’t know the difference.

    Anyway, I personally would have lost any respect for a writer who felt the need to revise his/her work based on what critics and other readers have said. It is the WRITER’S work. Not the critic’s. If said reader wants to read a specific story, maybe they should write it.

  159. Linda Hilton
    Jun 29, 2012 @ 08:06:05

    @Sunita: Oh, goodness me, no, you didn’t get ranty enough! ;-)

    I haven’t had time yet to read all the comments on your original blogpost, and just keeping up with this one has put me way behind on my day job, but yes, there are other examples of what I consider to be shabby treatment of readers by “writers.” I’ll try this week-end to document some of those I’ve come across.

    I will say this: I could be totally wrong, but I have a feeling that much of the shenanigating by writers who do this ultimately doesn’t do them any good in terms of sales. I don’t think most of them really care about the quality of the product, but they do care about $a£e$. And this strategy doesn’t seem to be working quite the way they expected.

  160. Linda Hilton
    Jun 29, 2012 @ 08:07:22

    @Dawn G: Absolutely.

  161. Anon76
    Jun 29, 2012 @ 09:00:03

    I’ve had a chance to get a few hours sleep after my day-night job and now think I can add a useful comment. That’s to be seen, though.

    One of the problems I see in todays publishing world is the rush to press. By press I mean in any media form. This trend had already developed in the mmp world long ago, hence why some beloved authors started being chastised for “just phoning it in.” Their plots became a rehash of previous plots, nothing fresh. But this is what publishers demanded, fast turnaround for the next book.

    Thing is, as an author, you need a little time to separate yourself from the book in order to actually “read” it. You are so close to the work while writing and editing you can’t see it for what it is: flaws and strengths alike.

    The concept of continously editing your work based on reader/reviewer comment is defeatist IMHO. Put it out there and OWN it, warts and all. Think on the positive/negative reviews and decide which you feel really constructive and to be acted upon in your next work. Emphasis on Next work.

    My book got a 3 in RT by one of their most seasoned historical reviewers. While good, some of the comments broke my heart at the time. “She just doesn’t get me.” This same reviewer saw my nametag when I attended that years RT convention. She made a point to walk up and tell me she LOVED my book. Then off she went. I was agog. “But you only gave me a 3.”

    When I had enough time to separate myself from the book, I could read it as a “reader”. Her assessment was spot on.

    Will I change those bits when I self pub it now that my rights are reverted. No, don’t think so. I agree with her opinion but other readers loved it as it stands. I’ll fix a few typos but nothing more. I have to OWN it.

  162. Mara
    Jun 29, 2012 @ 10:59:53


    “But this is what publishers demanded, fast turnaround for the next book.”

    I’ve heard this statement frequently and I’m always perplexed by it. Don’t authors have the ultimate say over when to submit their work for consideration? Are you just speaking of series books? Do publishers reject your work if you put out one book a year instead of two or three? Or were you talking solely about authors who’ve signed a contract to finish a book within a certain time period?
    I realize how naive this probably sounds. It just seems to me that it is in everyone’s best interest when the writer has the power to say the book will be ready when the writer feels it’s ready. If that takes 1-2 years, the work is likely to be better for it.

  163. Kris Kennedy
    Jun 29, 2012 @ 12:31:53

    And in the realm of buying (literally) into being a beta reader (and a whole lot of other scary things):

    I do see a place for this sort of ‘in-prcoess’ work of fiction in an intentional choose-your-own-adventure story–seems like a very cool interaction for that specific type of book, actually. But otherwise, putting out works of fiction to the general public, asking people what they think, then revising to those specs . . . eek.

    Part of the way our hearts and minds evolve is by hearing new ideas, by being surprised by them. It’s hard to be surprised by something you yourself suggested. Satisfied, yes, in a narcissistic, self-referencing way.

    If all we care about with books is making money, then we’re going to lose something vitally important to our culture.

    If this went too far, became too pervasive, it would be very scary indeed, although I don’t see that happening. (I hope!) Because, on a very basic level, the health of any system–a human body, an ecosystem, a culture–needs variety to thrive.

  164. Teresa Hill
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 15:04:16

    Wow, lots to think about here.

    Yes, I think it’s a bad idea to put work up for sale in order to get feedback to make it better. Surely there’s a better way.

    I had readers on my website and Facebook page asking when my new book was coming out, and I asked if anyone would like to be an early reader, to have people ready to post early reviews when the book went on sale. Found three volunteers, who will get the book about two weeks before it goes on sale. Very happy for their willingness to help in that way.

    But I hired an editor and have a writer friend as an early reader, because that’s work and it’s something I want done by an editor and another writer.

    That said, I recently decided to rewrite an older book of mine before it went out as an e-book. There was a review of it at Amazon that I thought had valid criticism. It was an aspect of characterization/plot that I thought I’d made obvious, but if this reader hadn’t gotten it, then I had to think others hadn’t either. That I hadn’t done my job right in the first place. (We often know things and think we’ve made them clear on the page, when we haven’t. It’s hard to keep straight the difference between what we, the writer, know about the story and what we’ve made clear on the page.)

    Anyway, the review and my own reading of the book before I uploaded it had me deciding to rework it. I’m glad I did. I’m grateful for the reader who uploaded that review.

  165. Teresa Hill
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 15:10:26

    @Mara: It’s probably more turnaround time on revisions.

    You sell the book, you get a date it’s due. It gets scheduled for publication, and then a lot of other deadlines kick in.

    Dates when the cover has to be done, the back cover copy. Dates when the edited and the copyedited manuscript arrives for you to review and has to be back at the publisher’s.

    If you have revisions (a more extensive reworking of the manuscript) that will come to you with a date when it has to be back. And you never really know how much you might be asked to do, and it usually has to be done pretty fast, if the book’s already scheduled for publication. Plus, editors get behind, too. So you might get the revision request late, which pushes you even more, and you’ll be facing a choice to turn it around fast or give up a publication slot. And then, you’ll probably want to turn it around fast, because you don’t know how far back you might get bumped in the pub schedule.

  166. Errors and Expectations | Something More
    Aug 16, 2012 @ 21:28:14

    […] and that there are some badly edited traditionally published ones too.] Earlier in the summer, Sunita told authors, “I Didn’t Sign Up to Be Your Beta Reader.” More recently, Jane’s Dear […]

  167. A link roundup « A Modern Hypatia
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  169. Self Published Authors, Do You Ever Change Your Already Published Work? | Kait Nolan
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    […] I read a compelling post about this (or rather NOT doing this) at Dear Author.  And she makes a good point.  The changes I’m considering really don’t impact the series.  The book remains mostly the same.  The characters just end up in the same location in a different way.  Not the sort of changes that would necessitate readers REreading in order to keep up with the series. […]

  170. Thoughts on editing & the indie marketplace | The Amazing Frankie
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    […] This post isn’t a cohesive dissertation on the subject; it’s not meant to be. It’s just a series of thoughts I’ve had recently on the topic of editing in the selfpub/indie scene. It started with the Dear Author post “When I bought your book, I didn’t sign up to be your beta reader.” […]

  171. Laura Dodson
    Jan 07, 2014 @ 12:43:28

    I love beta reading books. It’s fun to become part of the creative process, less the writing and editing part, of course. :)

  172. Lies, Damn Lies and Hugh Howey | Jada Marne
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    […] put your work out there: publish it for free on Wattpad or Scribd or FictionPress or your blog.  Using paying customers as your beta readers is despicable, according to angry readers on Goodreads w….  Want feedback from strangers on how to improve? Don’t ask them to pay for the privilege of […]

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