In many parts of Spain we have todos (‘all’ in Spanish). These are shops run by the Chinese which sell just about everything. From garden furniture to cotton buds, linen to light bulbs, cell phone cases to clothes, Christmas decorations to religious icons. In fact they offer just about everything except for boats, cars, food and medicine. There are huge distribution points which import goods from China by the container ship load, flooding the market with cheap imports.
It wasn’t too long ago that if you wanted to insult anyone, you bought them a present with ‘Made in China’ stamped prominently on the bottom. Chinese toys given to children at Christmas were perceived as dangerous, either poisoning them with the ingestion of lead paint, or guaranteed to choke them with dangerously sharp, small, detachable parts. Most of these toys never lasted beyond Boxing Day anyway.
My mother went the extra mile one Christmas and presented my ex with socks made in China, they were also stamped ‘seconds’. She really knew how to make a point. (There is a lot I left out of the book).
Some todos are small, like Aladdin’s caves, there is not enough space for two people to squeeze past each other in the aisles. Others are large warehouses, boiling hot in summer, freezing in winter.
Despite a slightly guilty feeling at not pouring all our hard-earned pensions into the Spanish economy, everyone shops there. If we want a broom, we get it from the todo, price € 4. If we walk three shops down to the ferreteria, we can buy a better broom for € 12. It will last maybe twice as long, but you do the maths, 2 x 4 = 8. You still save money.
So what has this to do with books and reviews?
Firstly, most indie books are offered at a lower price. Reason one? The independent publisher does not have to share royalties with agents, publishers and distributors. Reason two? The sneaky feeling that as an indie, you are relatively unknown, so you don’t have the courage to ask a high price.
Now compare books to brooms in the minds of the potential reader / purchaser. Is a cheap book, (or even a few thousand words masquerading as a book) an inferior product?
Sadly in many cases yes, even in my own experience – and that’s been quite extensive – I’m not the first person to cringe after a couple of years and rewrite and correct that first book before uploading it again. I’m not sure what to do with the half dozen paperback copies of the first edition of my first book, I’m loathe to sell them now. Readers will see the mistakes I made and judge my later work on those early scribblings.
Yet every day more new, hopeful authors are uploading their ‘baby’ for all the world to buy. They have yet to see the errors, the mangled grammar, the tense changes mid sentence, the missing punctuation. As we are all indies in the same indie boat together, we are all judged together.
I am breathlessly waiting for Amie 2 to come back from the editor for the second time. I’ve have probably made lots more mistakes even in this second time around and then I will line proof it to get it as perfect as possible. Please, please if anyone finds a mistake in any of my books, I would love to know.
So what can we all do to raise the standard of indie books?
For newbies, engage an editor, even a high school English teacher if the high priced ones are out of financial reach. Read your work out loud, does it flow? Ask a close friend or partner to read it to you out loud, how does it sound? Ask for beta readers on FaceBook or other social media you don’t know very well and ask for their real and truthful opinions.
For those of us who have been round the block a while, help all we can by gently pointing out problems we see, even if it means not handing out 5 stars like lollipops. I hope honesty will win out in the long term and benefit everyone.
And remember that even the top writers have their work torn to shreds behind the scenes by editors, proof readers, line editors, grammar experts etc all employed by the publishing houses. It’s just that we don’t see what goes on, we only see the final product.
Back in the days of Oliver Cromwell they didn’t have to worry about such things. But this was a dark and depressing time for England. In this totally unbiased version of history, poor, innocent Charles was tried for treason, and he was unfairly found guilty.
The penalty was to have his head chopped off, and I must apologize but I can’t find a picture of that, so here is one more picture of this wonderful king with his head still on. At his final speech, he did not stutter once and he was as brave as a divine king could be.
This is how England looked at that time. It was a time called the Interregnum (whatever that means).
Shameful isn’t it? England had no king at all. And on Monday I shall tell you of the dreadful things that Oliver Cromwell did.