A few days ago, Amazon announced that e-books with excessive content errors – spelling mistakes, formatting problems, etc. – will be flagged with a warning when a reader goes to download the book, and authors across Teh Interwebz are shitting themselves.
According to a blog post on Goodreader, beginning on February 3, “Amazon will begin showing customers a WARNING MESSAGE on the Kindle store detail pages of books that contain several validated quality issues.” The post goes on to say that the quality control – and make no mistake, that’s exactly what this is – will be a two-stage system. If a book contains a few small errors, the warning will be displayed and readers will still be able to download the content.
If the book is such an absolute dumpster fire that no one can read it without wanting to toss their Kindle across the room, then, gentle writers, your book will be suppressed and unavailable to download until you fix the problems.
And ever since this announcement came out, I’ve seen authors complaining about what a terrible idea it is, and trying to find all kinds of reasons why it’s terrible, and making excuses for why they just think it’s soooooo unfaaaaair that Amazon is doing this to them.
News flash, my little pumpkins: IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU.
You know who it’s about? YOUR READERS. Because quite frankly, if you’re turning out a product – and yes, your book is a product – that’s full of spelling mistakes, bad formatting, weird grammar, and repeated demonstrations that you don’t understand the difference between your and you’re, then the people who might want to read that book deserve to know in advance. They just do. If you can’t be bothered to improve your product, then you don’t deserve to have them as your customers. Writing is a business, and readers are your customers, and they deserve better.
The enemy here is not Amazon. The enemy is not quality control. The enemy is, in fact, a culture in which writers have decided that they’re under no obligation to fix mistakes that make their books unreadable. If you go out for dinner, and your cheeseburger arrives undercooked and missing the cheese, and your fries have a hair on them, you’re not going to just sit back and nom on your food and be happy to do so, telling yourself, “Well, the cook tried really hard and I know how proud he is of this meal, so Imma just eat it anyway and then Yelp about how awesome it was.”
Hell no, you’re not. Why would you expect your readers to do the same?
One of the reasons why self-publishing so often gets a bad rap is because there’s so much garbage out there. I’ve read some really amazing self-published work from the Kindle store – and I’ve downloaded some books that were absolute and utter shit, because the repetitive spelling mistakes and dodgy punctuation were so distracting that I couldn’t finishthe first chapter. Want to be taken seriously as a writer? Upload a quality product.
If you get a message from Amazon saying your book has mistakes in it, know what you do? FIX THEM. And then upload a new version of the file. If you think we, as writers, should be allowed some sort of pass on quality just because it’s a creative endeavor and not a Happy Meal that we’re producing, then you really need to evaluate whether or not you’re writing books for your readers, or whether you’re just indulging in Author: The Role Playing Game so you can live out your ego-masturbation fantasies.
Our readers deserve better. As writers, we owe it to them to produce a quality product. And if we can start doing a bit of quality control on ourselves before that product even gets to Amazon, then maybe someday – just maybe – self-publishing and small presses will become less of a joke. Amazon’s new policy might be what’s putting this all in motion, but it’s up to us – the producers of content – to fix the problem.