If you're going to self-pub, awesome.
If you're going to pitch me your self-pub romance, that's also awesome.
What is not awesome? Poor representation of your self-published work. Unfortunately, these poor representations take many forms. And it all matters. All the things you write about your book in promotional materials matter as much as the book itself.
Read the last Smart Bitches, Trashy Books on the joy of romance reading on vacation.
Here's an example of a pitch I recently received:
It is an erotic romance about a band with a girl base player. She is attracted to two of her band mates and they are to her. But they play a dance, avoiding the inevitable. That is until the day comes that they cannot take it anymore. The book tells the story of her struggle to conquer lust and find love while playing rock and roll for a living.
I can only hope the girl isn't playing a "base" throughout the whole book. It would challenge her credibility as she plays music for a living.
I get that it can be very challenging to condense one's book into three or four sentences, or to describe the story succinctly enough for an emailed pitch. But this is a rather important skill. If you can demonstrate that you understand the characters, the conflict and the story arc of your novel in one or two sentences, you demonstrate that you understand your writing, and that you understand how to communicate what you've written to someone who hasn't read it.
The paragraph above hasn't given me the answer to the question I ask with every pitch: "Why should I read this book instead of all the many, many others that arrive in my inbox daily?"
A bad impression can be made with one word. One letter, in fact. And yes, I know that typos, damn them, do happen. I have misspelled my name six times already today.
But when I send an email, particularly one that's important, such as requesting a review, I READ IT OVER before I send it. Possibly out loud.
This shouldn't have to be said really. Being a professional means making sure you represent the best of yourself. If the initial request for review gives me the impression that the finished product will show the same level of care and attention shown to the email pitch, which is to say, none at all, I'm going to pass.
I fully understand that not everyone is a great speller, or knows every rule of grammar. I screw up grammar rules all the time and like to end sentences with prepositions, three of them or more if I can manage it.
I also comprehend that the variations from standard English grammar which occur in our speech can make their way into writing. I taught remedial composition for a few years and saw my share of "could of" instead of "could've."
But anyone who publishes a book, one that other people are expected to pay for, should have someone who IS a good speller and who IS familiar with grammar make sure there aren't any egregious errors in the book.
Which leads me to my most important point. The person who improves a book should not be the person who paid for it.
To quote Sunita from Dear Author, CUSTOMERS are NOT YOUR BETA READERS.
A few months back, I tried to read an older romance that was praised effusively by many romance fans, and I couldn't get past the spelling and word choice errors in every chapter. I asked for my money back and returned the book to Amazon.
Another review request I received noted that most of the typos had been caught by early readers and fixed.
Good Lord, people. Stop that.
A customer paying for a book to read is not paying for the honor of collaborating with the author, or paying for the responsibility of being a beta-reading, fact-checking copy editor. There is a big difference between reviews and revision suggestions. It's insulting to presume that a reader looking for a book should help a writer improve that book.
As many writers are discovering (I hope), self-publishing is a lot more than File > Save As. Deciding to self-publish your work is a great thing to do, and I've read several self-published books that I've enjoyed immensely. Most of the time, I decided to read those books because of a solid recommendation from a person I know, or because the request for review was professional and demonstrated confidence and clarity.
Sending out review requests with typos and poor writing do not help a self-published author succeed. Nor does selling a finished product that reads like a work in progress. If a writer is not going to present their best work for public consumption, why should we bother reading it?
The short answer is, I won't. There's umpty-zillion new books out there for me to read. I'll pick one of those instead.
Sarah Wendell is the co-creator, editor and mastermind of the popular romance blog Smart Bitches, Trashy Books.