Official Website for Contemporary Romance Author Alicia Renee Kline

Higher Standard

I’ll admit it.  It’s good to take a break from your own stuff for a while – before you get sick and tired of it.  Considering that I’ve gone through my new book with a fine toothed comb more times than I care to mention, I’m super excited to actually be reading things written by other people.

In doing so, I’ve noticed a new phenomenon.  Or maybe I’m just now more attuned to it.  Whatever the case, I’ve seen more and more people putting their “best selling author” credentials on the cover of their books.  Whether Amazon, USA Today or New York Times, it seems like 95% of the books that I have downloaded lately proclaim this proudly next to the title or the author’s name.

I get why it’s done, even if I personally think the practice is kind of tacky.  There’s limited space on a cover as it is, especially when you’re talking about ebooks and a thumbnail image.  I for one wouldn’t want the declaration to outshine the book itself.  And I’m one who likes to judge a book by its content and not its author – for example, I can love a book written by someone I don’t see eye to eye with and vice versa.  At the same time, I fangirl over certain authors and one click just because they wrote it, often times sight unseen.  And no, they aren’t best sellers.

All authors have an ego, including yours truly.  I think that helps when we put our work out into the public marketplace.  We either believe in it, or think it can make us money, or a combination of both.  We like when people read it and talk about it.  And we love it when it sells, especially to the caliber of making one of those best seller lists.  Or so I imagine.

So placing this distinction on the cover of a new release is somewhat self-serving, a look-at-me kind of moment.  But in my eyes, it also serves as a vetting process – a promise to the reader that the work was created by someone who knows what they are doing.  A footnote to the blurb, if you will, that says “Hey, this book won’t suck!”

Of course, what you think is golden won’t necessarily meet my opinion of a masterpiece.  I’ve experienced that myself:  popular books by big name authors that just don’t resonate with me.  They can be technically perfect, but still not have what it is that I’m looking for.

But should we hold novels that are labeled as written by best selling authors to a higher technical standard?  After all, it’s considered a common slush pile problem to have a manuscript riddled with errors – a bane to the existence of self-publishers everywhere.  Shouldn’t the work of a best seller be superior?

That’s not always what I’ve been finding.

Case in point, I’ve found stilted dialogue and grammatical errors aplenty in best sellers.  Granted, I can’t totally read like a layperson any more, but these aren’t tiny glitches like formatting errors, or debates about if a comma or semicolon should have been employed.  In one such work – which was clearly edited, as the author credited the editor in the acknowledgements – I found nails on my chalkboard mistakes like “I slammed on the breaks” and “cab fair” within mere paragraphs of one another.  After the “cab fair” thing, I quite literally screamed at my Kindle and shook my head.

I expected more.

Much more, like the author actually going back and reading the thing once again before releasing it to the public.  Who knows, maybe she did and it still didn’t stand out to her.  But I can’t possibly be the only one who noticed.

When I release a book, I’ve read and reread and read some more until I tire of making it perfect.  I am anal retentive to a fault and I literally get sick to my stomach when I find errors in work that I’ve already sent out to readers, even in a beta or ARC format.  And I know I still miss things.  Which is why I put it down for a month or so and then go back one last time before sending the final final version out into the world.

I hope I never get to a point where I lose that sense of wanting to make things right.  Of striving for perfection, so that no reviewer ever tears me a new one for my grasp on the English language.

If I ever do make it to the best seller list, I promise I won’t rest on my laurels and put out something I can’t be proud of.  I also promise that you’ll never find out I’ve made it big via my book cover.