If I seem a bit preoccupied these days, it’s because we are entering the last week of classes. Finals start next Monday and run through Wednesday. Then on Sunday, May 5, I will march with the other professors to graduate our seniors who have earned their right to a diploma.
One or two won’t march, simply because their grades didn’t entitle them to graduation. I have been the bearer of bad news a few times, and even though it’s not something you look forward to doing, it’s necessary. You do it to retain your own credibility, because you have an obligation to the University and the industry, and because you owe it to the student. It’s not a complicated thing to get good enough grades to graduate, yet every year, someone doesn’t seem to catch on. I tell my students on occasion, “The way to get an A is simple: give your professor what they ask for.”
It’s that simple, but many students find it not so simple to do.
I bring all of this up because of an email I got this weekend from a reader. He had bought the paperback version of Infinity’s Reach. Overall, he was happy with the book, stating that it had a good story and that he saw it as a book he wanted to hold onto and read to his children in years to come. But he was bothered by one thing so bad that he hesitated to give it a good review. That one thing was proofreading. In Chapter 6 of the book, I used the name “Devin” instead of the proper name for a character “Damien.” It’s a mistake I have made on other manuscripts, which is easy to do if you write over a period of time. But it’s annoying to readers, understandably.
Suffice it to say that I corrected the mistake and offered to mail him a new copy of the book with the correction added. But I don’t know if it will make any difference.
For authors are just like college students. Just as students are at the “mercy” (they think so) of professors and their grades, authors are at the mercy when readers grade us two ways: (1) book reviews; and more importantly, (2) whether they buy the book. Unfortunately, (1) often determines (2). More and more I am seeing the value of getting reviews. And in a sense, a mediocre review is better than no review at all. When someone visits Amazon and looks up one of my books, they might be enticed by the cover or the back cover description. But often the litmus test will be what other readers say about the book.
Authors obsess about reviews, but in the end there’s not a lot you can do about them. You do your best to write a good story, get a good cover and back cover copy, and edit it as well as you can. And then you have to sit back and pray that readers like your stuff. And you can stay up nights worrying about it, or you move on. Fortunately, in this day and age of digital publishing, errors can be repaired relatively swiftly. I intend to put out a cleaner edition of Infinity’s Reach–probably today or tomorrow–and I am glad I have the ability to do so.
Readers have a lot of power over authors, and that is rightly so. The trick is to give them what they want.