Interview as Helen Hollick’s “Guest of the Day”

Thanks to Helen for giving me the opportunity to tell my story. It was fun to write this interview, but I was absolutely stumped by the dinner guest question (pressure to perform in front of all the conference attendees) and Helen picked me up and dusted me off, thank goodness! Enjoy!

On another note, I am way behind in the Battle of the Book Review Blogs and voting closes on Monday, September 3…if you’d care to vote, please go to

Thank you to those readers who have voted for The Queen’s Quill; you’ve made my day!

Next in the “From Mainstream to Indie” series

I am working on an interview with prolific writer Joan Druett, author of the recently re-released historical novel,  A Love of Adventure:

Set in the 1850s, this novel follows the adventures of a sea-captain’s daughter as she struggles both to learn the truth about her father’s death and to claim her inheritance, the brig “Pandora.” It is a tale of love, mutiny, and life aboard the whaling ships of the last century. (from

AND the Wiki Coffin series of seafaring mysteries based on the events surrounding the fates of the ships of United States South Seas Exploring Expedition, set in the mid-nineteenth century.

Joan is not only a fiction author but also a maritime historian and writer of nonfiction on maritime topics including women’s roles in the nautical realm. You can read about her publications and background on her website: We will be talking about her journey from mainstream publishing  to Indie, as she has recently re-released her above-mentioned historical novel as a self-published e-book.

As for the next review, I will be publishing the link to the HNS review of Julie K. Rose’s Oleanna and some further thoughts at the beginning of August.

Interview with Margaret Muir: From Mainstream to Indie

When contemplating the pitfalls in Indie publishing, we forget at times that pitfalls exist in mainstream publishing as well. Margaret Muir, author of Sea Dust and four other historical fiction novels, talks about some of these problems and explains why she eventually chose to self-publish. Welcome to Margaret Muir and thank you for doing this interview!

Your books (The Condor’s Feather, Sea Dust, and The Twisting Vine, for example) were originally published by Robert Hale in the UK… How were you originally picked up by Robert Hale? Did you seek out an agent or did a publisher find you? Can you describe the process you went through?

Ten years ago, apart from journalistic articles, I was unpublished as an author. Having only recently been inspired to write a novel, I joined a rather elite writers’ critique group. This included a couple of multi-published British authors. Having read extracts from my first manuscript, one of these authors (who prefers to remain anonymous), suggested I contact her agent in London.  I believe she mentioned my name to him, so when I sent in my sample chapters, after being instructed to make several major changes to the story and its contents, my historical fiction novel was accepted for representation. My own experience was, therefore, similar to Helen Hollick’s – a case of knowing the right people.
Once in the hands of the agency, the manuscript (Sea Dust) was submitted to one of the major publishing houses but was rejected. It then went to Robert Hale Ltd, who accepted it for publication. The offer, however, was very nominal, but as a new author, I was over the moon and accepted.

Robert Hale is an independent publisher with an excellent reputation-what was it like working with them?

Hale Books (London) is a very well-respected and old, established family business. When I joined their stable in 2004, this small publishing empire was overseen by octogenarian Mr John Hale. Working closely with their very professional staff on my first three books was a real pleasure, but staff changes over recent years saw a loss in the previous intimacy and subsequent lessening in standards of the finished product (in my experience).
One thing I did not realise, at the time of signing with Hale, was that they were in the business of producing hardback books to supply to the British libraries. These were high-quality publications with commissioned artwork for the jacket covers. But only about 400 copies were ever produced at a commensurately expensive price. Hale Books were never distributed for sale through retail outlets and, apart from sending out a handful of review copies, there was no marketing.
By 2005, I had written my second book under the title Through Glass Eyes but the company rejected my choice of title. It was, therefore changed to The Twisting Vine. This was a disappointment to me. The story features a French Bru doll which hovers in the background throughout the 25 years of the saga. I felt my title was appropriate but bowed to the publisher’s wisdom. (I have subsequently reverted to my original title.)
Another problem which occurred with this novel was that the agent had held the manuscript back for six months before presenting it. Later the publisher told me I should have followed up on Sea Dust immediately. Heigh ho! I felt I had no control. I was being managed and published but not necessarily to my best advantage.
The Black Thread followed in the same publishing style – library copies only. And like, Sea Dust, even though it sold out completely in a matter of weeks, it never went into re-print. In my opinion, the cover image for this hardback was dark and depressing but this was out of my control.
Written in the contract was a clause that Hale could retain paperback rights for six months following publication of the hardback. But, at that time, Hale did not follow up with paperbacks, so my historical fiction novels never went any further.
By the time The Condor’s Feather was published, the staff at Hale had changed several times and the professionalism from the new young editorial staff was lacking. Edits were not followed through, and review copies were sent to inappropriate locations. Sadly this was only the fault of a couple of staff members, but, for me, it reflected on the company.

When and why did you eventually decide to self-publish all of your books?

In 2010, my fifth book, Floating Gold, was published by Hale under my own name, but it did not sell well. I had argued with Mr Hale that a seafaring adventure of the Horatio Hornblower style, written for a male readership, with no romance or female characters, would not perform under a woman’s name. He said I had an established British readership (through the libraries) and he wasn’t prepared to let me use a pseudonym. I argued that my female following would not be interested in a classic age-of-sail maritime adventure. Floating Gold was published in 2010 but it went to print with about 150 uncorrected editing errors and performed poorly. Six months after publication, I asked Hale for reversal of my rights and was granted them on all five novels.
In my view, all my titles were dead in the water. They had never seen an audience beyond the walls of the UK lending libraries, had never been offered to retail outlets, and never been presented overseas, including the USA. I decided, therefore, to self-publish my books in paperback, not with a view to making money, but to giving my books a new lease on life and letting them breathe again for a while.

Can you talk a bit about what you found in the self-publishing world when you started on this path?

To use a cliché, as anyone who has ever looked into self-publishing knows, it’s a jungle out there. Dozens, if not hundreds of companies are offering to ‘publish your book’ – but at a cost! And the cost involved can be staggering. I personally know authors who have been stung for thousands of dollars in up-front costs, and, as a result, have thousands of copies of their much-loved masterpiece gathering dust in a garage. It is likely the whole experience has soured their hopes and killed their writing dreams. The advice I would give anyone proposing to self-publish is – do your homework first, and be very wary.
Not wishing to be inveigled into such schemes, I opted for Lulu. <>
This American company will produce books for you as a self-publisher on a POD (print on demand) basis. They even supply the ISBN free of charge. If you only want one book, that’s fine – and you will only ever pay for one book. Nothing more. I can’t speak for Smashwords or Createspace, as I have never used them, but I believe they operate on a similar basis.
Books produced by Lulu appear on Amazon, but one must remember that a book on the internet will not sell itself. You must still do your own marketing and promotion.
From a physical production point of view, Lulu is relatively simple to follow. There are explicit instructions and templates for uploading your Word document. Creating a jacket cover is as easy as transferring an image from your computer and following a few easy steps. You don’t have to be a computer wiz to do it. Plus, self-publishing gives you full control over your jacket or e-book cover, and with photo-shop programs, you can produce an appealing design which will help sell your book.
Once your book is finished (within hours, once you get the hang of it), your only financial obligation is to buy a single copy. If you want to make changes to the book – then you upload your revised WORD document and produce another. Again you must pay for it. But this has to be better than parting with thousands of dollars.

What are your thoughts about the quality of Indie and e-books right now?

Indie books: Regarding Indie-books, I can only comment on standard-sized Lulu paperbacks. In my opinion the external quality is very good, both in paper and jacket covers. However, the book’s content, the quality of the written word, syntax, presentation of dialogue and paragraphs, and spelling, is up to the author.
E-books: Generally, the biggest problem I have encountered with self-published e-books is the poor quality of formatting. A poorly formatted book can be most distracting for the reader. This may deter the buyer from purchasing any other e-books produced by that author.
Having self-published in paperback, I then looked at the e-book market and saw the potential. Initially, Belgrave House published my books in various e-formats but, with a few minor edits occurring in this edition, I resolved to republish.
I was attracted to Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), because several fellow authors I know are doing well with sales through this outlet. With this in mind, and not being computer savvy, I opted to use a professional formatter.
As with paper publishing, one is again confronted with similar problems. There are companies popping up all over the world offering all manners of file conversion services, and at very varying degrees of cost.
Having checked out several companies in UK and US, I opted for http://www.custom-book-tique <http://www.custom-book-tique/> in Canada. For a cost of $125, I can have my Word document formatted to a Kindle mobi-file and upload it to KDP within 3 days. The result is a very professional, and I am delighted. So far, I have uploaded three of my books to KDP and have two more pending.
Overall, I would say the finished appearance and quality of indie paper and e-books is greatly dependent on the author and the road he/she wants to take.

Do you have any suggestions for authors who are considering self-publishing?

I can only re-iterate: do your homework, thoroughly. Visit lots of sites which are offering publishing help, and read other writers’ experiences on blogs such as this.
But first, work out what you want as an end result. If you are looking for instant fame and fortune, then forget it. Ask yourself, are you prepared to do your own marketing and promotion? Are you wanting a book produced in a matter of weeks rather than waiting for a year for a publishing house? Do you have money to burn or are you operating on a limited budget?
Then there is the question – how long are you prepared to keep submitting manuscripts to agents and/or publishers and being rejected? If you have confidence in your work, have had it well edited and proofread, then I would recommend taking the plunge. Publish your first book and then start writing another.
As I said, with Lulu books, promotion and publicity is up to you, but even some of the large publishing houses expect their writers to source reviews and use the social networking sites to best advantage.
As for me, by next month, I will have all five of my books published on Kindle with KDP. I am also completing the first sequel to my age-of-sail adventure but, rather than submitting it to Hale Books, then waiting a year for it to be produced and another 6 months before I can request return of my paperback rights, I am about to self-publish in paper with Lulu and with KDP Select as an e-book. Both will be available in September.
It is an exciting, fast-changing time in the publishing industry which is offering plenty of opportunities for the writer. Technology is advancing at a rapid rate and self-publishing processes are getting easier.  But, keep in mind, a badly written book is still a badly written book even if it appears in a gilt-edged cover. I wish you luck.

In conclusion I would like to thank Andrea for inviting me to share my experience on the Queen’s Quill. I would also like to extend my thanks to Bob Tanner, my past agent (died 2009), for giving me a kick start in the industry, and to Robert Hale Ltd for putting my by-line on five books.

For more information on Margaret Muir
Ref: <> <>

A Focused Chat with Author Helen Hollick: Let’s Get the Story Out: Mainstream and Indie Publishing

Helen Hollick’s story and publishing history have strongly influenced my thinking about Indie books. It is one of the reasons why I believe so fervently that HIGH-QUALITY (because yes, sadly, many Indie books are still not high quality) Indie novels can be the equal of any mainstream book out there.

I want to share her story with readers who self- or subsidy-publish because, through her journey, she gives us important insights on the publishing world in general and how to succeed even without the backing of an agent or a mainstream publishing house.

Thank you, Helen, for sharing your story with us. If you are an author who has been previously published by a mainstream house and now self-publishes and would like to share your story with readers, please contact me. I would love to run a series on this topic.

How were you originally picked up by Heinemann (UK) and Sourcebooks (US)? Did you seek out an agent or did a publisher find you? Can you describe the process you went through?

I was very, very, lucky.

I had the good fortune to become friends with the wonderful Sharon Penman. I had written to her (back in the days of real letters on real paper) saying how much I had enjoyed Here be Dragons. I mentioned that I was attempting to write a book, but I doubted it would be anywhere near as good as hers. Some while later I received a reply from her saying “If you can make a four page letter as interesting as yours, I can’t wait to read the book!”

I was then lucky enough to meet with Sharon for a coffee when she was next in London – and it was so delightful to talk to an accomplished writer about history and writing. Generously she offered to read my first two chapters and, bless her, she pointed out all the technical errors, such as over-long sentences, point of view changes, author’s voice.

I took on board all she had said, finished the book and sent it to her agent (with a covering note from Sharon.) The agent took me on.

Some short while later, Heinemann approached the agent hoping to tempt Sharon to their lists, but she was contracted for several more books to her own publisher.

“I have her protégé though,” said the agent.

That was it, I was signed.

The result was The Kingmaking, Pendragon’s Banner and Shadow of the KingThe Pendragon’s Banner Trilogy.

I was picked up much later by Sourcebooks (read on….)

On your website, you say that in 2005 you had a disagreement with your agent—can you expand on this? Is what happened to you a common problem between authors and agents these days?

 If you notice above I didn’t mention the agent’s name. Unfortunately, yes, we had a major disagreement – although I had lost faith in her quite a while before 2005. I had not felt that she was “on my side” for quite a while. Several ideas that I had sent her for possible novels had either been ignored, or come back as “not worth bothering with”; nor had there been any marketing for my fifth novel, A Hollow Crown – or any apparent enthusiasm for my published books. I trusted her though, assumed she was doing her best for me.

I was wrong. She had lost interest.

I realised this when I had poured my heart and soul into a new project –  Sea Witch. The agent wanted me to write something different, Pirates, because Johnny Depp and Jack Sparrow were all the rage. Nautical novels abounded, but most were Patrick O’Brian, C.S. Forrester type novels, aimed at a male readership; there was very little – to none at all – fiction of a similar nature to the Pirates of the Caribbean movie. Certainly nothing for us adult Jack Sparrow fans who wanted some swashbuckling adventure, with a bit of fantasy and a very drool-able hero. I looked for books to have a “pirate fix,” couldn’t find any, so wrote my own. Sea Witch just poured out of me. I was in love with Captain Jesamiah Acorne, the moment I met him.

Unfortunately, the agent did not have the same crush on Johnny Depp and was not interested in rogue pirates. She wanted me to write Treasure Island for teenage boys. I wanted to write Frenchman’s Creek with a touch of supernatural for adventure loving grownups. I was told the manuscript I had submitted was rubbish (it came back with red lines scrawled across it, and words such as “This is so-o boring, yawn” written over it.

On the telephone she told me she couldn’t bear to read that nonsense again, so I had better find myself another agent – and by the way, Heinemann were not going to reprint my backlist, wished me luck for the future, and put the phone down on me.

I was utterly shattered. That cliché of “felt like she had been kicked in the stomach” –  I assure you, it really does feel like that.

I spent two weeks sobbing, completely devastated. Then picked myself up and decided I did not need her. What had she done for me the past few years anyway? Absolutely nothing. What did I have to lose to try and start again?

I have since come across several other authors who were similarly “dropped” by agents who, to put it bluntly, could not be bothered with mid-list authors and their backlist and out-of-print books.

If you have a good agent who backs you to the hilt, is there to encourage and assist because he or she knows you are a darn good writer with a lot of untapped potential – then support that literary guardian angel to the best of your ability. A good agent is an absolute treasure! A bad one is about as useful as a chocolate teapot.

 I, along with many other readers, loved Sea Witch, and you have a proven track record of marketable writing, so I’ve got to ask why isn’t the series being mainstream published?

Thank you, several top authors have said they think my Sea Witch Voyages are probably my best work (although other readers prefer the straight historicals – I suppose it all comes down to preference, doesn’t it?) I put my heart into writing Sea Witch – I even wrote on Christmas Eve and Boxing Day, taking a break only on Christmas Day itself. The words literally poured from me, I don’t remember writing half of it, as the story wrote itself.

After being dumped by ex-agent and Heinemann, I touted my backlist and Sea Witch round a few publishers. No one wanted to know. Two reasons: sales figures for my historical fiction were poor, because beyond the first book, Kingmaking, and a little for my 1066 novel Harold the King (US title, I Am the Chosen King), there had been no marketing. No marketing = no sales. And who wants to take on a has-been author?

I received some positive appraisal for Sea Witch, but again and again I received back, “We like this, but it does not fit our publication list – it is not easily marketable.”

I soon realised that I wasn’t being snapped up because I was considered a “failed” author – and because publishers like easy-to-market genres. Square pegs in square holes. Sea Witch is cross-genre, it is historical adventure fantasy – not quite one, not quite the other.

And mainstream publishers do not like taking a punt on the unknown. Nor on dumped authors. That was not going to stop me though.

Sea Witch was going to be launched – I was determined to prove that ex-agent, and all those publishers, wrong.

In the end, you decided to self-publish (SP). Can you talk a bit about what you found in the self-publishing world when you first began your search for an appropriate outlet?

I realised that my only choice was to self-publish. It was a risk, but I figured even if I only sold one book a month it would be selling more than no books at all – and I couldn’t live without sharing my characters with other people, I couldn’t just let them “die,” to not be in print and “live.”

So I found a small independent company – who had an even smaller mainstream imprint. I did pay towards Sea Witch being published – basic set-up costs – but soon after publication I was moved to their miniscule mainstream offer, which meant they covered the cost of production. It was not ideal because the company was very small, they had staffing problems, and as it turned out, financial problems as well, but all my books were in print, including Sea Witch and two more “Voyages,” Pirate Code and Bring It Close.

The company was in trouble, so with new office premises, new, enthusiastic staff who knew what they were doing, it re-launched under a different name, with good intentions and high aspirations. I was happy to back them because having been let down by the “big boys,” I wanted the Indie side to do well. Things were not smooth though, and a lot of their clients, including myself, were eventually seriously let down by the managing director when the company went broke. All the staff, I must add here, were lovely – absolute gems. They were stung as much by the company owner as much as us authors.

Being honest? The quality of my books published by Discovered Authors/Callio Press was less than acceptable. But the few years that I was with them tied me over, kept me in print (and not at my own expense) and perhaps more useful, I had a very sharp learning curve about the dos and don’ts of independent publishing.

The one big thing that assured me that I was doing the right thing (even with a company that was not as good as it should be) was that I was approached by Sourcebooks, Inc of the USA. The M.D. had always loved my Arthurian books and approached me for the American rights. I had full control over my books, so I signed up.

And God Bless my American readers, thank you, I am doing really well with my straight historical fiction!

As with other publishers, though, Sourcebooks is not interested in the cross-genre Sea Witch series.

If I ever figure out why publishers do not want good books I’ll let you know.

Why did you choose your current SP company, SilverWood Books?

I had met with Helen Hart, the director of publishing and owner of SilverWood, at the London Book Fair. I instantly liked her, her vision, and her honesty. When I realised that Callio was about to go belly-up, I contacted her again, asking for more information about going with her company – assisted publishing. I briefly considered literally going self-publish, doing it all myself, but I have very limited technical skills, and being frank, I’d had enough of my books looking unprofessional. I wanted them produced to a quality standard.

It was expensive – nothing worthwhile is cheap, but I’d had a small legacy from my mother’s estate, and decided to use that for my books.

Best thing I ever did!

Have the conditions surrounding the SP market improved or deteriorated since you began your search?

I think improved, as far as hard copy books are concerned. Although there is a long, long way to go, and reaching that position of “respectability” is up to self-published authors.

More recognised mainstream traditional authors are turning to self- and assisted-publishing for their out-of-print backlists. The big publishing houses are often not interested in old backlists, so authors are becoming empowered to “do it yourself.” As I said above, even one book a month is better than none at all.

Also, there are a lot of talented writers out there who, for various reasons, cannot get published in the conventional way – maybe because their plot is, like my Sea Witch Voyages, “outside the box.”

The development of Kindle and e-books has completely opened another market for Indie writers. It is quick, easy, and cheap to upload an e-book.

But sadly, cheap is the word….

You are an advocate of high-quality self-published books that adhere to the standards of mainstream publishers. Can you tell readers why you believe adhering to these standards is crucial?

Cheap, amateur, unprofessional, poor quality. These are the words usually – and sadly, often correctly – associated with self-published/Indie books.

Indie authors only have themselves to blame because too many do not take care in the production of their work, and what is more alarming, too few fail to realise why quality, professional production is important.

As UK editor for reviewing Indie published novels for the Historical Novel Society, I have found some absolute gems – novels that I cannot understand why mainstream did not grab them. But, oh dear, I have also been sent some sad, sorry books to review. Not from the writing point of view – I never even got that far because the layout and presentation was incorrect.

You do not see mainstream, traditionally published books with double spacing between paragraphs, or the text aligned to the left (and therefore with a ragged right margin). Nor do you find novels published by the big publishing houses dotted on every page with obvious errors – or with one word (called “orphans”) or one line (called “widows”) stuck all on their own on a page.

What amazes me are the number of authors who complain about a rejection on these grounds – look at it this way, if you go to buy a new dress, would you be happy, on getting home, to discover that the hem was not sewn up, and the buttons were uneven? If you buy a new tyre for your car, would you accept it with a bald patch, or a slow puncture? No, you would not.

If you pay good money for something you expect to get your $’s worth.

So why do Indie authors expect readers to buy, and read, a book that is incorrectly and somewhat shoddily produced?

To be fair, not all authors realise these errors, some who I have contacted and explained the incorrect layout, etc, to have responded with grateful thanks, gone away, reprinted, and ended with a fabulous book, well worthy of boasting to be every bit as good as a mainstream novel.

Isn’t that what authors want?  For their pride and joy to be as good as – if not better than, other books?

E-books are often badly set, because authors have discovered that they can upload to Amazon themselves for a cheap outlay. But without learning how the technical side of publishing a book should be done, all that is happening is that e-books are now getting the reputation of being cheap, shoddy, and poorly produced.

I can see the time rapidly approaching when serious Indie authors who care enough to produce their books properly (see below) will be the ones paying to have their books printed as “book” books, while those who are not so bothered about ragged right margins, who do not see the importance of a professional editor and cover designer, and are quite happy with comic sans as a font, will be content with Kindle.

Fair enough, at least then we will all know where we stand.

If you could give aspiring SP authors advice on how to be successful in self-publishing, what are three crucial points you would want them to know?

 1. Use a professional editor – full edit, copy edit, and proof read. Yes, I know it’s expensive, but if it is worth doing, it is worth doing it properly.

2. Either get professional assistance or learn how to publish your book professionally. Sorry, but double spacing, comic sans font, and left justified text is not a professional appearance. If it is worth doing, it is worth doing it properly.

3. Get a professional cover designer. Your cover is not just an image plonked on the front to make the book look pretty – it is the shop window to what is inside. You can, and we do, judge a book by its cover.

If it is worth doing, it is worth doing it properly.


Helen Hollick also has a number of blogs that readers can enjoy: (where you can find links to other sub-blogs) and To view the a list of her books, including her latest guide for self-publishing, Discovering the Diamond, please see the home page of

*The title of this interview is a play on one of her blog titles.

Quick links of interest…

This article covers the basic problems in the self-publishing field that my colleagues and I continually emphasize to indie authors:  

1) Bad editing

2) Quantity over quality

3) Lack of gatekeepers

4) Crappy covers


Thank you to Stephanie Moore, who introduced me to this wonderful site, which I am joining now that I know about it…:

indieBRAG, LLC provides enlightenment of the readers, by the readers, and for the readers of self-published books.

  • According to publishing industry surveys, 8 out of 10 adults feel they have a book in them. But traditional or mainstream publishers reject all but a tiny percentage of manuscripts. Historically, this has presented a classic catch-22, in that you had to be a published author in order to get a publisher.
  • The advent of self-publishing companies and print-on-demand technology has changed this. Now anyone can publish a book and the number of books being self-published is exploding, reaching into the millions annually. However, there is virtually no control over what is published or by whom, and industry experts believe that upwards of 95% of indie books are poorly written and edited.
  • Compounding this problem, these books are rarely reviewed in The New York Times Book Review or by other leading sources. Additionally, the reviews and ratings at online booksellers are often provided by the author’s friends and family, and are therefore unreliable.
  • There are professional book review services and bona fide writing competitions within the self-publishing industry that certainly help address this problem. However, none provide an independent, broad-based and reader-centric source to advise the public which indie books merit the investment of their time and money.
  • This is precisely the reason that indieBRAG, LLC, and the B.R.A.G. Medallion™ exist. Our company fills a critical void within the publishing industry by providing enlightenment of the readers, by the readers, and for the readers of self-published books.

Burning Silk really will be reviewed, I promise…

I realize I am now officially late with a review for Burning Silk. I, being the overcommitted book lover that I am, committed to write a review of Susanna Kearsley’s Mariana for the next issue of the Historical Novels Review. There are times when I tire of sifting for a diamond and am drawn to the pile of shiny jewels already stacked on the shelves…


I am looking forward to the fall (yes, it’s quite a while away) when I will board a plane for London and have nothing to do except READ! And not the Kindle…. I plan to bring at least two books with me, and I know I will return home with a suitcase full of fantastic historical fiction. For anyone planning to attend the 2012 HNS Conference in London, I will see you there! Helen Hollick and her UK team will have a table and will be prepared to discuss self-publishing to anyone interested. Here is her piece on the conference website:

Mandatory reading for those considering self-publishing

Helen Hollick alerted me to these fantastic pieces that, in my opinion,  should be required reading for any author who considers self-publishing (or subsidy-publishing).

The first is a blog piece in which a self-published author comes around to accepting that (1) publishing your own book is a lengthy process that entails professional help (in the form of a good editor); (2) it can’t be done quickly or thoughtlessly; and (3) attention to detail–grammar, punctuation, and design, for example–is the quality that differentiates a good SP book from an excellent one, one that looks as if it came from a mainstream publishing house.

The second is the blog where Catherine Howard’s self-published book was reviewed. The reviewer has stringent criteria, and I completely agree with her. If an author won’t put the time and effort into producing a professional, error-free publication, why should a reviewer put the time and effort into reviewing it? “Jane Smith” is a brutally honest reviewer, which I admire, for she doesn’t sugarcoat any shortcomings. These are her criteria:

I’m an editor, and I expect published books to be well-written and polished. I’m going to count all the spelling, punctuation and grammar errors I find and when I reach fifteen I’m going to stop reading. Clunky writing will count against you. I’ll read no more than five pages of boring prose before I give up. And I’ll tell the world how many pages I read for every book I review here.

Now that I’ve been alerted to these valuable resources, I am considering changing my reviewing criteria as well.