Ask the Book Doctor
By Bobbie Christmas
About publishers, Amazon.com, and poor reviews
Q: Do you have a suggestion for a POD book I produced in Canada? I am considering submitting it to a U.S. publisher, but haven't a clue to who publishes important history or an agent who handles such.
A: Some publishers won't take pre-published work, because first North American rights are not available. You have a chance of finding an American publisher, though, because you have records to show a good sales record (more than 1,000 sold is recommended when trying to sell a self-published book to a traditional publisher), and because you're willing to speak and promote your book. You may have to write a book proposal, but some publishers may take the book without a proposal, because it is fully written.
Now, how to find a publisher or agent: Writers must research. Go to bookstores and look for books in your category and see who published them. Pay for one month's usage of http://www.writersmarket.com (it's less than $5/month), search it electronically, and make a list of publishers that publish history and don't require an agent. Search for agents that handle books on history. Submit to all of them, following each one’s guidelines, for they differ.
Q: I listed my book, "Best Ever Quotations", on Amazon.com. Amazon charges a fee, which it takes out of the money due from sales. I also went on its "search inside the book" promotion, which meant I had to ship another book to Xerox Corp. Amazon told me it had two sales, and I shipped two more books. As time went on, I realized I would keep shipping books and never see any money, because the fees eat up any sales money, so I asked Amazon to withdraw my membership and remove my listing. Its response was to remove the $8.50 price of the book and list "one new and one used at $1.95" and a negative (one-star) review by one person. I protested and even phoned, but to no avail. The representative at Amazon said "someone" put my book for sale at that price and "someone" posted the negative review, and the information would stay on permanently. Have I any recourse?
A: I’m sorry you had a poor relationship with Amazon.com. Not everyone has the same results, but book publishers are pressed to give deep discounts to bookstores and Web-based merchants, and because you’re the publisher, you are expected to pay sellers of your book. That’s why traditional publishers pay authors so little per book. Most of the cover price goes to overhead, commissions to distributors, and discounts to booksellers.
When I looked at your book listing on Amazon.com today, it said: "Availability: THIS TITLE IS CURRENTLY NOT AVAILABLE." It did not list any used copies. Interestingly the first day my publisher released my book, Amazon.com listed used copies in addition to new ones. I’ve heard rumors that people set up fake review names and addresses, get free copies of books for "review," and sell them as used books in perfect condition.
To the question regarding how to stop someone from writing bad reviews of your book, Ellis Vidler, author of "Haunting Refrain and Death by Any Other Name" (both Silver Dagger Mysteries), adds: "If you can show that the person has malicious intent or consistently posts reviews that are unduly negative or personal in tone, Amazon will remove the review. On the other hand, if the bad review is outweighed by good reviews, the controversy might add interest."
I looked inside the book on the Amazon.com site, and the quotes are not the traditional ones people are accustomed to seeing. They have been carved out of the depths of research, and they tend to be intellectually elevated plus a bit curmudgeonly. I can see if someone thought he was buying some Pollyanna-type book, he’d be disappointed. The negative review reflects the reviewer’s lack of appreciation for a conflicting point of view, and I got a kick out of the fact that it refers to the author’s "poor judgement (sic) or sloppy job of editing." The writer spelled "judgment" incorrectly and misspelled another word in his review, as well. The poor review reflects worse on the writer of it than on the book to which it refers.
–Do you have questions for the book doctor? Write to Bobbie@zebraeditor.com. Bobbie is author of "Write In Style", First-Place winner of the Royal Palm Literary Award for education and Best in Division at the Georgia Author of the Year Awards, available at local bookstores and Internet retailers including http://www.zebraeditor.com/tools.shtml, and "Ask the Book Doctor: How to Beat the Competition and Sell Your Writing", an e-book for $8.95 available at http://www.booklocker.com/books/1906.html. Sign up for her free newsletter for writers to get tips, answers, marketing information and news of interest to writers. Go to http://www.zebraeditor.com/ and click on "Free Newsletter."