Posts tagged with: reader expectations


I was going to title this blog ‘I’m pissed’ but it’s not about me being pissed as a writer but more so as a reader who recently mentally threw a digital book I bought for $5.99 against the wall. Why? Because the author totally, blatantly portrayed the book to be romantic suspense and she stated that even though there was a love triangle involved and there was sex, it was not erotica. COUGH Right? As romantic suspense fan she hooked me with the first chapter, but after that… hmmm The only thing that hadn’t happened in the bedroom, kitchen, living room, bathroom during the first 40% of book was that the donkey didn’t show up to bring in a new element into the trios tryst. I didn’t finish the book.

I’m sure the situation she created happens or has happened somewhere in the world throughout the centuries, and she is writing fiction after all, but to sell the work for what it is not in my opinion is wrong.

Did I return the book? No. Maybe I should’ve, but I learned a valuable lesson from this author and for that I’ll let her keep the royalty she earned by making the sell.  Will I buy from her again? Even though her writing was top notch, I will not. She lost my trust, not through her writing but through her marketing of the book.

In any genre, there are element degrees: comedy, suspense, drama, mystery, fantasy, love, sex, etc.  The writer’s voice is her style in using the different elements in different degrees. Unfortunately, the cyber book shelves, just as the brick and mortar books shelves only allow us to classify our books in a general genre. It’s only through our marketing that we can let our readers know of the sub-genres and sub-subgenres the work could be classified.  

I write a light comedy contemporary romance series that I tell my readers is written in Hallmark Holiday movie tone. In doing so, I believe I’m letting my readers know the level of sexual tension and the degree of comedy and drama they can expect. The first book in the series, PERFECT, which is a Christmas romance, was given a one-star review shortly after its release because the reader believed for some reason that it was a Christian book. I felt bad that I hadn’t specifically written out that it was not a Christian Romance, but I never said it was.

Writing blurbs and marketing material is hard.

I also write romantic suspense and romantic mystery. I try very hard in writing all of my blurbs to let the readers know if they are getting more of a suspense with their romance or they’re getting more of a mystery. Or if the story is more suspense/mystery with romantic elements. Again, even though, I’ve tried to be up-front, some readers will flat out review the works as failing to meet their idea of the perfect romantic suspense or romantic mystery. All I can say is I tried and the 99.99% of the readers who’ve reviewed my works tell me I’ve done okay in marketing my books.

Do you believe the publisher’s and/or the indie author’s has a responsibility to convey to the best of their ability what genre or sub-genre their work falls into?   Have you purchased a book only to learn it’s not want the author led you to believe it to be?  Have you returned books for the reason, never to buy from the author again?


Autumn Jordon is an award-winning, sneaker wearing Ruby who has a new release out titled PERFECT FALL. Learn more about her and her work at and join her newsletter AJ Revealed





Really? Quality, Craft, and Reader Expectations

Darynda wins a RITA!

Darynda wins the first Ruby  RITA!

Today is the day that preliminary round scores for RWA’s RITA contest** are due, and I have one last book to score. I’ve read it three times, and it’s giving me fits.

What’s the problem, you ask?

How many points do you award “The Writing” when the book features beautifully descriptive language, deep and authentic POV work, evocative love scenes…yet contains dozens of grammar and spelling mistakes? When an author uses some of the most original metaphors and similes you’ve ever read, but the book is riddled with text formatting errors?

I hold such a book in my hands, and it’s breaking my heart.

I wish the RITA score sheet had a writing mechanics category so I could acknowledge the author’s obvious creative gifts, but draw her attention to the shortcomings with writing fundamentals. Immediately after making this wish, an insidious thought crosses my mind, one that makes me wince but whose truth I can’t deny: Prior to this year, when RWA opened the RITA contest to self-published books, writing fundamentals and text formatting issues…pretty much weren’t. Issues, that is. Writing mechanics and text formatting are generally quite clean in traditionally-published books. Sure, you might find a stray typo or two, or a missing end quote here and there, but most traditionally-published books are edited several times throughout the book’s production cycle, correcting these problems before the book is released.

The book that’s breaking my heart is a self-published book.

So (she reluctantly asks), where do self-published books fit in, quality and craft-wise? In my experience, it’s a really mixed bag – and the books I received in my RITA judging packet this year bore this out.

Of the eight books I received, four were self-published—including the book that received my highest score, woo-hoo!! But to my disappointment, the other three self-published books all had problems with grammar, typos/spelling, punctuation, misused homophones (there/their/they’re), verb tense, and other writing mechanics issues that made it challenging for me, an admitted Grammar Nazi, to even begin to assess other aspects of craft and story. Two of the three books had serious text formatting issues, perhaps more noticeable in print than in digital format. One had so much head-hopping I thought I’d get whiplash.

These issues really pulled me out of the story – and while your mileage may vary, that’s where my personal quality bar is set. If I get pulled out of the story, I start losing interest. If it keeps happening, I pick up my red pen. It definitely impacts my score. I think, “If I wasn’t judging this book for a contest, I’d stop reading now.”  If I’d paid money for the book, I’d return it for a refund.

Yes, a refund. Yes, I’m serious.

I’m self-published myself, and believe me, I’m wincing as I write this, thinking about glass houses and throwing stones, knowing my own work is far from perfect. I don’t mean to suggest that self-published books shouldn’t be eligible to enter the RITA, or that there aren’t some very good self-published books out there (as evidenced by my top-scoring book), or that some small press and traditionally-published books aren’t real clunkers. But judging this year’s RITA contest – judging a random set of  traditionally-published books and self-published books by the same criteria, in the same contest, side by side, for the very first time – led me to explicitly assess my quality and craft expectations, both as a reader and as a contest judge. The fact that I even thought about my quality expectations meant that some of these books were coming up short. I didn’t need an advanced degree in statistics or analytics to notice which set of books I was having problems with.

This made me sad.

When judging unpublished contests such as the Golden Heart, I expect to have to occasionally wade through typos, spelling/grammar errors, and wonky formatting to find the strengths in a story. But to experience this when judging the published division of Romancelandia’s premier writing contest? As Amy Poehler and Seth Meyers used to say on Saturday Night Live’s “Weekend Update”…



Tough love time: Books with typos, grammar/spelling/punctuation errors, and formatting problems have QUALITY PROBLEMS.  Books with quality problems simply can’t compete – for a good contest score, or for my book-buying dollar.

Am I setting the bar too high? Am I being too critical? Regardless of how a book is published, is “correct” really too much to expect when judging a contest awarding excellence in published romance fiction? When buying a book? I don’t think so. I refuse to think so.

<sigh> And now I know what I have to do with the writing score for the book I mentioned above. And it really hurts.


P.S.  To the self-published author whose book received my highest score..thank you for restoring my faith in humanity – or in self-published books, at any rate. I really hope to see your name when RITA finalists are announced on March 26. 😉

So, Ruby Readers… Whether judging a contest or reading for pleasure, do you have the same quality and craft expectations of a self-published book as you do for a small press or a traditionally-published book? Why or why not? How often are your expectations met?

What does the phrase ‘excellence in romance fiction’ mean to you?

** The RITA is the Romance Writers of America’s annual award for excellence in published romance fiction, and the Golden Heart awards excellence in unpublished romance manuscripts. For both contests, the score sheet is ruthlessly simple: rate the book or manuscript’s plot/story, the writing, and the characters, on a scale of 1-10 each, and the romance on a scale of 1-20. Add the scores together for a maximum total score of 50. Entrants receive a score but no written feedback.

TamaraHogan_TemptMe_100pxTamara Hogan loathes cold and snow, but nonetheless lives near Minneapolis with her partner Mark and two naughty cats. When she’s not telecommuting to Silicon Valley, she writes paranormal romance with a sci-fi twist. A voracious reader with an unapologetic television addiction, Tamara is forever on the lookout for the perfect black boots.

TEMPT ME, Underbelly Chronicles Book 3, was released in Oct. 2013.

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The Latest Comments

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