I got an idea to do this straight from YouTuber Elliot Brooks (check out the video here) where Elliot did a social media survey of readers asking them what their publishing pet peeves are. I thought this would be a great idea for a post, similar to the survey I did for Fantasy Genre Pet Peeves. I asked for participation on Twitter and Facebook to see what people had to say, and I'm keeping all responses anonymous, then adding my commentary to it. Here they are, in no particular order. Enjoy!
Printed Books - Book Sizes, Covers, etc.
"Stop printing hardcovers in different sizes because I want them to match on my bookshelves! It's even worse when they print different sizes of books in the same series!"
I personally can attest to this. When I was in Japan I ordered the Titan's Forest series by Thoraiya Dyer and the middle book in the series was printed smaller than the first and third book. It messed up how nice my shelves looked. And now, I'm trying to organize my shelves here in the US and I keep ordering hardcovers to fill the bottom shelf with keepers only to find a much smaller hardcover version that doesn't fit the others. So I have to stick them on different shelves to make it look ok so the sizes can match. Arrgh!
"The different sizes drives me insane."
I don't have much to add to this. If you want to shelve things by size, it makes it difficult when books don't match.
"Don't change the cover (or at least spine) design halfway through a series!"
This has happened to me with books by Laura Sebastian that I ordered--Castles in Their Bones, the first book, has zero continuity with Stardust in Their Veins, the second book. They're substantially different.
"Text that is substantially small and needing to squint in order to save money on page count."
I haven't run into this personally because I mostly read eBooks now, but I know when I was looking to self-pub, one of the interior formatters I was looking at offered an "economy" option where more words were printed on the page and there was less spacing. So it's clear this is done to drive down costs.
"Bland cover designs that lack imagination or are clearly cookie cutter art. See: romance novels with blocky cartoon characters and any Colleen Hoover novel."
I've seen a lot of people shoot down the trend of illustrated covers in romance and they seem to be dominating publishing quite a bit. I don't mind them so much, but I'm sure when there are similar-looking covers out there, it might be confusing to readers. On the other hand, I want artists to make money, so I'm all for illustrations!
I wonder if all the Colleen Hoover novels look the same because they view it as a type of author branding.
"If I'm reading a fantasy book in a new world, I need a map. Gotta have one."
I actually think books shouldn't need maps and the writing should make it clear enough where things are without them...I know I'm in the minority on this. However, if my publisher insists on a map for Son of the Siren, for example, I'm not going to fight them on it.
"Return to the days of true civility and send some manner of response to queries. In this new digital age, it takes less than a minute to send back a quick 'thanks, but not at this time.'"
I agree with this. When I was querying Son of the Siren I encountered several agencies that operated by "no response is a no." Some of them at least included a timeframe ("if you don't hear back in six weeks, the answer is no") but most of them just left me hanging. I know agents are busy, but as the OP pointed out, it takes like a minute to send back a form rejection.
"Agents not answering queries. Not even a form."
Pretty much what the previous poster was getting at...it's hard having your query go unacknowledged.
"When agents don't have a clear MSWL/anti-MSWL so you have no clue what they want."
Luckily enough on my agent hunt I was able to find descriptions with agents that clearly said what they wanted, either through an MSWL (manuscript wish list) or through a general description of what they were into....anti-MSWLs, not so much.
I'm lucky I found Rick because his tastes aligned with what I thought Son of the Siren to be, and he's my agent now.
"I listen to audio books, so one of mine is when the audio book doesn't release the same day as the book in print/eBook drops."
I'm sure it sucks to have to wait. I think it's harder for self-published authors because audio book production can be very expensive, and a lot of them have to earn money back on their book or save money from their jobs in order to fund a fully realized audiobook...I've seen audiobooks come out at least a year after their original eBook and paperback were published. I don't use audiobooks so this doesn't affect me, but I can understand if you're a huge audiobook fan.
"Terrible narrators who use awkward voices for characters or aren't trained on pronunciation of names or words in other languages."
I don't listen to audiobooks, but I have heard samples shared on social media from author friends, and I have to tell you that a lot of them cannot do accents. There was also a BookTuber who played terrible audio of one of the many Hades + Persephone retellings and each narrator--one for Hades, and one for Persephone--sounded awful. They tried to do each other's voices and the woman especially couldn't do Hades. It was cringeworthy.
"When the book doesn't automatically update to the new cover versions. I have the Darker Shades of Magic series where the first two books are the original red, black, and white, while the third book is on the new design. It drives me crazy."
This has happened to me. I think it's worse when it happens to physical copies, but eBooks are designed to be auto-updated, and when that doesn't work, it's frustrating.
"The price of eBooks. eBooks can't cost as much to make as a printed book, and yet I'm seeing prices for $11.99 for a 114-page novella. It's crazy."
I've seen this for both traditionally pubbed and self-pubbed books. With few exceptions, most self-published books are like $3.99-$4.99 which makes them competitive and affordable and the traditionally published books start at like $8.99 and go up to $14.99. So, while the traditionally published books are way more expensive, I have seen overpriced self-pubbed books, too...like $10.99 for a 50-page book.
"I have a publishing advice pet peeve. To quote South Park, 'Step 1 - Underpants; Step 2 - ...; Step 3 - profits!' I feel like 90% of lectures on publishing miss 'Step 2' in which basically no audience/fans (for example) somehow turns into (Step 3) 100,000 followers on Instagram, etc."
I've seen this, especially from a lot of authors-turned-trainers that I subscribe to via email. I know they're hustling to make money in addition to their writing income, but I have a lot of doubts with what they're selling just because they don't seem to mention a part two, as the OP says.
"Everyone taking their advice as gospel just because something worked out for them. It's not one-size-fits all. Just because something went one way for you doesn't mean it's going to work out for everyone else."
I see this all the time on Twitter.
"[...] I hate the follow-for-follows. It actually hinders your marketing of you as a brand and your books because those people aren't your audience. [...] Too many authors get tricked into being told numbers are what help you."
I struggle with this because I have terrible numbers on Twitter and lose followers every day. When I first got into Twitter, I did a lot of "follow-for-follows" with fellow authors thinking we'd have our backs and talk about writing...but I don't see their posts and they don't see mine. My average engagement is two hearts or nine views. I'm apparently completely disconnected from my audience and I don't know how to fix this. If it wasn't for my desire to share good publishing news on Twitter, or to keep in touch with my favorite artists, I would delete it.
"Publishing not understanding that TikTok isn't for authors, but for readers. It's the readers that create the buzz for a book and do all the leg-work. Stop making authors join TikTok!"
I have written about this on my blog ("Do I Have to Join TikTok?") There's also a great video by author Michelle Schusterman called "Hey Publishers? 'Do BookTok' Isn't a Marketing Plan." I highly recommend you check out the links to both.
"The idea that you need social media to sell books."
I'm torn on this one. They say statistically, social media doesn't move the dial on book sales at, like, all...but on the other hand, how I find out about most new books is through Twitter. I'll download an image of the cover to my cell phone and then later will add the book to my Wishlist on Amazon. So...social media sells books to me, at least!
"It is impossible to live off of an advance when publishers insist on splitting it up into 3-4 payments and taking like two years to completely pay you."
I learned about this through Twitter and also my Debut Author Boot Camp class and it pretty much sank my dream of ever quitting the day job to write full time. This system is frustrating.
"Stop even considering AI. For anything."
THIS!!! I am against generative AI because it was built on thousands of stolen works without compensation or permission, and is designed to replace creatives. Nothing can replace human creativity, and publishers should not even be trying. This is why the WGA and SAG are striking--they are fighting to stop being replaced by AI--and if published authors could have their own union (they're considered contracted workers and are unable to unionize) I'd support them, too.
This post was harder to write because I really had to fish for responses...it's probably a little too niche, but most of my social media friends are writers, so I thought they'd have a lot to say. The fact that we came up with this much was a miracle! I hope you found it enlightening or helpful in some way. Thanks for reading!