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A Manifesto: Why We Need Compulsion Reads

Once upon a time, let’s call this the “Dark Ages”, there used to be only one way for most authors to succeed in the marketplace. After finishing a novel, they were forced to find an agent to represent their novel. Agents were fickle creatures who waded through large piles of query letters and only chose a scant few to consider.

For every one author who received representation, many more were given rejections.

Even after an agent agreed to represent an author, the path was still treacherous. The agent would need to sell a publisher on the book. Sometimes this happened. Sometimes it didn’t.

Those authors whose novels did find a publisher were not guaranteed success. Sure, their books ended up in bookstores, but competition was fierce. Many authors were relegated to a vast and barren wasteland known as “The Midlist”. Here they struggled on the meager marketing sustenance the publishers provided. Many were forced to market on their own, working many hours just to raise awareness of their novels.

How much did these published authors earn? Royalty rates varied, but were usually between 10 – 20%. And that’s before the agent took their cut.

Remember, these were the lucky few authors who got published. The vast majority of authors collected nothing but rejections. The system was lopsided. Authors were at the mercy of the tastes of agents and whims of publishers. Very few made it, and many of those who did “make it” didn’t even earn enough to quit their day jobs.

It was a very dark and sad time for authors.

Then things changed in a very big way.

Large online book distributors emerged, mainly Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, and Lulu. E-readers like the Kindle and Nook exploded in popularity. The rise of the online book retailor combined with the growing ownership of e-readers and the slow death of traditional bookstores finally made it possible for authors to skip the middlemen and get their books directly into the hands of readers.

Authors finally had power.

This is where we are now. In the middle of a revolution. Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other online book retailors have made it incredibly simple for authors of all stripes to self-publish their books and rake in a decent royalty rate (up to 70% as of this writing). This is mostly a good thing.

However, with every revolution comes the risk of a little anarchy. Even though agents and publishers held a lot of authors back, they did provide a sort of quality check. When anyone can self-publish their novel online or through print-on-demand, that quality check goes out the window.

While there are many talented authors who carefully write, redraft, edit, and polish their novels before self-publishing, there are just as many (actually, more) who don’t.

Without standards, chaos reigns.

Chaos hurts readers and it hurts authors who must struggle against the ever-growing crowds of sub-par competition to get a reader’s attention. Readers don’t want to pay money (even a little) for a bad book. If they end up with too many poor-quality self-published books, they will stop taking a risk on indie authors.

It’s time to establish a reliable quality standard for self-published books. Compulsion Reads is it.

To be clear, we’re not advocating a retreat back into the Dark Ages – not by a long shot. We want to empower authors as well as readers. With a quality standard in place, readers can confidently buy new self-published authors, while endorsed authors will get a platform to positively distinguish themselves from the low quality masses in the marketplace.

The concept is simple. Compulsion Reads LLC has developed a book evaluation system based on the core components of good storytelling. If a novel meets our criteria for a strong overall story, it gains our endorsement.

As word spreads and readers start to see the Compulsion Reads Endorsement Seal on more and more indie books that they enjoy, they will equate the endorsement with high quality books. This growing awareness can only improve an endorsed author’s chances of being read.

To be clear, Compulsion Reads does not reject books. We are not agents. We are not publishers. We are a group of book evaluators who are passionate about supporting indie authors. Compulsion Reads is here to help readers find good books from indie authors. When they do, indie authors and readers win.