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I ate dinner at a Chinese buffet tonight. I am horrified to think of how many calories I actually consumed, but more importantly, I hate to think about how many of those calories I didn’t enjoy. I saw all those options in front of me, and I partook of them simply because they were there and they looked good. And the price was right.

Then it hit me. E book offerings are kind of like the Chinese buffet. Browse your buffet of downloadable e books and you’ll find a veritable smorgasbord for you to choose from at prices too good to pass up. How do you choose? In the end, you sample many, simply because you can. They make it so easy, and everything looks so good, how can you resist?

Ah, there’s the problem. Caloric overload. Most of what you get leaves you feeling bloated and unsatisfied, and not long from now you’re just going to want more. You can go back to the buffet. It will be there, offering you endless choices. Surely something will be there that is satisfying. You might get lucky. Or you might just get more of the same, more that leaves you feeling like you wasted your money and you’re just going to want something else in a little while.

To the readers, I say this — read the reviews. You don’t want to get stuck with something that has no value. Read the reviews on the site you’re downloading from, but also check elsewhere. There are plenty of book bloggers who give honest reviews on their own sites. A little homework up front will save you money in your pocket and time to read something worth your while.

To the writers, I say this — if you self-publish, only put your best effort up there. Typos, grammatical errors, syntax problems, and of course, poorly written works only strengthen the argument people make against self-published authors. I can hear James Earl Jones in Field of Dreams saying “If you build it, they will come.” Well, if you write it, they will download it. And if it’s written poorly, they won’t download anything else. You’ve got one shot. Make it count.

The readers are hungry and the buffet is open. Don’t send them away wishing they had gone somewhere else.