Reading Rage: Don’t Make Me Get Out My Red Pen

13 December 2012 by 127 Comments

Dear Self-Published Authors,

Can we chat for a sec?  Here, pull up a chair and let me get you some tea.  Tea is good for these types of discussions, right?  I think so.

Listen.  I think we need to have this talk because, quite frankly, many of you are doing this wrong.

No, I’m not talking about how you market yourself and your books (although Susie kind of has you covered in that department), I’m talking about the actual most important part of your book.  Your book.  Your writing.

Here’s the thing, self-pubs – by failing to properly proofread/edit/RE-READ your book, you’re not only failing your readers, you’re failing yourself as well.

I totally get that not everyone out there paid all the attention in English Class.  I understand that you may not have had your very own copy of your Grammar Primer that you carried around with you everywhere because you just LOVED LANGUAGE SO MUCH.  Really – I get it, swearsies.

My precioussssssssssss

I’d be willing to bet that you KNOW someone like that, though. I’d put good money on the fact that if you spend any amount of time on the internet AT ALL, you are acquainted with at least a handful of people that are complete and total grammar nerds.

“Oh, but most people don’t notice those things and if they do, they’re TAKING IT TOO SERIOUSLY!”

Okay, fine.  Maybe not everyone will notice.  Maybe.  But enough people will.  And those people that notice will likely either review your book, or just give up on you altogether.  Because an author that doesn’t care enough about the experience his/her readers have, just doesn’t give a damn at all.

Someone calls typos to your attention?  You are self-published, you can have that shit fixed and updated within an hour – for ebooks, anyway. To say that you “don’t have time” and that you’re “too busy” but you’ll “get around to it” is not only lazy, but disrespectful.

You don’t leave the house half dressed or looking like a cheap schlub, so why do you want to send your book out into the world that way?

“ZOMG, THE EDITORS WANT TO KILL MY BABY!”

Stop that shit.  Seriously, you stop that right now.  A good editor (even a halfway decent editor) doesn’t want to kill your baby, they want to help it be the best it can possibly be.  Why don’t you?  (And can we stop referring to books as babies?  That’s just gross.) You may think you know what’s best for your book, but if your work is full of homonyms and slipped tenses and just straight up WRONG WORDS, you shouldn’t be hitting that publish button.

 “I’m an INDIE!  Indies don’t need to have their work polished!  It ruins that whole INDIE VIBE!”

This totally works. It’s polished AND from (an) Indie. Technically.

Okay, now you’re just asking for a punch in the junk.  Again, putting out something that hasn’t been read, re-read, stuck in a drawer (literal or figurative, name your hard drive “drawer” or something, I don’t care) for at least a month, then read again, rewritten and gone through several rounds of edits should NOT BE SOLD.  I don’t care if you think you got exactly what you wanted on the first go ’round.  Chances are really good that you didn’t.  Or that there are areas that need to be clarified/expanded on/removed altogether.  Giving yourself this distance from your work will make it better in the long run.  Please trust me on this.

An example:

I used to follow the blog of a woman I had much in common with musically.  We listened to a lot of the same music and even liked a lot of the same books.  She was funny, and even though I thought her posts needed to be proofread sometimes, I still enjoyed much of what she had to say.

Then came the day that she announced she’d written and self-published a book of short stories.

“Whaaaa?  She never mentioned that she’d been writing!” I said to myself.

Why had she never mentioned that she’d been writing?  Because she had LITERALLY JUST STARTED.  She wrote and published this book in less than two weeks.  TWO WEEKS!  I’m sorry, but that’s just unacceptable.  Two weeks is not enough time to perform rewrites or give oneself any sort of distance at all.  You can’t be impartial if only two weeks have passed.

It’s lazy, and it’s rude.  Yes, rude.  You expect people to PAY for something that you can’t be bothered with?  No, I’m sorry.

I still followed her, though.

Until 3 weeks later, when she announced that she’d published both another book of short stories AND a novel.  Both of which had been written in that same three week period.

Sorry, lady.  I’m done.  I don’t have time to read the blog of someone who shows zero respect toward potential readers (and CONSUMERS).

It’s that attitude right there that puts so many readers off of self-published work.  That “I wrote it, what else do you want from me?” stance is HURTING so many of you.

We read to escape.  We read to learn things.  We read for enjoyment.  We do NOT read to mentally correct your writing.

I mean, unless you’re paying us to do so, amirite?  Why should we pay YOU for something that you haven’t dressed up in its Sunday Best?

This showed up under a search for Dressed Up Books. Might die laughing.

We shouldn’t.  And we won’t.  Or, at the very least I won’t – and not to sound like a posturing asshole, but I’m the kind of person you want reading your books.  If I like something, I make sure the WHOLE WORLD knows.  I shout it from the figurative rooftops.  I tell everyone I know why they NEED TO read this book (I know, I know, I totally fail sneaky-fuckerism, but my method works for me).  And isn’t that what you want?  For people to be…y’know, reading your work?

TL;DR

I love self-published authors, as long as they go about self-publishing the right way.  If you’ve published something yourself I WANT you to succeed.  I want as many people to read your book as possible.  Unfortunately, many of you are shooting yourselves in your collective feet by approaching the process so cavalierly.  There’s a reason books can sometimes take years to come out in the world of the Big Guys.  There’s a reason editors have jobs.  There’s a reason people look down on a lot of you.  Do us all a favour and proofread the hell out of your book to make sure it’s as strong as possible before sending it out.  And if someone brings an error to your attention, thank them and take care of it straight away.  People will respect and appreciate that.  It shows that you CARE ABOUT your readers.

What do you guys think?  Am I too picky, or do more self-published authors need to get out their own red pens?  How much of a factor is this for you when deciding what to read?  Let me know in the comments!

 

sj

sj (never SJ) hates everything. Except books and music. Sometimes she hates those too.

127 thoughts on “Reading Rage: Don’t Make Me Get Out My Red Pen

  1. This is why I probably won’t read self-pubs anymore. I’ve been hit upside the head with way too many lazy offerings. I *want* to give every author a chance. Too bad some rotten apples have spoiled the whole damn barrel.

    That squirrel with the big plastic head? What the???

  2. Yay for Reading Rage!

    I could not agree with you more. Folks who don’t take the time to proofread and do edits are hurting the self-publishing industry because self-pub is becoming synonymous with second-rate work. There are some great self-pub folks out there, but there work is getting buried in an onslaught of books that aren’t quite ready for a closeup.

    There is no race to publish. Take your time. Keep in mind that your readers have spent at least 12 years of their lives learning grammar. Having to edit your work doesn’t mean that you are second-rate. Everyone needs to do a few rounds of edits to get it just right.

    I could go on forever, but I won’t.

    • I wouldn’t mind if you went on. No, really.

      I have a problem with the fact that it DOES feel like a race. In order to stay relevant, authors whose work COULD be good are rushing things out at a faster pace than they should be. It makes me sad when I read things that could have been SO GOOD if they’d just had a bit of time to make them better, but end up being meh at best.

      • YES. This is so important to articulate. I know you make the point that editing and rewriting and the author getting distance from the work are not just bonuses, but necessary, but it bears repeating. I look back at drafts of things I slaved over that I was SURE were ready to be published, and I shudder. They were not. I was not, because I hadn’t learned enough about writing — something that became clear when discussing said work with an editor (not that she called me out for not being ready, but by raising all kinds of problems with the MS that I had no idea were there).
        There is no rush to publish in terms of what the reader wants — no on wants something immediately available WITHOUT IT ALSO BEING GOOD IF NOT GREAT.
        Story gestation and rewriting — far more than authors might like — is necessary to really write a great book.

    • I always say, Hemingway, Faulkner, Fitzgerald–these guys all had editors, plus just about every other modern literary giant. Why should it be something to be skipped? I don’t get it.

      Also, this reading rage is for you, I am told! Happy Birthday!

      • Though I recall that Faulkner claimed to have written “As I Lay Dying” in a ridiculously short period of time. I’m finding on the internet that it was six weeks or something, but for some reason I seem to remember something about him claiming it was even just a fraction of that. Dang. High school was too long ago.

        Yet he would still have given the manuscript to an editor, and that’s important to note.

    • This is going to sound weird coming from someone who’s a publishing industry professional, at a small independent publishing house, but…

      …I love self-pub and I want to see it flourish. (Quit looking at me like that, I was a freelance fiction editor for years and still do freelance book design for self-pub authors.)

      Because, in all honesty, a traditional publishing route – even with a small press – is NOT for every person or every book. Self-pub has a place, and I love that it’s becoming an easier option for people, even as the potential quality becomes higher.

      Note that I said POTENTIAL quality. Because Heather’s exactly right – people racing to publish and not paying attention to detail and hiring out for the work that they and their skilled friends can’t do are really hurting the segment of the industry. Mainstream readers mostly see “self-published” and think “crap.” Because there’s so much drek out there, and so many people who aren’t taking the time or effort to make their work GOOD. To make it compete with traditionally published work.

      And that just makes me sad, because there’s no reason you can’t up your game. With help from friends, critique groups, low-cost freelancers or bartering…it doesn’t even have to cost that much. Not doing it is lazy and it’s disrespectful to you and your potential readers.

      • Hell, a lot of us will beta read for free because we WANT people to succeed.

        I know that I’m thrilled and honoured when someone asks me if I’m willing to beta their book. NOT having beta readers/proofreaders/editors kind of makes you out to be a self-important asshole.

        Just sayin’.

  3. Not too picky, not at all. Not for something that’s published and supposed to be professional.

    And, while we’re at it, can the supposed gatekeepers step up their game as well? I honestly don’t know the last time I read a book that didn’t have at least one typo in it. (“Oh, one typo out of 400 pages, that’s not bad!” Depends on what you’re comparing to, I guess, but there really shouldn’t be any.) In most cases they are clearly typos, not using the wrong word or the wrong tense or those types of errors, but still… how many people read this before it goes to print? Apparently there needs to be at least one more.

    • And to be clear, I know I’m not perfect either. As much as I try I know there are mistakes on my blog (or tweets, or FB posts) that I don’t always catch, and as such I am TRYING to be better about not calling out every little mistake I see on the web. But a published book should be held to a higher standard than a personal blog.

      • See my comment below – it is EXTREMELY difficult to weed out every single typo. Last year I edited a book that has already had five people go through it, and every single one of them had missed “grisly/grizzly” among many other things. It comes down to a) how familiar you are with the story and b) how careful attention you pay, but even the best of us are not perfect. There comes a point where you have to cross your fingers and publish.

        • Also, sometimes errors get re-injected in the workflow. I still cry myself to sleep sometimes thinking about the time someone thought they were being helpful when they “fixed” a newspaper article that had already been edited, laid out, proofed, and final-checked. They changed an “incorrect” spelling and sent it to press without consulting the writer, editor, or layout artist.

          The irate phone call from Mr. “Piglet” the next day was…not fun.

          (his name was Pignatelli; this is why some people shouldn’t have access to spellcheck)

        • And one part of me knows that. And maybe it’s not realistic to expect a book to be perfect, because none of the individual people working on it (no matter if that’s five people or fifty) are perfect. I know that.

          But still, each one of those errors pulls me out of the story. It’s hard not to get frustrated.

          • Oh, I absolutely feel the same way, Charleen, and because I have the ability and talent, that is a huge part of the reason I decided to start offering my services as a freelance editor, and undervaluing my services as much as I do – to be able to offer my services to people who might otherwise believe they could not afford it. I hope that my contribution will help the authors with whom I work, at least, to provide a story that you will be able to lose yourself in.

    • I’ve grown really frustrated with a lot of publishers, because it seems like everyone feels the need to just rushrushrush to get it out. I read The Twelve when it came out (even though I knew I wouldn’t like it) and the typos in the first 100 pages almost made me rage quit. This was one of the most highly anticipated books of the year, and you couldn’t spend an additional week to make sure it was proofread properly?

      • And to bring it back to the original discussion… if ALL of the people who worked on that book couldn’t find all the errors… what makes some of these self-pub authors think they can make it perfect on their own? You need help! It’s a fact, not a sign of weakness! Really!

        • It’s very hard to proofread your own work as effectively as you would someone else’s, because your brain remembers what is supposed to be on the page, not what is actually on the page. I’ve seen this many times. Ideally it takes different people to substantively edit, copy edit, proofread and fact check a book — all those brains catch more errors and problems than just one.

  4. I totally agree with you on this point, and because of that, only rarely do I accept to review self-published books. I have to say though that recently, I have run into very decent self-published books, and I hope this is a good sign for the future of publication.
    I do enter in a rage when books published in English are so lousy that I feel I write better English, and English is not even my 1st language!
    And my pet peeve is English writers that insert foreign language words or phrases with typos and mistakes; unfortunately, this also happens with official and supposedly good publishers!
    Tell me, couldn’t they hire, let’s stay, a French NATIVE, to check those words? Arrrghhhhh
    Thanks for reading about my own reading rage!

    • Hahaha, I always feel that way about stuff translated into English, too, like instruction manuals. There are PLENTY of people in America who would be glad to revise a manual for not too much money. They could at least fix some of the awkward phrasing, or get clarification on steps that aren’t clear.

    • At one publishing house where I worked, we asked two German interns to check the German phrases in a particular book – these were people who really wanted a job in publishing and presumably were pretty good at grammar/spelling although they weren’t trained proofreaders. The editor also asked a German professor friend of hers to check it. After it was published, someone wrote in to say that the German phrases were all wrong. It is hard to judge how good someone is at proofreading in a language you don’t speak! However, I completely agree that the effort should be made, but it doesn’t always work!

  5. Heh, I’m trying to imagine what that book with the giant squirrel is actually about… maybe it’s about a team mascot who’s just getting a leeettle tired of everyone making fun of his costume? Or maybe it’s an actual giant squirrel who’s getting a leeettle tired of all those other squirrels making fun of him, and all those humans trying to capture him for scientific study…

  6. “another book of short stories AND a novel. Both of which had been written in that same three week period.”

    Yeah, that’s next-level bananas. There’s no way that they weren’t both big ol’ steamers.

    I’ve pretty much given up on reading self-published work, because all too often the grammar is atrocious. I know that not everyone is a grammar whiz, but if you aren’t and you’re a self-publisher, for the love of all that is holy, HIRE AN EDITOR. I’m sick of deciphering your nonsense.

    I am SO going to read that chipmunk book.

  7. “Because an author that doesn’t care enough about the experience his/her readers have, just doesn’t give a damn at all.”

    THIS a million times over.

    Even a professionally edited and proofread book will have an error or two, it’s just the nature of the business, but I’m still blown away by the cavalier attitude a lot of authors have toward their work. These days it seems like the goal is getting your work out into the marketplace as fast as possible — whether or not it’s really ready for readers — so you can change your bio on Twitter to “published author, yea!” The goal SHOULD be producing the very best work you possibly can, regardless of how/where it is being published. Just my two cents…

    • I think your two cents is worth a lot more than that.

      I understand that it’s difficult to catch everything, and that’s what subsequent printings are for. I’m a little more lenient on the occasional typo than I am on something that doesn’t appear to have been proofread at all, though. Especially if it’s obvious that the author’s grasp of the language is tenuous, at best.

      • I’m pretty much on-board with pushing for more polished work, because it drives me crazy too, but I can’t help thinking of qualifying points…how ’bout this?

        As a wannabe artist, I’ve been thinking about how prose (and even novels?) could work analogously to performance art – stuff that lives or dies by its ability to riff on something organically and almost stream-of-consciously, never-mind the little inconsistencies that might span the gaps between leaps of inspiration. I’m thinking, the difference between a 5-minute sketch portrait and a multi-hour sitting for a photo-realistic oil painting? Can both be “art,” even if one still has the evidence of eraser marks or a skewed profile or one eye that’s too large?

        Is there room for that? Is a final, smoothly polished product the only one that matters? Or, if we’re going to call something a novel, does the definition of “novel” mean it has to meet the highest degree of proofreading possible? Maybe the sort of free-wheeling, improv vibe thing I’m talking about is more fitting for poetry (not that poets don’t edit!), or blog posts (or comments like this), or something? Still thinking about this.

        • I think there’s certainly room for freewheeling/experimental/developmental work in publishing, in the DIY space and otherwise…

          …but I think you also have to take into account how you’re marketing and presenting that work. Is it a work in progress? A sketch, so to speak? Then you shouldn’t charge the same price as a finished, polished, professionally developed novel. And you shouldn’t market/present it as a finished, polished work, either. Both will turn potential buyers/fans off.

          • I’m not sure you have to charge differently…but I’d agree that there’s a lot to be said for marketing and representing your product in ways that are as honest and transparent as possible.

            So maybe that’s a big part of the problem – an inability to see or express where on a spectrum a work falls within the world of literature it’s trying to gain access to.

            • I meant more that, if you’re publishing-as-you-write (ie, putting what’s essentially a draft out there to collect feedback, then update and republish), you shouldn’t charge readers for the experience. Charge ‘em for the final, finished product that results from that interaction and feedback, not for the in-progress work.

              Freewheeling or experimental literature? As long as you note what you’re doing, charge what you like. Let the reader decide.

          • There is a DEFINITE INABILITY for many authors to categorize their own work. I see this every. Damn. Day. Which is damned unfortunate, because it really hurts the author more than the audience–we have a ton of books to choose from, so author categorization fail (trying to present books as what they’re not, most often) just leads to it being passed over when they’re directed toward the wrong audience, or classified incorrectly.

        • Maybe the sort of free-wheeling, improv vibe thing I’m talking about is more fitting for poetry (not that poets don’t edit!), or blog posts (or comments like this), or something?

          Well, (and please understand, anyone who happens to venture this deep into the comments, that this is my opinion only) I know that I tend to be a little more lenient on something that is free (like a blog, or comments), than I am on something that is for sale.

          If you’re giving your work away for free, with the hope that someone will enjoy it, or hoping that they’ll maybe provide feedback on how it can be improved, I’m going to be less harsh (but still as honest as possible) than I will be on something that is for sale and that you are profiting from.

          I’d also like you to keep in mind that I had a glass or two of wine while re-watching the last episode of Freaks and Geeks with my husband, so this comment might not make as much sense as I hope it does.

          • I get your frustration with someone who either doesn’t care or doesn’t know what standard to meet when they’re trying to pitch something or market themselves. But are you saying that it frustrates you that people ARE actually making money with this stuff, and you hate that better products don’t… or that they WON’T make money with it and it kills you that they can’t see why?

            It seems like one concern is about crap getting on the market and the public’s inability to distinguish what’s good and what’s bad, except for the more sophisticated readers who can tell the difference…and the other concern is about people who make a stink about why nobody’s buying their stuff and can’t seem to figure out why not.

          • No, I’m saying that I will be harsher on something that is being SOLD because that is my right as a reader and consumer.

            If it’s a blog post, or comments (in reference to your comment) I’m less likely to get bent out of shape about it, because it isn’t something that’s being monetized.

          • I gotcha. As a consumer, I think I feel exactly the way that you describe feeling.

            I DO sometimes wonder whether voting with my wallet actually makes a difference. Does poorly edited stuff sell? Does anybody know? Are there enough people with sucky grammar skills that they’ll buy the stuff and the most educated of us just have to suffer? Or do even the “masses” recognize the stuff you’re calling authors out for? Don’t know how one would get the answers to these questions, really.

  8. YES YES, A THOUSAND TIMES YES. This post sums up all of my reservations about self-published works. I WANT them to be good, I want it so badly, but when they can’t even bother with simple grammatical errors, it makes me want to give up self-pubs/indies all together. GAH.

    • I’m bowing towards my computer screen & screaming, “YES!!” Completely agree with you, especially where you say how rude & lazy these self-published authors are when they’ve ignored mistakes. I don’t understand how they cannot want to put their best foot forward & show us their writing at its best. That woman who “wrote” all of that work in such a short time? That tells me she isn’t a reader….& definitely not a writer.

    • I really do want people to succeed. And I’m thrilled that there’s actually a viable way for these people who might not fit in the traditional publishing mould to get their work out there so that others have a chance to experience and enjoy it.

      I’m getting to the point of giving up on most of them, unless it’s been vouched for by someone I know, whose standards are as high as my own.

  9. Please, don’t give up on self-published authors! :( I am thinking that when I publish my first novel I will go the self-publishing route, but I can’t stand the idea of not proofreading/editing/having someone else edit/come back and edit again. I wonder if any of these people think of the fact that the sloppy writing just makes them look bad. It doesn’t make anyone else look bad but themselves, and they’re not going to sell books if they’re not written properly. I just hope people start getting the hint. :(

  10. You are not wrong. As a freelance editor, I have worked up some general guidelines to which I refer potential authors who approach me to work on their manuscript. I recommend to them that, before they even talk to me, they have worked with a writing group, and then worked with some beta-readers. I then recommend that they find a good content editor to help them go over the book and look at the big picture, find loose threads and pull them, etc. Only after that do I say I’ll do my line editing, and then I recommend they have yet another person proofread it after I’m done.

    Why so many different people? Well, any author knows (or will agree if they think about it) that it is nearly impossible to edit your own work – or at least to edit it well. The reason: you know what you want to say, and as a result, your brain will play tricks on you, convince you that you see something that is not actually there, and you will not necessarily notice the wrong homonym, or the missing words, or the weird sentence structure. You literally will not be able to see it. But if you have a number of people reading through this, at different levels, you will have a much better chance of finding and fixing most of the errors that have crept into your writing.

    Great post!

    • YES! I work with a friend of mine on her books, and will have to send her an IM asking her to explain full sentences that make no sense because everything aligned perfectly in her head, but it didn’t translate from brain to page.

      I completely agree that several different rounds of reading are needed before something is finished.

      I also recommend (if you’re epublishing only) that you make sure to read your book again ON THE READING DEVICE before submitting it for publishing. Reading it that way causes little things you wouldn’t have noticed just staring at your computer screen to pop out and will generally make your work stronger, as a whole.

      • I agree that’s a great idea – formatting is something I just do not understand, so that’s something I refer out.

        If there is a sentence I don’t understand, I’ll highlight it and say “what are you trying to say here? Are you trying to say X? Are you trying to say Y?” and offer a few suggestions as to how to word it – unless I absolutely cannot grok it at all. If I see a lot of that, then a 2nd pass will be strongly recommended so I can see what they’ve done to fix it.

    • “you know what you want to say, and as a result, your brain will play tricks on you, convince you that you see something that is not actually there”

      Oh, boy, do I know all too well about this. At my work, I’ve spent the better part of a year doing the layout for a neuroscience textbook, and it’s been through the authors, the editors, us in the office and our proofreader multiple times. I’m now going through the final proof here and there are STILL some minor errors and inconsistencies that no one has caught until now, and I’m sure a few will make it into the final printed copy. We’ve all seen it so many times at this point that we’re reading what we think is there instead of what is actually on the page.

    • Incidentally, one thing that you might want to add to your potential clients?

      Have them read the book aloud. And then have them read it BACKWARDS.

      Reading backwards works best when you’re proofreading short articles, but reading aloud pulls in a different part of the brain and you catch more errors on your own. I always recommend reading your own work aloud once while it’s off with an editor or proofreader.

      • Oh, absolutely. I tend to read a lot of any given manuscript aloud – it’s the best way to work out the correct punctuation. And I remember that “reading backwards” thing from my journalism classes. As you say, it’s ungainly for a full manuscript, but it’s very useful for shorter pieces.

      • Writing groups are generally made up of either aspiring or already published authors – it always helps to have a couple of members who are published but it’s not necessary. Most writing groups meetings consist of people reading their work and having it critiqued by the other members. The purpose is to encourage each other and learn from each other.

        • Ah okay, that makes sense. I think that would be something enjoyable, in my opinion. I took a creative writing class in my last year of college (creative nonfiction) and everyone would have a chance to read their own work aloud and people would critique and/or praise the work. Probably one of my favorite classes in college.

      • What Jane said – it’s usually a group of writers who exchange manuscripts and offer up critiques upon the manuscripts of the other members. I had one young man whose manuscript was a total mess – there was absolutely nothing I could do for him at the stage he was in. I told him to find a writing group, but he didn’t want to go to all that “bother”, so I told him there was nothing I could do for him until he took the time to do these things right. Well, I guess I could have helped him, but not for what he was paying me – it would have taken me weeks for basically nothing, and I had to think about the other people I had in line waiting for my services. I am not a content editor – I’m a line editor, and I state so quite clearly on my site…

        • Did he not understand the concept of line editor? :( Like I replied to Jane above, the idea of a writing group sounds fantastic. I think it would be really fun, and don’t understand the “don’t have time” for that. Come on, man. :)

    • Yes, to all of this! The substantive editing is such a hard part of the process, but so necessary to help get the book into the right structure and address basic issues of character and plot. It doesn’t matter how polished a manuscript is (ie., free of typos and grammatical gaffes) if it has basic problems the author has not addressed.

    • I worked for days on a graduate school paper. When I sat to do the final revision, the words were literally blurred. I handed the paper copy to my husband to help me go over every line to find the errors. I had no less than twenty that he found. And when my professor marked it-he found about four more.

      If I had had just one more day, I would have not looked at for 24 hours. Then we would have done the same procedure. I have at least 4 manuscripts on a pink zip drive that I will begin on again in after Jan. 1.

  11. this is the reason why i stopped following a pretty big ‘green’ blog. Her wordy and circular writing I could handle on her blog… but when it came to her (not self-published!) book- it was altogether different. Her writing was so atrocious, repetitive and circular I didn’t make it past the second chapter.
    Since it was more of a ‘science’-y topic (ie toxicity in humans from our every day products), with ZERO credible references, crappy writing and a naked picture of her backside on the front, she has now lost all sway in my habits and beliefs and reading her blog also irritates the hell out of me.

    This post is also why I love reading ‘Reasoning with vampires’ (which I think I found from this blog…??? if so- THANK YOU!)

    • I don’t want to say that I think bloggers don’t deserve book deals, but there are several that have been released/are in the works that I just don’t understand the appeal.

      But then, there are a lot of huge book blogs out there whose appeal I also fail to see.

      • Yeah, I think that there are way too many publishers trying to scoop up anybody with a big audience who writes. Not everyone should be an author.

        Then there are other people who have an audience who write books and self-pub; I watch a YouTube series called the Crumb Boss for baking. The videos RULE so, when she published an ebook, I snapped it up before I even did any nosing around.. it was about 45 pages and she charged ELEVEN DOLLARS, and the writing was piss-poor. I was the only person who gave it an honest review.

        • I think that’s it, really. “THE AUDIENCE IS BUILT IN ALREADY!”

          Um, what works as a weekly blog post doesn’t always translate well to full on narrative.

  12. Aaaaaaaaaaargh…. “most people don’t care about that stuff”? That makes me super-ragey. Not because they aren’t right, but because they are applying that to READERS. I’m guessing that most people who don’t care about grammar and word usage aren’t also big readers, so I’m not sure who you’re trying to market your work to with that attitude.

    You know, I can tolerate one or two typos in a book of several hundred pages, but, honestly, it takes me out of the story and that irritates me. If it happens frequently, I’m not reading that book – even if you gave it to me for free. There are too many well-written, proofread stories out there for me to bother with books that no one cares enough about to do right.

    Another reason why authors need content editors? Most people are awful at writing dialogue and need help. Almost nothing (other than constant use of the wrong word – taut and taunt do not mean the same thing) will take me out of a story faster than poorly written dialogue. Or pages and pages of nothing but dialogue – that’s a script, people, not a novel.

    More than non-edited or poorly-edited self-published books, what really makes me ragey is professionally published books that have little to no editing. I really, really, really (times 11 billion) don’t get 50 Shades of Grey – even disregarding the fanfiction element to it, it’s just poorly written. Poorly written erotica is not erotic. And Simon and Schuster published that shiznit. At the expense of actual good books.

  13. I’m avoiding self-pubs, too, with a big and key exception: if I know the authors already via social media. Stalk a writer for a while and you’ll see the ones who actually give a crap – they talk about beta readers, how much a good editor costs (and how worth it that is), etc. – and you can see the time they’re taking to assure a quality product, even as you’re also getting a feel for what kind of book it might be based on what that author’s interests are. Conversely, if an author stalks me and his/her feed is nothing but book promotion and links to reviews (written by friends? Wink), then I feel pretty safe in categorizing said author as a douchebalrog whose books I needn’t ever bother with.

    Point being, some indie writers actually do give a crap about quality, and it’s pretty easy to spot them.

    • Thank you! I’m an indie writer who cares deeply about quality and professionalism. And there are, I believe, many of us; we’re just in the minority at the moment, and authors who don’t care about quality are able to produce more books per year. It’s expensive to produce an edited book with a great cover and formatting, and time-consuming to do the level of editing a reader deserves.

      I’m struggling with my WIP right now because in my eyes it’s not good enough. Yes, people are waiting for it (it’s a sequel). But I just blogged about the fact that my editor (me) and I are about to have The Meeting that’s going to lead to another major revision before I send the MS to my beta readers. And then I will edit it again, and line edit it, and proofread it, and read it aloud BEFORE it even goes to the paid copyeditor.

      Because I don’t see other indie writers as my competitors. I see Random Penguin and all their little imprints as my competitors, and it’s a very uneven playing field. The least I can do is to try to get the damn grammar right.

        • Thanks but I’m definitely not the only one. If I’m reviewing a self-pubbed book I generally add a line or two about editing, formatting and presentation and I’ve noticed that many seasoned book bloggers do this. Perhaps in time we can encourage better quality.

  14. No, you’re not too picky at all. I don’t blame readers who say they’ve given up on self-published authors. Between appalling grammar and stories that start with someone waking up in the morning (grrr) and authors with little or no grasp of how to create tension and drive narrative, I’ve just about given up myself.

    And I’m self-published.

    (Actually I have a bigger problem with books that lack narrative drive and tension. Poor grammar and writing skills are so obvious from the get-go that one needs to do little other than click the “Look Inside” feature. It takes longer to discover that a book has a weak structure and/or no follow through from what seemed a promising beginning.)

    I’m also traditionally published–my first two novels came out with a respected and fair-sized (for Canada) literary press. When my agent couldn’t place my third novel with one of the larger houses earlier this year, she suggested I put the book up on amazon myself instead of going another round with the smaller publishers. She didn’t want to prejudice my next book…you know, I could go on with several theories as to the why behind her decision–and mine. Point is, the book is out there now, swimming in a sea of edreck, with little or no hope of getting noticed. The smartest thing I did was get print copies made and send them across country to the most wonderful independent bookstore I know, Bryan Prince, Bookseller. Which happens to be in the city the book is set. Fishers just hit #8 in the store’s top 10 sellers.

    There are good self-published ebooks out there. There are some very popular ones. Not necessarily the same thing (see Fifty Shades of Schlock). But as my husband pointed out yesterday, being overwhelmed with choice in a bookstore is nothing to being overwhelmed online with the hundreds of thousands of ebooks available. After spending an enormous amount of time wading through pages of offerings the pay-off needs to be bloody good. Readers want to be guided, especially readers who have been burned by poor self-pubbed works. Who can blame them for seeking out traditionally published authors and names they’re already familiar with. Does this help authors like me and all the other under-read writers out there. Not at all. What can we do about it? Keep on hand-selling, I guess.

    Unless someone out there has a better idea?

    • Just out of curiosity, what is it about books that start with the main character waking up in the morning that you don’t like? I have one story that starts that way and am just wondering what stylistically makes it bad for you. :)

      • Hey Samantha,

        sorry about the blanket statement. I taught creative writing in college for 11 years and saw reams of stories that opened with someone waking up and looking around, taking stock of their day. Not very or interesting or dynamic. Particularly in the case of short stories, with their correspondingly short arc, there isn’t time for a lot of stage-setting or navel-gazing. Something needs to get going. The story needs to open at a point of imbalance. A lot of stories had great openings–but they were often one, two, three paragraphs and sometime pages in. Likewise the endings were often drawn out. Leave the egg out of the cake mixture, I’d crow. Let the reader do some work, they will be that much more engaged.

        That said, there are, thank God, exceptions to every rule. And good books break rules.

        • That’s okay! I was curious about the reason why, is all. :) I know every writer has a certain scene/phrase etc. that bugs the crap out of them because they keep seeing it over and over again. And each one of those has a way that they can be done right, but they’re often not done right.

  15. If I’m going to read something self-published, I’m going to expect to find typos. Because I know that the writer can’t catch everything and the people he or she hired or asked nicely to help won’t catch everything. And I’m going to try to move on with my life after catching the typo. (Like when I read one of the Harry Potters and there was a misty “fug.” Though yes, “fug” is a word, I think “fog” was what she was going for. Same with the time James came out of the wand before Lily.) But if the writer doesn’t even try, if he or she doesn’t ask friends to read it first, if he or she doesn’t correct the errors that are found timely and still asks people to buy the book, that shit’s messed up.

    • Honestly, and I’m not bragging, but the books I edit are cleaner than anything put out by, say, Leisure books. It was after reading a whole bunch of those that I really started raging on the lack of editing in traditionally published books. I have seen it in Baen Books, Penguin Books – it’s not just indie published books that lack in the editing department. I’ve found small-press publishers tend to do the best job with editing.

      • I think that a lot of the big publishing houses have cut back on editing staff – especially content editing and the final line editing for typos.

        I suppose, from their point of view, if poorly-written dreck like the Twilight books, Fifty Shades of Grade, and all of Dan Brown’s books (although he’s about a million times better than the other two) can sell a gazillion copies, why bother?

        I’ll definitely give a self-published or indie book a bigger break when it comes to typos and the occasional grammar error than I will a big-time publisher. However, and this is even more important to me than money, I only have so much time to read and I’m not wasting it on poorly-written books.

        • Nor should you – none of us have enough time to waste on poorly written books! Lately I’ve been harassed by some people who seem to think I’m somehow dishonest because most of the books I’ve read lately are rated at 4 or 5 stars, but what they don’t seem to “get” is that the reason behind that is I choose which books I want to read based upon whether or not I think I’ll like them – I don’t have the time to waste on reading books I don’t think I’ll like! (Hey, if they have so much time to waste that they can spend it reading things they know they’ll hate just so they can get angry and rant about it, more power to them, but I have better things to do with my time, y’know?) So, of course, since I’ve been reading for so very, very long, I do a fairly good job of choosing books I’ll enjoy, therefore most of them are rated as “I loved” or “I liked”, with another substantial chunk being “it’s okay” and, fortunately, very few 1- and 2-star reviews. I’m very excited about this gateway program that has been hinted at! It will really help us to polish our choices. As it is, I do my best to spread the word about books I’ve read that are well-written and fun to read, and ultimately that’s all any of us can do.

  16. Bad grammar and usage drive me nuts. If you don’t care enough to get it right, why should I care enough to read it? This goes not only for books but for all written communications, especially professional ones. I care deeply about everything I put my name on. That’s why I stopped using an alias on blogs and comments several years ago. If I’m not willing to put my name on it, I shouldn’t post/send/publish it.

    The big problem with lumping all self publishers together is that every day a whole new crop of noobs show up. So “self publishers” will NEVER get their act together because the barrier to entry is so low. But many of us do care deeply and have put in our 10,000 hours, have worked through critique groups, have had a dozen or more beta readers and revised multiple times.

    Rather than give up on self published books, if you find one you like, help promote it. If you hear of a good one from someone you trust, give it a try. Please don’t paint us all with a single brush; many of us have put in far more work and time and pride than some traditionally published authors, and many of us are offering superior products.

    • Peter, this is totally unrelated to your awesome and spot on post, but clicking through to your blog to read more about your work reminded me of this question I’ve had for a while: do you know if blogspot.com has an easy way for people to follow your blog? I’ve never gotten into the whole RSS feed concept, so is there another way to be notified of new posts, preferably by email?

      • @Brian: I know that blogger has a widget to allow people to subscribe to updates if you use one of the feed readers, but I don’t know of an email follow. I’ll have to go look because it sure seems a useful feature.

          • @Brian: Thank you! You are very good for my ego today. But… wait til you see the cover for Forsada, the sequel. I just got my proof copies in today’s mail. Cover art for both books was done by Wendy Russ, and it’s snazzy. I’m off to look for an “email subscribe” widget for Blogger now.

      • I’m on blogspot, and I set mine up to allow people to subscribe via e-mail. I don’t recall exactly how I did it, but since I prefer to follow blogs via e-mail, I made sure I could offer that myself.

    • I think the time is coming where there will be different ranks of self-published authors that will be clearer. Right now, venturing out of traditionally-published work is like wading into a soup; but, in time, with the right tools, self-published authors who do put the time and effort into polishing their works will be able to stand out from the pack, I think. (Sorry we can’t go into detail about this, it’s kind of still secret.)

      “Rather than give up on self published books, if you find one you like, help promote it.” Where’s my percentage? ;) But no, you know, you don’t have to tell readers to support the things we love. We already talk about them to everyone. The disconnect is not being able to find the superior works because there’s not (yet) a system in place to help us. I mean, it’s much harder to break through when you’re going on the word of mouth of a few people than it would be if people had a central location to browse where staff members have gone through the books to see if they are riddled with errors or not, etc.

      • My semi-diatribe on readers promoting was essentially a reaction to the number of people in the comments who said, “I’m ready to give up on self published books altogether.” I do realize that I’m facing the choir as I preach.

        I look forward to new systems that help expose quality. As we’ve seen with existing systems, especially Amazon reviews, it’s too easy to game them (a practice I consider ethically wrong). I hope the new double-plus secret project takes that into consideration. Can’t wait to see it.

          • Oooooooo I’ve been waiting for someone to set up some sort of quality control system! I’m also pretty excited about the latest deal between Simon & Schuster and the author of Wool where S&S will handle print distribution and the author retains e-rights. If self-pubbed authors could have access to both print distribution systems and some sort of ungameable quality system that the public really trusted, some truly great self-pubbed authors could emerge.

  17. Good points all, I think there’s definitely an opportunity here for more freelance editing of self-published work. Nobody, and I really mean nobody, gets their writing right first go. And even if you had a fairly passable first draft, why would you want to publish something with your name on it if it’s not the best it can be?? It amounts to laziness and disrespect.

    • If someone had put any actual thought into the matter, they probably wouldn’t.

      The woman I mentioned in my post doesn’t have her name on her book, though. It’s just the name she uses for her blog.

    • There definitely is. In the past year and a half I’ve edited over 50 books O.O Things are quiet right now, but I expect them to pick back up after the New Year… So if anyone has been meaning to contact me about editing, now would be a good time, before I end up swamped all over again! ;-) heh

      • As it turns out, there is a “Follow By Email” gadget that instantly sets up a feedburner for the blog. I’ve added that widget to my blog. Haven’t tested it out yet, but adding it was as easy as going into the “design” page for the blog and clicking “add a widget” in the area I wanted to add it, selecting it, and saving it. I’ve never used feedburner before, but it looks simple enough.

  18. You know what’s worse than the authors that don’t take the extra effort, or maybe thought they found all those pesky errors? The ones who don’t give a shit and think that readers won’t care if they don’t know how to spell or construct a proper sentence. I’m serious, I’ve seen people actually comment as such, and still expect readers to pay for their books.

    I get that they want to put their awesome pieces of work out there, but don’t disrespect the readers by not having someone else proof read.

    • Honestly, Nicolle – the attitude you mention (and the paraphrased quotes in the post) is what brought this particular Reading Rage on.

      I’ve been seeing it more and more frequently lately, and I think people get so caught up in the whole “I’M DOING IT MY WAY, FUCK YEAH!” aspect of independent/self-publishing that they fail to take into consideration that people might actually be READING and JUDGING their work.

  19. I got here late and it’s like a party where all the Buffalo chicken dip has already been eaten. SO MANY COMMENTS! Most of which cover the important stuff, so I’ll just say: yes. Yes to your post, sj, yes to the comments. Please take me more seriously as a reader, or I’m not going to take you seriously as a writer – and me not taking you seriously means I’m not going to read you, and I’m a mouthy broad, so I’m going to tell my friends to avoid reading you, too.

  20. I’ve read quite a few since I started blogging, and whilst some have been brilliant, most do have problems. And yes, traditional pubs have those issues too, but it looks worse in a self-pub. For a traditionally published book, you’re more likely to view it as the fault of the editor, the self-pub the fault of the author. It does make you wonder if they invested in editing.

    You’re not picky at all – you’re showing your support for authors by giving advice and saying what doesn’t work. If I’ve been given the book to review then I’ll continue no matter what. Otherwise, unless the problems occur later on in the book (not likely) I’ll find something else to read. I’m not one of those people that can overlook lots of mistakes for the good of the story, no matter self-published or traditionally.

  21. Yes. Oh, yes. All. Of. This.

    A poorly-edited book will ruin the entire experience for me. It could be the best book in the universe, and I will HATE IT if there are typos, poor grammar, or poorly edited sentences within. (Even if said crap only shows up once per chapter.) Ugh.

  22. I’m even later than Amy, and there isn’t even any bean dip left. Everything I want to say has been said, so just an emphatic thank you to IB for saying it all and saying it so well.

    Well, there’s one thing that hasn’t been said, I don’t think. (I started to skim around the 100th comment…) Frankly, it’s not just the rudeness and disrespect of asking me to pay for something you couldn’t be bothered to finish (that frustration is like going into a restaurant and being served an omelet with bits of shell in it, and honestly, even if it’s not a restaurant and you’re just inviting me over for dinner, I’m gonna be a little annoyed if you serve me half-cooked pasta because you didn’t make time to let it boil long enough before I came over). I’m just blatantly going to think that you’re too stupid to write well.

  23. I don’t think you went too far. I’d like examples, though that easily falls down the “calling people out” hole, and I can appreciate wanting to avoid that. Traditional pubs have plenty of errors and sloppy writing as well, but it doesn’t seem nearly as common in my self-pub writing.

    If we’re going to self-promote, we ought to go to reasonable ends to proofread and tighten our work. That’s the decent thing to do as a writer who’s asking people to pay for these words. Everyone will make typos, and everyone will miss them. Everyone will have a scene that misses. Every robust career will have at least one book that’s just off. But for everything else, there’s diligence.

  24. YES to all of this. (Reading the archive of IB because I have nothing better to do. JK. But really, after discovering this blog earlier today, I’ve been reading old posts.)

    It annoys me how self-published novels have horrible grammar and spelling (!) mistakes. While there are self-published authors who hire freelance editors to check over their works, they’re small in number. Kills the whole damn barrel, like Jennifer said.

    The beaver/bear book cover is creepy, in a clown type of way.

  25. Yes! I’m more liberal with self-pubs, but it drives me nuts when major publishers release books with errors. I usually highlight them and email the contact for the book (not the author). It’s sad when I notice that a book is error-free.

  26. Pingback: The Emoticon Generation | Postcards from La-La Land

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