Reading Rage: Don’t Make Me Get Out My Red Pen
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.
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!”
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.
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?
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?
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!