of Self Publishing
A while back I announced I would be reviewing books for my blog. I’ve met many wonderful writers via Twitter and my blog and received a nice little pile of books to review. A delight to someone like me, who loves to read a good book.
Most of these little tomes are self-published. I was a bit leery about that, but also excited, because I love helping others. And a good book review can do a lot for an author’s sales. However, in the course of reading these self-published books two realizations dawned on me:
Most of them are first drafts.
And none of them are professionally edited.
This came as a shock to me. Because each of these books have their own websites. And the authors attached to them are, without exception, nice people who are writers. They have blogs and are active on Twitter and Facebook as writers. So as I flipped through these books I wondered, do these folks read? And if so, do they not see that their ‘novel’ is not:
1. formatted like those they read
2. as long as those they read (in most cases)
3. as polished as those they read
Because one’s experience as a reader would inform one of these things. Wouldn’t it? Or are we blind when it comes to our own work? And if we are blind, then wouldn’t this be all the more reason to have our work edited by someone else? Preferably a professional?
I’m a little saddened to find this is the state of affairs. In the course of belonging to the writers groups I do I have had opportunity to read a few novels that were either destined to be self-published (their authors said) or were in fact, already self-published. And I always found them disappointingly amateurish and terrible. The results of the high and unrestrained excitement of a month of NaNoWriMo, or some such. But, these were all from authors with no internet presence; people who were isolated in their writing, or who had perhaps never written anything prior and had no training in it.
So I didn’t expect to encounter quite the same from these internet savvy folks who have so much more ‘going on’ for them as writers.
I won’t be doing reviews of these books, and I now have gotten myself into the unfortunate position of having to tell these writers why. Sure to be a morning of uncomfortable email writing, especially since I like the writers as people. But I won’t say a book is good if it is not for whatever reason. I cannot recommend a book that was a trial for me to plow through. And it is upsetting to me to have to dash anyone’s feelings.
Here are the main issues I found with these self-published novels. This first category concerns formatting:
- No indents. (Really? You didn’t know you were supposed to indent at paragraphs?)
- Not properly setting dialogue apart, where it should be, and/or indenting it.
- Double spacing at the end of every sentence. (I have seen this on manuscripts over the years. The writers always insist it’s proper. It’s not. It’s an old fashioned typing habit. And it looks really odd in a printed book.)
- Sometimes using quotations for dialogue, sometimes not. Sometimes using single quotations (within the same body of work) instead of double quotations—for no apparent reason.
- Whole pages without a single break or indent, sometimes with dialogue buried in it.
- Sometimes italicizing thoughts and sometimes not.
Ignoring these basic rules of English grammar makes the reading very difficult for the reader. Is that what you want the reader to experience when reading your book? Difficulty and distraction?
These next issues concern points in the actual writing that a good edit would have pointed out to the writer:
- Using the same word many times within a paragraph.
- Using too many adverbs or adjectives. (Which weakens our writing)
- Using the same adverb or adjective repeatedly on the same page.
- Excessive wordiness
- Unedited dialogue which would read so much better if tightened up.
- Rife with clichés.
- Punctuation missing or improperly used.
- Words misspelled.
- Words missing.
- Undeveloped plot points which could/would have been developed in subsequent rewrites and would have made the plot more interesting and complex and surprising.
- Under-developed or flat characters. (Again, this could be remedied by rewrites.)
- No sensory description whatsoever. Sight? Sounds? Smells?
- An imbalance between exposition, summary, action and dialogue.
- Word count too low to be considered a novel. (Is 45,000 words now a novel? When did that happen?)
People, don’t let the rush to say you’ve published a novel make you publish something less polished, professional and complete than the novels published by traditional publishers. Right now the pendulum is swinging toward self-publishing. But experience has taught that trends always swing back and reach some point of equilibrium. Where that will be nobody knows. One thing I know for certain: I do not want to see the high standard of literature turned into something shoddy. Please keep our body of literature up to a standard we can all be proud of and enjoy. If you have the time and money to hire someone knowledgeable to build a website for your self-published novel, why not spend the same time and money on getting it properly written, edited and formatted?
If you don’t, I will venture to say, you will never be taken seriously. And your novel will not become a classic that outlives you and is read and loved by many.
And isn’t that the goal?
(I will still be reviewing novels for self published writers and traditionally published writers alike. The only change in my review policy is that I will request a first chapter from any self published writer prior to agreeing to read the entire novel.)
A great link to basics of manuscript formatting: here.