Let me be clear: I've been exploring the Indie Publishing world with much interest, enthusiasm and passion. I am really excited about authors being able to cheaply and easily publish their own stuff, whether or not publishers think it will sell, whether or not agents like it enough to hawk it. Self-publishing was The Topic at the last writers' conference I attended (I think more than half the sessions were on self-publishing). I'm excited by the possibilities of digital books; I'm a passionate Kindle owner (what a blessing for long airplane flights!); I like to stay on top of the changes in the writing world and marketplace and I love the idea of people having the option to just put their hard work out in the world. When it comes to Indie Publishing I'm a real fan. And for the past six months, I've been connecting up with self-published writers through various social media sites and buying their books. I buy them with every intention of reading them and possibly putting out a good review for the book on the net. It's my way of doing my part for my colleagues and for the readers and writers of the world.
But to a lot of those authors out there, I just want to say, "Is it too much to ask you to please edit your book before you publish it?"
Look, I want to be supportive. I do. I would like nothing better than to write a glowing, 5 star review for every book and do what I can to drive up your sales. I really mean that. But a lot of the time, I find myself wanting to write stuff like this:
"The author has a great idea here, and the skeleton of a good (possibly great) story, but sadly the book could have used a thorough rewrite, a dedicated proofreader and a fact check or two before publishing..."
"Sometime in the middle of this muddled mess, I found myself reading two different back stories for the same character. I understand what's happened here, of course. While writing the book, the author decided to change the character's back story. I've done that myself , while writing my own novels. It's a fine thing to do--when one is drafting. But it's generally advisable to edit out inappropriate back stories before rushing to publication. That way the reader is not left to wallow through what essentially amounts to a rough draft of a book. "
"These characters are so unrelentingly two dimensional, I felt like I was reading a Victorian melodrama, as opposed to a pulse pounding thriller. Midway through, I didn't give a damn whether the world ended or not, and I sincerely hoped everyone in the book died ..."
Look, I'm not a snob. These are not nit-picking criticisms. Spelling, grammar, plot points, characters--these should be standard when it comes to published fiction. I'm not asking for the moon. I'm not even asking for a good read. I'm asking that you not insult me by asking me to buy and read a book you didn't even reread thoroughly yourself.
Here are three rules I would like to see followed in self published fiction:
RULE ONE: Please HAVE YOUR BOOK PROOFED. It might even be a good idea to pay a professional to do this. Really, you do yourself no favors when your book has grammar and spelling errors. As a reader, I feel disrespected when the proofreading is sloppy.
RULE TWO: You might consider PAYING A PROFESSIONAL EDITOR, especially if this is your first novel. It's an investment, but it's a good one. If you have a good story, make sure you're telling it well. Please don't rush to publication without rewriting. Your first wave of readers just winds up vowing, "Never, never, never will I buy a book by this guy again."
RULE THREE: Before publishing, give your book to some people who like to read, and ASK FOR FEEDBACK. Then take that feedback into consideration and REVISE YOUR BOOK. In the end, this is a much more valuable use of your friends' time, as opposed to having them print a bunch of laughable, 5 star reviews on Amazon.
If you put yourself out there--and I want to see you put yourself out there! I do!--please have some professionalism and integrity. Think of your readers, not just your desire to be read. For those of us who are avid and loving readers, believe me, we live to hold a good book in our hands. We yearn to be transported. We're on your side, and we want you to be awesome. If your story is good--please be good to it and your audience. Thank you.