Friday, 19 October 2012

Beware, self-publishers. A massive storm front is coming your way!

Since I got my Kindle I have downloaded roughly 100 books, which resulted in a deleting marathon
Thosewhohavebeenfollowingmyblog,knowthatIholdaPh.D.inranting.Beitaboutself-publishedauthorsandtheirbehaviourinsocialmedia,orthemediocretonon-existentqualityofself-publishedbooks.Tohelplifttheoverallquality,Itriedtowriteaself-editingmanual,butfailedmiserably.It'snotmyforte.IthendecidedtodowhatIdobest:writealengthyrantaboutmyobservations,myexperiences, include suggestions on how to make it better,andthrowinafewtipsandtricks;allofittongueincheek, of course.Beware:it'snotforthefaint-hearted.

This is an excerpt of how it will look/sound like. The self-editing help will be thrown in where appropriate. Remember it's a first draft and will be edited/proofread before it's published.

 

Self-publishing is great!


Every time I think I may have a day without an idiot-intervention, life decides I could do with one more. I'm on the Amazon forum, chatting away, discussing self-published books on a thread I've started because the ones I've read didn't convince me. I want to know how others feel about it. The opinions are, as expected, mixed, which is always a good basis for a healthy debate. I'm just posting a recent experience with a self-published book, explaining my reasons for not liking it, when a new post from a person, who's not participated yet, appears.

As a self-published author I must say it is great to finally be able to get my writing to the readers directly. After having been rejected by several agents I almost gave up, but then Kindle came along and I thought why not try it? I'm a bit unsure as I've never showed my writing to anyone but my grandmother, and she really liked it. I've published my book 'First Novel', and I wonder if you all can take a look and give me constructive feedback.

Huh? So you are telling me you had no feedback on your writing and went ahead with publishing despite that? I sigh deeply. It's not the first time that that happened; on a thread clearly for readers to exchange their opinions, self-published authors will come at least twice a week, telling us about their experiences and how great it is to be able to self-publish. While nobody denies the greatness of it, it's hardly the right place to report how it was for them. I've since then come to the conclusion that most self-published authors can't read to save their lives, or understand what they've read for that matter. Seriously? The title of that thread reads: Self-published books: pain or gain? Writers misread it continuously as: self-publishing books: pain or gain? And that's just the beginning; they don't even read the original posts, which clearly determines what the thread is about. No, they jump right in shouting about their books, hardly any of them gives an answer to my question: Have you read self-published books and what is your opinion on the quality?
I could go through the over 3500 posts to count how many authors actually misread it, but I seriously can't be arsed. Out of 201 participants, my guess is about 150 have misread the title. When I, or someone else, points out their mistake, most of them won't even see it as their only intention was to dump their book links and bugger off, never to be seen again. Or if they actually read our reply most of them get rather defensive. My favourite one: I've read plenty of traditionally published books that are rubbish!
Aha! And that gives you the excuse to publish rubbish, too. Is that what you're saying? No, is the reply, but there are plenty of great self-published book out there!
Okay, I ask, can you name one really great gem you've discovered?
The author then spares me an answer. My guess is they haven't read any self-published books but her own. Another wonderful argument they use is: self-published books are great because they can push the boundaries, authors are not restricted by any publishing house anymore. That freedom is priceless.
Right, let me get that straight, you think that all traditionally published authors' voices are muted? That publishers release only uninteresting, boring titles and never any edgy stuff?
Haha. Now you made me laugh. A few years ago I read James Frey's A Million Little Pieces and thought it was pretty out there: not only the subject matter, but also the style. It was raw; and it was written with minimal punctuation (no quotes in dialogue, which, by the way I didn't even notice back then). Twilight, no matter what you think of it, was pretty experimental with the sparkling vampire. Little Brown took the risk and the rest is history. And what about Trainspotting? So don't tell me that the big six or even the smaller reputable publisher don't publish edgy fiction, it's just not correct. I also would like to see one edgy example of self-published books that made it to the top. Go on, then, tell me one. Okay, 50 Shades Of Grey, but that's not really edgy. It's just erotica, and that has always sold well.
When I ask people to provide me with proof that self-publishing is the next big talent mill, I'll never get an answer. I doubt it's any more a talent mill than traditional publishing. There are talented authors in both publishing arms. Many self-publish because either they don't have a marketable enough book and got rejected, or they choose to go their own way. They normally won't make millions with it anyway, no matter how they publish it. The majority of readers don't want edgy, they want easy and familiar. John Locke, E.L. James, Amanda Hocking are quoted, but they're not really edgy; they are genre writers, exactly the 'easy and familiar' people want. Nothing wrong with that, but it's proof that only genre writers will make it big. You write for the right market, you're in it with a chance, so spare me your shite about edgy and new talent. I've yet to find one, to be honest. What I've read was mostly badly plotted, unedited stuff. I mean it. Some of it such utter drivel a 13-year-old school kid could have done better. Recently, I saw a post from a girl who had published her first offering. Of course never showed it to anyone, and why would she? Just use the paying public as beta readers, that'll do nicely. Not!

She left the house. She walked to the car. Then she opened the door and sat behind the wheel. She looked in the mirror to check her make up, then started the car and drove away.

I'm not kidding you, that's about the same style she wrote. What's worse is that a reader saw that 'plug' of hers and went to leave a review for the short piece, saying she was really impressed and that the author should be proud of herself. I almost fell off my chair. These are the kind of books readers are offered and I'm not surprised that so many people knock self-publishing. With no quality control readers have only one choice: skim through the floating rubbish until they find something readable. Those thoughtless authors are a disgrace for those of us who take our job—yes, it's a job—seriously. Believe it or not, but there are people who outline their stories with care, develop their characters so that they come alive, know a thing or two about showing instead of telling and, in general, have some acquainted skills to craft a good and entertaining book.
I've read books with holescraters in them, it was beyond belief. Not to forget the illogical behaviour of the main characters or story lines. I just wanted to slap the authors. Hard and repeatedly. Then I read books that were decent, but bored me stiff. Exactly that kind of books people claim traditional publishers would publish: same old, same old. They often are by seasoned authors who have been under contract and decided to go DIY, for they have the control over it and can break out of the in-house styles of their previous publishers. Do they do it? No. The books were well-edited, but frankly the stories didn't have anything interesting to them, no bite, no grip, nothing that wanted me to forget feeding the iguana, or myself.

46 comments:

  1. So you want me to recommend an Indie book that is truly exceptional? Try Joe cafe by JD Mader.

    As for many of the errors found in self-published books. I agree that professional editing is a must. However, having had that with both my books, when even clean manuscripts are published in e-formats, translation errors occur. The paper version id fine, the e-version is not. These errors end up looking like editing sloppiness, when in fact they are glitches in the programs that translate to e-books. These cause no end of frustration and contribute to the bad rap that some self-publishers get.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi, Ivonne

      The errors aren't the main problem. Gee, I published (unknowingly)books with errors. I'm more addressing the rubbish story lines. And I'm not talking about 'a matter of taste', I'm talking about far fetched stories where even suspending your disbelief doesn't work anymore.
      Thank you for the recommendation, I'll check it out. ;-)

      Delete
    2. "far fetched stories where even suspending your disbelief doesn't work anymore"

      So your rant should John Grisham and a plethora of authors published by the big houses and about 98% of movies made.

      You make many good points, but this one is too wide spread.

      Delete
    3. Hi, Kent

      Thank you. You're right. I'll explain more in depth when I go and edit the book, giving examples (made up) of what I mean.

      Delete
  2. Your Phd in rantng gave me a nice Friday morning giggle. One self-published book I really enjoyed was Wool.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi, Johanna. I'm glad I made you smile. One good deed down, three to go. lol

      Wool by whom?

      Delete
  3. I read a self-pubbed sample a while back that had "hoards of people" in the first para. Once I'd stopped giggling at the thought of lots of little people stashed away in cupboards, I moved swiftly on... :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My 'he said in a horse voice' gave a reader a great giggle. And me, too, even though an embarrassed one. I can overlook such errors. They happen, but if the writing is amateurish I give up. (Though horde and hoard is quite a big one. They are dangerous because they sound similar. Heel/heal. I did that. I really did.

      I hate wrongly used dialogue attributes and apostrophes. They aren't really difficult to learn.

      Delete
  4. Derek Jeter and I agree with you! Funny,I just posted a comment addressing this problem on another writer's blog.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ha! That's really funny. It's just part of the WIP. I was told to 'shut up' and address those self-published authors who fit the bill, so that's what I'm doing with this book. And along the way I'll try to show the show what's wrong and how to do it right.
      I'm sure plenty of people will see themselves and hopefully learn. It often needs to be pointed out (particularly writing-related issues), to remember for next time.
      The book will be a mixture of rants and education. Not too sure if it's going to work, but I'll give it my best shot. Ranting is what I do best and I know my editing stuff.

      Delete
  5. While I have plenty of sympathy with many of the opinions in this post, Stella, some of the impact is lost due to... you guessed it.... sloppy editing!

    "I've read books with craters in *them*, it was beyond *belief*" is just one sentence I'd have cast my editing eye over. And there are plenty more. I don't generally nitpick like this, but when a post is ripping others for poor editing skills, well, you know what I'm saying.

    I am also an editor and am available if you need me ;)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I like that. Someone who doesn't take it personally.

      :)

      Delete
    2. Why would I? I've read through it a few times, but am normally blind on the first day of publishing. Thought I caught it all, but will find more in two weeks' time perhaps.
      Experience shows I can't proofread my own stuff, at least not right after writing it. Have added a 'disclaimer' as it's a first draft and just something I wrote today.

      If I would take things personally I would be as unprofessional as some self-published authors are when people leave negative feedback. ;-) Instead I have a horn on my forehead now (from slapping it hard).

      Delete
    3. While I get what David is saying (I'm an editor too, and I know exactly what you mean, David), Stella's points all concern issues above the sentence level. Besides, it's hard for anyone to proof their own work. I'm always making erros of my own I miss. Mostly down to my typing skulls :0). Just my 2 cents...

      Delete
  6. I love a good rant too, particulary at those who who think they can when clearly they can't. Keep up the good work (though maybe there is room for even more vitriol)!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey, Nicky.

      Ranting is good for the soul. I'll get a tad harsher when I come to some of the behaviour on social media sites, etc. I've played around for a week and wasn't happy with what I've written, then deleted everything and started again. I want to make it attractive for both: those who are annoyed with self-published books and writers who want to self-published, so they can make it 'right'. We'll see. ;-)

      Delete
  7. Bashing self publishing is just too easy Stella. You're on the tail of an endless line of 'bashers' who bundle all self published books into one huge pile on the left, and have traditionally published books on the right. But understanding why self publishing is here, and here to stay isn't as simple as drawing a dividing line.

    There are many reasons why authors self publish and as many levels of expectation. Not every one is after literary recognition or passing a certain grade of literary expertise or making bucket loads of money. For many it's a hobby, and well, if you can't tell a hobby writer by reading the first chapter preview well bad luck. Fill up your Kindle and have a nice time deleting later.

    When someone painstakingly writes a book about their family history, about an illness they suffered and survived, or they just want to try their hand at a bit of fan fiction, it isn't a crime. I know a few who have self published books simply to be able to add a publication to their CV. But you don't have to read all of these books, or add them to your Kindle. Nor do you need to bash them for taking the opportunity to use self publishing to serve their own purposes, or even allowing them to dream.

    Self publishing is not about 'snobby' professionalism Stella. It's about the freedom of expression, and along with that, the freedom to chose whether to read it or not.

    Go back to reading the Big Six and querying agents Stella and stop taking cheap shots at those in your pile on your left.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Again, Derek. We had this discussion: if the shoe fits, be my guest.
      From where I stand, you are throwing all in the same bag, not me. I'm picking out examples, you make it about self-publishing. Sorry, dear. But if you don't like what I have to say ... Your choice. But by now you should know me better. So breath and come back when you've calmed down.

      I'm not bashing anything, I'm observing and I'm ranting. It's my opinion, and last time I checked voicing my opinion is perfectly legal. Just because you don't like it I won't stop being annoyed. I self-published by choice and worked hard to get my books into shape.
      Besides, I know you have your issues with those authors I'm addressing, too. I don't tell you what you can or cannot say either. :-)

      Delete
    2. It's your right to rant Stella. It's your blog. But while you're open for comments, I can rant back. Fair deal? :)

      Delete
    3. You can rant, but personal 'attacks' are not fair. You put the shoe on yourself. I didn't say, 'That damn Haines can't write.' Did I? ;-)

      If you haven't done anything 'wrong', then you don't have anything to worry about. But I think that we self-published authors need to stand up and take matters in our own hands because those who take their readers for granted, or worse: disrespect them, are pulling us down with them. That's all I'm trying to do. Tell those who don't care that we do.

      Delete
  8. "Okay, I ask, can you name one really great gem you've discovered?
    The author then spares me an answer. My guess is they haven't read any self-published books but her own."

    It's sad that this has been your experience but it's maybe only part of the picture. Since spending time with Indie authors I have been delighted to discover some great work. Might I suggest that you investigate David Antrobus, Laurie Boris, Carol E Wyer, Yvonne Hertzberger, Hugh Ashton and JD Mader. (For starters.) You may not enjoy all the genres/styles but I guarantee that at least one of them will move you to reconsider the generic awfulness of Indies. And all terribly well edited. :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello, Carolyn

      I'm always happy to hear the positive sites. I really am. And I'm sure there are good authors/books, it's just the finding that's so hard.
      I didn't say that all self-published authors are terrible, I just didn't find that one gem I'm searching for yet. Instead I deleted so many books so fast ... it's just not right.

      Delete
    2. True, but then when I walk into a conventional bookshop I pass most of the shelves looking for my own personal gem. I choose to find pleasure in the fact that the current ease of publication means that readers are in charge. If we culled all the egocentrics there wouldn't be much art left in any field.

      Delete
    3. I don't think readers are more in charge than they were before self-publishing. Okay, you may have a bigger choice if you read niche market books and you may not have found those authors you mentioned above, which would be a shame, but those books that really are selling well, are those that could have easily been published by one of the big six.

      Delete
    4. Carolyn, I have looked at the authors you recommended, and the only one I would enjoy was Laurie's. Incidentally it was free, too. So I downloaded it. It better be good, my dear. ;-)

      I'm very picky with my reads and, although I read a wide range of genres, I'm picky within the genres, too. If a premise doesn't grab me, I'll pass. Nothing to do with how the book was published, by the way.

      And another thing: it's side, not site. My bad. I've stared at the screen all day and am tired. ;-)

      Delete
  9. You are entitled to your opinion and I wish you all the best in your endeavors.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Everyone is. Believe it or not, my intentions are good. ;-)

      Delete
  10. Gee, if that is the reaction to only one excerpt, I don't know what happens when the book is out. I'll probably get shot. haha

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Nah, I don't think it has to be that contentious, Stella. Like most things, the so-called dichotomy between traditional and self publishing is not the black and white choose-a-side flame war some seem to wish for. There are positives and negatives within each "camp", and plenty of overlap.

      My own style is to use satire and analogy rather than court controversy. Okay, maybe I get less blog hits as a result, but hey, I much prefer to tease out the aspects of this that often get lost when everyone yells or calls each other names.

      Assuming you're interested, check out my thoughts here:

      http://www.the-migrant-type.com/blog/2012/1/24/punk-fire-or-indie-schmindie.html

      And for outright satire, this:

      http://www.indiesunlimited.com/2012/03/23/entitled-2/

      See what you think.

      Delete
    2. Hi, David.

      I'll take a look. I can be rather forthright, and I love a bit of controversy, me. On the other hand, I'm the last to not help someone who needs help. If someone contacts me with a section they have troubles with, I'll look through it and send it back with thoughtful comments.
      I'm also not perfect, never was, probably (unfortunately) never will be, but I'm doing my best. I've seen too many who don't. So this book is meant to be a big slap in the faces of those who don't care. With some helpful tips on how to make it better. People who've followed my blog, know nothing's eaten as hot is it's been cooked. No idea if this translation from a German saying works, but I guess you know what I mean. Will look at your links tomorrow, I'm a little (a lot)knackered.

      Delete
    3. Yeah, turns out everyone's different. Who knew? ;)

      Oddly enough, I'm also collecting together my own scattered thoughts on the industry, right now — on the various aspects of a writer's world in this year of 2012 — and will soon be releasing a kind of writer's manual with a difference. An irreverent how-to book covering everything from editing to writing rules to self-styled gatekeepers to lists (I love lists) of favourite books, openers, closers, movie adaptations of books, etc. The works.

      I like that translation. German seems to be full of that type of thing. French too. I heard a description of a hangover that translates to "my eyes aren't opposite their holes." Ha!

      Delete
    4. Never heard of that. Must have been someone from the south, they speak funny there. LOL

      I think the sudden explosion in self-publishing and free books has stimulated many people to write down their thoughts. I wanted to do a friendly and easy manual, but it wouldn't be me, hence it didn't work. So now I'm doing this 'educational rant'. I'll post a warning: not for sensitive self-published souls, buy and read at own peril. hahaha.

      Delete
    5. Mine's more like a Trojan Horse, I think. ;)

      Then again, I almost never see things as a straight dichotomy. Sure, some writers can be sensitive. Jeez, when you think about it, that's probably one of the factors that make them want to write. But the old guard is doomed, nonetheless. And how that void is to be filled is what this discussion is really about. In the spirit of a former punk, I say let everyone storm the Bastille and sort it all out afterward. It's going to be a fun ride.

      Delete
    6. If you knew what a sensitive little flower I am ... But that wasn't the reason for me to start writing. It sort of happened by accident and now I can't stop. Well, better than drinking, I suppose. Oh wait: as proper sensitive authors we're also doomed to alcoholics, right? ;-)

      I said before that self-publishing will most probably sort itself out, for now we have to cope with the shite. And shite stirrers like me. haha.

      Delete
  11. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Your first mistake is hanging out on the Amazon forums. Only trolls or fools go there. Understand that the Amazon forums are where the bottom-feeders hang out. And that Amazon kindle publishing is the shallow end of the self-publishing gene pool. Expand your horizons beyond the Amazon cesspool before you pass judgement.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello, Rick

      I'll take it you won't buy the book when it's out, then?

      Delete
    2. What book is that? Writing the book is the easy part. Then you need to get it edited and proofed. When that's done you get a professional looking cover and the whole thing formatted for publication. It's not my fault if amateurs skip a few steps. That's why I started a publishing service that specializes in POD and ebooks. To help fix the problems with self-publishing. As I always like to point out, you are not obligated in any way to go to Amazon and look at the kindle books nor are you required to do so. Therefore anything you find that doesn't meet your standards is self-inflicted. Whining about doesn't help.

      Delete
    3. My dear Rick,

      I'm ranting. You see I like to rant, and I feel the need to rant.

      By the way, authors who attack their readers after leaving an unfavourable review is next on my list. :-)

      Do stop by, you may like it.

      Delete
  13. Stella, I've been thinking about writing my self-publishing memoir for a while. It feels like the time's right, doesn't it? We disagree on a lot of things, but like you I tear my hair out at 99.9% of self-publishers. Largely because I love the possibilities of self-publishing but all I see day on day is people willfully narrowing them.

    A genuinely edgy self-published book - Steve Roggenbuck's Download Helvetica for Free - not available on Amazon, btw. And a masterpiece - Andy Harrod's Living Room Stories (though it's meant as a paper book)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi, Dan

      Do we really disagree on a lot of things? I never saw us debating a lot. :-)

      But, yes, you probably disagree with my way of handling this. The very kind nature you are, you will handle your memoirs differently, and that's a good thing. Thanks for the heads-up on the books. My list's growing.

      Delete
    2. I don't disagree at all on how you're handling this. I just figure you probably tear your hair out when I go on about the irrelevance of spelling and grammar for some genres :)

      Delete
    3. Err, me no English, so I tend to keep my mouth shut re grammar. I've still a long way to go. I do get upset if people misuse apostrophes, dialogue attributes, or miss that particular comma before names I love so much. (Hi, Dan).

      I always compare writing with a beautiful painting: a suitable frame will enhance its beauty. If the frame distracts from it, it's a shame. Spelling, punctuation and grammar are a novel's frame if you will. But, yes, I think that's where we probably agree to disagree.

      Delete
  14. Stella - Always enjoy your rants. There's a good measure of crap among Indie releases, but checking out sample pages will usually help you avoid much of that. Amazing how many authors fail to get editing help with their first few pages.

    There is some great, entertaining writing among self-published Kindles. Just a few examples are "The Do-Over" by Kathy Dunnehoff, "White Heat" by Paul Marks, and (in all humility) "The Assassins Club" by Dixon Bennett Rice.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Mr. Rice. Well, well, well. Aren't we naughty? I tried The Do-Over and didn't like it, sorry, Dixon. Stopped reading after the fourth or fifth time she mentioned that damn bubble bath. I know it's all about that bubble bath, but I didn't think she did it well, and I'm terribly allergic to repetition.

      My opinion, of course. Haven't checked out Paul's book. Have yours on my list, but just not the time.(Ha! You didn't know, did you?)I never tell people that I'm reading their books, so I can walk away quietly in case I don't like it. :-)

      Delete