Getting screwed by a self-published novel is one thing. Getting screwed by one that’s put out by a publisher is another. It was my own fault, really, for buying a book on its publication day, based just on the sample and the subject matter, but it pointed up a lot of important things that don’t get talked about much. The most obvious one is that buying a book from a publisher is no guarantee of quality. If the publisher is an epublisher in a genre niche, quality is going to be even more variable than from from long-established print publishers.
Of the three or four genre epublishers that I’ve bought books from more than once, the quality has ranged from excellent to abysmal. And regardless of the size of the sample, the number of the author’s previous books, or the favorable reviews, buying a book that’s worth your money is a crapshoot. The truth is that there aren’t a hell of a lot of good writers — in any genre. But publishers have to keep putting out product. So a lot of mediocre to just plain bad stuff gets published. And if the publishers are small enough that they can’t afford to edit the books, and depend on the authors to do that themselves, the overall quality of the company’s lists isn’t really much better than the average of self-published books.
Is this situation likely to improve? I don’t think so. The novel I just finished would have been rejected by any traditional publisher. It read like the second draft of someone’s first novel. But it was by a writer with a long string of publishing credits behind her. What this tells me is that there has been no motivation for this writer to improve. After all, her books sell. And there has been no one to do the job of showing her what’s wrong. After all, her books sell.
If I’d waited until the book had been out for a while and I could read the reviews, the chances are that I still wouldn’t have had any idea how bad it was. The majority of ebook reviewers use the same standards that the readers do — do I like the plot and the characters? They could care less about things like minimally correct grammar and word usage, character development, plot continuity, internal logic, or a host of other picky details. Proof? One rating already on a popular social network site for book lovers. Rating? Four.