…I felt as if I’d been ripped off.
I’m a fussy reader. I have absolutely no tolerance for shallow characters and boilerplate plots. I have even less patience with poor editing that constantly jerks my attention away from the story. And no matter how careful I am in choosing books to read (and I’m concentrating on self-published books here) I can’t seem to avoid realizing, somewhere along in my reading, that I’ve been royally ripped off by an author. Not intentionally, of course, but intent doesn’t matter. If I review the book, I have to mention editing that’s bad enough to spoil the pleasure. And I probably won’t buy any more books by that author. There are well-established authors whose books I won’t read because the first of their books that I did read were so appallingly bad. Those authors aren’t going to be damaged by either my unfavorable review or my failure to become their fan. For a brand-new author, it would be part of a death knell.
What brought on this little tirade was a review by an author whose work I love, of another writer’s first novel. The reviewer loved the characters, thought the plot was interesting and well-worked out, and even praised the writing. But the promise of the “relatively clean” sample wasn’t carried out. In fact, the editing was bad enough to make the book the kind that the reviewer would normally have hesitated to buy.
I know that even the longest sample isn’t going to tell you everything you want to know about a book. The writing may be beautiful, the characters may tug at your heart, but the plot eventually falls apart and leaves you with a bitter taste in your mouth. The same is true for books that you browse in a bookstore. Even if you and your best friend have the same general taste in books, you may differ on what works for you. Even if you respect a specific reviewer and depend on their reviews to guide you, you may find yourself disliking a book that the reviewer praised to the skies.
So what it comes down to is that the author has to do their best to make sure you don’t dislike the book for the wrong reasons. That they don’t impress you with the first few pages and then blindside you with atrocious grammar or laughable vocabulary that looks like a stab-a-pin-in-the-thesaurus choice. The newer you are to the publishing world, the less likely readers will be to forgive you. You’re a small fry in a wide sea of big tasty fish and the reading public doesn’t give a hoot whether you ever have a chance to grow up. There’s no point complaining about how difficult it is to make your way in the writing world when you’ve cut the ground out from under your feet by not making your book the very best it can be.