I Bought Your Book and Then…

…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.

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13 thoughts on “I Bought Your Book and Then…

  1. I completely agree with you, but at the same time I’m terrified because I’ve recently self-published a novel and I hope I didn’t fail readers the way you’ve been failed.

    1. If you’re not confident about your editing ability, you can probably find people willing to beta. Not everyone has the skills, but quite a few people have helped me improve my writing and editing.

    1. Thanks for coming over and commenting, Ann. I try not to rant too often (it tends to attract people who want to psychoanalyze my bad attitude), but it helps clear the air.

  2. Editing is so important. As authors, we need to edit our work intensely and we need outside eyes. That being said, I understand there’s difficulties with formatting sometimes. I havn’t published an ebook yet, but I hear there can be a lot of struggle to get it right. I’m usually willing to give a self-pubbed author some leeway. If it’s a formatting issue and not an editing issue (typos, terrible word choice, purple prose etc) or a story issue, I’d rather try to contact the author first rather than leaving a bad review. In fact, I hate leaving bad reviews and would rather just not review at all. LOL

    1. I’ve seen very few books that were so badly formatted that I couldn’t read them, and some of them were from publishers, believe it or not. If the author is just starting out, and has a contact address, I might get in touch with them, but that’s pretty time-consuming and can wind up just getting you a nasty response. You would think that someone who’s gone to the trouble of writing a book and publishing it would take the time to make sure it at least tries to approach professional level, but…

      I used to rate as low as one star, but now, if it’s that bad I just don’t bother. I also try to be very specific about why I’m giving a particular rating.

      1. I didn’t think about getting a nasty response from the author. I’d think they’d be pleased to be able to fix the problem and not have a bad review. That’s sad.

        I’ve seen bad reviews over small formatting and editing errors. While I don’t like those errors, I wouldn’t let them stand in the way of my reading enjoyment. I have seen annoying repeated errors though. Much of what frustrates me with a “bad” book is poor structure or excessive description. I’ve seen that in traditionally published print novels too though.

        1. Unfortunately, authors do sometimes bite the hand that’s trying to help.

          I’m always aware of typos, etc., but unless they’re so bad that they get in the way of enjoying a book, they don’t enter into my review or rating. Bad structure, poor vocabulary choices, clumsy writing, unbelievable plot twists, flat characters–those are all grist for the
          review mill.

  3. OMG! Scared me there for a minute. I thought you were talking about me. I’m like, oh come on, it wasn’t that bad.

    What you say is all true. Editing doesn’t bother me as much as a weak plot or a fizzle ending. I’m sympathetic with the indie author on editing. After all, the big guns have a crew of professionals helping them; the self-published have no one.

    I applaud you on making reviews. So many people are too polite to write anything negative, and this is what makes the search for something to read in a place like Smashwords so difficult. Instead of an adult filter, I wish they had a crap filter. I can not forecast a bright future for any effort that doesn’t provide some kind of guidance to the reader.

    You say that you tell the unfortunate author that you won’t buy any more of their books, but I think its very likely that average reader, having purchased a stink bomb, might decide to nix the entire site and go running back to Amazon.com for their next book.

    1. “I think its very likely that average reader, having purchased a stink bomb, might decide to nix the entire site and go running back to Amazon.com for their next book.” Where they have their choice of even more stink bombs. πŸ™‚

  4. Ah, but they are better edited stink bombs. One must kiss a thousand frogs and suffer many warts, before one finds their handsome prince, who will not want you when he sees all those warts. Sorry, I’m feeling…silly today. Perhaps, I should be quiet.

    1. True. We mustn’t forget that there are many reasons why a book can be a stink bomb. Maybe that’s why trad publishers get a pass–because their stink bombs are well-edited.

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