REVIEW: Why I’m Not Doing Reviews Anymore

Today, we’re doing something different and making an announcement.

I don’t think I’m going to continue doing Friday reviews.

I know, I know, this makes me a terrible person somehow. I’m sure it does. But I started doing it because I wanted to use the time to point out some of the very best things I’ve seen in indie pub, especially fantasy indie pub. I wanted to give some recognition to the good guys, people who have written and carefully edited a great story, and who’re brave enough to try and get it going on their own.

I’ll still do these reviews when I find these books. They’re out there, and I love them. I still stand by everything I’ve recommended so far. But I have to say: once a week is killing me. There aren’t a lot of these truly great stories, and I have difficulty finding them. The sheer amount of money I’m spending on indie books is unsustainable for someone in my (very low) income bracket, and I’ve been hurt too much, too much.

My standards are pretty high. I read books like some people chainsmoke, or like alcoholics drink. If there was professional gear for reading–some sort of sacred polar bear hide laser-honing bookmark, maybe–I’d own it. I’m a far better reader than I am a writer. I admit this freely.

There are plently of good indie books out there. Loads of them. But, let’s face it, there are also plenty of not-so-good ones. I don’t want to talk about these, because I’m an indie writer and I recognize fully that my book might be one of them. But I’ll say this for myself: at least mine is fairly well-edited.

Yes, I’m aware I’m not making any friends here. I am painfully, painfully aware. But if I said things just to make friends, I not only wouldn’t be me anymore, I also would be successful. (Did I mean ‘wouldn’t’ be, you ask? No. Just…no.)

Wading through fantasy indies (or, worse, free fantasy indies) I’ve noticed one thing that keeps me gritting my teeth throughout. I wanted to bring it up here because, though I see it talked about in other blogs, I never see it discussed from the point of view of a reader.

Folks:

When you self-publish, you are still very publicly publishing a book. You are, whether you expect to succeed at it or not, releasing a potential bestseller onto hordes of possible buyers. Your book should, therefore, be professionally formatted and edited, carefully designed, and made completely ready in all ways for that one random bored person in Ahoskie, NC to click the ‘buy’ button and, not knowing you or your writing from Adam, fall in love. Even if this isn’t what you’re expecting–even if you’re just doing it for friends and family mostly–you are still committing to a public endeavour.

Let me recap: THE INTERNET IS A PUBLIC FORUM. See those capital letters? See how intense I’m getting about this?

When I see bad grammatical errors, plaguey typos, and obvious misspellings, tears well up in my well-seasoned reader’s eyes. One look-through–ONE–would have taken care of the worst of these. And readers DO judge you based on these. I know I do. Not because I think you’re stupid or untalented, no. Because I think you haven’t taken the care necessary in creating a final product that is, truly, worthy of the name ‘novel’. If I read your story on Fictionpress ten years ago, I might’ve liked it. If I came across it on Wattpad, I might’ve liked it. But will I be buying the paperback version of something you couldn’t even bother to sort out your lies and lays in? No. Hell no.

A finished novel, especially one you’re proofing yourself or relying on your friends to proof for you, might have a few errors in it. This is fine. I understand this: we all do the best we can. I’m no different. But if, deep down in my crunchy little soul, I am struggling with the urge to grab a red pen and return a proofed copy to you, you quite simply didn’t take the care you should’ve taken in showcasing and preparing your work for what is indeed the big bad world outside your word-processing program.

We all have different ability levels. If we’re all writing novels, I assume we all have at least a decent level of writing ability, we’re all capable of defining simple English-major terms like main character and setting and climax. We are all, likewise, capable of reading over our own work once or twice, or finding someone who is and paying them in money or beer.

I recap: I will not read or review something that is not at least passingly edited, unless it is your unpublished draft and you’re coming to me for advice.

Not because I hate people who don’t have the same grammatical stick up their arses I do. Not because I’m a hateful know-it-all (as was once suggested to me on a writing forum. I mean, I am, but that’s neither here nor there). Because, my loves, if you can’t take the time to make your end product pretty, I can’t take the time to read it. Why should I?

The Internet is a public place. It is, even better, a nest of anonymous vipers who are waiting, waiting, for something to chew up, spit out, and dump on like an overweight starlet after a two-week senna purge. Do you really want to release
something half-assed on this simmering cauldron of hate and violence and, possibly, fandom?

Do your best. Edit like a grown man/woman. People will respect your best, and, for the most part, treat it with all the honor anyone who has done their best deserves. And if they don’t: fuck ’em. You did your best.

A last note–

‘Publish’ comes from the Latin infinitive publicare, to make public. To make public. This is how I always learned it, at least, in school–but looking it up on the Intarwebs, I’m seeing an added definition that never showed up in the back of Wheelock’s, at least as far as I remember. To confiscate.

I want you to sit on your bottom and contemplate that for a second. While I’m not sure of the original meaning or usage beyond that point–the interwebs are short on Latinate answers, and I have a feeling I’m going to be researching this for hours–I think I can make it apply here. When you publish your work, it is being confiscated by the public. It is no longer your own work. It is the property, also, of the reader, and the reader can say what they will and form the opinions they want to form.

So make it ready. Make it good.

Love,
E

PS–Here’s a useful list to get you started. I know my spell-checker is frequently inaccurate, so I just try to spell pretty well in general. I recommend you take up the same practice: and, just so you know, my spell-checker just told me I spelled ‘recommend’ wrong. I didn’t. Other words in this document spell-check is telling me I’ve misspelled: learned, starlet, passingly, crunchy, showcasing, practice, and, hilariously, misspelling. It’s enough to make you very nervous.

100 Most Commonly Misspelled Words

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7 thoughts on “REVIEW: Why I’m Not Doing Reviews Anymore

  1. I was nodding all the way through this post. I’ve bought more than a few indie books that were either poorly edited, had a story that was incomprehensible, or both, and it pisses me off. I want to support writers, but in the age of the internet and free online critique groups, there really is no excuse for thrusting garbage onto the masses.

  2. I agree. Finished work is properly edited work.

    Everybody typos now and again. Hell, books published through the big five still have some typos in them. But if it distracts from the story, if it’s constant, I say someone hasn’t tried as hard as they could.

    The thing that kills me most, I think, is that good editing is in reach of everybody in a way genius-level writing simply isn’t. If I read a book that’s drek-on-a-stick, but it’s well edited, I’ll give it at least two stars, usually three. Because somebody cared. Somebody loved this book enough to go over it and make it as good as they could. And that’s worth an extra star to me. I feel like the self-publishing wave that’s currently cresting will break eventually, and it’s not for lack of writers as much as it is lack of readers. Readers are smart folks, and they won’t spend their time where the author hasn’t spent his or hers. I’m an indie writer, and I want indie to live. So I want indie books to be better. I want them to be as good as we can possibly make them.

    Sorry, poor you, you did nothing to deserve this horribly long reply-post. 😛 Glad to see other folks feel the way I do about this. I think it’s incredibly important.

  3. That book sounds terrible. No plot, few characters, and the setting seems really rickety.

    Grrl. You don’t need to review a book a week. Shoot. I didn’t even know you tried to adhere to that. That’s a huge deal. I mean, I’ve read exactly two books in the past two months. A good book is hard as balls to find.

    Also, posts like this is why I love your blog so much. It’s endearing. *aww* Why? BECAUSE I AGREE. So more power to you, keep your moral grounds high, and by damn, if you demand a good book, then you deserve a good book. If that takes a month to find, then whatever. Do it. Sounds perfectly sane and standard to me.

    Which will be fun when YOUR book comes out and I can fake sigh over all the issues I find in it. Kidding. Kidding. Which leads me to another thought I’ve been having. I need to pick your brain a little concerning how you’re doing your publication stuff. Physical printing, ebook, etc. I’m getting close to that place where it’ll be a godsend to get some info.

    Two books I recommend are The City’s Son by Tom Pollock (only published three books so far) and Drood by Dan Simmons. But I recommend those to everyone.

    Also, I’d be happy to give you a review of your book as soon as I get my hands on it. Just throwing some more stuff out (this should be via email, shouldn’t it? I sent one to you and you never replied, so I figured you don’t check it much or don’t want to talk there).

    I have NINE books in my lineup of “to be read,” and I started them, but have not finished. I probably won’t finish. It’s insane, but not. Given this post, I’m certain you understand why.

    My final note: To publish means to confiscate. That’s really unsettling. Like, really unsettling. I like that so much it almost hurts.

    Chris

    1. Wait, you sent me an email? Shit. I actually DO check it a lot, but I didn’t see it. Hope I didn’t delete it by accident–Democratic Party has been spamming my inbox so hard I’m about to vote Republican, it’s entirely possible I deleted it accidentally. Just so make sure, my email is efrussel@gmail.com–try again?

      I’ll be honest, most of my problem’s in the indie realm, because there’s less access there to proofing/editing, and occasionally less regard for it. I read like a (insert stereotype of people who like lots of something here). I look forward to your review, and your scathing regard of my comma placement, which I can’t help but feel is awful, because I DO love a good run-on sentence, I do I do I do.

      Feel free to pick my brain if you want, I’ll help where I can.

      1. Yeh. That’s the email I sent it to. I’ll resend tonight. TONIGHT!

        I love when learn-ed writers break the rules. It makes them special rebels. I do it all the time. More power to you. That being said! I’m excited to read. No joke. Serious business. (c.heisserer@gmail.com)

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