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.
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.
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.