Monday, May 13, 2013

How not to be Professional

This is a topic I've touched on before, but apparently, not enough people got the memo.

If you want to be a popular, respectable author that makes a living off your work. PUT IN THE EFFORT!

I don't care if you're worried about your piece losing its voice. I don't care if your mother jumps up and down because she's happy you've managed to string five words together. I don't even care if you've been in a car accident and have brain damage. We have computers with spell and grammar checks. There are people out there who make a living as editors and proofreaders. There is NO excuse not to use either of them.

Self-publishing is still in its infancy, but it is growing up quickly. Even established, traditional authors are starting to move over to it. Still, it carries a stigma that the majority of self-published works are sub-par and poorly written. And it's all thanks to people like this.

"I don't use any programs other than spell check lets face it I still type with two fingers. I don't let anyone edit my stories because I believe it is important to not let some program create a style or input any content. when you read my stories you can be certain they came from my heart not some program or editor .so the mistakes are mine and I may not write in a predesigned format but you will be able to appreciate the story you read is my story."

I pulled that right off a guy's bio on Amazon.

In case you didn't notice, I would like to point out the above block of text has not been touched up. There are no comma's, no capitalization, and the very idea the paragraph conveys is ludicrous. I have glanced through some of his book and it is written in exactly the same way.

Here's a sample from another published book on Amazon.

"I Once dated this girl named Donna. That I met off an 800 chat line! We chatted on and off for a few days. She seemed to be idea woman for me. So I gave her a chance. We decided to meet up at a local mall. I was nervous about meeting her. I hadn’t been with nobody in over a year. On the phone she seemed to be intelligent and down to earth. But little did I know this would turn out to be the worst date or dates. ( Yes there were more than one.) And I can explain as follows."

COME ON!! It's no wonder people think self-published books are trash. 

If we want to be taken seriously as authors when we self-publish, we need to put our best foot out there. That means editing, proof-reading, and cover art to the best we can afford. As I have said before, we don't get any slack for being self-published, nor do we deserve it. It is up to us to prove we can put out work every bit as good or better than the big traditional publishing companies. 

Seriously, we can do better than this.

Really. I'm not trying to crush anyone's dreams here. I'm saying we can do better. We should do better. We NEED to do better. It is not that hard to find people to give us a hand on the internet. Beta readers are generally easy to find and most are more than happy to point out a few places where a book needs work. Cover art isn't hard to find either, particularly with the number of photoshop programs out there. If you want to be a respectable, successful author, you put in the work to make your story the best it can be. If you want to be a joke and an example of how NOT to write a book, you do what the examples above have done. 

This is the perfect example of the statement "Just because you CAN do something, doesn't necessarily mean you SHOULD." Self-publishing through Amazon and other services opens the door to just about everybody. It's a good thing. It means a lot of good authors that have been ignored by traditional publishing companies, now have other options, and a lot of good books are getting printed. Most will be ignored though because of people that think just slapping their work together with glue and letters cut-out from magazines is acceptable. 

Unfortunately, there are also people like this, who effectively condone these half-assed works.

"I am a reviewer for Goodreads, Library Thing, and Netgalley. Also other people that offer me books. Usually the books that I get are not proof read and there has been only one book with a lot of errors in it, but I read it anyway because it was a wonderful romantic comedy. When I review I take it into consideration that the book I get hasn't been proof read. I never mention that in my review. I just do a straight review on content and ease of reading. The proof reading is a job for someone else."

Now, it's one thing if the work is going to be proofread before release. If not, if you're looking at a final copy which is riddled with errors and you shrug your shoulders and say "It's not my job."...well, you're right, but it is something which should be accounted for in the review. No book should get a 5-star review from a semi-professional reviewer based on "heart" and "what the author was trying to convey" when the book is effectively one big run-on sentence with every fifth word misspelled. 

Honestly, despite all the hope I have for the self-publishing movement and despite the fact that these lazy people aren't actually slowing the movement down, I am saddened by these people. I honestly doubt any of them are actually aware of just how much damage they are doing to their own reputations, to the self-publishing movement, and to the written word in general. It is only made worse by the fact that some of them are downright combative when others attempt to point out mistakes and flaws in their work.

I feel I should apologize, I meant to get the initial examples off my chest and then dive into the importance of editing. In the writing of this post though, I realized just how deep the problem actually is, from the writers who don't care enough to have an extra set of eyes go over their work, to the horrible covers, to reviewers that rate books without regard for the work's spelling or grammar.

Self-publishing may be the wave of the future, but there's a lot of garbage washing up on the beaches for it, and for those of us who endeavor to make it recognized and respectable, we have a lot of work to do waking people up to the proper way to do things.

~ Shaun 


  1. I've found spelling, grammar and punctuation mistakes in some of the most popular writers books. James Patterson for example. Or Anne Rice for another. Spell check and such does not catch all of the mistakes. Even proof readers don't catch them all. Give people a break.

  2. There is difference between giving people a break and giving people a free pass. Accepting the subpar aids in the apathy of the world.

  3. ...this for three year olds so you should try it. There's one where Dick finds this ball. This big ball. This big red ball. It's amazing stuff.

  4. No work is going to be completely free of errors, and I'm not talking about the odd, misplaced comma or something like that. I'm talking about whole books which are written without a care for the quality they are written in. Look at the above examples. Do you relieve believe a proofreader or editor passed through those entire paragraphs and missed all those misspellings, punctuation, and grammar errors? No. These are people who didn't bother using spell or grammar-checks, nor did they hire an editor or someone to proofread for them. These are people who decided they were better than everyone else and that they didn't need "any of that thar perfessional stuffs".

  5. I am a reader and a reviewer and to be honest I am appalled by the number of spelling, grammar and punctuation errors in many of the indie publications.Yes, there are some errors in well-known publications and novels, but they are few and far between in comparison to the indie publications. Anyone willing to sit down and write, can now publish a novel or story.

    A number of reviewers recently had a discussion on another forum about this issue and there were just as many opinions ranging from:

    1. Some readers ignore the errors and continue on
    2. Some readers contact the e-retailer and demand their money back for sloppy work
    3. Some readers contact the author and give a list of errors (one reviewer found 20+ spelling errors in the first chapter -alone-and decided to contact both the eretailer and the author who thanked her)
    4. Some readers get angry but chose not to take any sort of action.
    5. If the review copy is an ARC (prior to publication) there is little action as it has not met final edit.
    6. If the copy is sent directly from the author (pdf, mobi, etc) many reviewers will let the author know that there are errors in the storyline
    7. Many reviewers will comment in their reviews about the quality of the work while others chose to exclude the quality of the writing from their reviews although 'quality of writing' should be part of any and all reviews.

    I am not sure why indie authors do not feel the need to use a proof-reader or editor, but the few I know personally, have several people proof-read and a professional editor on stand-by. Money seems to be the issue and apparently a lack of self-respect when it comes to publishing poorly written material.

    An example of complacency involves a recently released book (past 6 months) of a new adult storyline which was fraught with so many spelling and grammatical errors, most of the reviews commented about the problem...but....this particular book received 100s of 5star ratings with most complaining about the poor quality and lack of attention to spelling and simple grammar- in the short term-readers loved the storyline concept and premise but made sure to let everyone know there were definite problems with grammar and spelling.

    e.g. there vs their vs they're

    This particular author, reworked the storyline and republished claiming the errors had been fixed-but NO-there were many spelling and grammar errors still filling the pages of the novel.

    To me, as a reviewer, these errors reflect poorly on the author. Does the author not care about the quality of their work? Is the bottom line money : proofreading and income? Even a simple spell-check program on word does wonders for grammar and basic spelling but will not catch them all. Give 10 friends a copy of your work and ask them specifically to FIND errors in spelling, grammar, punctuation and context.

    Context is another issue. There have been a slew of recently indie published books where names and places are intermixed: dates and timelines are reversed; even the color of eyes for two characters were different from one page to the next. Cohesion and contest must also be addressed.

    A recent discussion with a very well-known author agreed completely that the poor quality of writing reflects badly on the author. This particular author commented that any self-respecting author, whether indie or otherwise, MUST pay for a good editor and proof-reader. The author stated that the number of badly written indie selections reflects poorly on the industry as a whole.

    Some of the indie authors are jumping on the popularity of indie publishing hoping to score it big as have several of the recent number one best sellers. These indie authors hope for the same amount of success that has been accorded to the once self-published author who now top the best seller charts.

    1. Cohesion and contest must also be addressed.

      "contest"...that would be context...sorry.

  6. The bottom line, more often than not, does seem to be about money. Authors either can't or don't want to pay for the services which make their work professional. Others may simply have dollar signs in their eyes and run out cheap products as fast as they can, almost like scam artists. Some probably share the views of my first example, which might mean well, but are sorely deluding themselves.

    I hesitated in the book I used for my third example, but it really showcased how simple a cover can be. It is also badly written, but that author has what may be the only excuse I might find acceptable. A search for the name Russel Moody, brings up the information of the son of Robert L. Moody, who suffered serious brain damage in a car accident. If it is the same person, which I would believe given the writing in that and other books, as well as the attitude towards reviews he shows on Amazon, then it should be commendable that he is endeavoring to write. However, he should still have no trouble finding someone to go over his work and fix a lot of it for him.