Bought a self-pubbed book just the other day.


Being a self-published author myself, I thought I’d show some solidarity. I mean, why not? The book was ‘highly recommended’ on a site that reviewed mine, and I figured I’d help a brother out, ya know? I had this little vignette spool out in my head: we could promote each others work, trade Amazon reviews, cross link on our blogs/websites, become like brother writers in arms and hang out together at conventions. Do writing seminars together, talk shop… all that sort of gritty, street artist, Cinderella-story fantasy stuff.

There I go thinking again.

I wanted to like it. I tried to like it. Really. I was determined to like it. The first few pages were muddled, but I persevered. It didn’t get better, but I kept reading. I was going to like this book, by God. Every time I turned another page I willed it to improve.

I made it all the way to page 100.

It had a decent, if stock, post -apoc premise. Now that’s an over-used backdrop, but still a solid one because there’s bucket-loads of potential yet to be wrung out of it. Problem was the story bumped down the runway but never took off. The characters fell quickly into 2D stereotypes, the story meandered into a re-fried role playing game scenario. The writing was vague, redundant, verbose to the point of tediousness, and broke every rule of Strunk and White’s “Elements of Style”. As I slogged along, I found myself following the story less and less, and reaching for a red pencil more and more. Eventually, I couldn’t go on.

I think the worst thing was that most of the mistakes could have been easily avoided by a decent proofreader and running it through another draft. Even if the author had read some of the chapters out loud to himself, he’d have heard and cleaned up mucho clunkiness.

Now I know the excitement and pride of writing a book. You type those words “The End” and you think, “Oh my God. I did it. I wrote a flipping novel! I’m gonna be like, famous, and get an agent and an advance and maybe even movie rights and people are gonna email me and say how cool it is. And how cool I am. And, and, and…”

Problem is a good book isn’t so much written as it is re-written. You have to edit. Cut. Rearrange. Polish. Cut more. Re-work scenes until they line up lean and mean, ready to rock. And when that’s done, you hand it off to someone else who will catch the things you missed. The goal isn’t just finishing, but a finished product. That means quality.

I’m not trashing the guy for trying. A+ for effort, dude. We’re all at different places on the learning curve, figuring this out as we go along. Next time though, take a deep breath, count to ten, and hire an editor. You’ll be doing yourself, your readers, and fellow authors a huge favor.

And no, I’m not going to give you the title. Sorry.

2 Comments on “Bought a self-pubbed book just the other day.

  1. I’m a big fan of self-pub books because it means the author thought enough of their own work to invest not only time into the cause, but money as well. Often times, a title that is self-published will find a publishing house quickly — if the quality of the book (and sometimes personality of the author) work. Other times, the reason some titles are self-pub titles is because the only person who wants to – and will – read the book is the author (and their families – after all, everyone has a wife/husband/brother/sister/uncle/father/mom who’ll buy at least one).

    Sorry to hear the title – whatever it was – was a bust. Personally, I’ve had some good luck. Check out Michael E Marks’ Dominant Species on Lulu.com – it’s a great read and, while maybe it’s been done before in a number of medium (comic/film), it does it in a cool and unusual way that’s both fun and exciting to read.

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