I’ve spent the day reading a self-published sci-fi potboiler–first in a trilogy–that I bought in the Amazon Kindle store after reading the entire sample. The grammatical and writing errors in the sample were few enough for me to go ahead and spend $3.99. As the book progressed, however, I became increasingly distracted by mounting disregard for my investment in time.
This writer has little use for commas, except for what I suppose is garnish. And he fails at every opportunity to trim superfluous words: “The boots she wore on her feet” is a mild example. Crashing several sentences together is routine. So is leaving vestiges of edits: “Getting to get there involved . . . ”
I’m no paragon. Forty books on, a degree in journalism, line editor of a hundred or so books, publisher, advertising copywriter . . . I’ve lived the writer’s life. But I screw up. I get impatient. I am burdened with attention deficit disorder. I know I’m prone to screwing up. I know I’ve read so much dreck over the years that I’m no longer certain what even looks right. I know there are words I’m never going to learn to spell correctly or rules of grammar I’m never going to get right. That’s why I read and reread everything I write. That’s why I pay good money to copyeditors and proofreaders. I figure I owe it to readers who plunk down their hard-earned disposable income for my books.
I’m not asking authors to write at the level copyeditors edit. There is something wrong with people who know as much about rules as copyeditors know, who are as literal-minded as copyeditors tend to be. I’m not suggesting that anyone become bosom buddies with a copyeditor. I am asking that fellow writers and especially fellow independent publishers display a little care, show signs of respect for a reader’s time and sensibility.
As I age, as the full impact of the sheer joy and beauty of good language, especially good writing, comes home, I savor time with a good story well written. I spent a good deal of my career working at bringing good stories forth from bad or indifferent or just plain linguistically challenged writers. I stopped doing that because, for awhile, I spasmed and couldn’t read at all, there was no much crap in my head from my day job.
I don’t mind spending $3.99 on an amateur sci-fi yarn. I can overlook a lot in behalf of a good story, or even just a decent escape. This is a good story, but its sheer sloppiness disregards and disrespects me and my stake in spending most of a Sunday grappling with its avalanche of shortcomings. I have to put it down now, because the penny finally dropped: I’m sufficiently engaged to battle through to the end of one book, but there’s no way I’m going to read this hick’s next two volumes. When a sloppy presentation overwhelms a decent enough story, it’s time to fold.
Good books well written (or well edited) sell good books. Bad books badly written put us all in jeopardy.
I would like very much to have a place on SPR to post contact info and reviews about reliable editors, proofreaders, cover and interior designers, and other types of people who will ensure the creation of good books from concept to final execution.