Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Problem with Self-Publishing, or Don't Read Negative Reviews

I suppose I'm a sucker for book blogger drama. The latest is a self-published author's atrocious response to a two-star review of her e-book over at BigAl's Books and Pals. His review of the book alone reminds me of why I decided not to review any more self-published books after my own two-star review of The Dead Rise First. But what really made BigAl's review go viral is the stream of comments made by the author that can only be described as immature and unprofessional. By comment #200, I was merely skimming, I was so amazed by what had been stirred up.
BigAl's review is concise, specific, and fair. He addresses both the content of the book, as well as the quality of the writing. Unfortunately, the author, Jacqueline Howett, can not see past the legitimate complaints he had about the book and refused to respect his opinion to the point of using foul language. Sometimes I feel like I need to tattoo this to my forehead: "Opinion does not equal fact." We are all entitled to our own opinion, are we not?
One of the major difficulties with self-published works is that oftentimes the step that editors complete in ironing out the spelling and grammar problems gets skipped. It seems to me that the average writer-wanna-be believes he can write simply because he can read a book or hold a conversation with someone. Much more goes into the process of writing a publishable book than the average person is aware of. This is largely why I prefer the business of classic publishing versus self-publishing.
The two examples that BigAl cites from Howett's book in reference to grammar errors are legitimate:

"She carried her stocky build carefully back down the stairs."

"Don and Katy watched hypnotically Gino place more coffees out at another table with supreme balance."

I am incredibly picky when it comes to correcting bad grammar, so I could likely fill a page with my thoughts of what is wrong with these two sentences. I will let the errors speak for themselves, though. But the author's response? Flat denial. It is glaringly obvious from her comments that she did not even bother going back over the manuscript to see if he even quoted the sentences accurately, something I would have done had it been my work being critiqued. Her response to his critique is all emotion, no rationalization - and emotions are not rational. Pretty much everyone else commenting on this thread agree with BigAl's assessment and try repeatedly to talk some sense into the author through any means possible. Unfortunately, she seems to be a lost cause on this issue, which is quite sad really. (I am also wondering what kinds of grades she made in English class in school...)

What can I say? The only advice I can glean from this situation is if someone chooses to take the self-publishing route, please, PLEASE, learn a few things about what makes the publishing industry successful and attempt to copy it for your own work. Every book I have ever read on writing well recommends edit, edit, edit, write multiple drafts, and always get others to read and critique before submitting for publication. Oh yea, and get used to the rejections.


Candace said...

I'm a sucker too. I spent forever looking through all those comments. I was completely shocked that an AUTHOR would comment like that! And it was so obvious that she was misunderstanding but she wouldn't admit it! And then just her speech in her comments... yeah. She's definitely going to have a tough time of it if she plans to keep writing.

Cindy said...

Rachel, as someone who sees quite a few self-published books, I would give first-time authors one piece of advice: Hire a professional editor, no matter how good you think you are. Having your book rejected by potential readers because spelling and grammatical errors make it too difficult to read is a shame -- and an unnecessary one.

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