Friday, October 19, 2012

Beware, self-publishers. A massive storm front is coming your way!

Since I got my Kindle I have downloaded roughly 100 books, which resulted in a deleting marathon
Thosewhohavebeenfollowingmyblog,knowthatIholdaPh.D.inranting.Beitaboutself-publishedauthorsandtheirbehaviourinsocialmedia,orthemediocretonon-existentqualityofself-publishedbooks.Tohelplifttheoverallquality,Itriedtowriteaself-editingmanual,butfailedmiserably.It'snotmyforte.IthendecidedtodowhatIdobest:writealengthyrantaboutmyobservations,myexperiences, include suggestions on how to make it better,andthrowinafewtipsandtricks;allofittongueincheek, of course.Beware:it'snotforthefaint-hearted.

This is an excerpt of how it will look/sound like. The self-editing help will be thrown in where appropriate. Remember it's a first draft and will be edited/proofread before it's published.


Self-publishing is great!

Every time I think I may have a day without an idiot-intervention, life decides I could do with one more. I'm on the Amazon forum, chatting away, discussing self-published books on a thread I've started because the ones I've read didn't convince me. I want to know how others feel about it. The opinions are, as expected, mixed, which is always a good basis for a healthy debate. I'm just posting a recent experience with a self-published book, explaining my reasons for not liking it, when a new post from a person, who's not participated yet, appears.

As a self-published author I must say it is great to finally be able to get my writing to the readers directly. After having been rejected by several agents I almost gave up, but then Kindle came along and I thought why not try it? I'm a bit unsure as I've never showed my writing to anyone but my grandmother, and she really liked it. I've published my book 'First Novel', and I wonder if you all can take a look and give me constructive feedback.

Huh? So you are telling me you had no feedback on your writing and went ahead with publishing despite that? I sigh deeply. It's not the first time that that happened; on a thread clearly for readers to exchange their opinions, self-published authors will come at least twice a week, telling us about their experiences and how great it is to be able to self-publish. While nobody denies the greatness of it, it's hardly the right place to report how it was for them. I've since then come to the conclusion that most self-published authors can't read to save their lives, or understand what they've read for that matter. Seriously? The title of that thread reads: Self-published books: pain or gain? Writers misread it continuously as: self-publishing books: pain or gain? And that's just the beginning; they don't even read the original posts, which clearly determines what the thread is about. No, they jump right in shouting about their books, hardly any of them gives an answer to my question: Have you read self-published books and what is your opinion on the quality?
I could go through the over 3500 posts to count how many authors actually misread it, but I seriously can't be arsed. Out of 201 participants, my guess is about 150 have misread the title. When I, or someone else, points out their mistake, most of them won't even see it as their only intention was to dump their book links and bugger off, never to be seen again. Or if they actually read our reply most of them get rather defensive. My favourite one: I've read plenty of traditionally published books that are rubbish!
Aha! And that gives you the excuse to publish rubbish, too. Is that what you're saying? No, is the reply, but there are plenty of great self-published book out there!
Okay, I ask, can you name one really great gem you've discovered?
The author then spares me an answer. My guess is they haven't read any self-published books but her own. Another wonderful argument they use is: self-published books are great because they can push the boundaries, authors are not restricted by any publishing house anymore. That freedom is priceless.
Right, let me get that straight, you think that all traditionally published authors' voices are muted? That publishers release only uninteresting, boring titles and never any edgy stuff?
Haha. Now you made me laugh. A few years ago I read James Frey's A Million Little Pieces and thought it was pretty out there: not only the subject matter, but also the style. It was raw; and it was written with minimal punctuation (no quotes in dialogue, which, by the way I didn't even notice back then). Twilight, no matter what you think of it, was pretty experimental with the sparkling vampire. Little Brown took the risk and the rest is history. And what about Trainspotting? So don't tell me that the big six or even the smaller reputable publisher don't publish edgy fiction, it's just not correct. I also would like to see one edgy example of self-published books that made it to the top. Go on, then, tell me one. Okay, 50 Shades Of Grey, but that's not really edgy. It's just erotica, and that has always sold well.
When I ask people to provide me with proof that self-publishing is the next big talent mill, I'll never get an answer. I doubt it's any more a talent mill than traditional publishing. There are talented authors in both publishing arms. Many self-publish because either they don't have a marketable enough book and got rejected, or they choose to go their own way. They normally won't make millions with it anyway, no matter how they publish it. The majority of readers don't want edgy, they want easy and familiar. John Locke, E.L. James, Amanda Hocking are quoted, but they're not really edgy; they are genre writers, exactly the 'easy and familiar' people want. Nothing wrong with that, but it's proof that only genre writers will make it big. You write for the right market, you're in it with a chance, so spare me your shite about edgy and new talent. I've yet to find one, to be honest. What I've read was mostly badly plotted, unedited stuff. I mean it. Some of it such utter drivel a 13-year-old school kid could have done better. Recently, I saw a post from a girl who had published her first offering. Of course never showed it to anyone, and why would she? Just use the paying public as beta readers, that'll do nicely. Not!

She left the house. She walked to the car. Then she opened the door and sat behind the wheel. She looked in the mirror to check her make up, then started the car and drove away.

I'm not kidding you, that's about the same style she wrote. What's worse is that a reader saw that 'plug' of hers and went to leave a review for the short piece, saying she was really impressed and that the author should be proud of herself. I almost fell off my chair. These are the kind of books readers are offered and I'm not surprised that so many people knock self-publishing. With no quality control readers have only one choice: skim through the floating rubbish until they find something readable. Those thoughtless authors are a disgrace for those of us who take our job�yes, it's a job�seriously. Believe it or not, but there are people who outline their stories with care, develop their characters so that they come alive, know a thing or two about showing instead of telling and, in general, have some acquainted skills to craft a good and entertaining book.
I've read books with holescraters in them, it was beyond belief. Not to forget the illogical behaviour of the main characters or story lines. I just wanted to slap the authors. Hard and repeatedly. Then I read books that were decent, but bored me stiff. Exactly that kind of books people claim traditional publishers would publish: same old, same old. They often are by seasoned authors who have been under contract and decided to go DIY, for they have the control over it and can break out of the in-house styles of their previous publishers. Do they do it? No. The books were well-edited, but frankly the stories didn't have anything interesting to them, no bite, no grip, nothing that wanted me to forget feeding the iguana, or myself.

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