I am a traditional publication sort of girl, but not because I’m anti-indie or self-published authors. It’s just what I’m used to, what I feel “safe” reading. But for the past few years, I’ve made myself try new things. I went snorkeling despite my fear of the ocean, I hiked up a mountain despite my fear of heights, and recently, I picked up a self-published book from NetGalley despite my reservations.
This isn’t the first time I’ve ventured into reading something self-published. I’ve read a few before, but my number isn’t too high. Despite this, I understand the draw of self-publication. You maintain all the rights to your book, there aren’t as many middle men, and you don’t have to deal with the intense (and sometimes unfair) competition in traditional publication.
However, as a reader, I’m always apprehensive to pick up a self-published book, and more than likely, I’ll only read it if it’s free.
For the reader, self-published books are risks because they might not have been looked at by a professional. This might sound snobby, but there’s no quality control in self-publication. Anyone can do it. And while that can sometimes be a good thing, it also means readers don’t know if the book has been edited, if the plot’s remotely well-developed, or if it’s essentially Twilight fanfiction. Ultimately, if we look at a book as an investment of our time and our money, then that self-published book is hardly a safe bet.
As I mentioned, I recently started reading a book I received on NetGalley. The story sounded interesting, so I went for it. Within a few pages, I knew I wouldn’t be able to finish it, but I continued on in the hope that it might get better. Spoiler: it didn’t. I gave it a few more chapters and eventually decided I wouldn’t finish it.
So what was so bad about this book?
It desperately needed an editor. This may not bother everyone, but as someone who taught writing and grammar for a living, it was pure hell. I had this intense urge to mark this book up with my red pen and give the author a big fat ‘F’ on his/her report card. Maybe I’d even suggest a remedial grammar class. Yeah, it was that bad.
The first error was in the opening sentence. By the end of the first paragraph, I had lost count. The writing was riddled with dangling modifiers and misplaced commas, and the writer was heavily dependent on sentence fragments. And yes, I know this is a stylistic choice, but when they are used frequently and unintentionally, it ceases to be a choice and becomes a mistake.
The book wasn’t just a victim to poor grammar. The sentence structure was so odd that it was difficult to follow what the author saying. It was written in AP Style (and not even correctly) when fiction tends to be written in CMS. This isn’t a big deal, but it was rather jarring. And finally, the main character was flat. When she spoke, her dialogue felt unnatural. When she made decisions, her motive was unclear. There just wasn’t anything there.
In the end, the scraps of a good story were there but the execution wasn’t. I know this isn’t true of every self-published book out there, but how do you find the good in the pile of not? Do you take the plunge and buy, or do you go with that book from Random House?
Let me know if you have any opinions on self-published books or if you have any experience with self-publishing in the comments below. 🙂