Monday, December 16, 2013

Editor's Notes #1: WHY, Writers, WHY?

I need to rant a little. Or perhaps a lot. This may sound harsh, but this is what's going through my brain right now.

Not for the first time, I found myself reading a book description that was so poorly written, I wanted to grab the author, shake her, and scream, "THIS is where you're supposed to sell me on the idea that your book is worth reading, and you can't even write a description of it without errors?"

One hundred fifty words. That's all you need for a book description. One. Hundred. Fifty. Words.

If a writer is incapable of writing less than two hundred words in a readable manner, then there is nothing—NOTHING—that will convince me to read 70,000 more words penned by that same writer. In the case of this particular book description, only 20,000 more, but even ten more words would have put me over the edge.

Okay . . . perhaps my overwhelming sense of curiosity would convince me. For research purposes, you see. After all, what if the author didn't have time to write the (all-important) book description and asked her sibling/cousin/neighbor/babysitter to do it? Maybe someone on Fiverr did it for $5.00 to help pay the rent. I don't know.

Flash forward in time . . .

I have now downloaded the book, free of charge. I have read all of four pages of it and have decided that I can't go on. To clarify: I can go on living; I just can't go on reading. Honestly, two pages were enough, but I wanted to give it a fair shot by reading at least ten percent of the book. I couldn't make it that far, and didn't see any reason why I should force myself to do so.

[Note: I had to pause here for chocolate. That book bothered me in a big way.]

As I lurk and often participate on various Goodreads threads, I'm pleasantly encouraged by the number of authors who actively seek out advice from others (and follow it!) so they can improve their writing. Whether it's a work in progress or a book that's getting not-so-great ratings for whatever reason, they genuinely want to know how to make it better . . . and how to keep the same thing from happening next time.

Conversely, I'm astounded at the number of people who are on Goodreads who have access to these same threads but who don't take advantage of them. If I were an author and I saw a thread titled, "Why don't more people read self-published authors?" or "What's the best way for self-pub authors to get more readers?" my first thought would be to go to those threads and see what kind of advice I could glean, free of charge. There are discussions about editors, book covers, marketing plans, where to self-publish, dos and don'ts . . . you name it, these people have covered it thoroughly. A tremendous AND FREE resource is right there, available with one click.

A writer can put his or her heart and soul into a story—and it can be a wonderful, clever story—but if a reader can't get past the errors that are easily fixable, the story will never be discovered. 


  1. Hang on, let me get some chocolate too.... to show support.

    It kills me!
    Unless you feel really bad about hurting your sibling/cousin/neighbor/babysitter/Fiverr person's feelings then its okay... oh no, wait, not even then. There are many authors that can be found on GR and other places, as you said, that will help for free. And many, many other free resources that I wish more self-pubs would take advantage of.

    Great post!

    1. Thanks for the comment, Sarah. The resources are out there. I just wish more people would use them!

  2. Good post, Lynda.

    I'm NEVER satisfied with my editing, even though I'm married to an editor with a degree in journalism and years of editing experience who helps me greatly. I recently submitted a 5,000 word short story in a monthly contest (which I won for November), and I still had several items their judges identified as questionable or incorrect.

    You can't take enough time editing.

    1. I agree wholeheartedly, D.R.! Every time I go back through a manuscript, I'm amazed at what I catch. I've read your short stories as well as Melting Sand, and I'll vouch for your wife/editor's credentials. Unfortunately, many authors mistake a spouse's critique/read-through for the equivalent of an "edit" and see no need to do anything further.

  3. It's hard enough getting our stories out there and in the hands of readers. We're just shooting ourselves in the foot by not making sure it's at the very least presentable. Mistakes happen, we know that…but not being able to get your description down is just sad.

    1. Mistakes are one thing. Not caring enough to take the time is completely different! But you know that, because you're an obsessive re-worker of your manuscripts. :) That makes your editor very, very happy.

  4. Small confession: I follow your reviews on GR. I think I know which book you're referring to. I saw your review and because I am, occasionally, optimistic thought: It can't be that bad! Uh, yeah, it was. Here's hoping the author takes your advice, pulls the book, and looks into editing services.
    I know there can be a feeling of impatience to click "publish," but writers hurt themselves by not taking the time to ensure they've produced readable work. Many readers are too "polite" to point out even glaring issues. Though many genuinely are, authors should not be grateful for this. If your work is that bad, you risk something far worse than criticism: being ignored.

    1. You know, Elle, what got my attention for that particular book were the three posts I saw in which the author introduced the new release. The title was spelled three different ways. Looking back, I suppose I should be thankful that one of those three ways was correct.

      I don't think the "premature publishers" truly realize how long-reaching the bad effects are. I know I'll never give that author another chance, and many people won't make it past the book description. If she ever takes the advice and uses the extra time to improve, it might be easier if she publishes under a different name for a fresh start.


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