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So is most self-published material poorly edited?

BWFoster78

Myth Weaver
My own "Muddle Puddle" received its first review on itunes yesterday (apparently it is frowned on to put a link here so if anyone fancies taking a look you'll have to go via my profile). "So what," I hear the cry. The point is I know it seems to be the accepted practice to stack reviews up by paying for them but that idea makes me uncomfortable so I've drifted to just letting it happen naturally.

There's a thread on the notice board that's all about us helping each other out. I've reviewed works by three authors already and am about to start reading another one this weekend.

If you're willing to give back by doing a few reviews yourself and are willing to give and accept honest opinions on your work, that may be a good option for you.
 
The point is I know it seems to be the accepted practice to stack reviews up by paying for them but that idea makes me uncomfortable so I've drifted to just letting it happen naturally. I'm 61 years old this year, so whilst grumpy I'm not stupid, I know this means "getting it out there" will take longer but I just don't want to feel like I cheated to do it. "Slowly, slowly catchee monkey" (sorry if this is misquoted?) and as I've said before if the book is any good eventually it will be noticed and talked about. I'm a Cambridgeshire fen man, we are a patient people, even if we can't spell.

Well, the jury is still out on paid reviews: both on the ethics and on how much they help, if at all. It's a known fact now that multiple major publishers are *actively* getting paid reviews on Amazon for their releases, either by having employees from their own marketing departments put the reviews up, or hiring a PR agency which does it for them. Functionally, in other words, the same thing Locke got so lambasted for doing. ;)

My suspicion, although I can't yet prove this, is that it's not just a few "big six" imprints doing this, but the majority of them.

However, I'm also not seeing very strong evidence that lots of padded reviews help much. Sure, having some nice reviews can help, especially if those reviews are actually complete reviews of the work. That pretty much requires the reviewer to have actually read the book, however, and that doesn't usually happen with paid reviews (the exception being major paid review sites like Kirkus).

If you want reviews and don't want to pay, you don't HAVE to just wait. I mean, you can. Reviews will come, in time. But you can do what other writers do, and get ARCs out to fans or potential fans, offering a free copy of the book in exchange for a fair review of the book. Variations on this method seem to have worked very well for a lot of writers.
 

PaulineMRoss

Inkling
However, I'm also not seeing very strong evidence that lots of padded reviews help much.

I think they do, actually. If there's enough of them, people will say: 'well, they can't all be friends, family and sockpuppets' or 'with this many 5* reviews, I'll have a look'. I've done it myself. And it may affect Amazon's popularity lists, too, and suck in sales that way.

On the original point - it's not so much that a lot of self-published material is poorly edited, because with ebooks it's easy enough to fix typos and wayward apostrophes after event, it's that very often the first book self-published is also the first book the author has ever finished. A writer's still an apprentice at that stage, and the work is often very rough. I read quite a number of self-published books in a year, and it's noticeable how often the writing improves dramatically in the second book, or even in the second half of the first book.

My advice would be - tuck it away somewhere with a label on it, saying: 'Do not open for 1 year'. Then write, and finish, another book. Put that away, too. After the third book, take out the first one again. If it's still awesome, great, publish it. In my opinion, writing is like a coffee machine - you have to throw away the first two or three brews before you get something drinkable.
 
Write, rewrite and rewrite again. Tell me about it. The first version of "Muddle Puddle" was written nearly thirty years ago, there have been a lot of words and illustrations from my pen since then. This first edition on itunes was always intended as testing the water, the second edition, if there is one depends on the feedback. How it all goes will govern the release of other work.
 
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Evening all

I have the honour of being an 'official' reviewer for fantasybookreview.co.uk. (Unpaid) The site receives a fair amount of requests for reviews as you might imagine, both from established publishing houses as well as small independents.

We do review work by self published authors, however the rule of the thumb is that the book has to be of reasonable quality to have an official review posted on the site.

The general consensus is that the vast majority of self published works submitted to the site are poorly written, lacking in basic spelling, grammar, syntax etc. At least if they have come to us via one of the publishing houses (even small independent ones) there will have been an element of quality control, proof reading and editing before publication.

I cannot speak for the other reviewers, but my own personal stance is that if I am allocated a book, I will read the whole thing. (May seem obvious, but how many people stop reading books if they are bad?). As far as I am concerned that is the least that the author deserves.

If it is terrible, then I will write to the author and give them a critical friend review, which will not be posted on the site, but will explain exactly where I feel they have areas for improvement.

If it is something that I feel others should share, then the review goes on the site.

Unfortunately, I have not submitted an official review for any self published piece of work yet, despite having read a fair number. But, I am confident that sooner or later I will uncover a nugget amongst the dross :)

However, on the plus side I am about to write a proper review for a debut novel from a small independent publisher - Sky Warrior Books. The novel is 'Grace under Fire' by Frog and Esther Jones and I was pleasantly surprised by how good it was. The reason I mention this is that the book was not submitted for review by the publisher. Esther Jones and I first communicated via twitter, she sent me a copy of the book and now I am going to place the review on the site.
 
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laurencewins

Dreamer
I haven't read all the posts in this thread but I can tell you from personal experience that most people don't seem to really care about grammar, punctuation and accuracy. I work as a writer and a proofreader and I have even had to proofread a whole schools reports for the kids. There were so many errors from the teachers. I find it incredible that people would care so little about their websites and books. So I am more than happy when people come to me for proofreading because I can make money from other people's laziness or apathy.
 

PaulineMRoss

Inkling
The general consensus is that the vast majority of self published works submitted to the site are poorly written, lacking in basic spelling, grammar, syntax etc.

My own experience is a little different. When I first got my Kindle 2 years ago and discovered the joys of self-published books, this was certainly true. Nowadays, almost everyone has discovered the spellchecker and learned to get at least some basic proofreading, so what gets through is mostly ubiquitous grammatical errors that only pedants like me notice (does no one use the past perfect tense properly any more?), and sound-alike spelling mistakes (reign, rein, rain; aisle, isle).

What I do find is that most are simply unpolished. Great ideas, great plots, very often, but without well-rounded characters. Terrific world-building, but dumped in unpalatable lumps. Too much tell, not enough show. Too much detail - or not enough. Too much wandering through the landscape describing the leaves - or else skip the boring stuff, and just jump to the next action scene. Not enough balance, in other words.

I try out self-published books in exactly the same way I try any other book before I buy it: read the blurb, read the reviews, read the sample. A couple of pages of the sample is usually enough - if there's something in there to draw me in, whether it's a character, a setting, a situation or something mysterious, and there's no obvious typos, I'll keep going. Even if I buy a book, I'll give up if it loses my interest. Life's too short to read stuff you're not enjoying.

Mind you, some of them really are just badly written:

"She tossed her waist-length auburn curls and scanned the horizon with her piercing jade-green eyes. The flame-haired mage lifted her staff and..."

<Click> Next!
 

Chilari

Staff
Moderator
Stuart, thanks for giving us an insight into the other side of the coin in terms of review sites. Interesting to know the relationship between self-pubbed books submitted for review and reviews of self-pubbed books posted. And thanks for being the "Good Guy Greg" of reviewers by reading the whole book and giving self-pubbed authors feedback.

Lawrence, do that many teachers really have such a bad track record with grammar? That is surprising; I'd have thought teachers at least would have to hold themselves to higher standards of written English. And then I recall that one of my best friends is currently doing teacher training and I keep having to correct him on uses of there, their and they're, your and you're, etc. I even wrote some sentences down for him to help him remember (The boys threw their boomerang into the neighbour's garden; they're going round there to collect it. You're right about your brother, he is a gossip.) But back on topic, amongst those of your clients asking you to proofread novels and short stories, what is the general level of grammar and spelling you come across? As in, is it normally fine but for a few incorrect forms of its/it's, their/they're/there, missed capitals or misplaced apostrophes; or is it normally laden with errors of all kinds from spelling errors, poor understanding of punctuation etc in every sentence? Have you ever had a client whose writing is almost perfect but for a few minor errors scattered across several pages? And have you ever had a client whose prose was so bad you couldn't work out the meaning sufficiently well to determine what the correct grammar is? It would be interesting to know the range and level of grammar amongst potential authors.
 
Evening all

"I have the honour of being an 'official' reviewer for fantasybookreview.co.uk. (Unpaid) The site receives a fair amount of requests for reviews as you might imagine, both from established publishing houses as well as small independents."

StuartEWise, with a similar play on words with your name as mine and a post as this quoted then I have to ask if you would take a look at my own "Muddle Puddle". A link to my facebook page and itunes can be found via my profile. Were you to be so kind as to consider a revue I could post you a free copy from issuu via facebook (the simplest way for semi computer literate me).
Stu.E. of Ely.
 
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No problem Stuart, I am in between reviews at the moment, having just sorted out 'Boneland' by Alan Garner and a couple of Frankenstein prequels by Kenneth Oppel. I am waiting for a new list of books pending reviews to land in my inbox from the site, so am happy to have a meander through yours over the next couple of days.
 
Evening all

"I have the honour of being an 'official' reviewer for fantasybookreview.co.uk. (Unpaid) The site receives a fair amount of requests for reviews as you might imagine, both from established publishing houses as well as small independents."

StuartEWise, with a similar play on words with your name as mine and a post as this quoted then I have to ask if you would take a look at my own "Muddle Puddle". A link to my facebook page and itunes can be found via my profile. Were you to be so kind as to consider a revue I could post you a free copy from issuu via facebook (the simplest way for semi computer literate me).
Stu.E. of Ely.

I'm no moderator, but I recommend private messages for this bit. But Fantasy Book Review does have its own submission process (About Fantasy Book Review plus contact and submission details | Fantasy Book Review) as well if you haven't built up a relationship with a reviewer.
 
I cannot speak for the other reviewers, but my own personal stance is that if I am allocated a book, I will read the whole thing. (May seem obvious, but how many people stop reading books if they are bad?). As far as I am concerned that is the least that the author deserves.

If it is terrible, then I will write to the author and give them a critical friend review, which will not be posted on the site, but will explain exactly where I feel they have areas for improvement.

If it is something that I feel others should share, then the review goes on the site.

A very sound approach. BTW I really enjoy your site. You guys (Ryan Lawler) reviewed the first in my series Theft of Swords and gave it an 8.9/10. If you want review copies for the second and the third (and final) book in the series, just let me know.
 

laurencewins

Dreamer
@Chilari,

I mainly deal in non-fiction stuff like website content, articles, etc. but the school reports was a lucky break due to a referral from an old school friend from a reunion we had last year when I handed out business cards. I have rarely found material without flaws. Sometimes it is not much and other times I have had to ask what they mean as it has been too hard to interpret. I had a case of needing to write an article for a client and I had to do it 4 times as he did not clearly explain the actual brand name. I thought it was one thing and he was describing it but the description was the brand name so finally I got it right.
 

Frog

Scribe
However, on the plus side I am about to write a proper review for a debut novel from a small independent publisher - Sky Warrior Books. The novel is 'Grace under Fire' by Frog and Esther Jones and I was pleasantly surprised by how good it was. The reason I mention this is that the book was not submitted for review by the publisher. Esther Jones and I first communicated via twitter, she sent me a copy of the book and now I am going to place the review on the site.

Hooray! I love that it was Esther who got hold of you, and not my posts on this very site. I'm glad you liked it.

To get back on topic, we can't really use our book as an example of a poorly edited self-published book. Grace Under Fire isn't self-published, it's small press, as you say. Furthermore, we were subjected to several passes by a professional editor, who pounded the living crap out of our writing until it became as good as it is. I wish I could say Esther and I were just that good naturally, but the editing had a huge role.

A lot of self-published books skip that step, and I think that's where the problem lies. It's hard to edit your own work, because the image of what you're saying is so clear in your head that not thinking about it is difficult. Having an editor helps so much in making sure that you've conveyed the image in your head to the page, and that's the difference between good editing and no editing.
 
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Rosered

Dreamer
I agree for the most part but do have a minor quibble.

Even with a professional editor, I think it's almost impossible to eliminate every mistake. I find typos in professionally published books all the time.

A result of staff and freelance budget cuts in publishing houses, no doubt.
 
A result of staff and freelance budget cuts in publishing houses, no doubt.

While I'm sure there may be some of that - it's also just a matter of being statistically impossible. If you consider a book of 100,000 words and consider that you can have all kinds of errors - including misplaced commas, or formatting, then the number of "potential" errors could be as high as 500,000 even if you have .01% errors (a better tolerance than any other product can be held to) that would still mean 50 errors per book.
 
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