Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Nothing against self-publishing, but...

I recently read a short excerpt from a self-published YA fantasy novel. It was, I'm sorry to say, kind of awful.

I'm not going to say what book it was because, in all fairness, I haven't read the whole thing and there is, I suppose, a chance that the rest of the book is better than the excerpt.

What was so horribly wrong with the excerpt?
  • Overly wordy sentences. For example, this line of dialogue is similar to something I read in the book: "The reason why I want you to come with me is because those guys make me really nervous." That same line, vastly improved: "Please come with me! Those guys freak me out!"
  • Long, unbroken sections of dialogue. In the excerpt that I read, a single character rants on and on FOR TWO DRAWN-OUT PARAGRAPHS! There is no action breaking up the dialogue. No facial expressions, sighs, or scratching of the head. Also, there is no response from the 1st person narrator until the teacher is done speaking.
  • Lack of emotion. That character may as well have been a robot speaking in monotone. No hint of emotion in the way he speaks. No tension in the scene. I want to know: Is he is storming back and forth, enraged? Is he cool and collected, yet deadly serious?
Overall, the excerpt seemed like it came right out of a first draft.

As it says in the post title, I have nothing against self-publishing. It is a perfectly viable option for authors who want to see their books in print. But it is not an excuse for a poorly written story. If an author chooses to self-publish, it is still their responsibility--their duty!--to make their book the best that it can be. I have a suspicion, however, that some self-published authors are simply lazy and/or impatient and can't be bothered with all the "nonsense" that traditionally published authors put themselves through. Or, I suppose they might simply be naive enough to think that their story couldn't possibly be better than it is. I've met authors who have this attitude, and it's nothing short of annoying.

So if you are considering self-publishing, do yourself, your future readers, and the self-published community a huge favor: DO THE WORK. Write. Rewrite. Get critiques. Rewrite again (and again if necessary). Get your book PROFESSIONALLY edited and HEED ADVICE (and revise again). Then, if you still believe in your story, go for it. Sure, there will still be some people that don't like your book. But at least it won't be because you were lazy/impatient/naive.

Am I being harsh? Possibly. But sometimes that's just the best way to make a point.


  1. Is there room for me on your soap box? My experiences with self-published books have been less than satisfying. Although, I must admit that even some books backed by fancy-dancy publishing companies have lacked luster. That might just be due to my personal taste. We must never underestimate the power of revision. I agree.

  2. Angie,

    Yes, I too have been disappointed and sometimes even a bit aghast at some books that have been published the traditional way. Often this is due to my personal taste, but occasionally I pick up a picture book filled with slant rhymes and choppy meter or a novel with an unforgivable amount of typos/spelling errors.

  3. I agree with everything you said. I wish professional editing was a requirement for anyone self publishing.

  4. Agreed ... professional editing should be a requirement before self-publishing!

  5. I'm a big believer in self-publishing. Done correctly it can be very liberating. But I agree that one needs to get lots and lots of advice and feedback. One of the recent self-publishing successes I admire is Terry Fallis's "The Best Laid Plans." Which he self-published and then won Canada's Stephen Leacock award. So, I guess there's an argument for each side of the coin. :-)


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