I love reading self-published books. I never know exactly what I’m going to get. Sometimes it’s fairly standard for the genre; sometimes it’s unexpected. Sometimes the writing is quite conventional; sometimes it’s unusual.
In general, though, I’ve found the books I don’t hate and/or abandon usually fall into one of 3 categories for me:
- Well edited, but the story isn’t compelling. Simply put, it’s not my cup of tea.
- Poorly edited, but the story or premise is fascinating.
- Well edited with a fascinating story.
I love the books that fall into the last category. This is Seven Unholy Days by Jerry Hatchett, The Lot of a Nobody by Dave Johnston, and The Adventure by Jennifer M. Zeiger. I love not having anything to say about the writing because it means I can just immerse myself in the story.
The books in the first category are like The Lifespan of Rabbits by Robert Tucker (review of this political fairy tale pending). They’re well-written, but I just can’t connect with the story. These are the ones where I shrug and say it just wasn’t for me.
The books that fall in the middle category stab me in the heart. There’s so much promise and I love the story so much, but the rough writing, lack of polish, and/or poor editing makes it hard to read. This is Cuteness Overlord by Mike Aaron, Life in River Hallow by Teresa Grabs, and Elithius: The Red Captain by Dominic Sceski. These are the books where editing can make or break a book, but they are also books where I can see the story shining through and think they deserve a chance.
Good editing has the power to put the reader’s focus on the story being told rather than on how the story is told. The reader doesn’t get bogged down in the mechanics of the writing or gets thrown out of the story by it. Instead, they can sit back and enjoy the story, immersing themselves into a sweeping adventure. Honestly, some readers can probably do this anyways and chalk the poor editing up to the book being self-published, but I have a hard time ignoring the writing. When the writing is really good, though, when it’s been well-edited, I don’t even focus on how it was written; I just get to jump in to the story and stay there.
Poor editing can get in the way of the storytelling. As I said before, this may not be true for every reader, but it’s definitely true for me. If I have to read a sentence, paragraph, or whole page over again because I don’t get it due to the poor writing, then I get frustrated and wonder if I’m wasting my time. If the writer can’t be bothered to ensure their writing is clear, then why should I be bothered to read it? Okay, sorry. I’m letting my general frustration show here, but I think it’s important for writers to know. Poor editing can result in a lower quality story or something that simply reads as juvenile due to a young or inexperienced writer. The story might not actually be clear to anyone other than the writer, and maybe a few close friends and family members who rave about it. As a reader, I don’t want to be continually searching back through the text because reading something makes me think I missed something. I’ll just end up confused. When I get confused, I lose faith in the story and it’s quality. And then I just stop reading. Whatever the writer had in mind might have been brilliant, but it’s all about the execution. If a story isn’t told well, it’s poorly done. Simple.
But sometimes – sometimes – the story manages to shine through the poor writing and editing. These are the books in my middle category. They are why I love self-published books.
ContraDictation by Adam West is one of these. You won’t find my review of it, and there isn’t one pending. The writing was atrocious, but the story was more than fascinating. It’s simple: contradict yourself and wink out of existence. I loved the idea so much, I just said goodbye to the writing and focused on the story. Definitely a 4 cups of tea book, but I have no immediate plans to write a review. Why? Because the author recognized his poor writing and fully intends on better editing his two subsequent books. I’m very much looking forward to their publication.
Getting past poor editing can be difficult. I know it’s very easy for me to get bogged down in it and become frustrated with the writing where I can’t give the story a fair shot. But sometimes I come across a remarkable story. It’s different. It’s unique. There’s an intriguing quality to it. My mind latches onto it and won’t let go. There’s something special about the story and the raw way the author presents it. The editing is amazingly bad, but I can read past it to find an absolute gem of a book. I live for these books.
Those middle category books have the potential to be amazing, if only the writing and editing were better. It’s books like those that make me want to be an editor (but who would trust an untested avid reader who is so busy with 2 kids that one read-through would take a month?). I want other readers to love the same gem. But readers can be tough. Mix up your tenses enough, lose plot lines, kill off an already dead character, and confuse periods and commas and they’re through. I’ve seen reviews that rave about the book despite the poor writing. But I also see an equal or greater number of reviews murdering the book because of the lack of editing.
Readers look for an immersive experience. Take that away with poor editing and they might wash their hands of it. Editing can make or break a book. Some readers can still find the gem of a story, but others can’t.
Have or know of a gem of a book? Please send it my way!