You only have to read any one of the writing magazines and social media pages to appreciate just how many books are out there now – both hard copy and e-books. We are bombarded with adverts for cheap/free e-books from first time authors. Now as a reading addict, I must admit to viewing these advertisements with an ever-growing wish list – I just can’t seem to help myself. On occasion I have purchased some of the cheapie offers… and really wished I hadn’t.
Now, running a writers’ group with the aim of encouraging our members into print, I am, of course, very keen to see all writers who work hard to produce a novel they can be proud of, achieve success. My question is – what is considered success? If just getting a manuscript into print, physical or electronically, is a measure of success then I’m afraid I have a major problem with this.
I’m delighted so many writers have been able to sell their work by self-publishing and those able to self-promote often seem to do very well out of it. My difficulty lies in the quality of some of these books. Self-publishing often means that the author does everything themselves – writing their magnum opus, of course, copy-editing and proof reading it, formatting the book, designing the cover and promoting it. In my opinion, if you can leap over all these hurdles you deserve a medal for perseverance! But for me, the important words above are copy-editing and proof reading. Here is where my problem lies.
I’m not saying that traditionally printed books from the top publishing houses don’t sometimes contain errors. We all know they do. But they are also scrupulously edited and pared back so that, on the whole, these books as presented for purchase in our major bookshops – and online – are well executed. The dross and waffle (if any existed in the first place) has been spliced away and we are left with a book that is usually a pleasure to read.
Not so for many self-published oeuvres, I’m sorry to say. Many that I have read would benefit from the ruthless stroke of a red pen in many, many places. What could have been an amazing work of fiction turns into a dreary, never-ending saga leaving the reader losing the will to live!
So the world is awash with books and at one time I would have rejoiced in this fact. However, if it hasn’t already happened, I believe the very discerning reading public will get wise to the fact that many self-published books are not worth their very cheap price because the quality of the finished product is sub-standard.
So my plea to all writers involved in publishing their own works – the editing is vital to the successful outcome – please give your manuscript to either a professional editor or someone who isn’t a friend or relative and will be honest. It might mean that your precious work is halved in size but it will also mean that the end-product will probably be a joy to read.