I need to rant. It won’t be a long rant, but there’s something out there in the ebook world that puts a big fat bee in my bonnet.
“And what might that be?” you ask, no doubt breathless with anticipation.
“Well, let me tell you,” I reply, taking a deep breath as I wind up for the diatribe.
I might have mentioned once or twice that I’m an avid reader. Just about any genre is grist for my mill, although I do have some favourites, comparative religions and spirituality, autobiography, psychology, good sci fi, general modern fiction, and the occasional murder mystery being a few of them….oh, and with history emerging as a new fascination.
I also have the unfortunate habit of reading a number of books at the same time, which makes reading library books an iffy proposition due to the constant pressure of trying to keep track of return dates.
As a result, I buy books. Many books. I buy books to the point where, if I didn’t give away the books I suspect I won’t read again, our house would be overrun with them. As it is, I manage to keep my herd corralled into six bookcases, but it’s not easy; and sadly, I’ve finally been forced to begin the practice of getting rid of a book for every book I keep.
But I digress.
Because I buy so many books, I’m always on the lookout for a cheaper price, which means used books or ebooks. And that leads me to my present gripe: ebooks.
Let me be clear, here. I’m all for indie publishing; I think it’s a great idea. Its time has definitely come, and it’s already changing the world of book publishing.
What’s more, I’ve read a number of excellent self-published books that are nothing less than feathers in the industry’s cap.
Now we come to the downside of self-publishing: books that desperately need help. I’ve bought and tried to read a number of such books. The story lines had potential, and plot development didn’t seem bad either. However, (and here’s where the rubber meets the road) the grammar and punctuation were uniformly, appallingly, bad.
Read again: appallingly bad.
Bad enough, in fact, that I – normally the most patient of readers – finally had to delete the books from my e-reader, because no matter how interesting the plot itself might have been, I simply couldn’t bear any longer to read endless pages of text larded with inappropriate tenses, poor wording, and wildly misapplied punctuation.
I’m not an expert, but neither am I simply an old pot calling the kettle black. I’m a bona fide reader. I love language, and I truly enjoy hearing and reading it used well. Most of the time I can make allowances for differences choices in grammar and punctuation, because languages change, and I do try really hard not to be The Grammar Police.
But when I can’t read a simple piece of fiction without my mind going insane from trying to follow the plot while at the same time wading through endless errors on every single page, there’s something wrong and it’s time to protest!
No, not your family or your best friend, no matter how well-meaning they are. I’m talking about a real live editor-type person whose job it is to untangle your participles and run-on sentences and sort out what you’re trying to say by mending the punctuation so that it actually contributes to the meaning of your sentence; an editor who can tell you where you’re off track and how to tighten your prose for best effect.
You know those websites that offer tips to budding indie publishers, where No. 3 is “Hire a professional freelance editor”? Pay attention to No. 3. It matters! Hire someone who edits fiction and/or non-fiction for a living.
And if you’re self publishing because you couldn’t get a publisher interested in your work, then perhaps it’s time for a critical look at your piece to try to find out why, instead of tossing it out into the web yourself in the hope that somebody will actually pay money to read it.
Unfortunately, I did pay money for these two books.
Fortunately, I didn’t pay much money. And I learned an important lesson: when the price of an ebook is extremely low, be suspicious.
Be very suspicious.