I try to review self-published books on this blog, but in all honesty for every one that I’ve been impressed with, there have been three that have annoyed me so much that I put them in a special folder on my Kindle titled “GAVE UP”.
These books have something in common with each other, and there are a few major errors I want to point out to self published authors. We can’t run with the big dogs if we’re rushing to publish – bringing a traditionally published book to market takes many months at least – years at most. There are edits and beta reads and publicity campaigns. While I admittedly suck at the publicity thing, I do pay attention to editing and I have my books read by many readers before I publish. Here’s how I can tell instantly that a fellow indie has rushed to publishing:
1.) The first chapter is tight, but the subsequent ones shoot off on wild tangents or have random thoughts inserted at odd places. This is a case of too much editing in some spots, and not enough in others. I read 3/4 of a book that I thought was decent and then found a rambling twelve page scene that was inserted to “tie up loose ends”. It was so out of sync with the rest of the book that I read the first line of every paragraph to try to get through it – even that was more trouble than it was worth. The book was excellent – until the tangents started. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one who thought so – Amazon sent me an email that the book had been revised significantly due to editing issues.
2.) Different fonts, line spacing, and margins appear throughout the book. Seriously? Amazon has a preview file that needs to be meticulously checked to avoid this. I hate bad formatting. It’s the easiest thing to fix and it just looks lazy if you don’t do it.
3.) A cast of thousands. It’s distracting when I have to try to remember who everyone is, what their back story is, and how they relate. I shouldn’t need to keep notes to follow the plot.
4.) Plot, sub-plot, sub-sub-plot, under-sub-plot. Again, the reader shouldn’t have to work that hard.
5.) The vast wasteland of extra information. This is the one that really separates traditionally published books from indie books for me. The story’s going along great and suddenly it comes to a grinding halt while everything is explained and the characters get ready for the big finish. I think of it as D-Flailing. The appetizer (point A) is well thought out and makes you want to read the story. Points B-C (B)build some tension and (C)characters. D-Flailing grinds the story to a halt while the author (E) explains everything you need to know but he/she couldn’t fit (F1) into A-C and then you’re off again with a great build up for the (F) finale.
There are other things that I find distracting, but they’re not usually serious enough for me to give up. Numbers 1 and 5 are similar but they occur in different parts of the book and I think they serve two very different purposes. An author who has too much going on in the book takes wild tangents throughout the manuscript. An author who can’t figure out how to connect the tight beginning to the fantastic ending suffers from problem 5.
Over the next few weeks I’ll post pointers about how to fix these problems. Along with a review of a book that I’m currently reading – as long as the book doesn’t flail too much.