Monday, July 16, 2012

Too Much to Ask?

Last week, I shared that I’ve moved into the twenty-first century and started reading electronic books. No, I don’t have a Kindle or Nook, though I’m thinking seriously about putting one on my holiday wish list this year. Until then, I’ve been reading through an app on my smart phone, and that tiny screen is part of the motivation to purchase an actual electronic reader.

In the last few days, I’ve read a number of e-books, most of which are self published through a web site known as Smashwords, and I have to say I’ve been a bit disappointed in the offerings. While the stories have good premises, there have been a lot of issues with mechanics and what not.

Before I go any further, let me put a couple of things on record. First, I fully believe in self publishing. As a self published author, I like the creative freedom and control that comes with producing my own books. Second, I don’t profess to be any kind of expert on publishing, literature, the English language or the like. While I have a fair command of English and have recently signed with a new literary agent, my college degree is in the field of criminology. The discrepancies I’m about to point out are from the perspective of perplexed reader.

Thus far, the biggest problem I’ve seen with these self published e-books is poor editing. Words are misspelled and punctuation is misplaced. Sometimes words are spelled correctly, but the author has chosen the wrong word. If the author has a character say, ‘I sea what you mean’, spell check isn’t going to catch the incorrect use of the word sea. I often caution young writers about this when reviewing their work. In the e-books I’ve recently read, there’s also been the problem of authors saying though but meaning thought. Things like this sound picky, but it disrupts the flow of the story and turns the reader off. Being that self publishing is already stigmatized, self published authors need to be careful with their editing.

Another emerging and disturbing trend is the tendency for authors telling stories in third person to have too many narrators or viewpoint characters. Although it’s a third person story, the audience needs to have a viewpoint character, otherwise the story becomes confusing and convoluted. Even the most intelligent readers get tripped up when viewpoints are changed mid paragraph. Alternating viewpoints can and do work effectively, but the transitions need to be smooth and seamless. The audience shouldn’t feel the disruption caused by the thoughts of feelings of five characters in one paragraph.

Perhaps the most egregious error of all was an author inserting himself into the story. The author had the audacity to insult readers by having two of his characters speaking to a deity that pointed out what a great guy the author was for not giving up on writing or being angry that he had so many reads for his books but no reviews. The deity went on to say something to the effect of the author understanding his work is for the joy of others and not his own gain much like that of the deity. Considering I just paid for the book, I felt personally insulted that he would call readers out this way. As a writer, I understand how discouraging it can be to see so little reviews for your work. It’s happened to me as well. While I’d like to see more of those Amazon reviews, I’m just grateful to have people buying and enjoying my work. Oh, and the author of this book also had a number of errors with punctuation, spelling and grammar as well as an over abundance of viewpoint characters in the same scene.

I’m no expert on publishing, but I am an avid reader. As such, I want clean copy, smooth

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