The responsibility of independent authors to proof and edit their books prior to publication is something I harp about on a regular basis. I've made plenty of mistakes in my own books and am very appreciative of the readers who write to me and point things out. The great thing about the digital text platform is that you can make corrections on an on-going basis. it's not like print where the mistakes are in 500 books in crates in your garage.
To be fair, there are plenty of mistakes in traditionally published books, too. I reviewed a book published by Knopf last summer that was riddled with appalling mistakes (“as the car began to skid, he pumped the breaks”)! I am fully aware that finding perfection in a 100,000 word novel is daunting. This is compounded by the fact that opinions vary on punctuation and there are people who have pet peeves about strange word construction. The simple truth is that while the digital age has created an open platform for authors to publish it has also created an open platform for readers to critique and critique they will. And rightly so.
For a writer who is also an avid reader this presents a challenge. In my quest to make my published work as clean and tight as possible, I have spoken and written a lot encouraging other independent authors to be hyper-vigilant about their work. Many of them are but there is also a contingent who claim that their readers don't care about proper spelling and grammar – they just want a good story. What I have found through my own experience and what has been told to me by other writers is that if you give a critical review of a book, pointing out a disregard for editing and proofing, you are opening yourself up to potential attack on the part of that writer's loyal fans. I've read more reports than I want to about writers who critiqued a book they read and then had their own books deluged with nasty 1-star reviews.
In the past I've written blog posts about indie books giving my honest opinion. Usually my reviews are positive for the simple reason that if a book is badly written I won't finish it and I don't review books I don't finish. However, I do come across books that I liked in terms of plot or characters or atmosphere that still have big flaws. I have a choice – I can either not review the book or I can say that I liked the book BUT and point out the flaws. This happened last night with a book I read on the recommendation of someone in a book reading group. It was an indie book that was very romantic ghost story and there was much to like but the book was just loaded with errors and the errors were consistent throughout. For one thing the author did not know the difference between “past” and “passed” or between “effect” and “affect.” I don't often criticize punctuation and I often give passes on the occasional typo. but these kinds of flaws re more difficult for me to overlook.
So the question is, do I point out the flaws and risk getting hammered in return? Or do I just let it slide and take the position that readers are on their own when they buy these books?
Most of the indie writers I know take great pride in the quality of work they put out. A lot of us feel like we have to work twice as hard to be considered half as good as trad published writers. But all of us are stigmatized by sloppy writing, sloppy editing, and sloppy proofing. So, once again, I am making a plea to indie writers to take pride in their work, to proof and run spell check and have some decent beta-readers. Nobody expects perfection but can we all strive for competence?
Thanks for reading.