Thursday, May 22, 2014

Beware the Chucker!

One of my Facebook "friends", a traditionally published author posted this a few days ago:
Bought a self-pubbed YA by mistake on my Nook. I say "by mistake" because I seriously am VERY CAREFUL to check out publishers before I make a purchase. Not that all SP books suck per se, but...well, chances are they're not what I'm accustomed to reading--and, as I buy very few books lately, I am CHOOSY, okay? 12 pages into it (though I had my suspicions after 2 or 3) I finally thought, "Wow, this really sucks! Who published it?" So I checked. Oh dear. Lesson learned, I hope.

Any indie author has to constantly fight the stereotype that every self-published book ever is poorly formatted, full of typos, and overall not written very well.  Unlike all those traditionally published books that never have a single typo and are all so awesome it would be impossible to pick one above all others for an award.  Ahem, that was sarcasm if you didn't get it.

The thing is, every stereotype is built around a kernel of truth.  The sad fact is there are plenty of indie authors who don't know how to edit or format.  They simply scribble something down and then put it up on Amazon, Smashwords, etc. and wait to collect their millions of dollars.  Or they show it to their wife/husband/mom/dad/friend/cat who equally knows nothing about professional writing--except the cat, but since cats are jerks it will refuse to say anything.

To get into the Wayback Machine here for a second, there was a "Seinfeld" episode where Jerry and George are playing pick-up basketball.  One of the other guys on the team accuses George of being "a chucker" because instead of passing, he gets it and shoots it.  Ie, chucks it.  (Hooray dated references!)

That's really what people who don't edit their book are:  chuckers.  Like George they don't really bother trying to get anyone else involved or take any time to look for a good shot; they just grab it and hurl it at the basket.  Ie, onto Amazon, Smashwords, etc.

Maybe it's not because they're dumb or lazy or selfish.  Maybe they're just ignorant of how to make their book better.  The problem is all of us pay the price for it.  See the comment above.  The problem then is people think, "Ugh, self-published books are all terrible, therefore THIS self-published book must be terrible."

The worst part is there's nothing you can do about it.  No matter how much you edit the book the fact it's self-published for most people instantly means you've got two strikes before they even start reading--to mix my sports metaphors.  So if you do miss one or two little things they'll say, "HA!  I knew it!"  Again because traditionally published books never, ever have a typo.  Yup.

Is there a solution?  Not really an immediate one.  The best you can do is be a good citizen.  Revise to the best of your ability.  Have other people who are somewhat knowledgeable read it.  If you can swing it pay for an editor.  There are articles all over the place on how to format your book; go look those up so it doesn't look like crap.  And even after you post your book, go back and reread it every so often.  You'd be surprised how many things you can miss even when you've read something four or five times.

Whatever you do, don't be a chucker.


  1. I do hire an editor for my longer work, and I also use beta readers. Even if you can't afford a freelance editor, swapping stories to crit with other writers can help you improve your work in lots of ways.

  2. I think in the age of digital books it would be a lot easier to fix typos when it's found. I could be wrong though. Can you update a book if a typo is found? Chucking is definitely not recommended.

    1. As the reader you can't update the book instantly on Amazon or wherever. It would be nice if when readers did a review they pointed those out. Someone mentioned a problem in one of the Scarlet Knight books and gave it two stars but it only took me like 15 minutes to fix the problem, so really people shouldn't get THAT upset.

  3. Yeah, that's why I'm always on so much about indie writers -supporting- other indie writers because, mostly, no one else is going to. When indie writers only ever talk about traditionally published books, we're all just spinning our wheels.

  4. I've updated A Dead God's Wrath probably 4 or 5 times - fixing typos, clarifying confusing parts, grammar , etc. Everything else had had a minimum of 1 update - and probably 2.

    But I started reading Zahn's Thrawn books and found a pretty egregious error in there. I mean, having a character say something opposite of the intent of the dialog - I just threw up my hands and asked if it was amateur hour the day the book was edited.

    1. I read the other day about an X-Men comic in 2003 where they put the wrong surname for a character on a tombstone. It's amazing with paid editors these things still happen.

  5. I think writers should support writers, regardless of how they are published. I think it's rude to have an "us" and a "them" and thinking one is better than the other.

    I get totally annoyed when I find a typo in a traditionally published book, but the worst thing that ever happened though is I read the blurb, bought the book, and the story didn't match the blurb very well at all. It was about horse-racing, and about a young horse who had a terrible accident but went on to race and win. I'm a horse person. This is really not realistic, so I bought the book to see how the heck they were going to pull that off. They of course didn't. The young horse did go on to breed, preserving the impressive genes of her blood line, but she could barely walk. As I had thought. REALLY pissed me off. Royally.

    90% of the books on my Kindle are indie. I've enjoyed most of them (some are really out of my comfort zone genre wise, as I don't really do horror or paranormal) but the QUALITY of the editing and formatting has all been very well done.) I think there's been one typo in 15 books.

    Keep spreading the word!
    Tina @ Life is Good

  6. I don't understand this idea that all self-published books are crap. I've read quite a few and rarely found a typo or formatting problem. Even if I did, I don't really care. I've read far too many books published by large publishers with errors. I found three typos in "And Another Thing." I didn't throw the book away and vow never to read a book from that publisher again. Likewise, when I read a book I hate, I don't blame it on whether it's self-published or not. I didn't like "World War" but that's my problem not a problem with the industry.

    That said, I try not to be a chucker, although I'm currently editing a couple books that I'd chuck online if I could. I'm not very patient. But I'm working on it.