A Frustrated Reader

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It’s nice to be wanted. I know every Indie writer searches for an avid reader like me.  I speed read and can easily devour up to 80,000 words a day.  I’m always hungry for a good story. I will overlook a lot for that elusive plot that will submerse me in another time and place, leaving behind the troubles of this world.

I’m willing to take on any genre, although I’m not fond of horror. Even then it depends on the voice of the writer and the plot line.  It should be a dance between me and the author. I want to be treated with respect and given their finest product.

Yet, I’m finding more often in the Indie world it’s about the writer’s ego and less about my enjoyment. I’m left to fend for myself.  I flounder in poor grammar, sentences that make no sense, wandering plots and in some cases, no plot at all.

It’s like dancing with a partner who is clumsy, steps on your toes and is just plain bored with you. This is how I feel  when I run across a poorly written story. It is frustrating to see a gorgeous book cover, an enticing synopsis, and then to put down my money, only to eagerly open the first page and begin wading through a poorly written quagmire drenched in disappointment.

I try, I really do. I tell myself that there is a kernel of story in there somewhere. I’ve been pleasantly surprised at some of the “diamonds in the rough” I’ve discovered. Other times I speed through, picking up the gist of the plot, but not slowing to become engaged. It feels like a school assignment. Find the most important parts so I can maybe get something out of it.

Why do I do this? Because I’m not only a treasure hunting reader, I’m also an author.  I know the work that goes into writing. I want to reward the poor soul who spent all that time hammering out the story. Sometimes I can’t even do that.

Recently I have taken to writing to the authors in private, asking things like, “What Point of View are you attempting?” Answer, “I’m not sure. I don’t understand POV, I just write.”   Or saying to another author, “I believe there are some formatting issues as some of the sentences don’t have spacing between the words.” Their answer, “I just write what I feel and you have to take it or leave it.”    Huh?

My favorite was the response to a suggestion I made.  “Could I humbly suggest you find a friend who has some editing skills to help  refine and tighten up your story. It has a lot of merit.” The response was, “I’ve always been told I’m  a good righter and I edited it already. Why waste the money. I made this book to make money.” (And yes, they spelled ‘writer’ as ‘righter’, no joke)

I’m not trying to make anyone look stupid by flaunting my imaginary superior skills. I’m in the same boat as every writer. I have issues,  just ask my editor!  Really, I’m just trying to understand where the author is coming from. I wondered if the first author mentioned above was trying for an omniscient voice (I struggle myself with POV) and I wanted to warn the second author there were conversion problems in the manuscript (I hire someone to format for me because I’m computer illiterate!).

In the last week I’ve randomly picked and read over ten Indie stories. I have found only two of those that seemed edited and pulled in my interest enough that I actually slowed down to savor the words and delve into the story. At one point as I was slogging through a poorly written story, I stopped to read sentences out loud to my husband. He shook his head, as baffled as I was as to what the author was trying to say.

Unfortunately it showed me why Indies are getting a bad rap. As a frustrated reader I can understand why people would ask for a refund on a digital book. Though I think writing crude, nasty public reviews aimed at an author is rude and defeats the purpose of a review, I can understand the irritation behind one. How do we go about informing authors  they need to refine their product?

I suggest not damaging future sales for money or ego. For the sake of the readers, for the sake of the industry, for the sake of trying to sell our work, we need to do our best not only to put a pretty cover on our books, but to make the inside as nice as the outside.  Hire an editor as well as a cover artist. It is well worth the investment.

77 thoughts on “A Frustrated Reader

  1. Now you understand why most of my reading, lately, has still been traditionally published books. If someone recommends something, that’s a different story, but unless something’s free or if I’m aware of how talented and thoroughly edited someone’s work is, I hardly ever *purchase* indie books any more. I’m likely to be the same with traditionally published books . . . . It’s just that I never consider the editing. Some readers of indie authors are other indie authors (and some of us are *serious* critics). I *know* what good editing looks like.

    • I can commiserate with you! I still try and find the unusual entertainment. But I agree with you! It is better to be safe, than sorry. LOL You wouldn’t consider the editing? Come on, it has to grate against your nerves when you have to reread a sentence several times to get it. Anyway that’s what you tell me! LOL

      • Oh, I consider the editing on a traddie book. Ahem, looks at Writer’s Digest Books. It’s just that you know someone, even if they’re total crap, edited it at some point. If I see more than four grammatical or usage errors in a story of about 30k or less, I stop reading it and note the author’s name. I don’t mean the judgment-call ones either but true errors. You’ve seen me ranting on FB lately. I’m freaking fed up with these traddie-published writers who go indie and think they don’t need an editor any more. I can think of one off the top of my head who is a long-time published traddie-turned indie and *doesn’t know how to properly use a semicolon.* What I really don’t understand is you look at their covers and can tell they spent (or know from their blogs what they spent) $400 and up. Really? You couldn’t maybe put aside a couple hundred for super basic proofreading? Bananaheads. I’m not saying I don’t search for those diamonds. If I hear from enough other folks I know who have great taste in reading that an indie is good, I’ll give it a go. The last book I read was Gone Girl. Before that, a Cormac McCarthy. Currently, the Help. All trad-published . . . and I’m sorry to say it too. It’s just hard to find the diamonds.

      • Yes, you got my point exactly. I also do as you do, take suggestions from friends. Those usually are pretty good reads. I agree that we can get over inflated egos and think we can self-edit but I know myself to well. I can look at something and read as it should be rather than what I’ve actually typed. Always need that second set of eyes!

  2. Reblogged this on Julian Froment's Blog and commented:
    I like this. A good post.

  3. Nice – and how nice of you to reach out with constructive critiques – not your problem if authors are too oblivious to take advantage of free help! 🙂

    • Why thank you! Free advice is just that, free to use or to discard. But you are correct it is not my problem. I just hate that their issues will affect all the rest of our reputations. The saddest part is that they may never understand why their books aren’t selling. My new mantra needs to be, “it is not my problem, it is not my problem, awhummmmmmmm.”

      • 🙂 – I am an obsessive reader and the second hand bookstore folks always know me by name. Over the years, I’ve had many .50 cent purchases that left me thinking, “I really should finish my books and publish them – if this yahoo could get published, why not me?” So, to my mind, poor writing/typos etc., existed in the published print world, too, though maybe not in as great of numbers….

        I think the industry is really starting to boom and as more people get involved, both as writers and readers, hopefully you’ll have fewer disappointments with purchases! 🙂

      • Excellent! We need more readers in the world. I have frequented many a second hand store as well, until I discovered the vast world of cyberspace. I agree with you totally and have those very same thoughts when reading traditionally published work. Of course ‘perception’ also is part of this equation. We can all read the same story and come away with a myriad of perceptions. I should have also added to my post that really there were only a few I got nothing from and I was truly disappointed with. As I said, I’ve found many a treasure of a storyline. It is sad that the few bad experiences I’ve had color my overall opinion. Bad me! Isn’t it human nature to remember only the bad, and not the mountain of good? If you have written books now is the time to self-publish. I encourage you to try! It has been one of my greatest joys to have created a book. I still think my favorite part is reading though! Thank you for stopping by and commenting. I loved it that we have had similar thoughts. It’s nice to know we are not in this alone!

      • Me thinks easier to be adventurous and not suffer buyer’s remorse at the $1 bookstore, or 1.99 eBook center! 🙂 I’m in the process of finalizing my first book to be self-published this fall! And several other manuscripts in various states of finish – My first one has been interesting as far in getting back the editing ‘red-lined’ copies and working in new chapters that I realized needed to be added AFTER I sent it out to my red-pencil angels! But have set the next target date for publication in November (after gardening season is over! 😛
        And yes, I love WordPress Land – there is never any reason to be alone in anything, if you wish! 🙂

      • I actually enjoy the editing process for the most part. I’ve learned more from it than all the college classes I took. Good luck with it, looking forward to the release. Drop me a line when it’s out.

      • Thanks! I don’t particularly hate the editing process, but it is a little more time-consuming since my stroke – but, as my writing flow seems to be slowly improving, I’m hoping the editing process does as well, too.
        Words seem to me like a river flowing to the sea – it used to be glaringly apparent when the flow was interrupted or jagged, and what not, but not as much anymore, which means I have to quadruple check my work and still, still I manage to miss ones! LOL
        I’ll be sure to drop you a line when it’s out! Thanks for asking me too!

      • I’m so impressed the stroke didn’t slow you down and keep you from your passion! You are a true writer.

      • Um..Yeah…if you look at my blog archives – the period from November 2011 to December 2012 was pretty lean – About the only writing I did was in my journal…
        I read a lot during that time – once I could read without blurred vision – – LOL
        But YES! I feel like my writer’s soul is BACK and hoping the editor one is not too far behind! 😀

      • I am glad you are back up and running!

  4. You are absolutely right. If Indie authors want to be respected they should behave professkionaly and make sure that their books are at least as well edited and formatted as those in the bookstore. But luckily tthere is a site that may help you to find books like this. http://awesomeindies.net/ Take a look.

    • I totally agree with you. I sheepishly admit to chuckling over your ‘errors.’ Isn’t it always the case we are the best proof readers only after we hit the send button? LOL

    • Thanks for the site, Tim!

    • Excellent site! I’m so excited to start checking out the books there. How did I not know this existed? As both a reader and an author, I was wondering why no one had stepped up to create a ‘seal of approval’ that every Indie writer would strive to attain. I’m impressed and can’t wait to finish replying to everyone so I can go check it out more thoroughly. I hesitated to post this blog as it came out of my frustration and I worried Indie’s might take offense. Thank you for your read and support. I especially appreciate the link. I plan on promoting it for other Indies to find.

  5. Oooops – sorry, I meant ‘professionally’ and ‘there’ of course!

  6. Great post! Thank you for explaining your frustration so clearly and diplomatically.

    • Thank you and wonderful compliment. I appreciate the read and happy you understand my complaint.

    • Why thank you! Diplomacy was refined by raising five children. LOL I read your opening blog about your desire to write. I hope I’ve not scared you off by worrying you about whether or not you are good enough. I should have explained writing will always be subject to opinion and perception as well. My perception of your writing skills is you already have a sound foundation to create wonderful artwork with words. I left some suggestions on your blog. Thank you for stopping by, reading, reblogging and commenting. It encourages me to continue writing as well.

      • Thank you very much, Robynn! I really appreciate your comments and feel quite encouraged by them. Writing is subjective but not to the point that the reader can’t make heads or tails of it :). Again, I liked your post “A Frustrated Reader” very much. Every writer should read it often 🙂

  7. Reblogged this on 1WriteWay and commented:
    This post is a must-read for every Indie writer out there.

  8. How on earth did you learn to read so fast, out of interest? Do you have any particular strategies, or is it just through practice?

    • Dale Carnegie had a course on it. But it was a college teacher that helped me refine it. Take a book, read down the middle of the first paragraph. Don’t follow out the sentences. You will catch the gist of what is being said. At first I had to just quickly scan the sentences. As I got more practiced, I started just skimming down the middle of the paragraph. Occasionally something will catch my attention and I will then scan the whole sentence. It is amazing how your mind will fill in the blanks and assimilate the content. And lots of practice. Hope this helps.

      • Don’t you find that reading in this way takes the pleasure out of it? I actually (don’t think I ever said) know how to speed read when a friend and I decided to learn from Evelyn Wood videos, I think it was. But I only do it when something is slogging along and I feel it might get better.

      • I don’t ‘speed-read’ if it catches my attention. Then I slow down and savor. I speed read to skip slow parts or things like descriptions or landscaping details. I also will speed read to just get the gist of the overall story if it really is boring to me. I will go through the whole story hoping for that one part that might interest me. It is harder to speed read something that is poor in grammar and sentence structure because it is harder for my mind to catch the overall story flow. It is a tool. If the story is especially exciting I speed through to find out what happens, but then go back to savor it. It is just a tool I use for different things. For the most part I read normally like everyone else. LOL

    • Also, use two index cards on either side of the paragraph, and just read what is in the middle. See if you can figure out what is happening, then remove index cards and read the whole paragraph normally. Did you get the gist of what was being said? Use the index cards until you can get good at it, then drop the cards. Your mind and eyes will adapt faster with this method.

      • Thanks you ever so much for your reply. I’ll be sure to give all of this a go; I’ve been thinking of learning to speed read for a while now.

        I must admit that I probably won’t try this for every book: if the book is well written then I’d argue that the reader might as well just read it as intended. As Cryse said, however, if a book is bogging down then I imagine that speed-reading would be an appropriate solution.

      • You got it! I definitely don’t always speed read. If the book catches my interest, I slow down and savor the words. Otherwise, it warp drive! LOL

  9. Great post! This is why I am working so hard on my novel prior to publishing. I don’t care whether I self or traditional publish, I want to be putting my best foot forward. As writer’s we owe it to ourselves, our audience, and our fellow writer’s to do the best we can. If someone is writing just to write, then a book doesn’t need to be published, and certainly not paid for. And if we expect someone to pay money for our work we better be doing the best we can.

    • Hi Laura! You not only got it, but you said it in a much shorter version than mine. LOL You are on the right track and have a terrific attitude about it. If you go the Indie route, let me know when it comes out. I want to read it. Seriously.

      • Thank you Robynn! I will be sure to let you know when I do publish. And once you read feel free to drop me a line with anything you notice. All books are bound to have some errors, and I would certainly appreciate the opportunity to fix any that remain in my work.

      • Excellent! I can’t wait. I only like to give rave reviews in public. 🙂

  10. Reblogged this on According to Dave and commented:
    Excellent points about those who are self-publishing. While I haven’t published anything yet, when I do you can be sure I’ll want to treat it as if I were going the traditional route.

    • Awesome! I’m excited you would be so dedicated to your work. I hope you do publish. It is quite the rush. Your blog is well written, that is 3/4 of the battle. When you do, let me know. I would love to read it. Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I appreciate it!

  11. Thank you. Beautifully said and absolutely dead on. If you don’t respect your readers, you might as well stand on the edge of a cliff and scream into a void. The funny thing is, editing is a creative process in itself and the knowledge gleaned is invaluable and often as exciting as the writing itself. I spent the last 8 months revising and editing my fiction debut. Prior to that, I spent years (literally) revising and editing my non-fiction book. Good, professional editors humbled me both times, and for that I’m eternally grateful. I also speed read and am an avid reader. It’s hard not to get discouraged by the, let’s say it, incompetence out there. Art, in any form, is the process of relationship — first between the artist and the work and then between the work and the reader/viewer. If the work can’t stand on its own after the artist is finished, it’s not art, it’s mental/emotional masturbation. Glad to have discovered you. Following your blog now. 🙂

    • You brought up another really good point. Editing is a creative process and as writers we should actually enjoy more writing. I agree with you, I’ve learned more in the editing process than in all the college classes I took on creative writing. I’m so excited that many of the authors replying not only get that we have to edit and polish, but are working hard to have as good of a product as the traditionally produced books. Thank you for compliments and support. You are on the right path! I can’t wait to read your work.

  12. Reblogged this on Destiny Allison and commented:
    I loved this. Honest, accurate, and appropriate.

  13. Thank you so much for this post, found via the reblog from 1WriteWay. I loved the post and I wholeheartedly echo your sentiments. Prior to writing my first novel (which is self published), I read a huge amount of indie books and some were better than others. Some were excellent, some poor, most had typos and some were just too hard to read at all. Now that I have published my book, I still find myself wondering why certain books are doing so well when they clearly are in need of editing and some improvements. I have taken the time to get my book edited and read by many others, some of whom are fellow authors and have now published a book that I am proud of both in terms of cover and content and as I am now writing the sequel (it is an adult romance/thriller book), I shall be doing exactly the same thing second time around. I would love to say that by doing this my book is flying off the shelves but as yet, that hasn’t happened, however I can rest easy knowing that I have done the best possible job I can to get the best book I can out there and when and if it takes off, hopefully there won’t be too much negative feedback on editing and grammatical issues. Hats off to you for taking the time to look out for indie authors and I really hope that the bad ones don’t wipe out the good ones because I would like to think that there are still plenty of good ones out there. 🙂

    • Thank you for reading and commenting. Yes, I’ve puzzled over your same conundrum. Take for instance 50 Shades of Grey. Yes, I admit a read it. There was just so much controversy over the writing. I immediately found the author did some of the big no no’s such as information dump, using huge words that I even had to look up, etc. But what I found after a few chapters is it was the storyline that pulled me in. I wanted to know how the heck they were going to work out his ‘problem’. Just like Twilight, same thing. So many adjectives! But when you stepped back from it she had an intriguing problem that had to be worked out. Would Bella become a vampire too? So even though I may be critical at times of grammar and POV, it still boils down to is it an interesting story. This is what I call “a diamond in the rough” because I believe with proper editing it would shine. I don’t think the bad ones will wipe us out, because you are right, there still are a lot of good ones out there. In every competition though, you want to have the best chance to be seen and heard. Editing does that. I’m so excited that you have put so much effort to make the best product ever. I’m going right now to look for your book.

      • Thank you for taking the time to have a look around my blog and I hope that if you decide to read my book, you will enjoy it. The grammar and typos are soooo frustrating as even now, I still find the odd one in my book every now and again which drives me round the bend as it has been through so many pairs of eyes! I wonder how they keep slipping through but they do, the only good thing is that I am constantly updating it when I do find errors so that means that eventually (hopefully!) it should be pretty much perfect! And like you, for me it is all about the story as well, there are very few that will put me off completely and I just hope that others readers and authors feel the same. 🙂

      • Oh my! I hope I didn’t come across as a real critic on typos! LOL Even in traditional books there are typos, trust me. I bought your book yesterday and hope to get to it next week. I’m heading out for a horse show and that kind of crimps my reading time. From your first chapter example I am sure your writing is talented. The synopsis sounds delightful. If there is something like, grizzly bear huge, I promise to let you know. Meanwhile, enjoy the good job you’ve done and write on!

      • Thank you so much! Hope you’re having fun at the horse show! Wow – I bet you really enjoy those?? I would hope.. that there’s nothing too massive in there now, but you never know! Look forward to hearing your verdict. 🙂

  14. Awesome post.. Thank you for taking the time – No truer words ever spoken…xx

  15. Reblogged this on Reading, Writing, and Rambling and commented:
    Yes….

  16. Dear Robynn,

    I have recently taken to writing a collection of very short stories and as if now I am not sure if it is for my personal pleasure or for torturing some poor soul like yourself. Either ways, I am glad I found your article, Even if I decide not to publish my work, I will still ensure the quality of it. Thank you for sharing such a wonderful post.

    I will be re-blogging it on my blog.

    Regards,
    PS

    • Hi PS,
      If you have the desire to write, you are blessed with the passion to share. I have no doubt that you will create a wonderful ‘product’ for the world to read. I’m so happy you understand and wish to give it all of your best. I’m looking forward for a chance to read one of your stories. Thank you for understanding and wanting to make the world of the Indie a great place.

      Robynn

  17. Reblogged this on Reflections and commented:
    A thought provoking article for all wanna be writers and in some way for readers too.

  18. A lot of good points here. Found this on Julian Froment’s blog. Thanks for sharing, Julian. I am now following your blog. Reblogging to share with my friends. Thank you!

  19. Reblogged this on Wyndy Dee and commented:
    Very well said. I am biased, but editing truly can make or break a book. Why slave and put your heart and soul into something and not want the best possible product. It’s like making a beautiful golden brown, flaky crust on an apple pie but not put the apples in. It looks good and tastes good on the outside but something’s missing and you’re disappointed. No editing is perfect, but it’s worth the the time and effort for the reader…who is spending their money and time to enjoy what you’ve written. Make it worth their time and journey. Make it something to be proud of. In the end, it will do better and your readers will thank you by repeat purchases and support.

    • Thank you! Excellent analogy. The traditional publishers have been selling books for years and if they recognized the power of editing, we should also. I appreciate your great comment.

  20. I am on an absolute mission to see to it that indies receive high-quality editing for the $$$ they do put out. Just because someone is an independently-published author, that doesn’t mean they know a darn thing about editing. Beta reading, sure, but editing? Not a chance . . . although some do.

    First, if possible, ask for referrals from writers you trust and whose work you consider high quality. Second, ask what style manual or manuals your potential editor works from and what they do if the information is difficult to interpret. (If US, it should be Chicago Manual of Style, 16th. UK is normally Fowler’s, 2nd). Third, ask them what dictionary they use. Compound words, in U.S. fiction, and the way noun phrases are hyphenated or not is decided by dictionary use (Merriam-Webster’s). Fourth, ask for a sample of their work. When he or she suggests changes, *ask why.* So many authors often just assume a person knows what he or she is doing, and when it comes to grammatical and style issues, they often don’t ask them to back up what they say with outside information. I work from Chicago Manual of Style, 16th Edition as well as Garner’s, 3rd, and my clients thus far will *all* tell you that at some point, I am quoting from these books with reference and/or page numbers . . . well, except for the one I have who knows that I know what I’m doing and just wants me to tell her what to do. Ask if they belong to any editorial associations or groups, online or off. Finally, ask them to explain compound predicates, noun phrases, and restrictive clauses. (Noun phrases might be called something else in U.K. English. Not sure off the top of my head.) Non-editors won’t be able to answer complex questions because they have never bothered to ask and answer them for their clients. Any complex grammatical or usage question will throw a non-editor. If they don’t this stuff, run!!! He or she is a pretender. Expect that a true copy editor will charge more,–it takes longer to do it when you know how to do it right–ask more questions of you, and make you work your a$$ off. Some copy editors will also offer proofreading services, and what that includes can vary. If you want a beta reader, don’t pretend you’re working with an editor, but if you’re receiving high-quality advice, I see nothing wrong with that. But I would only pay about $25 for it, at most. Copy editing is substantial work, and proofing is a bit more intensive as well. Reading and giving a SWAG opinion isn’t. Hope this helps 🙂

    • Excellent advice Chryse! I never asked all those questions because I was blessed to find you on Bookrix. But your replies to questions there showed you knew your stuff. I especially liked how you always explain your editing calls. Though, at the time of editing, I don’t always appreciate it, I do later! LOL Your explanation showed me again how you are worth every penny and then some! 🙂

  21. Hi, I’ve nominated you for The Liebster Award 🙂

  22. Nice post! I read a lot of indie books, too. I guess I’ve been fairly fortunate to enjoy what I’ve read, but I also invest a great deal of time researching the books (and sometimes getting to learn the character and sample the non-book writing skills of the author before I jump in, which also helps me have a positive outlook as I read).

    It seems almost to be an oxymoron for an author to have a huge ego but not have the work perfected. How can that be? I know, it happens. Logically, though, it would seem that the ego should drive them to go out of their way to perfect the book in order to earn the praise that they seek.

  23. While I download a lot of free books, I get the sample of every single one I buy for exactly the reasons you stated. Suffice to say, I start a lot more books than I finish. Both the wonder and the tragedy of indie publishing is that there’s no gatekeeper.

    Personally, I look at this as a business. Running a business costs money. I use my money on editors and cover art but don’t have a lot left over for marketing. The sad part (to me) is a lot of people will never try my fiction because they’ve been burned by other indie authors. However, I always have the option to write a few more books, take what I’ve learned from my editors (I consider their comments educational), and try to break into traditional publishing.

    Thanks so much for your illuminating blog post. 🙂

    • Excellent! You are correct to approach it as a business. You must. You are on the right path and to get some practical experience under your belt before trying the traditional route is smart as well. I considered the traditional route but I knew I didn’t know much about the actual business side of it. Going the Indie route has been a huge education. I feel the same as you do though, the bad will taint other Indie’s chances. You are going to go far. Keep it up!

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