An open letter to authors: please respect your writing and your readers

Last night I downloaded a free ebook from Amazon.

It was from a writer whose blog I occassionally read and whose stories and writing style I like.  It was a short story, I downloaded it because I wanted to get a taste for what the writer was publishing before I bought more of the books.  The fact it was free did factor into my choice but I knew that for the author every download would count as a “sale” in the eyes of Amazon and would help to push the book up the sales chart and generate more awareness and sales.  So while it was free to me it was still doing a job for the author.

This morning I wrote this email to the author;

Dear Writer,

I’m cross with you.

I loved the story and premise of Your Book, but was pulled out of it by the typos, poor grammar and slack turn of phrase. You’ve done yourself, your story and your readers a disservice.

Even if you don’t use an editor for shorts, pass them through Beta readers, or if you already do pass them through Betas, find some more!

As a reader it really pisses me off that good writers don’t respect me enough to make sure they turn out a well crafted story. As much as anything else poorly crafted writing jars me out of the story and takes my focus away from your characters.

So that’s my 2p.

I am going to review the story on Amazon and Good Reads – I’ll be fair but not mean.
(by the way this is how cross I am that I’m emailing, your writing, let alone your readers, deserves to be treated better)

Kind regards,

Ruby

I read a lot of erotica, mostly as reviews for different sites or because people have linked up in a writing meme.  Some of that is well conceived and well written, some shows someone that enjoys expressing themselves but is still learning the craft of writing.  Some people don’t care about the craft they just want to get their ideas out.  Some is just plain terrible.

None of this I mind on people’s blogs, after all a blog is a personal space.  There is plenty of my writing that I shudder at now or that I see a typo in after posting it.  I’ve still work to do to improve my writing, none of us are perfect writers and we should all aspire to improve.

But what really really pisses me off are writers and by extension publishers that should know better.

Why put out a book of your own that isn’t written to your best ability?

Why put out a book that has typos and grammatical errors?

And for publishers, this is the big one, why publish books by writers that you know are rubbish?

If you do these things then it makes me think you don’t respect me unless I have a coin in my pocket that I’m going to give you.  Sorry, but no, I’ll take my coin and my recommendations and I’ll spend them on writers that deserve them.

 

12 Responses to An open letter to authors: please respect your writing and your readers

  1. Elenya Lewis April 28, 2012 at 12:10 pm #

    Hear hear! I often think exactly the same thing and I’m sad to say that I rarely buy self-published work now because of the very issues you’ve just written so eloquently about.

    • Ruby April 28, 2012 at 12:18 pm #

      But it isn’t just self-published work, I believe you’ve been reading a book that’s been published by an imprint from Random House, that as far as the reviews go show a lack of editorial input. Of course publishing is a business be it an established house or an independent self-publisher, in fact I’d almost forgive a self-published author for not putting out polished work as they are only leading the readers on. For a publishing house to push out substandard work then they are leading the writer and the readers on. For me, that’s worse.

      • Elenya Lewis April 29, 2012 at 11:04 am #

        A certain book that I’ve just finished reading raises a very bad precedent for publishing houses, I think. It’s the first book that I’ve read that I felt should have failed the editing process – and WOULD have failed the editing process, were it not already so big. I’ve always had an almost reverent opinion of publishing – that because it’s so difficult to get into traditional publishing they are somehow discerning about quality, that they can be relied upon to produce good fiction. But recent events prove not. I can see I’m going to have to start coming back down to earth or I fear I may want to give up on writing altogether.

  2. Angel April 28, 2012 at 1:19 pm #

    I will openly admit that certain punctuation in my writing is elusive to me. Mainly using a semi colon or a colon. Spelling is one of my vices in writing. Often my fingers will go faster than my brain and I will transpose letters, but as a rule that never makes it to the published page. The biggest one I often make is THE transposing the H and the T making it HTE . Even then I run a spell check to ensure that is not the case on every page I publish. Like you it is the little things that can make or break a story for me.

    • Ruby April 28, 2012 at 1:28 pm #

      I have certain words I have a complete blind spot with and yes, me too, my fingers type faster than my brain can spell. Spell check doesn’t always pick up a word that is spelt wrong for its context but right as another word (does that make sense?) which is why I think you need Beta readers, not everyone can afford an editor if they are self-publishing, but Beta readers will be able to read your piece in context and offer invaluable feedback.

  3. Aisling Weaver April 28, 2012 at 2:10 pm #

    I think you did a good thing raising this issue with the writer.

    I read, reread, spellcheck, read, and reread blog posts and emails and still miss things. But if you’re going to expect someone to hand over their hard earned funds for something then make sure its as clean as you can get it. If you’re a writer this is your JOB. Even if you’re not doing it full time it’s part of your vocation. Take it seriously.

    Yes, absolutely, develop relationships with other writers. They will act as your beta readers and you will act as theirs. Be prepared to offer crits and nits and feedback and you will get the same in return. Be prepared, also, that it will take some time to find the right person(s) to act in this capacity. You want to develop a partnership that will be fulfilling and fruitful for both writers.

    Sorry. *steps off the box*

    It really is very important that writers respect their readers.

    ~Ais

  4. Wyeth Bailey April 28, 2012 at 2:20 pm #

    Blogs have an element of the personal diary. And they live where they are hosted, not on your reader, so typos are more easily tolerated. Can we not agree to keep books sacred? Otherwise all of language will be reduced to the quality standard of a text message. Well said, Ruby.

  5. impuregenius April 28, 2012 at 9:42 pm #

    I agree wholeheartedly Ruby. If it is for publication then it needs an editorial touch, whether by the writer or an editor. I have edited stuff for a few people and it really helps – sometimes an external view can point out the underlying story dynamic – and certainly pick up infelicitous grammar etc! writers have a responsibility to get it right as far as is possible!

  6. Harper Eliot April 28, 2012 at 11:58 pm #

    Brava. This cannot be said loud or often enough.

    Writers seem to have forgotten what they owe their readers; that their readers are intelligent, discerning people; and that if you do anything you should do it to the best of your abilities.

  7. someone May 1, 2012 at 6:59 am #

    As someone who has several books out that are less than perfect (and yes I’m going to remain anonymous), there are people who will overlook these issues if they like the story/characters. I am shocked at people who say they actually like my books, because I see the flaws in them now. in the past 2 years since I hit the publish button on KDP and Smashwords, I have fretted over it. I have felt bad, I have decided not to worry about it because I have received good feedback, I have been embarrassed, I have wanted to remove them. I literally had NO money for an editor for these early books. And I was naive and unconnected enough to believe I didn’t need them. Now that money is trickling in, I can hire an editor.

    It’s funny, people will drop $5 a day on speciality coffee and they don’t blink, but ask them to pay $3 for an e-Book and they balk. What if it’s no good? What if it’s unedited? What if it’s … blah blah blah. But I also factor in that there is a TIME investment in my book and I have been disappointed in books I’ve choosen and disliked. It happens. I dunno, there seems to be a disconnect with people when it comes to books, I love books, and I choose carefully, but at the same time there is some hysterics surrounding publishing.

    I try to remain calm at most times and I try not to get embroiled in drama over my books or anyone elses. If you like it, you like it. If you don’t, you don’t, go somewhere else and ask for a refund. Taste is very subjective. And what bugs you in a book, may be skipped over by someone else, even grammer and spelling.

    Reply
    • Ruby May 1, 2012 at 9:59 pm #

      Hello,

      I’ve been thinking about this a lot since I wrote this post and I can honestly say that one of the reasons I got het up enough to send the author an email, and yes I do feel something of a bitch for sending it in the heat of the moment, was because I thought they, as a writer could do better. That may be subjective, it may be patronising but I really loved the idea of the story and to feel avoidably pulled out of it was frustrating.
      Yes its a completely personal response, but I’ve read terrible books that I’ve been sent to review so when I choose I do choose carefully.
      I am also reading a submissions for publishing at the moment, so I’ve got a particularly critical head on, perhaps any other week I would have let it wash over me.

      If we, as readers and writers don’t hold our expectations to the basics of good grammar and spelling then do we not run the risk of impoverishing our craft?

      Thanks for taking the time to read and share your thoughts, they are appreciated.

      Ruby

      Reply
  8. Ebony May 2, 2012 at 4:16 am #

    I have to agree Ruby. I have read some books over the past few years since I started writing for self-outlet that have made me wonder if there are any good editors or copywriters left in publishing houses. One book in particular made the best sellers list, it was a great story, badly written and should have been fixed by the publishing houses.

    I have mild autism and as such my writing, especially my grammar, is terrible. I’ll be the first to admit it. I can only edit so far because in my head back-to-front sentences make sense. As such I have a fellow writer who I admire beta reading the first book I’m going to ePublish and after that a friend who is a professional copywriter will look it over again before I publish it. But beta readers play a double role. Not only pointing out spelling mistakes but also letting you know when your story goes left of field, or there are holes in it that need to be filled in.

    I read a series that after ten books, the author received an email from a fan who listed every question she was ever left wondering from her books. What happened to this person? Why did she make this choice? It pointed out to the author all holes in her books that everyone was left wondering about. It actually inspired a new novel for the writer to try and fill in all those gaps.

    Beta readers to me are your books best friend.

    If you enjoy your writing you should put the effort in to make sure others can enjoy reading it even more.

    That’s my idea about it anyway.

    Reply

Leave a Reply to Ruby Click here to cancel reply.