Dilemma

Dilemma

Have you ever come across a book that’s so badly written you would rather cut your arm off than turn another page? That’s how I felt last night! Let me explain . . .

I was contacted by an American author who asked me to review her book for Amazon UK. She hadn’t received any reviews on my side of the pond and was keen to change this situation. I agreed and she sent me a free copy in return for a review. I added it to my list and began reading it Thursday night in bed.

Astounded by how immature the writing was (and bearing in mind I was really tired), I put it down telling myself it had to get better. WRONG!  I picked it up again last night and after half an hour I couldn’t stand to turn another page. This is what I found:

>          The book had either been self-edited or edited by someone who wasn’t professional and didn’t really know what they were doing. Whoever did edit it should be pinned against a wall and shot!

>          The characters were like cardboard cut-outs and one dimensional. There was no emotion SHOWN whatsoever. The reader is TOLD someone is happy/sad/hurting/angry, but there’s no emotional connection so you can’t empathise with the character. You can’t imagine what they’re feeling because there’s nothing to hook into.

>          There was no description used anywhere. When the characters were in a tropical location I wanted to SEE the golden sand, HEAR the waves lap gently on the shore, SMELL the salty air, ADMIRE the lush scenery with its colourful blooms, WONDER at the indigenous people’s customs. I didn’t want to be TOLD the place was ‘beautiful and peaceful’ I wanted to SEE and IMAGINE it for myself through good use of description.

>          The dialogue was stilted and unrealistic, even robotic in places.

>          The plot moved on, but because the writing was so bad, you couldn’t get a sense of where it was heading.

>          Part of the book is set in Eastern Europe yet the characters don’t have names typical of their Iron Curtain home, they have English/American names. The author obviously hasn’t done any research on the country and very little on their customs.

>          If I didn’t know better, I would say the book had been written by a six or seven-year-old as the style is like, “The cat sat on the mat”, and “He was a coward and his name was Fred”. I think you get the gist!

In the right editor’s hands, this book could possibly have been made into something half decent, but it would have meant scrapping it and starting again.

Anyway, here’s where my dilemma comes in. I’m not one to publicly trash another author’s work – I would hate to have it done to me – yet she’s asked me for a review. I won’t normally review a book unless I like it and am therefore reluctant to post a one-star review with nothing positive to say about it. I could email the author and give her a private critique, explaining why I don’t want to publish a review, but my instincts tells me she won’t take it in the right spirit. I think she’ll (A) blow off my critique because she thinks she’s such a good writer and her crap doesn’t smell (I’m sure you know the sort I mean), or (B) bad-mouth me for daring to criticise her work, or (C) run a hate campaign against me and try to smear my good name, or all of the above.

I’ve worked hard to build my reputation, both as a writer and an editor, and the last thing I want is to have my name tarnished.

So what would you do? All opinions very gratefully received coz I’m really stumped!!

 

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My 5 Top Tips for New Authors

Getting back to the posts from the Heart Search Blog Tour, Elaine Hillson was my next fabulous host. She asked me for my 5 top tips for new authors. I could have written more than five to be honest, but I think these are the most pertinent and important.

Writing, like any skill, needs to be honed. You need to study the craft and never stop learning. I could spend ages giving you the benefit of my experiences, and it’s all useful stuff, but I’m going to pass that by and talk about things you need to ponder once you’ve finished your manuscript.

Editing and Beta Reading:

It’s incredibly difficult to see our own mistakes in our manuscripts. We see how we want it to read and not how it actually does. It takes a fresh pair of eyes to take our work and turn it into a polished gem. Editors don’t come cheap yet good ones are worth their weight in gold. There are two levels of editing; copy/line editing and full editing.

A copy/line editor will look at grammar, punctuation and sentence structure. They will also look at overused words and repeated sentences beginning with the same word which are too close together. In addition, they check for inconsistencies within your manuscript. They won’t make the changes for you, but will point out where the problems exist and leave you to correct the mistakes.

A full edit will encompass all the above plus a developmental and structural edit. This is where the editor will look at redundant phrases and paragraphs, timelines and the story as a whole. They will suggest changes based on experience and the way the story reads. Ultimately they want to make your manuscript the best it can be for you.

A good editor will gently guide you in bringing your work to ‘submission ready’ status. You may not agree with all the changes an editor suggests, and that’s okay because it’s your right as the author to take or discard their recommendations. But don’t dismiss them out of hand – never forget the editor has the experience you lack, so consider each comment carefully and be prepared to compromise on occasions.

After all the editing, I would always recommend getting a Beta Reader to go through the novel. Pick wisely. This should be someone you trust to give you good honest feedback and criticism, preferably not a family member as they will feel obliged to tell you how wonderful it is because of your relationship with them. It needs to be someone impartial. Take their critique on board. They are, in a way, representative of all the readers who could potentially buy your book. If they find something confusing, lacking in substance or explanation, you can bet other readers will too, so be prepared to rewrite in places and once again, get your editor to check the changes.

The important thing to remember here is by self-publishing a book (if you decide to take that route) which is full of typos, mistakes and bad grammar, you are setting yourself up for bad reviews and a tarnished reputation. Mud sticks!

ISBN’s:

If you plan to publish your novel as an e-book through Kindle only, you don’t need an ISBN. If you decide to go through one of the ‘print on demand’ companies like CreateSpace or Lulu you can get a cheap or free ISBN. However, you are quite limited by where you can make your book available for sale.

Let’s take CreateSpace as an example. You can obtain a free ISBN when you upload your book, but you are limited to their sales channels. Sure you can pay for ‘Extended Distribution’ which would open up further outlets in which your book can be bought, but you cannot go outside of their network and sell your book wherever you want.

By purchasing your own ISBN (please note: you need one for each medium your book is published so if you decide on e-book and paperback, you will need separate ISBN’s for each), you are in control. You own the legal rights to your book which gives you the freedom to select your own sales channels anywhere.

ISBN’s aren’t cheap, but well worth the investment in my humble opinion. I have bought a block of ten through my publishing group, which has worked out very cost effective.

If you are one of the lucky ones who get picked up by a traditional publisher, this is all done for you, but the publisher owns the ISBN not you!

Social Media Platforms:

If you’re not very social media savvy, you better start practicing before your book comes out. Don’t try and spread yourself too thin – just pick a couple which are manageable and start building a following/friends list. These people are the first ones who will be exposed to news of your book and if they like the sound of it, they’ll keep watching you closely. Feed snippets of news of your progress to keep them interested, make and cultivate new online friendships as you never know where it might lead. You can also pick up useful information from other authors recommending editors or beta readers, plus hints, tricks and tips which you can utilise to your advantage.

Blog:

Start your own blog. This is, by far, your most useful platform and what’s more, the vast majority are free! You can utilise this space to allow your potential readers to get to know you and your writing. The more you engage them, the more they will talk about it to their friends and the wider your reach and potential readership becomes.

You don’t have to blog every single day – I don’t. Some authors do, but that is their choice. Set yourself a goal of blogging, say once a fortnight, to begin with (and don’t forget to publicise each post on your social media platforms). If you begin to feel you can increase it to once a week, then do so. You’re the one in control – just make sure you leave enough time for writing outside of this and the previous activities mentioned for Social Media.

And finally . . .

Marketing:

Whichever route you take to publishing, you are still going to have to market yourself. And if you haven’t done it before, it’s quite a daunting task. Look on social media to see what other authors are doing, read blog posts devoted to the subject, research what is available, what is free and what you can afford.

I have an advantage. I’ve had quite a bit of experience in marketing in my ‘day jobs’, so already have the ethos entrenched in the old grey matter. I’ve followed the advice and tips given to you above and orchestrated a marketing plan leading up to and following on from the launch of my novel. I’m told I’ve created a bit of a ‘buzz’ about it on the internet/social media platforms which is what I set out to do. I know my plans aren’t going to generate humungous sales overnight (although it would be nice), but each person who buys my book and enjoys it is likely to recommend it to their friends. Each reader who posts a good review on Amazon or Goodreads is showing the world that they think my novel is a worthwhile buy. All this adds to my credibility as an author and little by little the network expands.

I hope you find these tips useful and I wish you all the very best of luck in your published career!