On reading self-published authors

DSC00316 (350x263) - CopyI just finished reading Hugh Howey’s WOOL and thoroughly enjoyed it.  I picked it up on Sunday when I was waiting for my flight and had finished all 500 pages plus by Tuesday.

For those of you who don’t know – Howey started off self-published and then transitioned that to a book deal where he retains the e-rights, but sold the paper publication rights in the UK and US.

(I hope that’s an accurate summary of what he did…someone correct me if I’m wrong.)

Now, as much as I enjoyed reading WOOL, I still refuse to read self-published authors.  I know there’s a lot of good material out there.  I’m sure of it.


I am still one of those people who has to finish a book once I start reading it.  And the thought of picking up a book and reading it through to the end when it has glaring typos and grammatical errors or some awful plot developments, is something I just can’t expose myself to.

I have a friend who has been recommending their cousin’s self-pubbed book to me for over a year now.  (Pretty much since I told them I was working on a novel.)  I finally went and downloaded it the other day because it was free and my friend seems to have reasonably good taste.

I may never read it, though.  That’s because I then went to this author’s page and saw them bragging about how they didn’t care about spelling or grammar and admitting that they knew full well that they made spelling and grammar mistakes in their writing.  Couple this with the fact that they misspelled cite (as site) in the post I was reading and I started to worry.

I’ve perused the web pages or blogs of some of the highly successful self-published authors or read their postings on writers’ forums and each time I see spelling or grammar errors on those pages or in those posts, I cringe.  Because it makes me wonder how much of that carries through to their books.

(I happen to have read some of Howey’s posts on a writers’ forum, so was reasonably comfortable that he wasn’t going to be making those glaring errors.  Also, someone else on there whose opinion I respect had also read his books and given them the thumbs up.  After reading his books, the only thing that threw me out of the story was his using “for ever” when I would’ve used “forever.”  Not bad, really, because I am a judgemental you know what.)

No one’s perfect.  I’m sure I screw things up on here often.  Even things I complain about like you’re vs. your or to vs. too.  (My last short story I had read a good ten times before I sent off to betas and a misused you’re had slipped through on me.  Fortunately, those types of errors do not slip by my mother.)

But to see people who embrace their inability to spell or write well scares me off of self-published authors.  So, I’m content to sit back and wait for the ones who strike it big and get traditional publishing deals.  And then I’m still hesitant to read their books.  WOOL is the only one I’ve read that I’ve paid for.  (My mom bought 50 Shades and I borrowed it.)

And as much as I defend 50 Shades as having had something that connected to readers, I view that as an example of a book that has many of the flaws of self-published books.  There’s a reason I won’t finish that series.  (Actually, a number of them.)

So, anyway.  We each make our own personal decisions.  I know people who love to be the first to know about someone – “Oh, that band?  I’ve been listening to them for years.  I went to a concert of theirs in a back alley in NYC like a decade ago…You’re so behind the times.”

Me?  I’m content to let others be the early adopters and to then pick and choose what I want after they’ve weeded out the clear losers.

About M. H. Lee

M.H. Lee is a speculative fiction writer currently residing in Colorado whose stories are sometimes dark, sometimes funny, sometimes darkly funny, but hopefully always thought-provoking and entertaining.
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11 Responses to On reading self-published authors

  1. Dave Higgins says:

    If the choice of one valid construction rather than another bothers you, or if you just wish to see if a writer lets actual errors slip through, then I suggest skimming their blog (assuming they have one). A writer whose quickly created work is not riddled with irritants is likely to produce a still less irritating book.

    • mhleewriter says:

      I’m not trying to knock anyone’s choice to self-publish. I think it’s a perfectly legitimate path to take and know that many good authors take it. I’m just trying to explain why I, personally, don’t read self-published authors. Just one more point of data for those who go that route.

      • Dave Higgins says:

        I did not think you were: I was suggesting a way to open up the possibility of reading self-published authors if you so wished.

      • mhleewriter says:

        Ah, gotcha. Such a sensitive topic, I didn’t want to have stepped on anyone’s toes who has chosen that path or thought I was insulting people who have.

  2. Keri Peardon says:

    Just because one person says they don’t care about doing a good job doesn’t mean that all self-published authors are that way. I worked very, very hard to make my first novel clean, and I will be releasing a new edition (hopefully) this year with additional corrections. Even novels by publishing houses have typos (I love playing that game: spot the editing mistakes made by professionals!).

    Besides, some self-published stuff is so horrible, it’s hilarious. For that matter, some Nora Roberts’ bestsellers are so horrible, they’re hilarious. In fact, if you want to see traditional publishing done badly, read that Nora Roberts book I was reading a few months ago: “Morrigan’s Cross.” It’s full of incomplete sentences, comma abuse, glaring historical inaccuracies, and a horrible storyline. I only finished reading it because I became curious as to how bad it could get. (Although I will not be reading the sequels.)

    And, as traditional publishing faces more pressure and competition from ebooks and self-publishing, their quality is beginning to decline (just as self-publishing quality is starting to pick up; many self-pub authors use professional editors). Some authors and readers are already complaining that increasingly short deadlines for sequels and a lack of proper editing is turning writers into cheap factory labor with the equivalent drop in quality. (The final “Hunger Games” book is evidence of that; it definitely needed to spend some time stewing before being heavily edited.)

    • mhleewriter says:

      And I’d say it’s clear even from your comments here that you work hard at what you do and that anything you write would be very clean.

      And agreed that some traditionally published books have either spelling and grammar issues or continuity/story issues.

      But when I have a stack of thirty traditionally published books I don’t have the time to get through, I just don’t see the need to take the risk on self pubbed books.

      Horrible, I know.

  3. lynxchild says:

    I know how you feel. I’ve bought a number of self-published books, because I like to try to support the authors, but it seems like it’s way more of a gamble as far as quality goes. There’s nothing to stop people from self-publishing. For every really good one, there are fifty awful ones. And I think that’s exactly the problem with self-publishing—readers don’t know whether or not you actually put effort into your published piece.
    There’s a difference between having a couple of typos and simply not being edited, and you’re more likely to see the latter with self-publishing. The result is that people who self-publish are just going to have to accept the fact that there will be people unwilling to gamble on their work.

    • lynxchild says:

      Not that self-publishing is always a bad idea! I just realized I sort of gave the impression that I thought that. Just that this is a common problem.

      • mhleewriter says:

        Exactly! I’m not against it either. I may very well use it for some of my short stories that are a little too odd for the pro magazines. I just wanted to highlight one of the reasons I personally avoid reading self-pubbed books.

  4. I can probably list 5 books that were self published but, in my mind, cream of the crop. There are quite a few self-published works that I feel suffered because of a lack of proper editing. J R Bryant is one self published writer that has the potential to write bestselling fiction, but I think needs the careful eye of a paid editor for his books. The grammar and spelling is sound, but there are minor inconsistencies and common write mistakes that keep his books from hitting that next level.

    But one thing that self published books have as an advantage is that no one will tell them not to write something because there isn’t a market. You get more honest and unpredictable stories from them overall.

    • mhleewriter says:

      Good point about the more honest and unpredictable stories. Self-published novels probably are more true to one person’s voice or vision than traditionally published.

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