Wow. I hated this book. I mean, I REALLY hated it.

My son (the MMGR) asked me what I was reading yesterday.  I gave him the title.  He asked if it was good.  I laughed and said, “No, actually it is really bad.”


“So why are you still reading it?” he asked.

I smiled and said:  “I am taking notes to make sure I never write like this.”

I am going to save the writer the pain of giving you the title of the novel or the author’s name, but I thought this experience was worth mentioning.

I picked up this novel for free from the author.  It was one of those things where the author gives away book one, with a teaser of another book at the end, and links (in Kindle) to where you can buy the next four books in the series if you liked this one.

Did I buy the rest of the books?  Ahhhhhh…. No.

Giving away Book One is a perfectly sound practice to drum up an audience to buy more of your work and get your name out there… IF YOUR WORK IS GOOD.

This was so sad.  Really, it was.

This was a self-published novel.  Now, self-publishing is fine… IF YOU ARE READY.  This novel read like a third or fourth draft that had never had a beta read.  There were a few typos, missing dialog tags, etc.

I can forgive that.  The big problem here was the Show versus Tell issues.  I never really became immersed into the story.  I always felt like I was reading a book.  I never had a problem putting it down, because each page was kind of dull.

The story revolved around an orphan girl, who finds out on her eighteenth birthday that she is a witch.  A male witch takes her from her “normal” life to train her and teach her the ropes.  He is handsome.  You know what?  He is handsome.  Oh, yeah, did I mention… he is handsome.  That’s all I know because she never said anything else about what he looked like.

These two characters don’t like each other to begin with.  Then suddenly, out of the blue, he mentions that he’s engaged, and he doesn’t want to get married.  They decide (in one page) to pretend they’ve fallen in love so he can get out of it. The next page, in a big tell section, she falls for him, and then BOOM he says he’s fallen for her and they end up in bed together.  From dislike to bed in two pages.

Then in the last few pages the fiancée (I guess the bad guy girl) materializes and is ticked about the relationship.  Where’d she come from? I’d never even heard of her until about six pages ago.

This was a short story/novella.  If it was written properly, it could have been a solid novel, and very exciting.  I felt like I was reading an elongated synopsis.

Was the story good?  Well, yes, it could have been great.  It just was not ready for publication.

This is what scares me about self-published novels.  So many are just not ready.  If you want to self-publish, go ahead.  Good luck to you… just PLEASE pay your dues.  Get at least five hyper-critical betas and LISTEN TO THEM.  You don’t need to change everything, but get lots of opinions.

NOTE:  The betas CANNOT be your Mom or Dad.  Let’s be real, here. Get yourself an editor, too.  Get opinions on your story arc.  Develop you characters and your story.  Don’t rush things just to get something “out there.”

I feel bad, because this story had a lot of potential, and could have been great if it was actually finished before it was published.

If you are going for traditional publishing, the publisher will tell you if it is ready or not by giving you a contract.  For me, that nod is priceless, because I know then that my story is ready, and I won’t have someone blogging about me (and maybe not being as nice as me, and using my name **GACK**)

Please don’t get caught in this trap.  Give your story the attention and work that it deserves.  Pay your dues, and make sure you are ready.

And by pay your dues – I don’t mean that traditional is the “only way”.  I mean don’t skip the steps that will make the difference between a really bad review… and a slew of awesome reviews.  Give your novel the time and attention it needs in the editing phase before you publish.

Enough said.


37 responses to “Wow. I hated this book. I mean, I REALLY hated it.

  1. I worry about this all the time when I am writing. Though perhaps my biggest fear is unwittingly plagiarizing from an author I love (I am sure this will happen and I am also sure it will be Neil Gaiman; I have had a story in my head that I’ve wanted to tell since I was a kid and then I read American Gods and realized Gaiman had done it better than I ever could). Just hoping my editor catches me!

  2. Oh, the echos….

    Thank you for the encouragement to all writers – and editors – to push on, even on the little things. Temper the excitement; there is no punctuation or split infinitive fairy to save you from yourself.

  3. If I had self-published my first-ever novel before getting critiqued by my writers group, I would have crashed and burned. Despite how wonderful I thought it was, there were obvious issues that needed to be addressed. I am still wondering if it is salvageable but, because of their input, I have improved my writing considerably since that awful first attempt. It was enough to earn me a publishing contract for two books, so It is so important to get that input before putting it out there and bombing! Thanks for sharing your thoughts about that poorly written novel. Maybe it will help to make other newbie writers take the time necessary to become great writers. 🙂

  4. You are so right. Even when I believe a piece is perfect, my writers’ group manages to find something I missed. Ugh. I wouldn’t ever want to work alone, without extra eyes, experienced eyes.

  5. When I first decided to write for children, my plan was to either get a book contract or remain unpublished. The self-publish route was just not an option for me.

    It was really difficult to get that contract (114 rejections!) but the extra effort was well worth it. Being attached to a real publisher affords you a level of respect from booksellers and librarians that you just don’t see when you self-publish.

    • That’s true to but it’s a shame
      Good self published books will get lumped in and not respected just because of the carelessness of the majority. Good for you for sticking with it!

  6. Can’t believe anything could have been worse than Fifty & Grey, but will take your word. 😉

  7. We’re in a new world with the ease of self-publishing. And I think writers who “publish prematurely” because they can are part of the growing pains of a new paradigm. I think some form of “gatekeeping/quality seal of approval” will arise in the e-world, but, unfortunately, not soon enough for writers like this.

  8. I completely agree. Some authors really give self-pubbing a bad name. That’s why I’m already saving money for an editor and I haven’t finished my first draft yet. Lol. And I have some open beta spots open too, hint, hint…

  9. Don’t just “. . . LISTEN TO THEM.” act on their information. Especially if the information is repeated.

    Thanks for the post. Very good information to us aspiring writers.

  10. I haven’t read many self published books. I think one of the reasons is because I’ve heard that this frequently happens. People publish before they are really ready. With a big house publisher, I know it’s been through several million rounds of edits and it’s usually safe. But even then, I’ve stumbled on some traditionally published poo. I don’t know. I think self publishing right now is harder because of people like this. It’s too bad.

  11. Thank you for this post. I have completed my novel–several times over–and each time I could have gone to self-publish and not worry about the rejections anymore. But a little voice in my head kept telling me that self-publishing just isn’t good enough right now. Go back and rework that novel. It’s been a very, very, very long road. But I want to be proud of my work, I want to be able to stand behind it.

    I agree that traditional publishing isn’t a total guarantee of a “great” book or even, a book that is ready–because there are some traditionally published books out there that could have used a better editor, cough..Twilight..cough.

    You are nicer than I am. I can’t stand typos and grammatical errors in a finished product, and I don’t forgive such laziness and indifference and carelessness. I don’t need to be mentally correcting text while I’m trying to enjoy a story.

    I love your friendly but firm warning. Pay your dues. Absolutely.

    Great post!

  12. I’m a perfectionist, too. It’s in my nature to not let anything out until it’s “perfect”. This is why my early blogging days were very sparse of posts because I imply wasn’t happy with any of them. Still aren’t in most cases when I look back. But they are just posts, not a novel. Speaking of which, I started my novel 8 years ago. It isn’t ready yet. I hope it will be ready before I die of old age. 🙂

  13. wise words – I have been exposed to this too many times to count and it breaks my heart — because with some work and editing, the books could have been good — and now they are lost forever

  14. Aww, that’s too bad that you didn’t like it… But I laughed when you talked about your issues with “show v tell.” 🙂 All will be revealed veeeery soon… (Mysteriousness over.) I have yet to read a self published book, because I don’t have an e-reader yet, but it’s a shame if that book had potential.

  15. Julie Catherine

    Oh dear, what a shame; especially when the concept and the storyline has such promise. I’ve run across this as well, and have done exactly the same as you and the others commenting have – taken notes on what not to do with my own WIP. Unfortunately, this is becoming far too common in many self-published work I’ve read lately. New authors especially seem to be in such a rush to get published – and yet, they are cheating their readers and themselves by not paying attention to the details that make good writing and quality books.

    And I’m not against self-publishing, either. My debut poetry book will be released in just a couple of weeks – but, it was over a year in the making, and I’m a perfectionist. My work is triple-checked, and I had someone I trust proof my bio and synopsis as well – just in case. I haven’t decided whether to self-publish or look for a traditional publisher for my novel (which is still a year or two away from that stage); but whichever I decide, there is no way it will be submitted anywhere until it’s perfect technically, and is the best quality writing possible. Presentation is as important to me as writing and technical ability; I’m proud of my work, and want my readers to have a great reading experience!

    Excellent post, Jennifer! ~ Julie 🙂

  16. I’ve learned some good lessons from books that I think are poorly constructed. Enough that I’ve gone through and made notes to remind myself not to make the same mistakes. I find good writing flows so easily that I forget to think about what’s good about it. I’m so caught up in the story I turn the pages.

    You’re right. Getting a MS ready for publication is a long haul and not to be forgone with the excitement of finishing a draft.

  17. Yeah, there’s a reason I’m taking my sweet time with getting my first book (and subsequent ones) out there. I want to be sure they’re ready. I totally agree that too many self-pub people are rushing things. I think it comes down to the attitude that any attention is good attention. I don’t understand the attitude, but I’ve seen too much of it to ignore it. Me, I’m planning to self-pub too, but only when I’m sure it’s ready for the public, because I want to be known as a professional.