Hell No, Dear Abby!

Dear Abby recently advised someone to provide a review of a self-published book that would get around the fact that the book was not worth reading. She said to use the words “a real page turner,” although the book was very poorly edited. “Reader in The Southwest” said the book was filled with misused and misspelled words, and punctuation problems. The writer had even switched the names of two characters. “Reader” couldn’t even force herself to finish reading the book, but her friend’s husband had written it and her friend had edited it. She felt it was too late to say anything negative about the book because it was already printed.

Photo by Lori Ericson

Photo by Lori Ericson

Dear Abby was being asked what to do in response to pressure to write a great review on Amazon. Abby advised her to find something she liked about the book and mention that it was a “page turner” because the reader did have to turn the pages.
I often take note of these Amazon reviews in determining whether or not to read a book. Giving a false review and misleading those who may purchase the book is wrong. If you’re not impressed with a book, don’t write a review.
I also think this issue speaks to the facts of self-publishing. If you can do it and do it well, make money from your writing, all power to you. But if you don’t get your work properly edited and just put it out there, it’s doing an injustice to all the self-published writers trying to do it right.
As a newspaper reporter for nearly twenty years, I’ll be the first to admit I need an editor and so does everyone. By the time I’m done even writing this blog, I’ll read back through it and find things that need changing. Sometimes I’ll make those changes and add in new errors. It happens, and it happens to the best of writers.
Mary Farmer at http://merryfarmer.net blogged recently about self-publishing being a business and the steps she takes to get a book out. She’s doing it right, not relying on just herself. She has beta-readers, editors and a publicist.
For all those self-published writers who are simply having a spouse or friend read through their masterpiece and then putting their work out there for the world to try to waddle through, I say keep it to yourself. I also say you deserve any bad review you get! I’ve become angry at being ripped off every time I’ve tried to read a book that I came to realize was not properly edited and not vetted by anyone with a good eye for detail. So far, I’ve simply not provided a review. With this kind of advice from Dear Abby, I feel that maybe it’s time to say what I feel as nicely as possible but honestly.
My first novel is my baby. It’s being read now by a series of editors with a publishing company. I hope every single wrong detail, misspelling and incorrect punctuation mark is discovered. I’ve spent more hours than I care to admit on this first book. I’ve rewritten, edited and ran much of the book through my writing group, but I know there are still things to find, fix and improve.
How do you handle writing a review for a book you found lacking?

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12 thoughts on “Hell No, Dear Abby!

  1. I agree that this is the worst possible route to take. While I didn’t take the most thorough route with my first few novels, I would never expect anyone to hold back from being honest just because I was a friend or family member. If I read a book, I expect a certain level of quality. Self-pubbed books should be the same as something I’d buy off the shelf. My latest novel has had the royal treatment because I think it’s one of my best ideas… and I finally had the guts to put the kind of money out needed for editing. Anyway, hiding errors from someone is counter-intuitive to the whole idea self-publishing. We can go back and fix the problems! Tell us! 🙂

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  2. If a book is truly atrocious, I will leave a 2 star review. I get suspicious of book with all 4 and 5 star reviews. I don’t trash a book or author though. There is nothing professional about that. If it someone I know, I simply won’t leave a review….or say “great cover!” LOL.

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  3. Grammatical errors are not good, and readers do not like to find them, but I would never leave a bad review of a novel. I would just not review it.

    I’ve seen typos in John Grisham books and other best selling books. Even the best editors miss a few things. Some people can not afford professional editors. We should all strive for a well written story with absolutely no grammatical errors, but I am forgiving of a self-published author with limited resources who is getting their story out the only way they can.

    Readers will decide if they like a story or not. A compelling story with typos or a few grammatical errors is still going to be a more enjoyable read than a dull story with no grammatical errors.

    In reality, reviews are probably of little help to potential buyers, unless the reviews are written by strangers the author has never met. I recently read an article where some of the best-selling self-published authors have purchased hundreds of reviews. So much for all authors and reviewers being honest.

    Most self-published authors allow a 10 to 20 percent sample download of their eBooks. Within that sample, I can usually tell whether or not I will enjoy reading the story. The vast majority of the time I pass. The problem I find that hurts many self-published books is not typos or grammatical errors, but the slow pace in which they begin. If the story doesn’t really get going until page 38, most likely, I’m never going to get to page 38. I once heard an author tell the group in the room I was in that if we could just wade through the first one hundred and sixty pages of his novel, it really got going after that. I kept the copy of the book, he gave each if us, in my library for years, until I donated it to the used book store in Rogers last year. I am sure it is still there. I never read it. The author did point out there was a typo on the first page.

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    • You are so right, Jim. I find errors in every book I read, usually a few. In this particular case, there was little editing at all. Even if you can’t afford a professional editor, you can have it read by more than just a spouse. Asking for glowing reviews and expecting them when you’ve put out an inferior product is ridiculous. I read samples myself and find that helpful. Thank you for your thought-provoking response.

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  4. I agree wholly with Jim’s take on this. It’s slow sluggish reads and bad writing that turn me off. I’ll overlook some typos and misspelled words of otherwise well written books. I have a friend who will tell me if she finds typos or the like in my books and where they were so they can be fixed if at all possible. Kindle books can be taken down and fixed if the author uploaded them, so don’t hesitate to point those out. It might help the author see what he/she needs to do in the future. I shared this blog on my FB page because I think it’s so important.

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    • Thanks, Velda. I, too, can overlook a few typos but can’t force myself to write a false review. Best to keep my opinions to myself in that regard. I didn’t know that about Kindle books. Thanks for the wisdom and the share!

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  5. I read the same Dear Abby letter and agree with your take. Nobody can edit their own work and when it comes to something as large as a novel, you’d better had a professional doing it. Jim and Velda are right about the story. If it isn’t compelling, great grammar isn’t going to help.

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