Sunday, 22 February 2015

The Last 6 Self-Published Novels I've Rejected

I won’t name names. I’m posting this article as part of my mini campaign to improve the quality of self-published novels.

The reason why I turned the authors away is because I couldn’t finish their novel or I knew it would be a one star review if I had. In my opinion, they’re not ready for publishing. Yet. Some of them even had a special something, but the book was too flawed or crippled by undeveloped writing that I just couldn’t recommend it.

I don’t mean this in a subjective way either (well, to a certain degree). It’s very easy to blame preference, but good grammar shouldn’t be preference. Sometimes I’ve felt so baffled that I’ve asked the nearest person to read a paragraph or so just to check it's not just me.

There are some fantastic self-published novels out there too, like Apple by R.A. Black and The Prince of Prophecy by N.M. Mac Arthur, both of which I enjoy recommending whenever I get the chance. Both novels took hard work, beta-readers, and a hell of a lot of redrafts, which is why both authors have my full support.

So here is the last six self-publishing novels I had to decline and the reason why:

1) The one that was just too Irish

The author advised me to refer to the glossary. That isn’t how I read. I googled several phrases and did some research into Irish lore to help, but it wasn't enough. Also, there were around 6 characters with names beginning with C, none of which were English and most of which had accents in them. The page looked messy.

Call me crazy, but the sentence ‘News of it came to Bodb Dearg, king elect of the Tuatha Dé Danann, and he gave Lir to wife Aoife, sister of Aobh’ should never appear in a book.

2) The one where nothing happened

I read 70% of this book and stopped. It was well written despite the high number of typos, and I quite liked the characters... but nothing happened. No conflict, no stakes, no twists. Things were starting to pick up, but I’d already made up my mind. A book needs to have a story from start to finish. It can’t all be preparation for something big to come.

3) The shockingly bad cover, terrible prose, and infinite typos

I know you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but the cover sorta summed up the book in this case. It was just really bad. Someone else had already written a 1 star review so there was no need for me to pile on the criticism.

4) The undeveloped writer

This is actually two books, although number 6 accounts for one of them. Both were lovely authors which made it so much more difficult to turn them down. Both had written supernatural romances... both lacked characterisation, pace, and voice in their prose. Both had typos, bad grammar, and ill use of taglines. Yet both had a special something in their novels too. Maybe one day they’ll write a best seller.

5) The one written almost fully in simple sentences.

Variation is important. This includes sentence structure. Short sentences are repetitive. It’s hard to read a book like this. It’s so choppy.

6) The fantastically heavy info dump

The book was actually kinda alright. I was thinking three stars unless something amazing happened. And then bam! An unprovoked Q&A scene that seemed to last forever and dumped so much information on I could barely remember half of it. If I was the girl, I would have run or at least left earlier to digest the moment. Instead, the main girl asks question after question like a robot – sometimes of things she couldn’t possibly know to ask but the author needed to share.

When I turn authors away, I also tell them the problems I had because they've kindly offered me a review copy and so I feel like I shouldn't just leave them in the dark.  Most were very polite although I get the sense that few will really take what I had to say on board. At least not right away.

Half of these novels just needed a good edit. They needed to find 20 beta-readers and/or hire an editor to help them work out how to reach publishing standards.

The fact is, everyone thinks they can write a book. But just because you’ve actually managed to get the whole thing down on paper (and that’s a challenge in itself) doesn’t mean people will want to pay money to read it. Friends and family also make terrible beta-readers.

To all self-published people out there, give me a book that can rival the traditionally published alternatives. After all, that’s the whole point.

Soon I'll either be posting up a mini contest for the best opening to a self-published novel or a 'Would I read on' challenge. If anyone has any ideas then feel free to post below.

I am as honest as it gets when it comes to review - you have been warned!