One thing I seem to read a lot, in the context of self-published books, is that they suffer from poor editing. It seems to be generally assumed that indie writers are not capable of writing well and paying attention to their grammar and spelling. Rich Adin’s An American Editor post from a couple of months ago is a prime example. He doesn’t say that all self-published ebooks suffer in this area, only that they are likely to.
It’s not always the case: in a later post, Rich recommends the ‘Promises to Keep’ quartet by Shayne Parkinson as a well-written self-published series of books. On his recommendation, I’ve read Sentence of Marriage, the first, and would agree, it’s a great story, well-written, and I didn’t notice any spelling or grammatical errors. There are clearly exceptions to the generalisation that self-published=poorly-edited.
If you look at the top ten Smashwords (non-adult) titles (in terms of downloads), you’ll notice that Sentence of Marriage is in the top five. In the top two if you discount the Smashwords-specific books. It is highly-rated there, too, with ten reviews, each giving it maximum marks.
Perhaps we’re going to find a future where the best of self-published books will end up at the top of charts like Smashwords’, as people recommend them in the way that An American Editor has done for Shayne’s work. Then we will be able to start using sites like that more confidently, as a way of filtering out the dreadful.
Or is this wishful thinking?
Shayne Parkinson said:
AJ, thanks so much for your kind comments on “Sentence of Marriage”. I’m delighted (and somewhat stunned!) at its progress up the charts.
A. J. Braithwaite said:
You’re welcome, Shayne – I was deeply impressed with the amount of historical research you must have done to get such an authentic sense of time and place!
Thanks for citing my blog, An American Editor. I’d like to clarify a couple of points, if I may. First, I have never believed that 100% of authors cannot successfully self-edit and produce a book of high quality. I do believe, however, that only a small percentage — perhaps 1% to 3% — can do so. The reason is largely what I call the WYSIWYG conundrum, that is, if you expect to see “their”, you will see “their” even if it is really “there”. This phenomenon is not unique to writers and readers, it also underlies, for example, the problems with eyewitness identification.
Second, I think the problem will get progressively worse, not better, as increasing numbers of people discover the computer-direct-toInternet model of publishing and rapidly learn that to hire professional help is expensive. Compounding this will be the Twitter effect where people become accustomed to shortcuts in grammar and spelling to the point where they no longer recognize they are shortcuts.
I hope authors that demonstrate the skill level of Parkinson do rise to the top but I do not think that will be the case. More importantly, on a somewhat twisted way, what exactly is the top? In Parkinson’s case, we are talking about downloads but that is a poor measure of being at the top. All it means is that people saw something for free and grabbed it. Isn’t it more important to know how many actually read it? In Parkinson’s case, the real answer lies in the number of sales of the subsequent books, not the free first volume.
Number crunchers who look at “downloads” as the telling number wrongly equate that with success. In the case of a pbook, it is more likely that having paid for a book it will be read; in the case of a free ebook, there is no such correlation and it is wrong to make one — the correlation only exists with paid-for ebooks.
A. J. Braithwaite said:
Thanks for taking the time to comment. One thing that intrigued me on reading your recommendation of ‘Sentence of Marriage’ was how you came across it in the first place. You say you ‘stumbled on’ it as it was a free ebook. Was that because it was at the top of a chart somewhere? 😉
Releasing a first book for free seems an increasingly sensible idea for a new author in an overcrowded marketplace. It certainly garners attention (as we seem to be proving in this discussion), which then generates more downloads and, potentially, sales of the paid-for books that might follow that first free one.
I don’t think we can completely disregard downloads of free ebooks. Yes, there will be more downloads because they are free but the better the book, the more people will recommend and talk about them and this will be reflected in increasing numbers of downloads for the better books, I would think.
One thing that interests me is the number of books that are started but not finished (whether paid for or not). With printed books, there is no way of knowing, but with ereading devices that information is recorded. I look forward to seeing the top ten lists of books that were paid for but were never read to the end…
A quick answer to your question. I never look at, for example, Smashwords to see what are the most popular books. I have learned that my tastes rarely coincide with “popular” :).
I came across “Sentence of Marriage” on Mobile Read (www.mobileread.com). Parkinson posted that she was offering the book for free at Smashwords. The title intrigued me and so I downloaded it.
The book sat on my Sony 505 for quite sometime. I had forgotten about it. I had finished another book I was reading and began to scroll through the books on my 505 looking for the next one. I saw the title, which again intrigued me, and so I made that my next read — a choice I obviously didn’t regret.
A. J. Braithwaite said:
Mobile Read looks like a wonderful forum for this area – thanks for the tip!