A book so utterly shite I am not even going to tell you what it is
My policy is to review books and say what I think of them whether or not (I think) they are good. Other bloggers will review books only if they can give them three stars or more. I respect that, but my view is that it is better for readers and writers if the one and two star reviews are published as well. I can be critical, but I hope I am always respectful. I understand that the time and energy that most writers put into their work is enormous. I understand that writing and waiting for reaction to that writing can sometimes be lonely and scary and soul-destroying. I have loved books that have flaws in them; I have not liked books that are written and produced well. I recognise that often it is a matter of taste, but I think I can tell good writing even if I don’t like the book. I am not a fan of books knocked out in a couple of months so that the next one can be knocked out in the same length of time – but if they are making money for the author, what does it really matter what I think? But if I read them, then I will still say what I thought of them and I feel entitled to because the book is out there and usually I have parted with money for it.
I try not to get into dialogue with authors before I review them, as – contrary to how it seems – I am sensitive to thin skins. I don’t want to know that the author has cancer or suffered trauma, as then I will want to be nice about their book, come what may. I want to be all about the book, then I can connect with the author and have feelings about them.
What’s the point of all that preamble? Well, it’s this book, this book that could single-handedly give self-publishing the bad reputation that hundreds of others collectively have. It is so bad, so incomprehensible, that I can’t bring myself even to tell you what it is. I review for another publication – except they aren’t really reviews, they are more awareness articles of books meeting particular criteria. And this – thankfully short – book meets those criteria. I read it. I wrote about it – fairly impartially and with some restraint I thought. A while later I was emailing my editor about something else and I mentioned that this particular book “wasn’t very good”. He wrote back and said that he gathered it was “utter shite” from reading the review. That plan didn’t work, then.
But he’s right: it is utter shite, and here’s why.
1. There is no plot. Well, there might be a plot. Not a plot exactly, just an interconnectedness between chapters that are generally so nonsensical that the connection between them is gossamer thin and might have been thought about after all the words were written so that they had a reason for all being between the same covers. Or there might be a plot, but I really don’t think so.
2. The writing is pretentious. It uses big words to impress that no normal person would think of using unless they are writing a book to try to make people believe they know big words.
3. Some of the big words – even some of the little words – are the wrong words. Not merely inappropriate, but wrong.
4. The writing is self-indulgent. That’s rarely something other people will enjoy reading.
5. The spelling is bad. The punctuation is bad. What makes this such a crime against publishing (apart from the fact that they shouldn’t be published) is that the author thanks a “proof reader” for their “thorough and extremely professional job”. There are lots of things I don’t know, but I do know that this was no professional job.
6. The person thanked for the “painstaking formatting process” leaves widows and orphans and puts all page numbers on the right regardless of whether it is a left or right-hand page. The first chapter starts on a left-hand page. Painstaking it probably was; well done it wasn’t.
7. It costs nearly £10. (Ten pounds!)
8. There is no look-inside feature on Amazon so you don’t know what your £10 is going to get you.
The book had a proper launch in a proper venue. The author was on the radio talking about the book. He is proud of his achievement. And he should be proud. It is an achievement to sit down and write so many words they can fill a book. The author has suffered; he’s getting his life together; he has people supporting him to do that. But those people should not have encouraged the publication of this book. Be proud; print twenty copies to give to your family and friends; have a party. But do not make it for sale. I should not be asked to part with my money for it. I should not have to be feeling bad for it being utter shite.
I’ll eat my words if I read one genuine review saying this book is enjoyable. As yet there are no reviews on the main sites. Mine won’t be going up unless I see five-star reviews containing the words “unputdownable”, “the best I’ve ever read” – then you can be sure my quarter star will be posted pretty smartly.
I have read some wonderful independently published books – three of my favourite books last year were self-published. I can forgive minor errors, even big ones if the writing shows potential. But although I try to fight against a common perception that self-published books are generally rubbish, I have to admit that I can see why people get this impression. And yes, there are some bad traditionally published books, too, but no traditional publisher – really, not one – would take this book on.
It does have a nice cover, though.
I still believe that one and two star reviews should be made public, that once the words are published it is the book we should be concentrating on and not the author. Should I stick to my values and post a bad review to Amazon and warn potential buyers about the book (with reasons, of course, so people can make up their own minds whether or not to listen to me)?
You are never going to please everyone with the content, but standards, people, standards! You have to at least try, don’t you?
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