The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Blogs from the Self-Publishing Book Expo

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Our trip to the Self-Publishing Book Expo, held in New York City on November 9th, was a huge success! Our presentation, titled “THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY” of self-published books was well attended and well received. We were the only panel (out of seventeen) that was filmed by C-SPAN’s Book TV and we will let you know when the segment will be aired, likely later this month.

indieBRAG team members Robert Clouston and Stephanie Hopkins joined me in the presentation and over the coming days we will blog about what we covered. This will include the results from the surveys we conducted among our readers and B.R.A.G. Medallion authors, the findings of which formed the basis of our presentation. We think you will find it all very interesting. We will also discuss some of the things we learned from other presenters at the expo, which further support our survey findings. So here we go-

To begin our presentation, I shared some rather stark statistics that out of the over 1,500 books we have considered since indieBRAG began in April of last year, 50% were rejected during the initial screening process. Strictly for the purposes of the SPBE presentation we called these the UGLY. Another 40% were eliminated after being read by our readers; these we termed the BAD. And finally, we called the remaining 10%, the GOOD. These were the books our readers judged to be worthy of a B.R.A.G. Medallion.

By far the most significant failing of the books that were eliminated during the screening process was the lack of competent copy editing. We are regularly astonished at the errors indie authors make in spelling, punctuation and grammar. Like a fly in the soup these simple mistakes instantly ruin the literary feast. Beyond such easily avoidable errors, these books generally often fail in one or more other areas, such as an inept writing style, a weak opening, a boring story, unrealistic dialogue, pointless detail and an unprofessional design. We cannot emphasize enough that an author rarely gets a second chance to make a first impression.

In my next blog I will show you some facts that really bring this conclusion home.

11 responses to “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly”

  1. Florence Osmund says:

    I’m not surprised at the statistics. Most self-published authors think they can’t afford the cost of editing. But as you’ve pointed out, in most cases, they can’t afford not to have their manuscript professionally edited. I wonder if there’s a new service industry waiting to be born where an editor charges a nominal fee for a cut of the royalties…or something like that. There has to be a solution for this problem.

  2. Geri says:

    I really think there is a need for something like that. But there are ways to get the help you need if you are willing to do a lot of work- such as joining groups and be willing to edit others work, getting Beta readers, maybe even hiring students who might not charge as much. However, you do have to adhere to the old adage- You get what you pay for!

  3. Prue Batten says:

    This is fascinating. I look forward to the detail. One question: is there a difference between how BRAG sees English vs American editing? I am edited in the UK and write with UK spelling, grammar and style (longer sentences for a start). I would hate to think I am penalised for such a thing. Is that likely?

  4. David T Procter says:

    While recognising what you are saying, spare a thought for the authors. I do not condone bad grammar or spelling but many writers are simple souls whose one intention is to get their story into print. They are as you state the ugly, they have a story and they are not interested in making a career of their art, of the others, your so called bad they I fear are the lost souls who have attempted to do their best and fall short through lack of investment of choosing the wrong horse. Who many have been misguided by editors who i fear do not know their eyes from their ayes. Of the rest, the good well they have much to be proud of, they will have taken the time to edit edit and edit again, to seek advice and importantly listen. I wish some of the so called main stream publishing houses would do the same because as i keep saying many a well known author is misguided by these publishers and churn out work which may not have got through your initial shift, Now theirs an idea, take fifty main stream books, remove all identification and examine them in the same vain you have with the indie authors lets see how the professionals hold up,. More importantly how does one submit thier work to your next examination?

  5. Alison Morton says:

    Thank you for this post, Geri. Excellent points. I’m a fanatic about editing; no book, absolutely no book, should be published without being edited. It’s not so much the cost as a lack of willingness to invest in oneself.

    My feeling is that the self-publishing sector is dividing into a top, high quality ‘professional’ level, a more or less acceptable middle layer and the downright terrible heap at the bottom. The next twelve months should be interesting…

  6. Geri says:

    Not at all. Although we don’t specify one style as apposed to another, Most of our readers are experienced enough and are located in 11 countries so they recognize the appropriateness of both styles. They are put off more by bad grammar and bad spelling.

  7. Geri says:

    I have to agree that many mainstream books from publishing houses may not hold up! Since working at indieBRAG, I have become much more critical of books and find so many errors in books that have gone thru the traditional publishing route. We appreciate the work authors put into their books and know that they hope readers will enjoy their work – or why else publish at all? We hope to encourage self-published authors to put out books they feel are worthy of a reader’s time and money.
    It is easy to submit your book – first it must be all ready published and available. Then go to our homepage and under the “join” at the top, you can nominate the book.
    I hope we see you in the future-

  8. Geri says:

    I agree- our job is to help those top level books rise up out of the heap and get the attention they deserve!
    Self-publishing once was the route of last resort, now it is a choice that many traditionally published authors are turning to. because of the freedom it gives them.

  9. Alison Morton says:

    Thank you for this post, Geri. Excellent points. I’m a fanatic about editing; no book, absolutely no book, should be published without being edited. It’s not so much the cost as a lack of willingness to invest in oneself.

    My feeling is that the self-publishing sector is dividing into a top, high quality ‘professional’ level, a more or less acceptable middle layer and the downright terrible heap at the bottom. The next twelve months should be interesting…

  10. Pamela says:

    Yes, you must be willing to invest in yourself. If you wanted to be a skier, you wouldn’t try to ski on your just your shoes, would you?

  11. Geri says:

    Absolutely- if you don’t believe in what you are doing why should anyone else? Sometimes you have to be creative to get the job done. You better know that the book you put out is the best it can be because the critics will find the faults – as they should.
    Publishing a book is a very slippery slope- you better have the best skis you can!!!

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