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Recently read

In addition to the two books I mentioned in my last post, I’ve managed to read the first four installments of Meljean Brook’s The Kraken King serial.   I feel like maybe my reading mojo is returning?  *looks around furtively and whispers the words*

I like the serial very well, although I do not love the format.  That’s just personal taste, and I can live with it.  The only substantive criticism I have is a couple of typos and that the book/serial does not stand alone very well.  I’ve read the first of Brook’s steampunk books but nothing more, and I feel like I’ve missed a lot of worldbuilding and relationship establishment.  One can read the serial without that and enjoy it (I certainly am) but I get the feeling that I’d be enjoying the installments just a little bit more if I had the full background.

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Now on my Kindle:  The Game by Ken Dryden.  I’ve read raves of this as The Best Hockey Sports Book Ever, so… Except.  Except I’m a little disappointed by Dryden’s piece on PK Subban and Carey Price; it kind of reinforces (I think) some ugly racial stereotypes that have been hockey blog fodder during the Montreal/Boston series after some of the fan and player behavior by Boston.

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Paris is looming large on the horizon and my few words of French are terrible.  “Je mange des fraises rouges” is probably not the most useful thing I could have learned in advance of my trip, no?  But I’ve got some more useful phrases down (Ou est la gare? and the like) and have a pocket phrase book.  I have not yet decided which paper book I shall pack for airplane reading.

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Below the cut for random personal stuff unrelated to reading.

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Seriously, WaPo?

An article in yesterday’s Post made me roll my eyes and sprained my brain.  And the comments are causing me to want to pound my head on my desk.  Would I pay to browse in a bookstore?  Absolutely not.

Look, bookstores, lookie-lous and comparison shoppers abound; you aren’t the only vendor to suffer from online sales.  What about your product is so special that you think charging to browse could save your business? 

I like bookstores.  But I go to them less frequently than I used to for a variety of reasons. 

1.  Lack of actual books in the store, as floorspace is given over to toys, puzzles, cards, gifts, etc.

2.  Stacks and stacks of That Book and its copycats, but no books I’m interesting in reading on the shelves.  Of course, the clerks tell me, if I would like they can order it for me and it will arrive in 7-10 days.  Which is 5-8 days longer than it will take me to order it myself online, which defeats the purpose of coming to the bookstore in the first place.

3.  The cafe is full of people camping out to use the free wifi, so even if I buy a book and a glass of tea, I can’t sit down and enjoy it there.  None of the staff monitor the cafe, so… (I do like that the 5th Ave B&N is vigilant about its cafe seating.)

4.  It’s often hard to negotiate the aisles, because patrons (and I use that word loosely) sit down in the middle of the aisles with selections to peruse.

Some commenters think the solution is to patronize independent bookstores, which assumes 1) that there is a local indie and 2) that said indie carries books I’m interested in.  Which is generally not the case.  Could they order the books?  Sure…but first I would have to get the attention of the bored/disinterested clerk, who would then sneer at my reading choices since they are genre fiction rather than literary.  Why should I support a local business that does not respect me as a customer?

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February’s first book and first DNF

If Contract with Consequences were a paper book, I would have tossed it against the wall.  Or maybe torn it in half and then shredded it.  Then buried it not in the recycling bin but the garbage under the smelliest of kitchen debris.  That’s how much it irritated me.  And I didn’t even get that far.

Miranda Lee used to be an auto-buy HP author for me, but as I moved away from categories, I lost track of her work.  So when I saw this one while browsing online, I downloaded it tout suite.  But I should have read the blurb first.

I’m ambivalent about the heroine.  On one hand, it’s brave (and other things) to set out intentionally to be a single parent.  On the other hand, the way she’s painted, as changing her entire life — career that she doesn’t like as much, etc. — in order to catch a man and get pregnant smacks of desperation to me.

I feel no ambivalence about the “hero”: he’s an arrogant prat (who I am sure will remain patronizing and holier-than-thou).  He describes himself as a “selfish, self-centred commitment-phobe”.  Meanwhile, he too thinks the heroine emits a perfume of desperation and would be so much better off if she could lighten up and have casual sex.  With him, of course.

Oh, his expertise also apparently runs to fertility.  He knows best how to get the heroine pregnant — forget about ovulation, etc., all the things that fertility specialists have women track as they attempt to get pregnant.  His magic penis will relax her and solve the mystery of her uterus better than any IVF specialist!

At that point, I was finished.  Done.  Stick a damn fork in me.

Next?

 

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Afterthought:  the hero’s patronizing know-better attitude about fertility obviously rubbed me wrong.  It reminded me of those television commercials in which male actors intrude into predominantly female realms and school them on better products.  Because men (who do less housework and childcare) would still know which household cleaners are best, which diapers are most absorbent, etc.  Please, Every Man, tell me how to do my women’s work better; you don’t do it but even so you must know best by virtue of having a penis.

 

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Subject vs. object pronouns

Okay, look, the proper usage of “Name and I” versus “me and Name” or “myself and Name” is not that difficult.  Every time I see an author, aspiring, self-published, or otherwise published, use “Name and I” inappropriately, I cross that writer off my list of potential authors-to-try.  Because if they can’t figure that out, what other grammar butchery will I encounter in their writing?

Yes, it sounds more formal and “correct” than “me and Name” but that’s not the point and sounding correct isn’t the same as being the correct usage.  That’s called hyper-correction, I believe.  They are different parts of speech, and the usage is not a function of being or sounding more formal.

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Afterthoughts

Some additional thoughts on yesterday’s post about the need for editing in self-publishing.

First, I think I made clear within the body of my post that “affording” editing is not necessarily a monetary issue.

Second, there are exceptions to every rule:  I’m sure there are self-published authors with rigorous editing processes whose work is better than the best of what NY publishing has to offer.  The problem for me as a reader and consumer is that the exceptions are thin on the ground in comparison to the volume of poorly produced self-published books for sale via any number of outlets.

Third, issuing new editions or uploading new versions of a book does not resolve the editing problem or close the gap.  As a reader, it is not my job to keep track of if/when an author decides to fix things in their book or to seek out new versions. The version I bought/borrowed/obtained-in-whatever-legal-manner is what I have to evaluate and either enjoy or discard. The book that is published (and bought) is the author/publisher’s opportunity to make a first impression; fixing it after the fact is too late.  If an author/publisher needs to keep fixing problems, perhaps they should not have made it available prematurely. Frankly, the whole “do over” atmosphere engendered by uploading new versions strikes me as beyond unprofessional.

Fourth, pointing fingers at NY publishing and claiming that their editing standards are declining is in no way a defense to an e-publisher or self-publisher’s lack of quality control.  In fact, that defense leaves a bad impression on me, as if a self-publisher is saying that since external standards are low, they have nothing to live up to or measure themselves by.  It’s like the whole “everybody’s doing it” defense.

The choices an author makes, in terms of pursuing a contract with a Big Six publisher, going with a smaller e-only imprint, or self-publishing, they are business decisions that she needs to evaluate.  Self and e-only publishing may net a larger immediate return, but pretty uniformly offers less production assistance.  When the author chooses to self-publish, s/he is exchanging institutional support (for better or for worse) for immediacy; that is her/his option.  But that doesn’t change my expectations as a reader and consumer that there be some minimum standard of literacy in the book published.

Is it elitist to [be] complaining about the lack of quality control in self-publishing rather than criticizing other publishers first?  I suppose you could say that, although I think that’s obfuscation as I mention above.  But since the vast majority of ebooks I sample, purchase, and reject are either self-published or e-published by small pubs rather than the Big Six/NY publishers, my criticism was directed to where I am personally seeing the problem.  Do I think Big Six publishers are blameless?  No, I don’t.  And I’ve posted here complaining about continuity errors and content and copy editing blips in books by Nora Roberts/JD Robb and Ilona Andrews.  But I’ve never opened a NY published book and found a complete lack of direct address commas in dialogue, a misunderstanding of the difference between loose and lose and loss, etc.  Errors, yes, but not in the same volume or even order of magnitude.

I’m sorry that some self-published authors feel that criticism of lack of copy editing, both here and in reviews generally, is a personal attack.  Certainly I could have been more tactful in my title yesterday, but I’m not sorry to have published that post.  Because I’m even sorrier when I spend hard-earned money on ebooks that make my brain hurt with their clunky writing and poor editing.  (And I’ve only written about copy editing, not content editing, which is an entirely different can of worms.)

ETA:  The elitism label is somewhat ironic IMO, since my preferences in genre fiction are so utterly ghetto-ized by mainstream publishing and fiction venues:  genre romance…and gay romance.

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If you can’t afford an editor, you shouldn’t be publishing

This review of R.L. Mathewson’s book over at Dear Author and the comment thread made me want to pound my head on my keyboard.  Especially the fangrrls who seem to think that commenting on abysmal copy editing is an attack on an author.  Not long after reading that head-scratcher, my daily browsing led me to this article at Galley Cat on the need for editing in self-published work; in the comments an author noted that many authors (presumably herself included?) cannot afford an editor.

An author cannot afford an editor?  I cannot take that claim seriously.  In fact, I call foul on it:  even if a wannabe author can’t pony up the cash for a professional editor, he or she can and should have a circle of partners/readers who are capable of catching at minimum problems like punctuation misuse, homophone errors, etc.  An aspiring author who has made no effort to acquire something like a critique group or professional support network has bigger problems than a bad review, and probably should be questioning their professional strategy.  An author who “cannot afford” an editor is an author who is saying that she is not interested in investing in her work and should not be attempting to publish.

Look, I know some authors think of their books as their children, meaning they believe them to be utterly perfect and beyond criticism.  But to the extent authors are looking to make a living writing, i.e., by selling their books, they need to be business people.  And self-publishers more than any other authors need to understand that producing a book requires quality control; their adoration for their own words doesn’t absolve them of that necessity, especially if they want others to pay to read those words.

I’ve complained before, here and on Twitter, about how poor copy editing in books will cause me to DNF them, and poor copy editing in samples will cause a lost sale.  It’s demoralizing to realize that readers are becoming inured to crappy production values in books, self-published and otherwise, as noted in the comment thread at Dear Author.

I haven’t read anything by Mathewson, and I’m unlikely to, especially in light of the fact that s/he seems to think that editing on the fly AFTER publishing a book is acceptable.  It isn’t a defense to an author that they edit or fix poor production values after publication; it’s an admission that they were too cheap/sloppy/lazy/interested-in-making-a-quick-buck-without-quality-control to do it the first time around.

Frankly, I’ve reached the point where I’m reluctant to purchase any self-published book by any author based on the sloppy copy editing.  Why waste my time and money on wannabe authors who don’t respect their work or my time and money?

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In which I am a broken record

I’ve posted before about the prices attached to ebooks, particularly e-only releases.  There are some epublishers whose prices are, frankly, highway robbery, given the material and production values involved.  I won’t go into the prices of ebooks from the major NY publishing houses, because that’s been covered ad infinitum by better and more knowledgeable bloggers than I.  And if you don’t want to read this version, feel free to click away or to find one of my earlier versions, most likely posted under the “sbd” tag.

Anyhow, ebook prices.  One ebook with an intriguing blurb at a review site prompted me to check out the excerpt posted at the publisher’s website.  Interesting.  Maybe, and at $3.99 not too expensive…until I checked out the length.  Which one does when one has been burned by piddly stories for insane prices, as I have been.  Fifty five pages.  Seriously, epublisher?  Four dollars for what amounts to a short story?  I don’t think so.

Last week I tweeted in irritation about the *extremely* short story by Josh Lanyon (an auto-buy author) that works out to about 20 pages.  The price?  $2.99.  My own fault — I should have checked the file size or page length before buying but was in such a rush for new Lanyon material (he’s on hiatus this year) that I clicked without doing any due diligence.

Okay, I want authors to be able to make a living, and be able to continue writing and thus entertaining me.  But I do not appreciate price gouging, especially when half the time (although not in the Lanyon example above), the editing is lousy and the book is essentially a first draft with crappy craft, misused punctuation and uneven pacing.   And yes, I know that unless an author is self-publishing, s/he has no ability to control the price set by the publisher, who in theory is setting the price based on cost plus whatever estimated profit margin.  Except I wonder what cost is incurred sometimes, especially when the formatting is wonky or homophones are misused or basic points of history are incorrect.

At about the same time, another reader was complaining about the length and content of the new Suzanne Brockmann short, Beginnings and Endings, which cost $1.99 and was about 35 pages.  There was a little bit of Authors Behaving Badly (or acting entitled), too.   I received a paper copy as part of the promotion for the most recent hardback, so I didn’t pay for it outright (although technically I did, because I wouldn’t have pre-ordered the hardback but for the extras provided), but would have probably been unhappy with the value for money if I had.

Assigning value for money to a book purchase seems like a losing proposition.  In the end, it feels like a price per word metric, which isn’t what I really want to do.  (It did seem to work for Charles Dickens, though, didn’t it?)  Certainly there are authors whose very short works I would be willing to pay top dollar for.  It just seems like a lot of epublishers aren’t giving a great deal of quality for what they are charging, and the lack of uniformity from one epublisher to another is maddening.  After buying from enough of them, you realize that some (backspaces and removes names) are habitually overpriced when quality and length are considered.

What does this all mean?  For me as a reader, it means I’m less likely to try new-to-me authors from an epublisher.  Why spend $4.99 on a very short story by someone whose voice/style/worldbuilding I may not like when I can spend the same on a trusted author or an author from an epublisher whose quality to price ratio is more reasonable?  It means that I download a lot of samples and excerpts, and then pay attention to how much or how little polish there appears to be, and make a buying decision based on that.  FWIW, I’ve deleted a LOT of samples lately without purchasing, sometimes because the story doesn’t appeal but more often because of awkward dialog tags, missing direct address commas and the ubiquitous your/you’re, etc.  And every time I click the delete button, I wonder what, if anything, the publisher did before slapping on a price point and uploading the book to its website.

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