Self-published novels are everywhere today, especially if you have an e-reader. My Kindle is full of middle grade and young adult novels I was able to acquire for less than $2. Even for the free books, I have to be interested in the plot and characters, and I always read the reviews. But I can’t stick with many of them beyond the first few chapters (and with some, I didn’t get past the first three pages).
Rather than get mad or bemoan the lack of quality out there, we can all learn something. The most important lesson is: editing, editing, editing. The need for editing cannot be overstated.
There are many books out there with a great premise. Some even have a great voice. But those two things are not enough. Unfortunately, I’m one of those people for whom grammatical errors and typos jump off the page. Each one interrupts the narrative flow. If that happens three or more times, I’m done, unless I’m really hooked by the plot.
Some of the mistakes I see can be caught by critique partners and beta-readers. Their usefulness also cannot be overstated. If the tense or POV isn’t working, my CPs tell me. If a phrase doesn’t sound like the character saying or thinking it, my CPs tell me. If I’m head-hopping accidentally, my CPs tell me. If I’m doing it on purpose in a MG (as in one of my recent free reads), my CPs point out that it might not be the best choice for that age. If my plot doesn’t make sense, there isn’t enough tension on the page, or I have too many unanswered questions, my CPs tell me.
I know the excitement of a finished draft. I’ve experienced the impatience to get my work out there. But we must be better than that. Read it at least one more time and get the opinion of some fresh eyes. Make sure you find the mistakes before paying readers do.
It may be even more important for self-published work than for traditionally published work. I will give the book I’ve heard buzz about and have borrowed in hard cover from the library the benefit of the doubt over a self-published book. I explain my impatience away by saying I just don’t have time to read anything I don’t like or is more likely to reinforce bad habits, but it’s more than that. It isn’t fair that self-published books are held to a higher standard, but it is the state of the industry at this moment in time.
As for traditionally published novels, I might make it to the end, but if I find the same kinds of problems that stop me reading a self-pubbed book, I won’t read anything else by the same author, no matter who published him or her. First impressions really are that important.
There are other lessons, but above covers why I stop reading. I went through four books last week in as many days before finding one I felt worthy to keep reading. Don’t let your book be one of those that gets “removed from device.”
What makes you stop reading?