Letter to the Editor: You Know Who You Are

About halfway through a book I was recently asked to review, I updated the status on my Facebook profile to read: Dora Badger doesn’t quite know what to say.

I finished reading the book a few minutes ago.  I actually know exactly what to say but most of it’s pretty damn bitchy.  Facebook has enough snarky gossip already, so I’m posting it here instead.

Note: after you’ve read this if you really want to know who I’m addressing, just ask.  I’ll name the publishing house in question privately; I won’t do it publicly because from what I’ve seen, this could easily be directed toward any of several POD/ebook publishers (for example: a few months ago, a different POD publisher than the one I’m dealing with in this blog – another one which provides in-house ‘editing’- actually printed a book that switches fonts halfway through the work for no reason at all).  Anyway, the publishing house in question knows who they are and my review will be readily available on Sonar4 Ezine after 5/16 if you don’t want to email me for the details.

Readers who want to learn about ebook publishers with higher editorial standards are directed to the Absolute Write POD Self-Publishing and E-Publishing Forum.

The Less Bitchy Part of What I Have to Say

Just a taste: it’s ‘per se’, not ‘per say’; the word you want to use there is ‘altars’, not ‘alters’; those are only two of several dozen misused homophones in the work; excessive use of passive voice will eventually make your readers sleepy; excessive clichés will eventually piss them off; and I promise you that there are major differences between how one should use a colon and a semicolon.

I received the book through a third party so I’m not sure whether the author or the publisher originally sent it out to be reviewed, but I presume the act of submitting it means you want your reviewer’s honest opinion.

Really?

…okay.

For the first thirty or so pages I thought somebody had to be kidding, until I realized no one would go to the trouble of publishing a joke book just so I would have something else to complain about.

Then it occurred to me that I now have to give what could have been a halfway decent book a crappy review because the editor couldn’t be bothered to look for any mistakes that Spell Check didn’t point out.

Shame, shame, shame on you.

Spelling and grammar are one thing, but you’re also apparently not big on editing for content.  So what sort of ‘editorial services’ do you actually provide?  I am honestly quite curious.  After reading the entire book once and then skimming through it twice, as well as chasing down threads about your publishing house in various online forums to learn whether the editorial standards in this book are a fluke or indicative of a trend, I’m inclined to believe that you’re trying so hard to be nice that you aren’t doing any serious editing at all.

Today’s Publishing Secrets Tip

If you’re polite about it, you can make editorial suggestions that would improve the book immensely without the author immediately writing you off as an jerk.

Former VP of SFWA Andrew Burt has developed some amazing guidelines on writing diplomatic critiques that can easily be applied to editorial input…

…yes, I’ve completely ignored most of these guidelines in this blog.  They are, however, rigorously followed in my review, which is directed at potential readers of the book and not an editor whose job it is to know better.

My point here is, if  you make your suggestions as politely as possible and your author still thinks you’re an asshole…frankly, who cares?!  You obviously enjoyed her book enough to accept it for publication. It’s your job to point out anything that still needs improvement so the author can revise or enhance it.   Help the rest of us see what you did in her work.  Trust me, if you don’t push your author to refine her work then you’ll end up with, for example, pages of  inconsistent framing and uneven dialogue, 15,000 or so words in passive voice – and a number of increasingly irritated readers.

I notice your books are only available online.  This brings me to:

Publishing Secrets Tip of the Day #2

Your books will never be in actual, physical bookstores until your editorial standards improve.

Your books and others like them aren’t on the shelves of  brick-and-mortar stores for a reason.  That reason has less to do with Big Publishing ‘taking up all the space’ than most people like to think.

I applaud your wish to give emerging writers an audience, but this author’s book deserved better and so does your publishing house.  I truly hope you’re able to do a better job of this next time.

–And, yes: this absolutely is the less bitchy part of what I had to say.

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