Hypocrisy, unmasked

I am probably the biggest hypocrite in the world. Why?

I don’t read self-published books.

Upon realizing this sad fact, I set out to change my ways. I spent some time last week visiting Book Blogs and reading summaries and excerpts of some self-published books. After this experience, I can say to the reviewer I mentioned in one of my earlier posts, I feel your pain. It seems that 99% of self-published books really may not be worth opening.

Perhaps it’s my undergraduate degree in creative writing or my master’s degree in journalism or almost 30 years of professional writing experience, but there is one thing “up with which I will not put” (as my father was fond of saying). That thing is: prose full of misspellings and grammatical errors.

I’m sure I’m not perfect in this regard. I’ll bet Dance of Souls contains a typo or two (and I’ll send a free, autographed copy to anyone who can find one; just drop me a line). But how can people who call themselves writers put up error-ridden home pages describing their books or offer a sample with a typo in the first paragraph? Beyond the errors, many of the samples I read simply failed to make me want to keep reading. In other words, they didn’t pass that very first test for any written work: is it engaging?

Mildred Steller's self-published book "The Stalk" (circa 1983)

This isn’t, by the way, a new problem, just one that has grown more pervasive with the advent of technology that makes it all too easy to put your prose into the world. Years ago, if you wanted to publish but couldn’t find a publisher, you went to a “vanity press,” put up some money for production, and voila! you were a published author. But you usually had to shell out a fairly substantial amount of cash, meaning this option wasn’t open to the masses.

A friend of my grandmother’s self-published a book in 1983. I’ll never forget my grandmother proudly presenting me with a copy, which was a history of Germany from the Stone Age to the late 17th century. Try as I might, even knowing it was a work undertaken with great passion, I could never bring myself to read more than a few pages.

So where does this leave me? Searching for a way out of my hypocrisy, and hoping to find that rare self-published work that I would actually want to read… because I know they’re out there, somewhere.

Where do you stand on self-published books?

One thought on “Hypocrisy, unmasked

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  1. I wouldn’t call you a hyprocrite, but perhaps you need to shift your view somewhat. Your poll does indicate a high level of bias, leaving out the choice that many people are already making: I frequently read self-published books.

    As a book lover who is also self-published writer with respect for my craft and for myself, I know that the new world of ebooks presents an uninspiring face. For readers, it’s daunting; for writers, it’s frustrating. But it’s a new world that’s in constant change. I know that it may always be dominated by the semi-literate and lazy, but it’s also full of well-written, engaging books that I’m very glad to have discovered. Here’s hoping that you’ll find your own way, as we all have to, of sorting the trash from the treasures.


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