A Literary Shock

The other day, I did something I’ve never done before. I took a book back to a bookstore for a refund. Usually, when I buy a book and end up not liking it, I toss it in the trash. But this book was an expensive hardback. Knowing how much money I’d wasted, I couldn’t relax till I got it back.

This book’s poor formatting and editing shocked me, but what shocked me even more was its high Amazon ranking and its claim to have won an award. It held loads of five-star reviews. In fact, most of its numerous reviews were five-stars. One three-star review stood out, though,  because I agreed with the reviewer. The book needed some serious editing.

What was wrong with the formatting? The pages looked like someone just printed them off their computer’s printer—no justified right margins, no professional-looking fonts.

What was wrong with the writing? Here are a few issues I found:

  1. Some sentences ended with double punctuation marks, such as “?!”
  2. Other sentences were cut off, leaving only a phrase or a  clause
  3. Characters “smirked” way too often.
  4. Some sections of dialogue were too long, and much of it was poorly  written.
  5. Too many adjectives were strung together to modify one noun.
  6. The characters were flat.

There may even be more things wrong, but I couldn’t get past the second chapter. Some reviewers said the second half of the book got better, so perhaps I’m not being fair. I just know that when I saw all these basic editing oversights and the poor formatting, my interest quickly waned.

Two positives about the book:

  1. The prelude was excellent, which is why the chapters  which followed were such a disappointment.
  2. The taglines were well-done. The author often used the  simple words “said” and “asked.”

Will we ever write a perfect book, free of all grammar, punctuation and spelling mistakes? No. We’re human, after all. I know I have a few mistakes in some of my published work. However, if mistakes riddle our pages they becomes a serious issue.

However, my experience should teach all of us indie authors to work hard to make our work as professional as possible lest someone like me asks for a refund on our book.

8 thoughts on “A Literary Shock”

  1. I’ve wasted money more than once on bad books. The problem was always that they were Kindle editions and the best you can do there is to remove it from your device. One was a western that felt like I was watching the story played out with paper puppets against a shadow box background. I never got past chapter two on that one either. The problem is that self publishing has made it too easy to get “published.” Not everyone cares as much as we do about editing and proper writing, sad to say.

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  2. That’s so sad. It’s extremely frustrating that people don’t give honest reviews or ratings because they don’t want to offend the writer, but how can a writer improve their writing if they never hear that they have things that need correction, and why should readers have to waste their money to find out a book is poorly written. That is why I always write honest reviews, but I word them as kindly and gently as possible, like you did here, pointing out the positives found as well as the things that need improvement. Sorry you had to return a book, Jack, but thanks for this post.

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    1. It is sad. I always advise indie authors to get their manuscripts proofread, edited, and critiqued by an experienced editor before they publish their book, as well as a good cover designer. I hire my own cover designers and book formatters for my books rather than going to certain self-publishing companies. Traditional publishers have their own “in house” people who do these things for them.

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