I’m in a number of Facebook groups dedicated to helping writers write well and get their books in front of readers. Over the years, we have seen many cases of wannabe writers pushing their stories into keyboards which (if they could) wince at the grammar and punctuation mistakes. To make matters worse, we have “publishers” all too eager to take the author’s money to print a box of books. As we know, Amazon/KDP will print anything (even blank pages), but they also charge for edits. We strongly encourage editing, proofreading, and copy-edits as well as format and cover designers to no avail because these all cost money.
If authors (even pros) would simply invest a little in Grammarly, their books and online musings would be far more readable and less comical. But they have to understand what the red underlines mean. For ESL authors, it’s especially hard–it takes a herculean effort to conquer the language and understand the nuances even the pros argue about. Let’s not get started with Oxford commas…
Why mention author shortcomings? Well, it’s because these poorly written books put a bad light on all independently published books. We’re all in the same barrel as far as readers are concerned. Sure, it’s not fair to compare fully illustrated books written by experienced authors, polished by professional editors, and covered with award-winning art with books composed over the weekend by someone skilled at copy and paste as if it was an art-deco project.
But why are these books so grammatically crippled? Is it our educators? Are our high schools and universities pumping out students who can pass the standardized tests but can’t write an English sentence with the correct point of view and verb tense? I would say a significant percentage of these authors fall into that category. Yes, some are ESL, but many are not. Is it the lure of money? Why do new writers expect to create the next Harry Potter or Shades of Gray on their first (or fifth) try without the discipline, schooling, and years of being edited, criticized, and rejected by traditional publishers or honest critique groups? Perhaps it’s because some have done so. Or is it because their parents or friends encourage them without the requisite skills to know a good book from one that no legitimate publisher would touch? Perhaps.
Like every creative endeavor, there are those who would prey on us writers. Some “publishers” (we call them vanity publishers) will gladly print any book they’re sent knowing full well they’re just killing trees for naught. We’re all saddened when we hear about another author gleefully announcing to the world that their new book has been published by a company renown for shady practices. While traditional mainstream publishers accept new authors all the time, they only do so after considerable review and learning all they can about the author, his or her experience, their dedication to the craft, and the quality of their work.
While my books might never be picked up by a traditional publisher, I hope I can help those who are just getting into the game understand creating a successful book, one that makes money and makes their parents and English teacher proud, is hard work and it can be expensive to do so independently.