Author Topic: Beware: Sharks in the Water  (Read 1549 times)  

Offline C. Gockel

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Beware: Sharks in the Water
« on: February 08, 2014, 08:10:51 AM »
There's been a lot of discussion about several articles by prominent writers criticizing the quality of self-pubbed works.

The big name authors are complaining about self-pubs being badbecause, becausewell, I don't really know why they care actually. I don't think their names are being sullied. Honestly, most self-published books never get bought, so they're not even being compared to said big names work.

I'm just really sad for the writers who are being derided -- because a lot of them are being RIPPED OFF.

I've found some of the best books I've ever read in the self-pub sphere, and some of the most addicting. I've also found a lot of work that could really use some help. A lot of times there has been some ideas, or descriptions, buried in the stories that would really be worth bringing to the surface. But I couldn't finish the books, reading them felt too much like work. Typos were rampant. I'm not a grammar Nazi, in fact, I'm mildly dyslexic, so if I'm noticing they're and their being used interchangeably, it's happening, A LOT. Some times the writers did unconventional things like switch POV 3 times in a single paragraph, which maybe could be done by a skilled writer in an interesting way. But mostly it was confusing and frustrating to me.

Some of the authors of these stories have told me they've spent a lot of money on covers and editing. (On editing! I guess that their editors had no financial motivation to say, "This needs to be completely redone")

I left a Facebook writers' group recently because it was being hijacked by a "marketing expert" who was trying to sell their own book by posting tidbits on the thread. The "expert"  had some of these writers convinced that if they just bought her book they'd learn everything they need to know to be best sellers.

Some authors I've seen in comments have confessed to spending thousands of dollars and seeing nothing for it.

Maybe they are the same people that would be ripped off by the real estate gurus last decade, or by the stock firms selling options and futures. (I actually know several people who make good money on real estate and options and futures trading--but they went into it clear headed, and were careful to limit their risk).

What do you tell people who want to be self-published? What do you say to authors who ask you for your "frank assessment" of their work? Do you give it? What do you say to the marketers who are so obviously preying on authors who are desperate for sales?

Are you a coward like me?


I write books about Change, Chaos, and Loki
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Offline Wansit

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Re: Beware: Sharks in the Water
« Reply #1 on: February 08, 2014, 08:23:23 AM »

What do you tell people who want to be self-published? What do you say to authors who ask you for your "frank assessment" of their work? Do you give it? What do you say to the marketers who are so obviously preying on authors who are desperate for sales?

Are you a coward like me?


I just started working with my first critique partner. And I'm honest with that person. I'm honest because a) I feel like we're friends and b) I want them to know what went wrong, so they can better their work. Just as I expect from them on mine's. We've been good for each other. But all those conversations are held privately. I'm not going to line-edit their work on facebook.

RE the marketer, every time I see them I want to say Shoo, go-away. If I see them here I'll be more forthright. I don't want this board drowned in self-promotional gimmicks or downright meanies.

Offline gainesarnold

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Re: Beware: Sharks in the Water
« Reply #2 on: February 08, 2014, 08:32:18 AM »
For every traditionally published author/literary agent/big time editor, etc. who spouts off about the lack of control and grouses that gate keepers are lacking, there is a Hugh Howey or J. A. Konrath touting the freedom and viability of self-published work.

As far as giving someone a frank assessment, momma always said that hoesty is the best policy. I would rather someone tell me that something needs fixed that shine me on. Hopefully anyone who wants to succeed can say the same thing. 

Offline C. Gockel

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Re: Beware: Sharks in the Water
« Reply #3 on: February 08, 2014, 08:33:46 AM »
Wansit,

I have betas read my work, and I read theirs. I feel comfortable being "harsh" with them--mostly because I know them well enough to trust they can take it, also because they are gifted people and there is always something in their work I will be able to gush about.

I'm terrified of the marketers I see on FB. I don't say anything. I run (virtually) away. I haven't seen them on KBoards, for which I am grateful.


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Offline C. Gockel

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Re: Beware: Sharks in the Water
« Reply #4 on: February 08, 2014, 08:35:20 AM »
Quote
As far as giving someone a frank assessment, momma always said that hoesty is the best policy.

I agree. But I'm at the point where unless I know and trust the person, I'm afraid they'll just get p*ssed at me and it will come back in the form of bad reviews.


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Offline Evie Love

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Re: Beware: Sharks in the Water
« Reply #5 on: February 08, 2014, 08:40:18 AM »
How dare you pose tough questions that I have to think about. Stop trying to expand my brain!

I'm also a coward, and I'm not sure how to help people who are happily cartwheeling off a cliff. If you outright tell people "You're making a terrible mistake! Stop now!" They're just going to get obstinate with you. To be honest, I get pretty angry and stubborn when people try to shove me in a different direction then I want to go, too. Maybe you could try opening up a discussion, or being more subtle about how you try to help them.

Then I'd get worried about if it's arrogant to assume I know better than them. After all, I'm a terrible writer myself. I'm making mistakes all over the place, and I'm trying to do better, but am I just making more mistakes? I don't know.

I wouldn't be comfortable telling someone their book sucks, partly because of my fear of confrontation and partly because taste is so subjective. If the problem is mostly technical things like word misuse, I'd probably recommend a book on grammar and a good editor. It's better to learn how to do things right up front then to rely on someone else to fix it for you. Then again, implying that they're terrible at grammar might also make them angry.

My final conclusion is that if I were confronted with this situation, I would run away and hide in a cave and refuse to come out until I got hungry.

Offline Victorine

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Re: Beware: Sharks in the Water
« Reply #6 on: February 08, 2014, 08:47:17 AM »
I agree. But I'm at the point where unless I know and trust the person, I'm afraid they'll just get p*ssed at me and it will come back in the form of bad reviews.

The only way you'd get bad reviews would be to go out and critique authors who aren't looking for critique. If you belong to a group, or a website, like critiquecircle.com, people there are looking for critique. They want you to tell them what isn't working. And they'll do the same for you. There is no bad review posting, because most of those people aren't published yet, and they're all looking for the faults so they can improve.

If you meet in a local group, you'll get to know and trust the people well enough to know they're not going to get upset at a critique. That's what they want. Unless you find a group that all they want is back-patting. Then leave that group, and find others who want to improve.
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Re: Beware: Sharks in the Water
« Reply #7 on: February 08, 2014, 09:01:10 AM »
I'm rarely asked for an opinion about publishing a novel, but I've betaed a couple, with mixed results. One author and I have become good friends, supporting each other's path. The other author thanked me but never said whether my comments on his work were helpful.

Mostly, I limit myself to my writing blog, using it to provide information about self-publishing. In general, we can probably be most useful by helping to spread the facts and counter misinformation.


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Offline MaryMcDonald

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Re: Beware: Sharks in the Water
« Reply #8 on: February 08, 2014, 09:05:02 AM »
Wansit,

I have betas read my work, and I read theirs. I feel comfortable being "harsh" with them--mostly because I know them well enough to trust they can take it, also because they are gifted people and there is always something in their work I will be able to gush about.

I'm terrified of the marketers I see on FB. I don't say anything. I run (virtually) away. I haven't seen them on KBoards, for which I am grateful.

I've had editors contact me and trying to get me to use their services by saying there are errors in my book's sample. They are never specific--just say something like, It could be tightened up/cleaned up, etc. They might even have spotted some errors and I'll admit, I'm not perfect. My books aren't perfect. However, I've gone back and edited, fixed typos, and improved formatting many times in the last 3 plus years that the book has been out. I will continue to do so as I find mistakes. Reviews are very positive overall. The thing is, whenever I go look at the books these people have 'edited', there are always reviews complaining about the bad editing!  :o

I told one editor who contacted me on FB that trashing an author's book--which they hadn't even read--probably wasn't the best way to get clients.

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Offline Fishbowl Helmet

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Re: Beware: Sharks in the Water
« Reply #9 on: February 08, 2014, 09:34:03 AM »
The thing with editors is, at least in self-publishing, the author doesn't have to listen. If you look at the edits provided compared to the published piece I'm sure you'll find thing the author simply ignored. Yeah, an editor who doesn't mention splices, subject-verb agreement, head hopping, etc isn't a good editor, but it's the author's final decision. The editor has no control, they can only make suggestions, it's up to the author to make the changes or stet.

It sucks, and it's unfortunate, but this isn't anything new. As mentioned people get scammed every day. It's the gold rush mentality. Hurry on down or you'll miss your chance. Limited availability. You too could be rich right now for only five easy payments of $19.95.

Offline SLGray

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Re: Beware: Sharks in the Water
« Reply #10 on: February 08, 2014, 09:43:02 AM »
I think, honestly, that offering critiques is really best done to someone who's willing to hear them. Whether that means they ask for your opinion first, or that after some conversation and back and forth, you can ask if you could make a suggestion and they agree.

That said, I have been in situations (just yesterday, actually) where people ask for opinions, then get upset and/or offended when the opinions are given. I've also asked for feedback in the past and felt my temper rising over what was said and felt the urge to argue. I try not to, but being critiqued successfully has to be learned, too.

So. Critique always comes with some amount of risk.

Offline death wizard

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Re: Beware: Sharks in the Water
« Reply #11 on: February 08, 2014, 09:56:52 AM »
I always feel like I'm the master of stating the obvious, so I apologize in advance.  :)

But editors -- just like writers -- vary widely in talent. If you get a good one, you'd better listen carefully because he or she will really improve your work. If you get a bad one, then listening carefully might every well mess you up far more than it will help.

Several have brought up betas and critiques, as well as the point that the author needs to want this kind of help for it to be effective. I agree. Personally, I've been lucky enough to be attached to a strong editor who has previously written some best-sellers herself, and I would far rather put my work into her hands than into the hands of beta readers, no matter how well I might know or respect them.
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Offline C. Gockel

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Re: Beware: Sharks in the Water
« Reply #12 on: February 08, 2014, 10:13:56 AM »
Quote
That said, I have been in situations (just yesterday, actually) where people ask for opinions, then get upset and/or offended when the opinions are given.

Yep. I *NEVER* critique without being asked first.

My betas are successful creative people who read for content. I'm hiring an editor to check for grammar this time around. I'm constantly updating and improving my errors, but I hope this time around to have a lot fewer.



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Offline ebbrown

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Re: Beware: Sharks in the Water
« Reply #13 on: February 08, 2014, 10:21:45 AM »


I left a Facebook writers' group recently because it was being hijacked by a "marketing expert" who was trying to sell their own book by posting tidbits on the thread. The "expert"  had some of these writers convinced that if they just bought her book they'd learn everything they need to know to be best sellers.

Some authors I've seen in comments have confessed to spending thousands of dollars and seeing nothing for it.

Maybe they are the same people that would be ripped off by the real estate gurus last decade, or by the stock firms selling options and futures. (I actually know several people who make good money on real estate and options and futures trading--but they went into it clear headed, and were careful to limit their risk).

What do you tell people who want to be self-published? What do you say to authors who ask you for your "frank assessment" of their work? Do you give it? What do you say to the marketers who are so obviously preying on authors who are desperate for sales?

Are you a coward like me?


It drives me batty when someone is always trying to sell me something, IRL or on the internet. I'm okay with the occasional promo, but for Pete's sake, it gets outta hand sometimes.
I occasionally respond or question those marketers who are obviously preying on newbie authors, but I've learned the hard way to just watch and wait. They usually go away.

When others ask me for advice, I give it. If it sucks, I suppose they won't ask me again. Hey, I just try to help others when I can and do nice things for other people. Served me well so far.  8)

Offline EC Sheedy

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Re: Beware: Sharks in the Water
« Reply #14 on: February 08, 2014, 10:30:41 AM »
I agree. But I'm at the point where unless I know and trust the person, I'm afraid they'll just get p*ssed at me and it will come back in the form of bad reviews.

/Thread hijack

I loved Murphy's Star. And I already posted a review, so feel free to p*ss me off.   ;D (Great story! Unique and well told.)
 

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Offline AutumnKQ

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Re: Beware: Sharks in the Water
« Reply #15 on: February 08, 2014, 10:36:50 AM »
This isn't really different than what goes on in music. People want to "make it". It's hard to know what your skill level is--if you're good enough. Everyone has a right to try and get better. With music, sometimes the raw talent is there, but they don't have access to a good producer or sound engineer. They need to practice more and network to find someone who believes in them. (If they lack money, which is usually the case.)

I have a small local writing group and lots of beta readers. I'm also a member of a larger group. When I started getting feedback like "I can't tell the difference between this sample and a 'real' book," I figured I'd reached some minimum level of proficiency.

I don't critique music or stories by someone unless they ask me to. And I reserve my deep crits for my small writing group. We're all very close in level, I think. We each have our strengths, and we've been writing for a few years and have studied the craft.

The people criticizing self-pubbed works are apparently incapable of seeing how this is *exactly* like the music industry. It doesn't matter if crappy music is made. It doesn't stop people from finding good music, and no one should be policing indie artists to ensure their production skills are "good enough".

Offline sstroble

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Re: Beware: Sharks in the Water
« Reply #16 on: February 08, 2014, 11:39:13 AM »


I left a Facebook writers' group recently because it was being hijacked by a "marketing expert" who was trying to sell their own book by posting tidbits on the thread. The "expert"  had some of these writers convinced that if they just bought her book they'd learn everything they need to know to be best sellers.
 What do you say to the marketers who are so obviously preying on authors who are desperate for sales?

Are you a coward like me?

Thank you for your honesty. Now I don't feel so alone. When I first joined linkedin, the writers' groups seemed to be overrun by self-promoters who used the Discussion pages instead of the Promotion pages to promote their books or services such as marketing, editing, proofreading, formatting, cover art, blogs, on and on ad nauseum. So I quit those groups and finally found a linkedin group that had genuine discussions.
It was great until...
A bunch of self promoters invaded it. My all time favorite was an author who began her post to a good discussion thread by dismissing what had already been said and saying it was time for "a serious discussion," which consisted of her praising her book. Now I just skim that group's postings and rarely find anything useful.
Now I no longer say anything to "the marketers who are so obviously preying on authors who are desperate for sales?"
But I don't read anything they write either. Who needs it?


Offline Fishbowl Helmet

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Re: Beware: Sharks in the Water
« Reply #17 on: February 08, 2014, 11:45:39 AM »
I've been thinking about this for a bit this morning and something struck me as funny. Some of the arguments coming at the self-pub crowd from trad publishers are exactly the same as the arguments self-pubbers make against freelance editors, cover designers, and marketing gurus.

The creator should be expected to meet a minimum level of competence and should deliver a product that satisfies the buyer's expectations. Any less is seen as the buyer being bilked, fleeced, scammed, or otherwise taken advantage of. Trad publishers use this one against self-pub writers, and self-pub writers say the same about their freelance editors, cover designers, and marketing gurus.

When trad publishing makes the argument it's a specious attack and the self-pub community mostly rallies together against the outsider making the attack and words like "gatekeeper" are thrown around. When self-pubbers make that exact same argument about freelance editors, cover designers, and marketing gurus, the self-pub community rallies together against the freelance editors, cover designers, and marketing gurus and demands they be held accountable in the form of naming and shaming at the least. Basically the community acting as gatekeeper, which is ironic considering gatekeepers are so bad. When trad publishers name and shame they're labeled as the schoolyard bully, when the self-pubbing community names and shames it's seen as a public service. "Never buy a book from that author, she's a bad writer." (That's bad.) "Never buy a service from that freelancer, he's a bad [editor, designer, marketer]." (That's good.)

Maybe when it's you and your group being attacked it's easier to band together, but when it's someone else... watch out.
« Last Edit: February 08, 2014, 11:47:23 AM by Fishbowl Helmet »

Offline Greg Strandberg

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Re: Beware: Sharks in the Water
« Reply #18 on: February 08, 2014, 11:57:50 AM »
I don't give people BS about their work and they hate it.  I'd advise most to get into self-publishing as its fast and easy and you don't need to rely on anyone but yourself if you don't want to.

Offline C. Gockel

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Re: Beware: Sharks in the Water
« Reply #19 on: February 08, 2014, 12:16:55 PM »
Quote
Some of the arguments coming at the self-pub crowd from trad publishers are exactly the same as the arguments self-pubbers make against freelance editors, cover designers, and marketing gurus.

You know, something I hadn't considered until reading this thread...sometimes people might be belligerent towards even *grammatical* edits. I can see where editors, strapped for cash, would take on a project that they couldn't feel proud about too. I would hope they would say things like, "You know...when you switch POV 3 times in this graph it defies convention and might be off putting..." And maybe they do, but are ignored. Certainly, when in RL when my husband and I say, "That's not a good idea for a website..." we've been called naysayers too.

I think what really gets me though is the, "Any one can be a best seller! You just need better marketing!" That is untrue. If it were true, every trad pubbed book would be a best seller.


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Offline zoe tate

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Re: Beware: Sharks in the Water
« Reply #20 on: February 08, 2014, 12:21:39 PM »
What do you tell people who want to be self-published?

That they can. That there's effectively no enforced quality control at all, and that they need nobody's permission. That most self-published books sell fewer than 200 copies and many sell fewer than 50 copies. That there are some very good, very professionally produced self-published ones as well, but they're a small minority. I'm honest, in other words.

What do you say to authors who ask you for your "frank assessment" of their work?

I try to avoid it, out of not wanting to cause offense.

What do you say to the marketers who are so obviously preying on authors who are desperate for sales?

Nothing. I avoid them.

Are you a coward like me?

Yes.

Offline C. Gockel

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Re: Beware: Sharks in the Water
« Reply #21 on: February 08, 2014, 01:03:07 PM »
Quote
The people criticizing self-pubbed works are apparently incapable of seeing how this is *exactly* like the music industry. It doesn't matter if crappy music is made. It doesn't stop people from finding good music, and no one should be policing indie artists to ensure their production skills are "good enough".

I agree with this whole heartedly, and I hope it came off in the original post. It doesn't really reflect bad on the good authors if there are bad authors out there--the really poor authors rarely get read by the general public.

Quote
I'd advise most to get into self-publishing as its fast and easy and you don't need to rely on anyone but yourself if you don't want to.

I don't! I tell them if they have a "one-shot" or short story that they're better off trying to get it traditionally published. I also suggest if they aren't comfortable with self-promotion they shouldn't go the self-pub route.

I have a friend though, who has a short story that is probably the most beautiful thing ever written and no one is publishing it. She has won awards for her writing before and not an unknown. It is incredibly daring, and told from the second person. It is so tiny but touches on just worlds of different human relationships and realities. If she doesn't get it published this summer I will self-pub it for her, not because I think it will sell oodles of copies, but because it deserves to be read by as many people as possible.

Quote
I don't give people BS about their work and they hate it.

I never give critique unless asked. But I feel for you.

Quote
/Thread hijack

Bless you E C Sheedy. So that *WAS* you. Thanks! I've gotten 5 more sales of Murphy's this month. I wondered if that 15th review had something to do with it...






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Offline Fishbowl Helmet

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Re: Beware: Sharks in the Water
« Reply #22 on: February 08, 2014, 01:14:01 PM »
You know, something I hadn't considered until reading this thread...sometimes people might be belligerent towards even *grammatical* edits. I can see where editors, strapped for cash, would take on a project that they couldn't feel proud about too. I would hope they would say things like, "You know...when you switch POV 3 times in this graph it defies convention and might be off putting..." And maybe they do, but are ignored. Certainly, when in RL when my husband and I say, "That's not a good idea for a website..." we've been called naysayers too.

I wouldn't ascribe desperation to an editor who works on a project they're not necessarily proud of. I've been an editor, regular work and freelance. It's not the editor's place to be "proud" of working on a given project or not. They're there to offer their advice and expertise to the writer, simple as that. Whether the writer takes that advice or not is irrelevant. It can lead to unfortunate errors in the ms. but the editor isn't the writer. The editor doesn't have any real control or say in the project. Which is exactly why I can sympathize with editors who refuse to be mentioned in relation to a project. An editor's good name relies on the final product, if the author refuses to make necessary (grammatical or style) changes the editor suggested, then that editor's reputation is tarnished by the author's refusal to make the change.

Quote
I think what really gets me though is the, "Any one can be a best seller! You just need better marketing!" That is untrue. If it were true, every trad pubbed book would be a best seller.

Oh yeah, of course. There are jerky shills everywhere.