Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Reader’s Perspective on Self-Published & Professionally Published E-Books

I’ve been reading a lot of e-books lately, both self-published and professionally published, and a number of these were novellas. While the stories were all engrossing and well-constructed, there were some issues in editing.

Now, I’m a stickler for correct usage and spelling, so when I spot a misused word, it bothers me because catching those mistakes is the editor’s job, whether that editor is hired by the author or by the publisher.

Not all authors are good at spelling even though they are darn good at story-telling. Still, there are usage guides available in print and online to help authors catch those common errors and learn to avoid them. Even then, some mistakes will inevitably slip by. That’s where the editor/proofreader should provide the safety net. I expect to find occasional errors in self-published work, especially that for which the author didn’t hire an editor or proofreader, but one would think the professional publishers would hire editors who keep the guides handy on their desks/computer work stations. Not all of them apparently do because in addition to common misspellings like to for too and alter for altar, I’ve seen sentences with words missing and characters’ names that changed spelling from page to page.

I’ve also seen formatting issues, for instance blank lines between paragraphs. Now this does make for faster page turns, but fewer words on the screen makes me feel somewhat cheated, as if the novella somehow has fewer words overall than promised. That’s probably not true, but marketing is as much about perception as reality.

Another odd situation in one professionally published novella was the fact the title story actually comprised only 80% of the book (according to my Kindle’s book progress indicator). The remaining 20% was promo pages for at least five additional works offered by the publisher. Now, I fully expect publishers to put sample pages at the back of books, and I sometimes am intrigued enough to look for the upcoming book, but 20% of the book devoted to promo seemed a bit over the top. Plus, I thought I still had more story left, according to the meter.

None of these little peculiarities caused me to stop reading (other than to comment to my DH about a word misuse) or to enjoy the actual story any less. All of these authors told page-turning stories, but these little “blips” do pull the reader out of the story even if for a fraction of a second.
If you’ve had experiences with this sort of thing, please share. What’s come to your attention lately?


  1. Hi Helen,
    What a great topic, and so important. I read a lot of short stories and novellas. Sometimes this is all I have time for :) They provide entertainment and I don't have to read four hundred pages to find out how they end. Self-published, professionally published, I found mistakes in both. I am no grammar Queen, that title belongs to you--Helen C. Johannes, but I can spot few, as well as the heroine put on a crimson dress and took his breath away in sapphire one... and no she didn't change. I laugh at those and am proven we are all humans, we all make mistakes. I've picked up few books from B&N shelf and after purchase (I use cover and blurb, to determine if I want to read it) I've read two chapters and donated it to the library. Good and bad they come from everywhere. I am just glad they are still coming...

    1. Hi Eve,
      Thanks for the input. You have a great idea of donating books to the library.

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