Caveat Emptor vs. Caveat Venditor

WARNING: This is a true NettaRant. You might want to wear a helmet.

β€œI’m just feeling kind of truthsome right now. Life is too damn short for ifs and maybes.” ~ Capt. Mal Reynolds of the Serenity

Instead of your regularly scheduled programming in which I feature some form of Fabulous Fiction, I have instead decided to shake things up in more ways than one.

Yep, it's likely to get thick. And I'm pretty sure it's not going to bring any boys to the yard.

As you may well be aware, I am all for supporting the self-publishing wave, also known as the Indie Movement. (Although some contest the moniker, “indie”, as it really applies to a different aspect of the publishing business…still, I’m not one to split hairs.) I believe passionately in self-publishers coming in to their own without the stigma of “if you’re self-published, your work sucks hot rocks.” That being said, some self-publishers are making it VERY difficult to don the pom-poms and rah it up.

Oh, not on purpose, I’m sure. Pretty sure. Right now it seems like it’s the “American Idol” of publishing, and like American Idol, some people are just not right for the stage, and that’s my nice way of expressing it. It’s a buyer beware world out there — I’m not saying it hasn’t always been that way, but at least with the Big 6 as gatekeepers you had some assurance of quality. (You can argue about their control issues another time. I’m on to something else right now.) In this Wild West Frontier of self-publishing, as a reader you have to do your own due diligence as far as sniffing out quality material to read.

Okay. Now that I’ve laid the groundwork, I need to vent. Consider this your wake-up call.


It’s not just a “let the buyer beware” world out there, it’s a “let the seller beware” world! Wake up! I understand you want to jump on the bandwagon and present your work to the world, but have some patience! Is it your best work? Could it be better? Have you EDITED your piece? Have you hired a professional editor or just let your sister who has a degree in liberal arts have a whack at it? Did you put it away for a few weeks to look at it with fresh eyes, or did you mindlessly throw it up on Smashwords or Amazon so fresh off the word processor it’s bleeding from a thousand knife wounds? You guys are KILLING ME.

And while I’m at it, let’s take a look at formatting. Is it formatted properly? Is it consistent, or do you have flawed formatting throughout the entire novel? You know, like it starts off with indents, then goes to block, then back to indents? Are there proper spaces between paragraphs? ARE THERE EGREGIOUS TYPOS?? Did you even bother to put it through a simple spell or grammar check?

Am I perfect? Oh, hell no, and I’ll be the first one to tell you that. It’s not perfection you’re going for here, but at least aim in the general vicinity!

Oh my GAWD, you make me stabby, cranky and want to spank you so hard you can’t sit down at your word processor for a YEAR.

Don't make me get out the whip. Because I WILL do it!

I have seen so much potential absolutely RUINED by LAZINESS and that makes me NUTZ and quite frankly, it pisses me off. As a self-publisher myself, every one of you that is too damned lazy to make sure you’re putting out a quality product is adding to the very stigma you’re trying so hard to dispel! I know you’re in a hurry, I understand why you’re in a hurry, but slow the hell down! Will it really kill you to take an extra few weeks to make sure your work is polished, professional and ready to fly?

If it’s not, you run a real risk of wrecking any chance you might have of a successful launch, and instead you’ll be thinking oh, this self-publishing stuff is bullshit, just like you think the Big 6 is “The Man” and keeping you down, when in fact it’s your own fault! If this is any example of the kind of material you have sent to “traditional” publishers, it’s no wonder they kicked you out on your ass. And if your baby is NOT ready, then roll up your damned sleeves and DO THE WORK.

You’re doing even more damage than that. You are tearing down the credibility of every single writer out there in the self-publishing process who actually works their ass off to make sure what they produce is as good as anything from the Big 6. It’s aggravating, defeating and embarrassing.

I realize this post is not going to make me popular at parties, but someone had to say it. Go ahead, make your voodoo dolls and stick pins in me, but in your heart of hearts you know I’m right or you wouldn’t be so annoyed at reading this.

Go ahead. It wouldn't be the first time.

I am really frustrated (no, Netta, really??) by starting off reading a book by an indie and being unable to continue because of the above-mentioned flaws. I am frustrated because many of these pieces have great potential, but have sadly fallen victim to the author being in a big fat hurry or just not caring. And if YOU don’t care, why should I? That’s right, I don’t. I’m not liking your damned page, I’m not liking your damned book, I’m not re-posting, re-twittering or re-anythinging your work if you can’t actually give a rat’s ass about what you’re putting out there. I’m sorry. I just can’t do it. If that makes you hate me, oh well. I’m over it.

Self-publishing is not the easy way — NEWSFLASH — there is no easy way! Unless you realize that you’re not going to be successful and you’re just clogging up the works like a hairball in the drain.

Hire out what you can’t handle, such as formatting, book covers or editing and if you can’t afford to hire it out (and BELIEVE ME, I am so in touch with that!) then impose on good friends who do know how or learn it yourself. Stop pimping writers who aren’t ready. And for the sake of all of us out here, buyers and sellers alike, have enough respect for yourself, the profession and the potential fans to take your time to put out the very best you can.

Otherwise, get the fuck off the stage.

31 thoughts on “Caveat Emptor vs. Caveat Venditor”

  1. Yes. This. Please hire an editor. Please find a trusted first reader and listen to them. Just because you can publish on your own doesn’t mean you necessarily should. A good rule of thumb is to send out your book to traditional publishing houses first. See what kind of reaction you get from the editors. If you’re getting personalized rejections, then take what they have to say, apply the parts you agree with and then, if you wish, go ahead and publish your book on your own. If you’re getting form rejections you might want to consider if you should publish the book or not.

    Too many writers think everything they put down on the page is a masterpiece. It ain’t. Keep writing. Work on the next book. Improve. The more you write, the more you’ll want to write. Learn your craft. Edit your work. When you do publish, make certain it’s at a professional level. Your career and your reputation will thank you.

    Being a typist doesn’t make you a writer anymore than owning a violin makes you ready for Carnegie Hall. You have to practice. You have to improve. Otherwise . . .well, I certainly won’t be buying your book nor will I be recommending it. Actually, I’ll be more than happy to steer people clear of it. Life is too short to indulge the whims of those who won’t try.

  2. What a waste of a voodoo doll… no pins necessary (unless there is a pin for YAY!) Well said, Netta–in ANY industry! How many people complain about bad service at a restaurant, a terrible haircut, a lemon car? Then rush out and publish their work before the work is done? All they are doing is translating that shitty work ethic into the writing sphere. PLEASE STOP. Like you, Netta, I’m not perfect. But I am fussy. To a fault. What’s wrong with a little care and consideration?

    1. Indeed, Patti. If you don’t have a good work ethic and are willing to put in the effort, you have no business putting anything out at all, IMO. If you want me to care, then you’d better give a shit yourself.

      Thanks πŸ™‚

  3. Rant on!

    I s/p my poetry and a children’s book. They are in a word; bad. I have not pushed them nor promoted them much at all. They were my survival rafts from two breakdowns. Something I had to hold in my hand.

    My novels are a different story. I am three years down the line with my first. It has had so many edits, but I want it a thousand times better than my other work. It is now going through an intense overhaul, with outside editing support. There is no way I want my novels published in poor form. I want them polished. Patience has shown me how to improve.

    If I do not find an agent, I want to be confident with my self published work.

    1. Thanks, Glynis. It’s one thing to publish personal work and one thing to put it out there for others. Good on you for doing what it takes…and good luck!

  4. LOL! Killer post! You have ranted so much more eloquently than I could have. The old adage “Just because you can doesn’t mean you should,” applies here. Sure, anyone can publish a book, a piece of ill-thought-out garbage bound together, thrown into the hands of readers, with the expectation to rake in the dough. These are either people who are delusional about how much writers earn, or who just want to say “I’ve written a book, ” or “I’m a published author.” It’s not a career for themβ€”it’s barely a hobby.

    The stigma of self-publishing exists; that cannot be helped, but I agree we don’t need to reinforce this notion by supporting writers who use the self-pub platform to grind out shite.

    1. Heh, Eden, this is what happens when you wind up a redhead. Honestly, it’s been simmering for a long time, but yesterday I saw something that just pushed me right over the edge. I’m still so damned irritated.

      Delusional — boy, I’ll say.

  5. Amen Netta. Seriously wish all of your wishes come true. I am so frustrated by the last self-pub that I downloaded to my Kindle – a book with potential that I just could not continue reading because it was a MESS! I just wanna scream. >:(

    Keep it real,

  6. YES! YES! YES! YES!

    I couldn’t agree more! πŸ™‚

    See, this is the thing with writing… there’s no quote, unquote “set steps”. For example, if I want to be a quarterback for the NFL, I can’t just walk onto a field and throw balls around. I have to take the steps. For writing, people could just upload to Amazon and sell… it’s a shitty situation but for indie’s we need to be able to sell our books.

    I hope… and I use the word hope loosely but with faith… I hope that the readers will end up being the judges and those who refuse to edit and show off a proper ms will be pushed away.

    I also believe that real writers have time on their sides. These people that toss up shit will get just that back in time… shit. They will run out of ideas and will go away. But the real writers will be there year after year, writing and promoting and enjoying their craft.

    I will also say that I’ve read a few authors who were claimed to be “so great” as indies and their books were worthless. I, as a reader, will not read them again. Simple as that… let the consumers make the call I guess, right?

    Netta, I loved this rant. It was just what I needed to hear and I really hope enough people see it to step back and think about their work, but you’re right, you have to step away from the writing and approach it with fresh eyes and a knife. You have to. You can’t look at it as a timing thing or a money thing… that’s not what it’s about – it’s about the writing, dammit, and the writing needs to be your best.


    1. I hope people see it and re-evaluate what they’re trying to accomplish, Jim, but I’m afraid the ones it applies to won’t realize it actually applies to them. One thing I didn’t touch on as much as the power we have as *readers* to speak with our opinion — as you said. We indies have the power to “like” or not like, to tweet or not tweet or whatever social media you use, and it absolutely makes a difference! So think twice before you click that button — look at a sample (easily available on Smashwords or Amazon, and if not, why not, you have to ask) and THEN decide.

      Spread the word! πŸ˜‰

  7. WOW You go girl!!!!
    Well said and loved the pics too.
    You may need to publish a collection of your rants, they eloquent with just the right amount of venom,to the point, practical tutorials for those that need the “instruction as well as those who must learn to dish it out. Any WAY entertainin”
    Now “Summer Don-nah” don’t get your blood pressure up too long. πŸ™‚

  8. Heh.

    I haz teh impatients too but I also know when my work just plain blows goat testicles.

    I have a novel that I could, right this very day, self-pub and market and push in people’s faces but I don’t. You know why? It’s not good enough to blow goat testicles. Even after five or so “edits” (it’s in quotes because, to the chagrin of many self-pubbed authors, a self-edit is not really a decent edit).

    I suffered through a five or so book series that frustrated the hair off of my big toe because, as ranted about here so well, a good story was ruined by the lack of good editing. I ranted pretty well about it on my blog at the time because the people in my household got tired of my bitching and moaning to them about how this author was setting the self-pub movement back a few centuries.

    To this day I cringe whenever I hear the word “holler.”

    Yes, I plan to self-pub. At least a collection of shorts. Possibly novels in the future.

    No, I don’t plan to whip it out and put it up without taking my “this part is really fucking stupid” lumps from pre-readers and/or editors.

    I’m trying to do my part to *help* the self-pub/indie movement and to put out substandard shit will only hurt the cause. As writers, this is our time to grab the bull by the horns (or whatever tired cliche you want to insert here) and take charge of our authorial futures.

    But we have no futures, at least no lucrative ones, without laying the groundwork first. Part, if not most, of that is getting our Magnum Opuses edited correctly, ferchristsake.

    This is the patented Todd way of saying, succinctly, “I agree.” πŸ˜‰

    1. Yes Todd, you are totally correct. It *is* the time to take charge of our own futures, as you so eloquently put it. We have to. We don’t have the Big 6 behind us, and for the first time, the power is in OUR hands. Now we just have to use it responsibly.

      My succinct way of saying you hit the nail on the head. Heh.

  9. I absolutely agree! Please, somebody answer a question. Working with a VERY tight budget, how can one ascertain a quality editor that will provide services worthy of a publication-ready-rewrite? I’m new. Hopeful. Baffled. I was a technical writer for years, so I’m not so much worried about plagued with typos and grammaticals. I’ve had a few stellar readers to catch some of my ignorance and carelessness. I need someone to dig in with results of value, and I can’t afford to do this twice with a wrong pick. Suggestions?

    Love the post, btw.

    1. DiDi, my advice (as an editor, BTW — see my “About Me” page) is to “audition” your editors. Usually (at least it’s what I do and in my experience) an editor will offer to read and edit a few pages, or a chapter for a feel of how you’re going to work together before a penny is exchanged. Sometimes it’s a fit, and sometimes it isn’t. Believe me, an editor wants to know if it’s going to work between you as badly as you do.

      Some editors will work with you as far as a payment plan. Typically, half is due before work begins and then the balance due when work is completed — but every editor manages this differently.

      Ask for references of past clients, and CHECK THEM OUT. Look at their website, their body of work, how they express themselves. Ask what their process is. Do your due diligence, in other words.

      I understand your dilemma, we all struggle with it, but there are many good editors out there — you just have to find the one that’s best for you. Good luck!

  10. Well, I can’t really jump on the bandwagon as a writer because I haven’t published anything, but as a reader, it’s painful to have to wade through the piles of indie and self-published books I purchase because some of them are worse than papers I wrote in middle school. Reading a poorly edited (or poorly written, for that matter) book is becoming the norm, unfortunately. Finding a self-published book that isn’t riddled with errors is almost unheard of and finding an indie-published book that has actually been proofread is becoming much more difficult as well, nevermind finding one that’s actually been edited.

    I constantly juggle my budget just to come up with more money for books because I buy books like normal women buy shoes and clothes. Discovering that I’ve pinched a few more dollars from the budget to buy this book or that only to realize that no one gave a shit about polishing it so it could actually be read is maddening. Sadly, this development also extends to many of the books from reputable publishing houses who take physical books and format them for e-readers. I’ve gotten so many books for my kindle or in pdf/nook format that are chock full of misspellings and bad formatting–almost like they hired illiterate children to format them for the digital editions.

    You’ve brought up a subject that I’m sure many people feel strongly about, but what can be done to improve both our reading experiences and author experiences publishing as sp or through indie publishing houses? Do we boycott our favorite indie pubs until they stop pumping out sub-par books? Do we leave scathing reviews for authors who might have started with an excellent story line but didn’t put in the work or have the funds to hire someone to make it shiny?

    1. Leave your opinions in a review, Jen. There’s nothing wrong with writing an honest review; it’s almost required. That’s another problem we independent writers have: We won’t leave a bad review. Why not? It’s just one person’s opinion, but if the writer doesn’t hear it how will they ever get better?

      Even better, if a writer finds out their e-books are formatted terribly, they can change it! Smashwords allows a person to upload a revised file should they so need. If the writer really cares, they’ll fix the problems and push a new file through. If they don’t, well, that speaks volumes as well.

    2. Jen, I’m a voracious reader as well, and that’s what really tipped this over for me. I didn’t buy the book; I viewed the sample at Smashwords and was totally appalled. I know Amazon offers previews also, but I also know sometimes it’s difficult to tell what you’re getting until you hold it in your hand.

      I go by the samples and also by word-of-mouth of people I trust. For instance, my friend Lori recommended “Living With the Dead” to me quite a few times, and while we don’t have the exact same taste in reading material, I know she knows quality from crap. I still resisted, but then I read a few entries of the story that was posted on the author’s blog, and I was immediately infatuated. I don’t endorse a lot of books here, but what I do endorse I totally stand behind.

      Word of mouth is all we have. I’ve seen reviews praising work I know is shitty, and I have to shake my head. I wouldn’t say “scathing” is the way to go (although some would argue with that) but maybe a message that you would have enjoyed the book if the formatting was better, or if an editor had been consulted — I don’t know. As an author myself, I would want to know what flaws are perceived by the reading public so I can do it better or fix it.

      I suppose no sales sends a message, but you’re right — how do you know? It’s a crap shoot but I don’t see any alternative than to be honest.

  11. I couldn’t agree with you more, Netta. There is nothing that bites worse than crap for copy, no matter if it’s a book or…a newspaper! I was just reading the paper I used to write for, and it was filled with very stupid mistakes that a simple proof-read would’ve caught. To turn something as shittily done as that out is sacrilege to reporting – and writing. It is unforgivable, to say the least.

    1. Totally agree, T. Maybe it has something to do with the fact we were both raised to revere books so much — I don’t know. All I know is it IS, like you say, sacrilege. I don’t think that’s too strong a way to look at things.

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