Excuses, Excuses…

I’ve spent a whole lot of time in the past year reading, reviewing, editing, and beta reading for authors. Though much of this has been pleasant, I regularly run into non-professional writers. You know the type – those who stop by your blog/site/group just long enough to skim the contact information for an address and shoot off a review request. They’re typically the ones who don’t follow directions, dictate terms, and blow up if the final evaluation isn’t favorable.

After a while, you get used to this behavior. I’m not saying you accept it, but you stop being surprised when it happens. You can almost tell from the query alone if the author is really looking for honest feedback, or merely in search of blind praise. The former will thank you for pointing out technical issues they missed, while the latter will offer one of a dozen excuses as to why your nit-picking is either inappropriate or mean.

Just this morning, I heard back from a writer I’d beta read for a couple weeks ago. Normally, I won’t take on a new author unless I’ve already fallen in love with their work. Beta reading is hard. I might be able to polish off a novel in five hours, but if I’m reading it for evaluation purposes, to provide feedback, that time can easily double – if not triple. Why devote that much energy to a project I’m not at all invested in? In this case, it was because the premise was just so damned good I was chomping at the bit to read it.

You probably already suspect the outcome here, don’t you? Well, let me confirm: this did not go well. The concept I so loved fell apart before the first half was over, defaulting to a literary mess of stereotypes, clichés, and a complete and total lack of editing. Because I still felt the story could be salvaged, I got out my red pen and spent nearly fifteen hours cleaning it up. What was my thanks? A one page letter full of accusations, insults, and excuses.

I took the insults in stride (sticks and stones and all that), and rolled my eyes over the absurd accusations (some were actually kind of funny), but the excuses were too much for me. Why? Because I’ve heard them all before – countless times, in countless situations – and I’m beginning to suspect some people truly believe they excuse a lack of quality.

For your reference, I’ve compiled a list of common excuses that will never justify substandard work.

  1. “I hired an editor!” That was a good move. Unfortunately, you got ripped off. I’m sorry, but the reader doesn’t care how much you spent on a proofread. We care about the final product that we paid for.
  2. “My twenty beta readers said it was perfect!” Well, if your goal is to only please those twenty people, congratulations. Some of us are more discerning.
  3. “This is how I want it to look.” I’m glad your book is up to your standards. That’s important. If you want to sell it to other people, though, you might want to follow standard, established formatting for novels.
  4. “I can’t afford a good cover artist.” Then buy a premade cover for $30. Some of them are surprisingly good. Don’t want to do that? Then don’t put your book up for sale on Amazon. If you’re unwilling to invest in your product, it’s unfair to expect readers to.
  5. “It’s the best I could do.” Few writers can produce quality on their own. You need editors, betas, proofreaders, cover artists, etc. You need help. Find it, use it, and your best is suddenly one hell of a lot better.
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8 thoughts on “Excuses, Excuses…

  1. Sigh. I’m sorry you got that kind of response, Jen. (I’m self-published and I cringe every time I read this kind of post.)

    Note to authors: Readers are your friends. Editors are your friends. These people want you to succeed. If your book sucks, fix it instead of whining. It is your product and not a reflection of your value as a human being. If your ego is too fragile to take criticism, find another career. You will NOT last as an author.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thankfully, most of my experiences have been pleasant. It just irritates the hell out of me when they aren’t!
      Ego is, I’m afraid, the biggest factor. Being an author means being able to take criticism, being open to feedback. Those that can’t handle it really, really shouldn’t publish.
      Thanks for reading!

      Liked by 2 people

      • Very true. Unfortunately, this kind of abusive behavior reflects badly upon those of us who take this career seriously. Too many book bloggers and reviewers have walked away from the indie community because they got tired of being beaten up for their honesty. 😦

        Liked by 1 person

      • It isn’t fair but, yes, it does reflect poorly on the more professional authors…which is a damned shame. Indie authors have some of the most unique work on the market right now, and people are afraid to try them.
        That’s one of the reasons I try to review everything I read – not only to give my recommendation/warning to other readers, but to let them see which authors respond to a bad review.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I can just imagine how you felt receiving that. I’m recalling things I’ve heard SPAs complain about in a CRAZY thread. One woman whined that she didn’t have the money to pay for an editor so it was unfair for people to complain that her book wasn’t edited. That BLEW my mind, lord did it ever. It’s a shame that people don’t WANT to take themselves and their work more seriously. Don’t you want a sweet looking cover? It’s sad as well that people who are actively engaged in a creative profession, an art, fail to be creative even in terms of how you find an editor, cover artist, proofreader, etc.

    There are people I know online that are authors whose work I’ve read. Sometimes I’m two pages in and I wish I knew them for real, for real in order to determine whether or not they can take or would even like my constructive criticism. But there’s a high chance that if I lay out what’s wrong with their work they might have a fit, I don’t know. Ever watch people sing on YouTube? Yup, okay. Ever wonder where the people are in their lives that will tell them the truth (Honey, I’m sorry but you just can’t sing…at all…take some lessons maybe?) After all, why waste your time doing something you’re not good at when you could use that time to find something you are good at?

    Like

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