Susan Finds a New Way to Beat the Dead Horse


Following on the tails of last week’s semi-rant about how easy it is for anyone to get the wrong idea about the quality of self-published books, I got a new assignment from TWTBC.

My eyes bugged. My jaw dropped open.

The book is only 150 pages or so, barely long enough to call a novel.

The only commas are there so you can accuse the author of comma splices, rending most sentences unreadable on the first try.

The paragraphing is bad — there’s dialogue and then, instead of a new paragraph, there’s narration. Right after the dialogue. Except, the narration and action (usually someone shrugging or sighing) is attributed to the next speaker.

So it goes like this.

“Whaddya think?” Trevor sighed.

“You know thinking’s bad for your health, dumbass. Quit bothering me.” Mitchell giggled.

“What makes you think you’re always right?” Trevor shrugged.

It SHOULD read:

“Whaddya think?”

Trevor sighed. “You know thinking’s bad for your health, dumbass. Quit bothering me.”

Mitchell giggled. “What makes you think you’re always right?”

Trevor shrugged.

Did you notice that the characters aren’t particularly nice to each other? There are also a couple of adverbs that describe how EVERYTHING happens. Thoughtfully. Carelessly. Okay, those aren’t the real ones, but imagine if they were, and used in the wrong spots, too. Actions completed thoughtfully, during a fight scene? (Not to mention, in the above example, Mitchell giggling. First of all, it’s out of character. Second of all, it’s not appropriate for the scene.)

And yes, there is MORE. On the one hand, I feel terrible for the author. S/he’s got his/her name associated with this hot mess of a book. On that same hand, I wish I could edit it for him/her. But on that other hand… I’m glad I didn’t. A hot mess this bad would have cost way more than the book review eventually did. And while I know I’m a really good editor, I also know that one can only do so much with what you’re given. For all I know, the author DID hire an editor, and then refused to listen to what s/he had to say. In a year since I returned to editing, I’ve had that happen. (The client didn’t pay the full bill in the end, either. Go figure.)

This is one I can’t wait to be done with. And sadly, when people want a poster child for what’s wrong with self-publishing, it’s this book they’ll turn to. It’s so much easier to be negative in today’s world, after all, and overlook the good stuff… and let me say it again: there is PLENTY of good stuff out there.

I think I’m going to start featuring it. Once I finish this hot mess.

(If you’re new here and don’t know who Trevor and Mitchell are, well… shame on you! But use this link to learn everything you need to. Welcome to the Trevolution.

**Thanks to my own impromptu editor, Robin at Around the Island, for catching a rare Susan typo!



  1. Ann ( bunnygirl)

    September 19, 2012 9:37 am

    This is why I’d find reviewing to be enormously stressful. You want to give kudos to everyone because you know how hard it is to put your soul out there, but you don’t do any favors by lying.

    Taking the most generous interpretation of this situation, I’d say you got stuck having to review a book as if it were a finished product when it’s barely at the draft stage. At least it’s short…

  2. Patti Larsen

    September 19, 2012 11:52 am

    I realize you did what you could to hide the author’s identity, as well as that of the book, but I’m wondering if you, as a professional, think it’s ethical to talk about this type of thing in such a public way?

    I’m not asking you to censor yourself. But, that being said, as much as the book in question may have been horrible, I find it oddly appalling to read about it from someone like you–an editor. There is a certain sense of responsibility to the craft that comes from your profession, a professionalism surrounding the process. Knowing how willing you are to tear others apart in such an open forum doesn’t make me more inclined to hire you.

    • Susan

      September 19, 2012 12:09 pm


      I wear many hats these days, and in this case, I’m speaking mostly as a reviewer. The comment about the only client who wouldn’t take my advice and then refused to pay me is the only negative criticism you’ll see of the people who pay me for my editorial work. I value my clients. They value the words they set on the page, they value the craft of writing, and they value the pursuit of knowledge.

      Also, I have not torn apart an author, but the author’s work. There is a vast difference, one that is increasingly ignored in today’s conversations. As I said: I feel terrible for this author. I wish I could reach out to help her, but by the terms of my reviewer’s contract, I am not allowed to do so. This poor author has probably found his/her name on many “Never Buy Again” lists, and that tears me up. More time spent on her child would have produced a better novella. It would also make me feel less abused as a reviewer, as most sentences require multiple reads before they make sense.

      Further, I wonder how many authors have read this post and gone back to look over their own work and set about making changes. The times have changed and unfortunately, seeing the negative is a better teacher than extolling the positive.

      • Patti Larsen

        September 19, 2012 12:48 pm

        Forgive my slip–I never intended for you to think I meant you were attacking the author–just the work.

        And while I realize you do wear multiple hats, it’s as an editor you were writing (or it came across that way–since you mentioned if this person was your client). I understand the need of reviewers to be honest–I’d never ask one not to be. Quite the opposite. We should be allowed to say what we need to.

        But, again I mention there is a certain level of professional conduct behind being an editor. While you may not be speaking about your own author’s works, you are talking about an author. As an editor, you don’t see that as a conflict of interest?

        And finally, yes, there are many books out there that need additional work. There is in every industry (look at indie music, film, theatre…) And while reviewing is an important part of the process, is it responsible for someone who is acting as an editor to also be a reviewer?

        I don’t know. As honest and open as you may be, there will always then be the suggestion of a conflict of interest. I don’t like it–but it’s there.

        I’m not intending for this to turn into an argument–this was simply an observation. Things are changing in our industry so rapidly I wonder at times if it’s not better to simply allow the readers to decide what’s worth buying.

        On your last point–I hope none of those authors did. You aren’t their editor. Do they need to hire one? In many cases, yes, they do. But it’s not your job (if you’re truly speaking as a reviewer and not an editor) to enforce such a thing.

        Sorry, now I’m confused who I’m talking to. Ending here as tired of this issue as I have been all along.

  3. Shelley Munro

    September 20, 2012 1:58 am

    Yikes, that’s scary. I haven’t ventured into self pubbing yet, but you can bet I’ll try to put forward my very best work and hire an editor.

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