Reading Sucky Books
To begin with: yes, by “sucky books” I do mean “books that suck”. At least, on the surface. Because, you see, you can’t judge a book by its surface… cover… (Erm. I hate it when my metaphor fails, and then I realize it fails to even be a metaphor.)
Anyway, I’ve been spending quite a lot of time in Amazon’s bargain-ebooks basement, because I’m a sufficiently voracious reader that I worry about my book budget, and yes, I’m totally addicted to reading and should probably join a self-help group. This is not a bad thing, for I’ve made three wonderful discoveries:
- Variance – The variance of bargain-ebook quality is so high that you’re guaranteed to find a handful of truly fantastic self-published authors whom nobody has ever heard of. (Ahem: Hugh Howey. He’s no longer unknown, but go check him out anyway. Also check out Tammy Blackwell.)
- Editing – Fantastic unknowns aside, if you can push yourself through the “sucky books” too, you’ll discover that many of them have solid and well-planned plots, enjoyable scenes with good pacing, interesting characters with good development, gripping conflict and emotion, and a great deal of imagination. In short, things you’d expect from good authors. What they tend to lack is good editing. And what this implies is that the authors themselves don’t suck at all — in fact, they’re often quite skilled. So, hey, you’ve just discovered more fantastic authors whom nobody will ever hear of until these poor starving penniless artists can afford to hire good editors. Or until they judge that the benefits of proper rounds of professional edits are worth the thousands of dollars in editing fees, per book.
- It Gets Easier – The main obstacle to overcome when you try to read these books is, of course, the writing. Which is ironic given my contention that the writing is good, at least with regard to the structures and foundations of such books. This pertains to the third wonderful discovery: if you can make it through just one of these books, your inner editor will begin to relax, quiet down, stop screeching in that strident inner voice that the writing is wrong and the writer should be shot. And then the next such book is easier. And then you can enjoy them without working so hard.
The trick is to lower your editorial standards without lowering your writing standards. The easiest way to do this is to consider that while good editing makes a good story more readable, it really can’t do much for a lousy story; and then to consider what you think makes a good story; and finally to consider whether the “sucky book” you’re painfully wading through has these good qualities. And if it does, and you know it, it’ll be easier to read.
So go spend a little bit of time spelunking in the self-published bargain-ebook basements. Rummage through the rubble. You’ll find some real gems in the rough.
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© 2012, Anya. All rights reserved.