Rant: "It's just an ebook."

Reblogged from Linda Hilton:

This is a very difficult rant for me to write, to the point that I've considered either not writing it or just not publishing it to Booklikes.  If you're reading this, then you know what my decision ultimately was.


When I saw the banner with the above quote across the top of my Booklikes dashboard, I wanted to reach into my computer and shake the living crap out of the writer who wrote it.


Yes, the book's author wrote that, not only dismissing her/his own self-published work as "just an ebook," but also dismissing every other author's digitally published writing as well.


What does it mean when someone says or writes, "It's just an ebook"?


Does that mean the product is inherently shoddy?  Or does it really mean that the consumer has no right to complain about it being shoddy because, after all, it's just an ebook?


Does it mean the author has no obligation to make it any better than "just an ebook"?


Does it mean any ebook and all ebooks and all the authors of ebooks should be exempt from critical review because, after all, everyone knows it's just an ebook?


Does it mean any and all ebooks are garbage?


I'm not sure what the actual author meant.  I know who it is, but I know far too little about the person to make any kind of judgment.  There is an admission that English is not her/his native language, and that paying a professional editor to fix errors of spelling or "grammer" was not in the budget.  So the author "got it published" by uploading the text to a digital/POD publishing platform.  For this unedited, less-than-150 pages "just an ebook," the current retail price is more than $5.00US.


So why am I not ripping this book to shreds? you ask.


Because I strongly suspect the author is a young person who has no idea how much is wrong with both the book and her/his publishing strategy.


I've looked at the book.  I haven't read the whole thing, but I've read enough to know that it needs heavy editing.  The genre is not one I'm particularly familiar with, so while the writing mechanics are obviously and seriously flawed, I don't consider myself qualified to evaluate the content as to its appropriateness for that genre.


I don't know how much feedback the author has received from readers, critique partners, online critiques, whatever.  Nor do I have any clue what kind of education, formal or informal, the author has received in the craft of writing fiction.  Perhaps very little.  Perhaps none.


And yet she/he has learned enough to be able to upload an unedited text file to a publishing platform, slap a higher-than-average price on it, and dismiss it as "just an ebook."


In the past few days, I've reviewed one horrendously terrible book, and been called upon to defend my horrendously harsh review.  I skipped over another terrible book because, to be totally honest, I just couldn't deal with any more bad writing.  (Tip o' the old fedora to Grim ♥ who soldiers on through the morass!)  But now here I am, another morning, more bad writing, and worse, bad attitude.


Whoever you are, writer and uploader of "just an ebook," you have put your product on the market and it may be picked up by someone less kind than I.  And that's saying a lot, because I am not a particularly kind person when it comes to badly written books.  Publishing a book that you know is not ready, that you know is not edited, that you know has significant language issues because English is not your native language, and then dismissing it as "just an ebook" is a vicious slap in the face to every author -- myself included -- who has worked to produce a professional-grade product before uploading the file.


Publishing "just an ebook" is not the first step.  It's not the means to get free editorial services or free critiques.  You do not charge people $5.00US and more for the privilege of proofreading your manuscript, correcting your spelling, fixing your grammar, filling in your plot holes, and developing your characters' motivations.


Publishing your book, whether with a traditional paperback or hardcover house, an independent digital publisher, or going the self-publishing route via Smashwords, Kindle Direct Publishing, or some other platform, should be the final stage in the process.


Yours may be "just an ebook," but mine aren't.  Neither are millions of others, written by writers who have made the effort to put out a professionally-produced product for which they are asking a reasonable price.  I resent the comparison, and I resent your implication that all digital books are something less than real books. 


Maybe you'll see this rant and maybe you won't.  Maybe someone else will point it out to you.  Maybe you'll blast me as so many others have done because I'm not there to hold your hand through the whole process, give you full and free access to my experience, and then pat you on the head encouragingly regardless how good or bad the product is.


Because I think you are a young person who hasn't had much experience, I will give you and your book the benefit of the doubt.  I will offer you this free advice:  Read.  Read and read and read and read.  Read about writing.  Read about publishing.  Read about writers.  Read writers who write about writing.


Learn to read like a writer, so you can write like a reader.  Read books you enjoy, and study them to find out why you enjoy them.  Read books you don't enjoy, and learn from them.


Find critique partners, either face to face or online, but be sure they know more about what you're doing than you do.  Recognize and admit how much you don't know; if you think you already know everything, you cannot possibly learn anything.  You cannot learn from someone who knows less than you, with one exception:  Read badly written books so you'll know what not to do.


If you can't tell the difference between good writing and bad writing, between well-written books and poorly-written books, you must learn how.  You must be a discerning reader before you can be a competent writer.


And if your book isn't good enough even in your own opinion to be more than "just an ebook," for the love of all that's sacred and holy and bright and wonderful in this world, don't publish it!