Wednesday, October 5, 2011

My First E-Book Experience (or What the AUDIENCE Wants)

Tip of the Day: If you are in the Rochester, NY area during Teen Read Week (Oct. 16-22), stop by one of Linda Sue Park's presentations. She's our library system's Greater Rochester Teen Read feature author with her amazing book, A LONG WALK TO WATER.

My husband purchased a used iPad before our trip to Europe. While it ended up having many handy uses while overseas, one of his primary reasons for wanting it was so he could download George R. R. Martin's A DANCE WITH DRAGONS and read it on the Kindle Ap since lugging the 1020 page hardcover version he'd started seemed very impractical. Intrigued by the option of reading an ebook on the plane, I downloaded two self-pubbed YA ebooks before we left.

Since I'd already committed to reading a library book I'd brought with me, it wasn't until the flight home that I broke into the ebooks. And I was so disappointed! The series were very popular on Amazon, had great reader reviews, gorgeous cover art, intriguing premises, and tons of sales -- but the writing was very unpolished to the point of distraction for me.

Let me clarify: the books were NOT bad; they just felt like they needed another revision and polish before they were ready to be read by the masses. For example, one book had very stilted and unrealistic dialog in order to fill the reader in on things that were obvious to the characters; and the other (written in 1st person) had the main character constantly asking herself questions to make sure the reader understood that something strange was going on in the fantasy world instead of showing the reader that it was not the norm (I caught this one because I am also guilty of it). I didn't finish reading either book because I found myself editing them as I read instead of enjoying them.

BUT -- does it matter what I think? Obviously I am not the target audience. Teens are.

Or am I as a YA Librarian and YA writer?

The books are selling well, and it helps when some of them are offered free for a limited time, or for under $3 per book. But if the teen readers who post glowing reviews are really enjoying the books and keep buying them, who cares what I think, right?

I think for self-pubbed ebooks to get the same shots at professional reviews and library collections as traditionally published novels, self-pubbers should hire professional editors and/or copy editors. They need to make sure their books shine for every one who picks them up, not just teens or kids who may not be spoiled like I am, surrounded by well-crafted and edited novels at my day job.

Or am I wrong? Is speed in getting a YA e-series out more important than editing them to beauty?

Deena, Miss Subbing for Pubbing


Kate Fall said...

So far I've only read one self-pubbed YA ebook, and I had a similar experience to yours. I itched to edit the dialog to the point of distraction. But I haven't given up and I have an ebook waiting for me from a small e-only publisher. I'd like to see if that makes a difference.

Honestly, I probably wouldn't notice half these things when I was a teen because I read so fast. But my daughter is super judgmental. She notices these things in print books by the "Big Six".

Lisa Schroeder said...

That's really interesting, and why I haven't been very eager to read any e-books, because I had a feeling that would be the case.

So, Kate, you think they don't notice because they are so into the plot and reading fast to find out what happens?

I mean, it concerns me a little to think that teens are okay with mediocre writing. Because, these kids are our future, you know? (which sounds a bit serious, I know, but it's true!)

Emily Marshall said...

This is a really interesting question Deena. And I don't know, I'm kind of on the fence. Because I know teens could probably care less if a book has commas in the right place or the correct grammar (I could actually care less too). But things like bad dialogue, seem like they would stick out more.

I do think editors are fabulous and if you can get one that's best.

But I can think of tons of published books that didn't have the best writing but the story was good that are hugely popular and successful.

Sometimes story trumps all.

Kate Fall said...

Lisa, what I meant was I would get caught up in a story and not notice until I started writing myself. Now I notice. But my 13 year old daughter would definitely point out any flaws. We have very different personalities. You probably remember gushing about a movie, book, or song in high school and having others turn up their noses at you. Some teens are going to ignore the flaws, but others aren't.

DeenaML said...

When I was a tween, I remember: (a) being proud of catching typos in a hardcover copy of NANCY DREW< and (b) reading all the BABYSITTERS CLUB books as soon as they were in the library, and skipping over at least one chap in the beginning where they "explained" what each babysitter looked like and how they joined the club. So yeah, on the one hand I do remember reading books fast and furiously, but I also remember getting very impatient with "telling" instead of showing and with sloppy copyedits.

Andrea Lipomi said...

I suppose if the kids keep buying these ebooks as they are, the author probably doesn't see a reason to pay an editor. Ebooks are new, and fun, and inexpensive. I think the fact that kids are reading anything at all is a good thing.

Perhaps a trend among ebook consumers in the future will consist of an uber-discriminating class of ebook critics who shame epubbed authors into supplying a better product.

I should also point out that I too have recently flipped through a horribly written, mainstream, recently traditionally published non-fiction book that relies on sensationalism to sell copies more than anything else, and even my writing-challenged brain was turned off by the lackluster editing.

DeenaML said...

Andrea -- you are right about trad pubbed books not always being good either! Books I read by my unpubbed friends in their rougher versions are better than some pubbed books. On the one hand, it makes me feel like we all have a chance to break in and sell; on the other hand it makes me feel like I have no idea what I'm doing bc obviously sometimes IDEAS sell more than execution.