Y’all probably realize by now that I’m not much of an e-book person. While I do have a Nook, it rarely sees action. But I try to keep a book on my phone for those awkward times when I’m stuck in a waiting room and either forgot to bring a magazine or didn’t anticipate spending so much time in a queue.
This is great, because there are tons of free books available in the iBookstore (yes, I have an iPhone, and yes, I love it; haters to the left). Sometimes they’re promotional things, like when an author has a new title coming out and wants people to sample his or her back catalog. Sometimes they’re works in the public domain--think of pre-1920s-ish classics, such as the Sherlock Holmes stories or The Count of Monte Cristo. Sometimes they’re offered by small-time writers who are attempting to expand their audience.
The third category makes up about half of what I’ve downloaded and consumed, most of them historical romance novels. The stories tend to be serviceable and sometimes even good. But recently, I’ve abandoned a small handful of them because they’re so lackluster in the editorial department.
This isn’t necessarily the fault of the author. God knows it can be super-difficult to find reliable help when you’re starting out, particularly if you’re self-published or represented by a company stretched to its limits by budget and time constraints. But the neglect does have an effect on readers like me, whose job it is (or once was, as the case may be) to fix such errors, or who are sensitive to mistakes because they have a highly-developed understanding of the grammatical concerns of the English language.
As someone who writes, my advice to other people who write is this: find yourself an editor. Many people will do freelance copyediting for a reasonable rate. (Guru.com and Elance.com are good places to find them.) If you suspect you have structural problems, you may also want to get in contact with a substantive editor. What you spend on these services can seem excessive at first, but in the absence of a full-on publications team like you would find at, say, HarperCollins, you’re faced with a choice that isn’t really a choice: edit or be disregarded by the market.
After all, isn’t it better to have a clean, well-made product that might earn you the notice of a bigger published or a wider audience than to find yourself pushed to the side because of things that are easily fixed?