Monday, 4 February 2013

Do the Big Five Publishers Release Badly Written Books? You Bet They Do!

Publishers are continually telling us to submit the most polished manuscripts, otherwise they won't consider even looking at our work. I can understand that. Hundreds - maybe even thousands - of manuscripts land on their desks every week and it's simply not possible to peruse each one. So, they only check the best. Fair enough. They have a standard to uphold. And that's why many traditional publishers and agents deride indie authors - they see their work as sloppy, amateurish and below standard. So, imagine my surprise when at a recent writers festival in Sydney, I was handed a free copy of one of Harper Voyager's recent publications.
Now, one of the things I love about writers conferences and festivals, is not just meeting fellow writers, learning more about my craft and then getting the chance to pitch, but it's the fun scramble for free promotional books - fantasy, science fiction, romance... etc.
I came home, not only excited because two of the Big Five publishers represented asked for my full manuscript, but I also had an arm full of delicious reading material I could - figuratively - sink my teeth into.
Bring on rainy days so I could stay in and read!

Now, I write paranormal fantasy and that's what I love to read. So, naturally, the first book I picked up and settled in with, was a dark vampire romance published by Harper Voyager. With a cup of tea in one hand and my book in the other, I began to read.
Very soon, my excitement turned to disappointment, for instead of reading, I began to edit!

Here's an extract from the book:

   'You've done it this time, Kaspar,' Fabian groaned in my direction, his eyes changing to become
colourless, matching my own and betraying his worry. The girl stared openly; as soon as I met her gaze she looked away and I was glad that despite her sharp tongue, I retained power over her. 'The King won't like this,' he added.
   No, of course he won't.Neither will the council. I said nothing and surged back towards the mansion, as he fussed over her, adjusting her body in his arms so he wouldn't hurt her.
   The run allowed time for panic to set in. I was already on thin ground with the council, where a no-confidence vote against my position as heir was only ever a misdemeanor away. Bringing the daughter of a man so high up in government into our world, therefore breaching multiple treaties, was definitely in the sin category.
   Why didn't I just kill her?
   When Fabian caught up I immediately grabbed her wrist and dragged her up the steps. She winced and trod lightly and I briefly took in her battered feet. With a resigned sigh, I tugged harder.
   'What are you doing?' she demanded, digging her heels in despite the obvious discomfort.
   'Getting out of this mess,' I responded, relieved to see my sister, Lyla, waiting at the bottom of the staircase, inside.
   'Do you think you could get out of this without slicing my wrist up?'
   My stride was shorter than usual as I faltered slightly, struck by a sudden admiration at the ease with which she accepted our existence, mixed with irritation at her boldness.
   The girl just does not give up.
   Lyla - more irritating than any sopping wet human girl could ever be - worked her features into a scowl, which was particularly effective on her usually doll-like face. She took Violet's wrist without a word to her, instead focusing on me.
   'You really screwed up this time, little brother,' she growled.
Violet stared up at the other woman - who was almost a head taller and considerably slimmer - with utter awe. Lyla ignored it. She knew the effect she had on both sexes. Have fun with your fucking human war, she finished in my mind, sweeping upstairs with Michael Lee's daughter in tow.
   I wasn't concerned about any war. I was highly unlikely to survive to see it, with the King's wrath progressing across the entrance hall.
   Fabian dropped to his knees in a very low bow, screwing his eyes shut and crossing his fingers at his sides. 'Your Majesty.'

I honestly didn't know what to make of it, but I couldn't go on reading as the rest of the book continues similarly. The story itself is intriguing, but I have to ask the question - does Harper Voyager employ an editor? If so, there's no evidence of it in this book, yet they have the hide to deride and criticize indie authors! Were they so desperate to publish a vampire novel, and hop on the band wagon - so to speak -  they neglected any form of editing?

I'd love to know what others think of this extract. Am I being too harsh? Or is this the type of writing we can now expect from the Big Five? And if the latter is the case, then why should I bother spending the time and money polishing my manuscript when this type of stuff ends up on bookshelf stores!



Anonymous said...

I don't think you're being to critical. Only ever? Use of ing and ly is constant. The king's wrath can walk? Can it talk too?

Tima Maria said...

Makes you wonder how it got published and then distributed at a writers festival! Is there something wrong at Harper-Collins? My esteem for indie writers just went up.

Kevin Parrett said...

I don't believe you are being too critical at all. I had a similar experience reading a book that I picked up at our public library last year. I heard about it on NPR and found varying opinions on Amazon. The storyline was intriguing, but the execution was horrible. I typically feed my OCD by finishing everything that I start, but I did not finish this book. I could not finish this book. It was that bad.
There was a silver lining through this experience though. I learned that if a publisher considered this poorly written material, I have a chance at being published. I was inspired by how achievable a publishing contract seemed after reading this. I just released my first book and I am working on my second now. I probably never would have started writing without first realizing that there is a lot of horribly written fiction on the market. I can only make it better by including my works.

Tima Maria said...

That's great, Kevin! It's actually inspired you to continue writing and produce quality material. I think a lot of publishers have now sabotaged themselves by printing garbage, and since many authors are going indie - even some previously trad pubbed authors are leaving their publishers - they'll have to start doing something to attract them back. Decent royalties, for a start? Competent editors?

KathrynB said...

I was curious so I looked up the book. It was written by a 16 year old, and published on Wattpad. I remember seeing her on BBC here a few months ago.

I don't think the book's that terrible, especially considering that fact. However, I wonder how much of this was Harper wanting to cash in on a Wattpad success and the cachet of publishing a book by such a young author.

Incidentally, one of my friend's daughter's just finished a novel, at age 16. I told her that her age is a big plus in the publishing world right now, due to books like this. Platform is everything, and a novel written by a teenager has a built in platform.

This is today's publishing world, like it or leave it, I'm afraid. Books should come with warnings: "We bought this book based on the author's platform, not his or her writing ability."

Tima Maria said...

Hi Kathryn, and what you've said is so true. The publishers are only interested in profits even if it means promoting half-finished material.
I'm a teacher and I teach my students to write well. That is my responsibility as it is the responsibility of the editor. I wonder if the young girl who wrote this will ever be taught to write well and competently. It's a pity, and it's not the writer's fault, but the publisher's.

Sandy Appleyard said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Sandy Appleyard said...

I don't think you're being too harsh, but I still think you should spend the time and money investing in good editing. Otherwise, you'll just be sinking below your level. On a lighter note, wouldn't it be funny if traditional publishers started publishing crap and indie authors were preferred? That would be so cool!

Tima Maria said...

Hi Sandy, I couldn't agree more. I don't believe we should insult our readers by producing less than our best. But, wouldn't it be the ultimate irony if the big publishers printed rubbish and the quality did, indeed, come from indie authors? Who knows?
Thanks for your comment.

Tina~ said...

Great thoughts. I didn't really get caught up in the grammar, just the overall disturbing sexual, mental abuse stuff.

Tima Maria said...

As an English teacher I can't help but be tough on grammar! But, you're right about the disturbing sexual and mental abuse. What's a sixteen year-old doing writing stuff like that? And shame on Penguin Destiny Romance for publishing and promoting it.