Here at Attack of the Books! we receive a fair amount of queries to read new books. Most of them are by new authors, often self-published, and each is a labor of love. Unfortunately, because Britt and I are not independently wealthy (yet–we’re still trying to figure out how people “make money on the internet”), we turn down the large majority of those offers. Between work, kids, and life, we just don’t have time to read and review every book that gets sent our way.
But we try.
The copies we receive come in all levels of completeness, some well refined, others just short of it. Some are professionally completed, and others, when they aren’t self-published, I can’t help but wonder what the editor or publisher was thinking.
With that in mind, I ran across some wise words from one of my favorite writers, and writing guru, David Farland. As an editor and judge for Writers of the Future, he reads a lot of manuscripts, both good and bad:
I’ve met new authors, particularly ones who self-publish, who will say, “Well, I don’t need to know how to punctuate. My readers will fix it for me!” Or, “Nobody uses past perfect tense anyway. I don’t even know what it means?!” Or, “I don’t need to learn proper manuscript format, I’m going to publish it myself!”
Can you imagine a carpenter who doesn’t want to bother learning how to use a hammer? How about an infantryman who doesn’t know how to aim a gun? How about a surgeon who doesn’t use a scalpel?
I recall 20 years ago, I received a pretty good submission for the Writers of the Future Contest, and passed it along as a finalist. It won a place in the top three, but one of the judges pointed out, “The author had two typos on the first page. This person isn’t ready to become a professional.” At the time, I forgave the two typos and kept on reading, because I did see potential in the author’s work, but I’ve always wondered, “How many gaffes should I let slide on a manuscript?” Is one typo on the first page too much? Is two? How about three?
Here’s a clue: If I see three problems on a first page, I won’t read any further. It doesn’t matter if they’re typos, dropped words, punctuation problems, or something else—I know that it isn’t worthwhile to go on. The author isn’t ready yet.
I’m no Farland, but I’ve got about as much patience as he does. Life is just too short to read books that aren’t in finished condition. There’s just too many well written books to waste time on the writers who haven’t finished or cleaned up their manuscript.
- Your Writing Name (thepassivevoice.com)
- David Farland’s Daily Kick in the Pants – Overcoming Your Writing “Blind Spots” (davidfarland.net)
- David Farland’s Daily Kick in the Pants – Be Original (davidfarland.net)