I love to read and I love to get paid, so if someone was willing to pay me to read… hell yes! It should have been perfect… until it wasn’t.
I read books in the M/M genre. To be more specific, I prefer M/M Mystery or Contemporary within the Romance sub-genre, but truly I love all of it. When I was asked a few years ago if I would be interested in applying and testing for a proofreader position with a publisher of M/M Romance I jumped at the opportunity and made the cut. I also was offered a sizable discount on the publisher’s website, so besides getting to read my proof books for free I would be able to buy books, already at a cheap price, for next to nothing! I was given books nearly back-to-back. The genre is exploding, actually it has been growing at light speed for a few years now, and publishers of the M/M genre are hungry for new books and authors they can add to their roster. Sometimes I would be given a few days in-between books, but the norm was only a day maybe two.
I remember the first book I proofread, it was written by an author I was familiar with and it was a good story. But I also remember the second book… it was so bad I honestly didn’t want to finish it. Unlike when you buy a book, you find out it stinks and you shelf it with no more than an irritation that you spent the money, when you are a proofreader you read the book all the way through – and more than once! On average I read a book three times: the first pass was at “reader” speed, the second was a line-edit (slower and methodical while tracking changes) and the third was a final pass. Try that with a book you pretty much want to chuck out the window after the first chapter. And I did this for about two years. I kept thinking it would get better… it never did.
You see, it’s not just the great books that have to go through all the editing streams, but the bad ones get the spit-and-polish as well. I like to refer to this as putting lipstick on a pig. You hear often about those horrible books with awful editing, “how on earth did this book make so much money with all of these grammatical errors?” Because more than likely that book has a great story. Now it may not be your kind of story, and it may be written in what is referred to as a conversational-style writing (let’s face it, the majority of people don’t talk like everything coming out of their mouths has been checked by an editor), but if the story is interesting, if the hook is there and the plot engaging, if we care about the characters like they are a member of our family, the book will be a hit! Now take an uninteresting story, meandering plot and ridiculous dialogue that is boring and wooden with characters that seriously need to die in that avalanche you stuck in chapter four and I don’t care how perfectly edited that puppy (or pig) is its going to sink. Worse, you’re going to piss off your readers!
Why are we taking these bland, formulaic manuscripts and spending so much time and effort making them grammatically perfect? By the time a book got to me, the proofreader, it had been through about four levels of editing. Yes, four! And each of those levels consisted of probably many, many passes by individual editors. But seriously, ninety percent of the books I proofread were not good. I say that as a reader. I would not have paid money for them. So why are they putting so much time and effort into them? Because the ebook publisher can’t keep up with the demand!
You know, I think if there was ever a time to try and publish that novel, that time is now. The ebook pubs are taking literally anything in consideration when it comes to submissions. I know there are those who will say their Editor is very particular about what they will accept, but I’m just not seeing it. Yes, you can’t be a third grader with your purple crayon manuscript and hope to get that acceptance letter, but truly as long as your work is legible and coherent I think you have a shot!
On the one hand this is great: those of us who want to be published, even by an online publisher or the ebook imprint of a publishing house, have a chance to have our work accepted, but on the other hand it kind of pisses me off when I buy a book on Amazon, knowing it’s from a reputable publisher, and it’s awful… but hey, no dangling participles!