Let me begin by stating that I have encountered many good self-published books. Heck, I have a few titles I've recently put up myself on Kindle/Nook/etc. so that makes me a self-published author in addition to being a traditionally published one.
But this weekend I encountered what is possibly the *worst* self-published book ever printed. A slim hardcover (a few clicks of research informed me that the author paid about $1,200 to have this tome brought to life), it is lifeless, lacks any sort of story arc, and -- unbelievably -- is filled with artwork (I shudder to even refer to it as such) drawn by the artist herself. The artist/author is an adult, but the drawings look like a five-year-old's refrigerator art.
I am not kidding. And I'm not exaggerating.
As you know, I write books. My daughter, Robyn, is an illustrator (her website is here). The person who lent me the book did so because she thought it might inspire us to work together to create a children's book of our own. While Robyn and I have talked about that possibility, this book serves to inspire nothing but disbelief that anyone thought it worthy of publication.
I wish I could share the book's title here, but that would just be mean-spirited on my part.
Here's the thing. Someone must have seen this manuscript before the author submitted it to the printer. Someone must have seen these drawings. The author must have shared this with friends. I can only hope that this author's friends attempted to talk her out of spending more than $1,000 to put this into book form. I can only hope.
If she persisted, she must have believed in her story. But the author had to have known in her heart of hearts that the story stunk and the drawings were even worse.
Really, I can't even tell you how bad this was. When I shared it with my family, they were all open-mouthed, aghast. I swear it wasn't just me.
The thing is, this teeny tiny (20 page) hardback book is priced at almost $30. The author sold it to an acquaintance of mine for less than that because they're co-workers.
I understand my acquaintance buying it. We all try to support those we care about. And by the time the book was published, it was too late to change anything, anyway.
No one likes to be criticized. And once a book is published and distributed, it's usually not a good idea to tell your friend what you think they did wrong.
BUT... writers usually share their works with friends, first readers, and family before they bring it to the world. Someone who cared about this woman should have talked her out of publishing. They should have suggested she wait. Maybe the urge would have passed. They should have suggested she read other children's books. They should have suggested the story have a beginning, a middle, and an end. They should have begged her not to include those drawings.
Here's the thing: there are so many wonderful books out there. So much wonderful art. If you have a friend who's intent on publishing himself or herself, and you're convinced what they've created is great, then - by all means - encourage them to pursue their dreams. But if what they've created is not ready for publication, please give an honest opinion. Save them from disappointment and possible embarrassment.
Companies are getting rich off of writers' dreams. The woman who wrote this book probably believed that parents would rush to pick up her "charming" story. I know that won't ever happen. If you saw this book, you would agree.
Who wins in this situation? The company who printed the book. That's it. They have $1,200 on their income statement. And what did they provide this woman? Five (5) copies. Seriously. She must have paid even more to have extra copies made because she's selling them where she works. What an opportunity, huh?
Again, there are good books out there that are self-published. Lots of them. And I believe that people should be persistent in following their dreams. No question about that. But before a writer plunks down significant dollars to see his or her name on a book spine, that writer ought to have enthusiastic support from those around her. If that enthusiasm is missing -- if all support is tepid at best, maybe it's time to rethink the "opportunity."
Let's help each other. Friends shouldn't let friends publish bad books.