What Makes a Professional Editor/Writer Sweat? Unprofessional Editing/Writing

We all make mistakes, right? Well I’m about to admit to making a big mistake. I spent $8.99 on a “book” that is only a book by virtue of having pages, a cover, and some printing. I had good intentions!

Classy cover art.

The work book club is going to read Dare to Lead, by my buddy Brené Brown. When I went to pick up a second copy (because I hid my first copy when I pitched a fit about how many times she said “lean in”), I saw there was also available a study guide for the book. I thought it would be great to have some questions and ideas to talk about when we have our meetings.

Today the books showed up. Coworker Maggie said, “Hey that’s a printout of a PDF; they always have those ugly rectangles on them.” I told her to check out the inside. There’s no author (unless the Review Press is a person), little publishing information, and no blank pages. You just jump right into a table of contents.

Cringing yet?

Then you keep going, or you try to. OMG, the whole thing is in “books for the visually impaired” size type, and it’s conveniently both right AND left justified. And because the huge print makes the lines quite short, the gaps between words can create not rivers, but entire seas within the paragraphs.

As I read the first part of the book, it because clear that it is a book report penned by a 14-year-old in the UK (there’s a “Lessons Learnt” chapter) trying to get the paper long enough to fit the teacher’s requirements. Poor Brené is referred to as “the writer” endlessly, and poor Dare to Lead is repeatedly called a novel. If it’s a novel, the character development and plot both suck.

But Wait, There’s More

The book report, replete with listings of the names of each section and verbatim content from Dare to Lead, mercifully ends after 22 zippy pages. Then ten pages of quotes from the book are kindly shared by, um, let’s call them “the author.” These are dizzily presented centered, but still full of huge gaps. And for fun, one’s occasionally left aligned. (I’m a hack writer too, though, how many adverbs ending in -ly were necessary in this paragraph?)

It’s centered! Mostly…

I guess “the author” got tired after picking out those quotes, because the “Conclusion” section slides into a description of the organization of the book and the names of chapters. Riveting. After carefully detailing Part 1 (though alternating on using and not using quotation marks around chapter/section titles), everything comes to a screeching halt:

“Haven discussed all the sections in part one, the writer further divided the book to part two, three and four and termed it living into our values, under section two the writer stated that giving and receiving feedbacks is one of the biggest fears at work…”

the author, Workbook for Dare to Lead

They then finally take a breath and give one sentence for each of the rest of the sections Brown so carefully put LOTS of concepts in. It’s okay, the author had to save space for the lessons learnt and workbook pages. I don’t think I’ll be using any of the workbook questions in the book club, though I could play connect the dots using the dotted lines between pages.

That’s an imperative, my friend, not a question.

To Conclude My Most Excellent Review

I actually hadn’t intended to write a book report of this book report, but it just came pouring out, and was probably good for me in a cathartic sort of way. I realize someone wrote the study guide quickly to get something out there to make money. I was silly not to look carefully and see that it was from a self-publishing purveyor.

Mainly, I want to beg and plead with any of you who plan to self publish books or know someone who does:

Please, please, please have someone look over your content before you send it in.

Amazon is NOT gonna do it. They’re going to print copies of your PDF on demand and send them to innocent people who want to read an actual book.

Really, it does?

At least glance at other books and see how they are set up. Large print and small pages are not a good combination. Most important, while Microsoft may say what appears at right about justified text, it helps to have professional typesetters and to use hyphenation. You might want to take note, too, that centering works best in very small doses.

Of course, you or someone else should proofread; “have4” is not a word, but it’s in the study guide. I forgive using semi-colons for colons in introducing lists, since whoever wrote this was trained in the British style.

One More Thing

Say, let’s look at my pretty flowers and my breakfast, to cleanse our minds.

Some very good books have started out self published. I am proud of some of the people I know who wrote them. Not all self published books are embarrassingly bad, but caveat emptor and all that.

On the other hand, I wonder if I should just PDF up every year’s worth of my blogs and offer them for sale? Suna Blathers On, Volume 1, and so forth. I could use some money, and I did write this all by myself, errors and repetitious phrases and all. I guess I’m a writer after all! Maybe I’m creative!

I’m gonna do the whole thing in Comic Sans! That’s pretty!

Author: Sue Ann (Suna) Kendall

The person behind The Hermits' Rest blog and many others. I'm a certified Texas Master Naturalist and love the nature of Milam County. I manage technical writers in Austin, help with Hearts Homes and Hands, a personal assistance service, in Cameron, and serve on three nonprofit boards. You may know me from La Leche League, knitting, iNaturalist, or Facebook. I'm interested in ALL of you!

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