Please Read My Error-Ridden Autobiography!

Oops! Road SignRecently I received an offer for a free copy of an autobiography by a new author. I don’t think this person is famous, but I’m not sure. It took me a very long time to figure out why anyone should care about the Kardashians so maybe this author is famous and I just don’t know it. The author is extending her book offer for two days and is hoping scads of people will say, “Wow, I have been waiting for something like this to happen! Look! An autobiography of someone I don’t know anything about!”

The author goes on to say:

I would also appreciate some ‘honest’ reviews and I really do mean HONEST.  I would not be offended by negative reviews; I want to know how people view the tale as a whole and the presentation style.  I am aware there are some errors in text, punctuation and grammar and some sections would benefit from re-phrasing/re-writing.  A revision is being worked on.  However, I would like to know what you think and to learn from you.

Couple of issues I see here.

You are aware that there are errors in the text, punctuation and grammar. Okay, the chances of my actually downloading your book have decreased dramatically with that sentence. You are also aware that some sections would benefit from a re-phrasing/re-writing. Now, I am pretty sure I am going to pass on this astounding offer.

She says “a revision is being worked on” and would like to know what her audience thinks and she wants to learn from us. And she doesn’t mind negative reviews, though how it could be anything but negative is hard to imagine. Without exception, I can say that I do not enjoy books that need to be “worked on” and errors that could be easily fixed, should be, before they are offered to the reading public.

Unfortunately, she is kidding herself if she thinks the public is dying to read a poorly-written book about a subject they may not care about written by an unknown author. Take it from me! I know no one is grabbing at books by unknown authors. And I also know that offering something before it’s ready for prime time is not a wise thing to do.

I passed on the amazing free book that I could have read (all the while grinding the enamel off my teeth as I encountered spelling errors) so I could pass on my thoughts to yet another newbie author.

This would be my advice were it solicited but which, alas, it was not:

Don’t release work that you know has errors in it. Sometimes errors get by. I know, I’ve done it myself but I never released anything that I knew had errors, and passed it off lightly as “Please excuse the many mistakes. I’m still learning!”

You can’t assume there is anyone out there who is willing to spend time teaching you how to be a better writer. That’s something you must learn on your own. There are a myriad of books available and I can recommend many. Take an online course, or if you don’t have cash to invest, there is a wealth of information on the internet, which I know you have access to or I wouldn’t have been solicited to download your free wares. Here are just a couple of sites you might find interesting and from each of these you can link to a myriad of other great resources.  50 Tips on How to Write Good (Yes, the word misuse in the title is deliberate) and The Grammar Girl can answer just about any grammatical question you have.

And finally, at the risk of sounding harsh, when I think of autobiography I think of someone famous, about whom I would like to know more. I don’t think of autobiography in terms of the average guy. And while I know that each person is unique and that person’s experiences one-of-a-kind, still it is very difficult to make your life story interesting to others. If you want to write about your life, couldn’t you disguise it as a novel? That’s what most new authors do anyway, because we all think we’ve had such interesting lives that all mankind can benefit from our tale.

It’s okay if it’s not perfect the first time. It’s okay to release something that isn’t error-free. It happens all the time. But really. This book sounds like the author was so excited to get it into the hands of the entire reading public, she chose to ignore its many problems.

That isn’t the way it works in the real world.

Photo courtesy of Microsoft Clip Art