How do you say ‘I’m sorry but your book is dire’?

15th November 2018 | Posted in book, Editing

Book editing

As editor of the When They Get Older website, I’ve been reviewing gift ideas for grandparents.

It’s a regular list we compile for holidays and special days, and I often get sent books to review. Generally, they’re worth a mention.

But this one, this year. Oh dear.

The joys of self-publication.

I don’t want to identify the author because I don’t want to seem to be harsh. And maybe you could argue that it’s because I’m an editor as much as a writer that I’m being particularly pernickety.

Actually, though, I wasn’t the first to read it. That was OH, who grumbled all the way through. Thankfully there’s not much to it.

So I took a look, and I couldn’t make it past page five. It’s just appallingly badly written. So bad that although I’ve helped many an author get their thoughts and grammar in line, I seriously wouldn’t know where to start with this one.

Here’s an example. ‘It was a side-step worthy of a world class rugby player and as he dodged and swerved he broke his avid attention to his hand-held technical device to perform a superbly timed photo-bomb by jutting his head sharply upwards and to the left like some displaying meerkat.’ That’s page 1, paragraph 2. It’s tortuous and the grammar is dire.

I suspect it might get reasonable marks ‘for trying’ if it were a Year 10 essay. Or Year 6. Or not.

There are questions I would like to ask the author:

  • Did you run your plot past anybody at all? And if you did, did nobody say it was daft?
  • Did you get anyone with a basic grasp of the use of English to read it?
  • Did you even ask anyone to check for spelling and spacing mistakes? (Wife with a capital W in the middle of a sentence – honestly?)
  • Why did you spend your (or somebody else’s) money on really good quality paper to publish a really crap book?
  • As it’s one of a series written by others – which I haven’t seen – how did the owner let you get away with this effort?

I’m not going to ask though. I’m not sure what I’m going to say if anyone comes back for my review. I can usually come up with some positives. Not this time.

That’s why I’ve written this blog instead, to get it off my chest. Otherwise all I’ve got to say is ‘Nice paper. What weight is that then?’

Photo by Gary Chan on Unsplash

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