I found a link to a book on a friend's Facebook page. Apparently, the book was written by a friend of his. Since I am all for supporting new authors, I figured I'd go take a look. I went to the Amazon page for the book and the title and blurb sounded interesting, so I clicked on the "Look Inside" link, which took me to a preview of the first 5 or 6 pages. And that's where the trouble began.
Let me start by saying I have no problem with self-publishing. In fact, I am considering going that route if I ever manage to get the novel I am working on in decent shape. It can be a good way to get a book out and into the hands (or ebook readers) of people faster than going a more traditional route. But there are some pitfalls and this particular book fell deeply into one of those pits. What was wrong? It needed a good editor.
The opening of the story was not bad. I was interested in the subject. But there were so many grammar and puntuation errors in those few pages that I found myself getting popped out of the story and wincing (and mentally correcting) every other sentence. Missed commas, commas where they didn't belong, choppy sentence structure, all of that and more. I have no idea if the rest of the story held up to the premise and I will never find out, because if those first pages are any indication, I would find it exceptionally hard to read, no matter how good the idea may have been.
It's too bad, really, because if the author had gotten a professional editor to work on the book, I probably would have bought it. Getting a pro to edit your book before you self-publish is one of the constant themes you see in books, articles and blogs relating to self-publishing. Sure, it is going to cost you some money up front, but isn't it worth it to ensure that people will buy the book? A good editor is going to do a lot for you in polishing your story, with both the mechanics of writing and style and content. We all like to think we are already good at all that stuff, but as the author, you miss stuff. Always. And your mom or your best friend aren't likely to be much better, unless they happen to be pros. An editor is trained to look beyond the surface story, and pull apart all the things that are wrong.
Not to say that you shouldn't let your mom or your best friend read your work. They are the ones that can tell you (assuming they will be honest with you), if the story works and keeps them interested as readers. But for the nitty-gritty, nuts and bolts editing, hire someone. I plan to. Because what your potential reader sees in those first few pages will convince them to buy or not to buy. And you want them to decide on buy. A book that comes across as poorly written from a mechanics point of view is just as bad as one that is poorly concieved.