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REVIEW: Playing for Keeps by R. L. Mathewson

Dear Ms. Mathewson:

I purchased this book a few months ago when Has from the Bookpushers recommended it. I believe I started it and set it aside because I couldn’t get into the first chapter. When the book hit the Times list, I pulled it out to read again and pushed through the first chapter to find an engaging and funny romance but not one without its problems.

Playing for keeps RL Mathewson

Playing for Keeps is the first in a series titled “A Neighbor from Hell” and it features two opposites: Jason Bradford and Haley. They both teach school at a local private high school and they both own houses next door to each other. Haley’s home is well cared for, with a garden of flowers and well manicured grass. Jason’s home is a grown up frat house complete with discarded beer cans, rowdy parties resulting in property damage, and unhappy women who screech (author’s word) from the yard.

For shy Haley, five years as Jason Bradford’s neighbor has become hell. She’s tried to sell her home but each prospective buyer has been frightened off by Jason. Worse, she has to contend with Jason sneaking into her classroom and “borrowing” supplies and generally making her life miserable.

Haley’s limits are reached when Jason starts yanking out tulips from bulbs her grandmother had given her, ostensibly because the tulips are encroaching into Jason’s yard. Apparently crab grass and weeds are okay to proliferate but the petals of a flower somehow enrage Jason into action.

Jason knew he had gotten off to a bad start with Haley when he arrived on his move in day, locked out, and in desperate need of a bathroom. It was, as Jason recounts, either piss his pants or water the tree and he choose the latter. Since then Haley has treated him like a pariah and every time he’s tried to make amends by repairing damage or explaining himself, Haley has ran away. Her frightened rabbit routine makes him feel even worse and so, Jason being a five year old, lashes out by behaving in worse ways. Plus, he admits that he’s an asshole, albeit a likeable one.

What makes the story work is that Jason is indeed a likeable asshole, the likeability factor coming primarily from his weakness in regards to food. Jason (and apparently all Bradfords) are addicted to food and can easily be lead around by their stomachs. It is also the source of much humor in the story.

“Are those,” he noticeably swallowed, “brownies covered in peanut butter frosting?”

Did he just whimper?

“They’re chocolate chunk fudge brownies with peanut butter frosting,” she clarified automatically as her eyes caught the murderous glare Amy was sending her way. She was just about to hand the plate over to Jason and leave when everything in her stilled.

After last night she was through with getting pushed around and being intimidated. She was sick of missing out on things because she was too scared to do anything about it. She was a grown woman, damn it, and if she wanted to party it up at her first kegger then she was damn well going to do it and she was going to have fun doing it. Even if it killed her, and judging by the mascara glare being sent her way that was a good possibility.

“Let me just take those off your hands so you can grab yourself a beer,” Jason said, taking the plate from her, gazing down at it lovingly as he stepped back inside the house, leaving Haley to follow him.

“Hey, those look good! Can I have one?” a man she’d seen hundreds of times around Jason’s house asked, reaching out to take one.

“Back the fuck off! She brought them for me, you bastard!” Jason snapped.

After a confrontation over the flowers, Haley and Jason make peace with one another and begin a real friendship. As their friendship transforms, the two begin to lie to themselves about their feelings for one another. They are just friends, they both tell themselves. Even when they begin spending every minute of the day with each other; even when their friends and family point out they are in a relationship; and even when they begin to sleep together, platonically; they continue to tell themselves that they are just friends. When Jason is beset with the urge to beat up any man that looks at Haley, he tells himself that it is because he’s protective of his buddy. When Haley can’t sleep without Jason’s warm body behind her, she tells herself that Jason is just like a giant teddy bear.

Jason doesn’t change much through the book. The character arcs are limited although you do see Haley become more assertive. The funny situations and cute dialogue not to mention the setup power the story. It’s a fun romp. Haley is more than enough of a match for Jason and it’s funny watching Jason tumble head over heels while failing to be aware of it. Jason is not the most introspective of characters so his myopia is understandable. Haley’s is less so.

The whole book is the courtship.

Mitch reluctantly sat down. The two of them watched her walk away as Brad sat there smugly. They sat there silently for a few minutes before Jason spoke.

“Don’t even think about it,” he said firmly.

Mitch snorted. “Just because you think you own Haley doesn’t mean that you speak for her.”

Jason took a sip of his drink, nodding slowly before he placed his cup on his knee. “How about this then? I know you and there is no way in hell I’m letting an asshole like you near her.”

“So, let me get this straight. I’m good enough to be your friend, but not date Haley?”

“Exactly. Glad we’re on the same page.”

“Why is that exactly? You don’t like the idea of some other guy swooping in and getting her first?”

“Because you sleep around, don’t care about any of the women you fuck, and treat them all like shit. I’m not letting you do that to Haley. She deserves a nice guy.”

Haley being the only decent one in her rich family was pretty cliched but otherwise it read fresh and fun.  Good enough for me to buy the second book and then when I heard that Mathewson may be raising the prices from 99c I bought all seven titles.

I’m not sure if you have these books edited by a professional copy editor or content editor, but if you do, I suggest you get new ones because they aren’t doing you any good. There are regular misspellings that a proofreader should catch and grammatical problems that a copyeditor could give an assist. I mention this only because I feel like good editing can push a book from a good read into a great read. For some readers, the roughness of the prose will not be something he or she can overcome. For many others, it will not matter. Probably the most annoying copyediting error in the book (and all other Mathewson books) is the use of the honorific “Miss” with a period as in “Miss. Blaine” I could not give a recommendation of the book to the DA readership without being clear about its publishing problems.  C+

Best regards,

Jane

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Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

95 Comments

  1. Ellen
    Aug 10, 2012 @ 08:26:22

    My feelings exactly, cute story, characterizations; serious help needed for fundamentals.
    The things that will usually make me put a book down and walk away abound in her books, but I have bought all of them and read three of them in two days.
    She says she is raising her prices because of the extra cost of an assistant. I didn’t see that she is hiring professional editing/proofing help, but the assistant has said she is reading all the books and they will put the corrected versions up as accomplished.
    I wish her luck and I look forward to the third in the NFH series.

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  2. Kati
    Aug 10, 2012 @ 08:37:29

    Oh god. This sounds just exactly up my alley. Dammit, Jane. I’m not up for another binge.

    SIGH.

    *heads off to buy*

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  3. JenM
    Aug 10, 2012 @ 08:44:48

    More book crack! I find her writing style to be very similar to Shelly Laurenston, although much rougher in terms of editing. The characters and plot situations are over-the-top and very funny. But, if you try to read them as serious romance, I think they’d be close to wallbangers. She is supposedly doing a new copy edit for each book and will be releasing new versions as she raises the price to $2.99.

    On a related subject, I find my grammar and spelling standards slipping rapidly when it comes to ebooks. When I first started reading them, if the editing was as bad as it is in this book, it would drive me crazy. Now, I’ve gotten so used to it that it hardly bothers me. Unfortunately, this is a sad commentary on the state of editing these days. Even paper books from large publishers have a certain level of mistakes, and ebooks are far worse, so I’m being conditioned to ignore them. So sad.

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  4. Moose
    Aug 10, 2012 @ 09:00:00

    I just read this, and I completely agree with your assessment about the publishing quality. There were a ton of errors in this one. Things like “lot’s and lot’s,” inconsistent use of smart quotes/straight quotes, failure to use em-dashes, missing words, homophone confusion… The editing is a hot mess.

    I was a little more bothered by Jason’s habit of just taking food from her. Maybe it’s because I’ve gone through some financially rough times, but things like eating all the food in her fridge in retaliation just didn’t strike me as humorous. There have been times in my life when if someone did that, I would have gone hungry. I guess it might be funny to other people, but the casual way that he disrupted her food habits really left me feeling horrified. He was extremely disrespectful of her property, and even though we are told that he loves her, and we know that she’s different from all the other “skanks” (and don’t get me started on men who see the world as basically one full of “skanks”) I don’t see respect for her autonomy, choices, or property in his actions.

    This book pressed every single one of my “no” buttons.

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  5. Ros
    Aug 10, 2012 @ 09:08:06

    I read this last night, so the review is timely! For me the most horrific error was the misspelling of the heroine’s name twice in a paragraph where it is also spelt correctly. Unbelievably poor proofreading. It’s the second Mathewson I read and my favourite typo in the other one was ‘The woman looked insulated.’ I assume she meant ‘insulted’.

    Typos, punctuation, grammar and formatting issues aside (and that’s a LOT to put aside) I also felt that Mathewson could do with an editor making her sharpen up the pacing of the book. This was a fun read but it’s quite repetitive and emotionally shallow. I definitely felt that in the hands of a good editor it had the potential to be a great book.

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  6. Jane
    Aug 10, 2012 @ 09:21:57

    @Ros: It was a tough book to grade. How much to discount because of the horrible editing?

    @Moose: I totally understand where you are coming from. The second book, Perfection, really rubbed me the wrong way and primarily because all the things you don’t like in Jason are amplified in Trevor to the worst degree. I would stay away from that one.

    Ultimately the problem with it is the fumbled execution by the author. She wants to show the guy as almost buffoon like in his neanderthal ways yet lacks the subtle hand to do so. For me, though, the humor and charm of the romance (them being so myopic in their own way) overcame those flaws. In the second book, I wasn’t able to be so sanguine.

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  7. Ellen
    Aug 10, 2012 @ 09:36:29

    Not so much charm in the second. Trevor was a much bigger jerk and his character did not seem to mature, except that he now loves a plump, plain woman that is beautiful to him.
    The EMS book, well, let’s say that I got very tired of the h/h referring to each other in very derogatory ways. And she does love a long epilogue.

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  8. Jane
    Aug 10, 2012 @ 09:38:19

    @Ellen: Yes, I gave Perfection a D (maybe it should have been an F). I have a review of it scheduled for a couple of weeks from now but I LOVED how Trevor was sure to assure us in the epilogue that despite size not mattering the heroine did NOT put any weight back on after having four kids.

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  9. Patty
    Aug 10, 2012 @ 11:15:09

    In R.L. Mathewson’s defense, she is going back and re-editing the books, that being said, I love this book, I don’t know why, but I especially enjoyed A Reclusive Heart and Sudden Response: An EMS Story by her. I guess, this is a guilty pleasure author for me…

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  10. Sarah
    Aug 10, 2012 @ 11:26:58

    I’m really bothered by the fact that she is going back to re-edit the books and releasing them maybe at a higher price. I went and bought this one for $0.99 and that’s fine but I’m not going to pay for a higher priced book that should have had better editing to begin with.

    I want to read this book and I’m glad I bought at a lower price but if this trend of going back to fix errors continues, well, I won’t be spending my money quite so easily on these self-pubbed authors. Or indie. Or whatever this author is. Give me a book at $5.99 that is well edited and copyedited the first time through any time of the week.

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  11. Gwen Hayes
    Aug 10, 2012 @ 11:27:45

    These were recommended to me by the person I trust most for book recs and I had to rethink our entire relationship. Well, okay, that’s an exaggeration. But I really wanted to like the books and just could not.

    Mathewson’s heroes seem more like frat boys to me. I understand men and women are different, and I like books where the men come across as realistic (like BRO-MAGNET), but these guys were too much for me. I didn’t buy that he was a professional educator. Also, the platonic sleeping together felt silly.

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  12. Ellen
    Aug 10, 2012 @ 13:56:34

    @Sarah:

    I could be wrong, but after Jane posted about these going up in price on FB last week, I went to the author the blog. There was discussion about not wanting to change the IBSN number by changing the cover art. It was stated since they didn’t want a change in number, they couldn’t change the cover. I had hoped with that that the we would be allowed to download the cleaned up version. Could be wrong, though.

    @Jane, I can see a D, possibly F for Perfection. I can’t say I enjoyed it, but I read it through to see how it worked out (and we were on vacation, driving for about two hours and it was a good book to read and enjoy the scenery). I thought for sure the new Mrs. Bradford would lose a ton of weight because her husband/kids ate all the food before she could have any and once all the plump melted away there would be a pageant winner. So I was heartened it didn’t go that way.
    But I still want the third one, if the reviews say certain issues have been dealt with to some degree.
    Not interested in the second EMS so much, though, and haven’t brought myself to read the vampire ones. I am thinking my glom makes the “issues” even more obvious.

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  13. Ros
    Aug 10, 2012 @ 16:54:00

    The other thing I forgot to say about this book is that the heroine’s attitude to sex was just plain weird to me. She wants to save herself for the guy she loves: great. But she’s willing to engage in a sexual relationship that involves practically everything short of vaginal penetration. And she is not 16. I just didn’t believe that at all.

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  14. Ros
    Aug 10, 2012 @ 17:00:26

    @Patty: Huh. I hated A Reclusive Heart. The hero was so unpleasant and the heroine was so pathetic. I don’t mind virgin heroines at all. I do mind when they’ve never been to a bar or bought nice clothes or had any friends. I feel like Mathewson plays into a lot of stereotypes in her books.

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  15. Ellie
    Aug 10, 2012 @ 17:01:01

    I liked both the Neighbor books a lot when I first read them, but they don’t stand up to a re-read for me, mostly because of the madcap-ness. The food obsession was over the top, and so was the self-centeredness of the guys. I get that they’re clueless buffoons, but it’s not as charming as the author wants to think. It gets kind of insulting after a while. There was a very fine line between clueless/ cute and downright dismissive, and the guys got way too close for comfort at times. In my romances, there has to be basic respect, otherwise it just doesn’t work for me. And I just don’t feel the guys are there.

    And yes – the platonic sleeping, night after night – who does that? And both of them are too clueless to think it means something? Nope, not buying it.

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  16. Ally
    Aug 10, 2012 @ 19:09:23

    I am very frustrated with this review. I am a firm believer that everyone is entitled to their opinions, and I respect those opinions. However, you should not make statements about an author unless you have all of the facts. Were you aware that she is a self-published author? Of course her books are not edited as well as authors such as J. R. Ward, who have the backing of large publishing companies. She gets her books out to her readers within a timely manner, instead of waiting a year or so to publish the next one. Whoever made the comment referring to RL’s hilarious interpretation of the “alpha male” by discussing his obsession with food, have you ever met the type? I know quite a few men like that, and I promise you, it’s not such an exaggeration. They eat everything in sight, at all times. If you are bothered by her lack of awareness of being poor an unable to afford food, then it is obvious you have not visited her website. If you had, you’d know that she dedicates most of her time to any and all types of charities. She isn’t rich. She just gives and helps because it’s the right thing to do.

    I think her books are very entertaining. I’m obviously not the only one, since she IS a New York Times Best Seller. I do believe she hit the list at number 16. Have any of you done that? No? Well then don’t hate on someone who is living her dream and going places in life. You have every right to not enjoy a book, but never think it’s okay to bash the author. You don’t actually know her. Think about that next time you judge how an author edits or publishes his/her books. You may just find out that the author is just like me and you. You’d be lucky to have someone like RL in your corner.

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  17. Loosheesh
    Aug 10, 2012 @ 19:15:56

    @Ally: Huh?

    Anyhoo, I came by to say that, despite the C+ grade, I bought this one ’cause it sounds like it’ll be a quick, fun read. I also bought Sudden Response. I may attempt both on the weekend (unless I’m guilt-tripped by what I’m supposed to be ‘currently reading’ ;-))

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  18. Gwen Hayes
    Aug 10, 2012 @ 19:45:12

    Here we go……….

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  19. hapax
    Aug 10, 2012 @ 19:56:57

    Wowzers. *That* was a rollercoaster ride.

    While reading this review, I was all set to buy it; it sounded like a cute, fun, silly read, rather like an early Evanovich or Crusie.

    Then I read about the sub-par editing — misspelling the heroine’s name? Stray periods? Wandering apostrophes? — and thought, “Nope. I’m not paying you for the privilege of having to copy-edit as I read. You’d have to pay ME to read this.”

    Then I got to the comment about re-releasing better-edited copies at 2.99, and thought, “Huh. That’s a fair price. Maybe I’ll keep this author in mind.”

    And then Ally blundered in with her protestations that self-published authors don’t have to bother with the mechanics of their craft, because they are such Nice People, and Ally and all her best buddies just lurrve these books, and all the other reviewers are just jealous, JEALOUS! and haterz and will never have any real friends and die alone and sad …

    … and poor R. L. Mathewson has just landed on my Do Not Buy Ever list. Because I’m not sure I can cope with another author whom I can’t review honestly, because I’m afraid of being harassed by her Tru Fans.

    Nice work, Ally.

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  20. jmc
    Aug 10, 2012 @ 20:02:18

    @Ally: When an author puts their work out there, via self-publishing or traditional publishing, they need to put the best product out available and be ready to take legitimate criticism of the work. Commenting on poor copy editing it legitimate criticism in a review. Choosing to self-publish doesn’t absolve an author from having their work professional edited, nor should readers/reviewers feel the need to judge such authors by different (lower) standards.

    @Patty: Re-editing a previously published book isn’t a defense for an author; it’s an admission that they published unready, under-polished work, and it doesn’t reflect well on the author IMO.

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  21. Loosheesh
    Aug 10, 2012 @ 20:17:33

    @hapax:

    “And then Ally blundered in with her protestations that self-published authors don’t have to bother with the mechanics of their craft, because they are such Nice People, and Ally and all her best buddies just lurrve these books, and all the other reviewers are just jealous, JEALOUS! and haterz and will never have any real friends and die alone and sad …”

    And blundering in after I’d already purchased mine too – so inconsiderate! Ah well, with Kobo coupons the two I bought were only $1.08.

    From what’s been mentioned, I don’t think the editing will bother me too much; I am, sadly, becoming somewhat inured to bad editing :(

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  22. Kaetrin
    Aug 10, 2012 @ 20:26:42

    I started reading this the other day and put it aside for much the same reasons you did Jane. I was tempted to pick it up again after reading your review but then I saw Ally’s comment and now I’m re-thinking that.

    Message for Ally: you you not helping your favourite author by scaring readers away.

    Self publishing should not = crappy editing. There’s no reasonf or it – just ask Courtney Milan and Sarah Mayberry.

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  23. Janine
    Aug 10, 2012 @ 20:51:30

    @Ally: It is not a reader’s responsibility to keep up with every author’s website or blog and take into account their personal life when evaluating the quality of a book. Do you have time to look up the website every author whose books you read and read through all their posts there?

    Whether a reader spends 99 cents on a professionally edited New York published e-novella or a self-published, shoddily edited work like Playing for Keeps, it still costs them 99 cents either way. Like any other consumer, readers want to get the best value for their money. Why would I buy a book full of spelling mistakes if I could get an equally well-written and better edited book for the same money?

    Readers have a right to learn the pertinent facts about a book from reviews before they spend their dollars on a product that may disappoint them.

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  24. Turophile
    Aug 10, 2012 @ 21:54:31

    The author is a lovely person. I received this book and another one through Goodreads and couldn’t bring myself to do the review. She’s a lovely person. There is some entertainment value but the editing is so poor I couldn’t take it. Regardless of whether someone is self-published or not, I expect a certain level of stylistic quality and grammar. I hope she continues to write, but I hope she finds someone, perhaps a group of critque friends, who can help her edit the books.

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  25. Kelly
    Aug 10, 2012 @ 22:43:07

    @Ally:

    An author who doesn’t make an effort with spelling, grammar, punctuation and other editing errors is the equivalent of…

    …a musician who plays out of tune and shrugs off missed notes.

    …an athlete who doesn’t care about fumbling the ball or sticking a landing.

    …a scientist or scholar who’s lazy about research methods.

    …a politician who doesn’t bother to actually read the legislation he’s supporting.

    …a major world event announcer who doesn’t know how to pronounce non-English names.

    I could go on, but I’ve got Olympics to watch. Authors who want to be taken seriously need to respect their craft – and their readers. Otherwise, they’re just hacks.

    I bought a few of this author’s books, and I’m looking forward to reading them. But if the editing errors are too distracting, I’ll DNF and never buy another.

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  26. Jane
    Aug 10, 2012 @ 22:47:40

    @Ally – Thanks for your comments. It is our philosophy here at Dear Author to judge every book the same, regardless of how nice or mean the author is; whether she is self published, digitally published, or print published. That way every book is measured by the same criteria. We believe that this honors the authors rather than diminishes them. If we were to assess a self published book with lowered standards we would be saying that self published authors aren’t as good as their print or digital first published colleagues. Of course that simply isn’t true. Self published authors deserve the same respectful treatment that we afford every other author regardless of their publishing status.

    But more importantly is that our reviews here exist to start a conversation with readers. We know our readers are smart and savvy and they deserve the most respect that we, as reviewers, can provide. That respect starts by acknowledging that multiple errors in spelling, grammar and word usage is an important factor for a reader in determining whether they want to spend their time and money on a particular book versus another book. These criticisms and decisions exist without consideration for the author because as reviewers and readers, judgment is for the book alone.

    I have no doubt that Ms. Mathewson is a nice person but whether she is a nice person or whether she is mean is not a judgment that is appropriate to make when assessing a book.

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  27. Meoskop
    Aug 10, 2012 @ 23:21:12

    The editing is a MAJOR problem for me. If the heroine’s name is repeatedly wrong & punctuation is erratic I won’t finish the book or buy the author again. If the author doesn’t respect me enough to produce a finished product why should I spend my time slogging through their mistakes? Get it right the first time. This reissuing with new edits idea is unacceptable.

    Also, if a basic review gets a lecture on the struggling humanity of the author as well as an assumption of the quality of the readers… I will never glance at that author again. I have enough unprofessional crazy in my life. I don’t need to court it via my hobbies.

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  28. Tamara
    Aug 11, 2012 @ 00:06:30

    @Ally:

    There’s *no* excuse for sloppy editing. None.

    I’m glad you admire this author. You should suggest she invest more time in making her work the best it can be, even if she can’t publish it in a “timely” way. I’d rather wait for a cleanly edited work than have poor product dumped speedily on my lap.

    Please don’t add to the problem of plummeting standards in editing. There are plenty of self-published authors who have busy lives and they still manage to publish clean, readable stories. You aren’t helping this author by heaping on excuses for her. If you tolerate lazy work, all you’ll ever get is lazy work. It’s insulting to readers.

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  29. Ann Somerville
    Aug 11, 2012 @ 00:32:28

    @Ally:

    “Were you aware that she is a self-published author? Of course her books are not edited as well as authors such as J. R. Ward”

    Could you please not pretend to speak for all self-published authors, thanks? There is no ‘of course’ about it.

    “She gets her books out to her readers within a timely manner, instead of waiting a year or so to publish the next one.”

    Speed of self-publication is only an imperative if you’re writing fanfiction. Otherwise….

    Slow the hell down and try to get it right the first time. Readers will thank you for it. They won’t thank you for selling them a badly edited product, and then selling them a re-edited version for three times the price.

    @Tamara:

    “There’s *no* excuse for sloppy editing. None.”

    And this is why Tamara is my favourite author on the planet. She cares about what she writes even when she’s putting it up for free.

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  30. Ridley
    Aug 11, 2012 @ 00:50:10

    Ugh. I own book #2, and now I’m afraid to read it. If it’s full of errors, I won’t be writing a nice review. And if Ally’s indicative of this author or her fans, I don’t think my hedges can fit any more disgruntled parties. They’re a bit crowded at the moment.

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  31. AlexaB
    Aug 11, 2012 @ 02:05:25

    @Ally:

    Oh, she’s a self-pubbed author…

    …so what?

    There is no excuse for sloppy grammar and poor editing, as others stated. Putting a period after Miss? Srsly?! Jane is far too generous with a C+. If I had turned in papers with the same errors in high school, much less college and grad school, I would have received a lower grade – and rightfully so.

    You expect me to pay for a product, you better earn my money AND my time. The e-book may only cost $0.99, but my reading time is worth far more than that.

    And PUHLEEZE can we stop the “but she’s such a nice person” argument. I don’t freaking care. I’m not looking to be authors’ BFF or to hire them to babysit my kids. I should hope the author is a decent human being because, y’know, various theories of social contract and all that. We should ALL aspire to be decent human beings. That’s how society best functions. But I’m not going to make exceptions for subpar work because, well, at least the author doesn’t kick puppies. Well, I should hope the author doesn’t! (Plus, to quote Sondheim: “Nice is different than good.”)

    I very much appreciate Jane’s warning about the grammatical errors, because nothing will make me rant about a book like sloppy copy editing. So Jane just saved the author from my scathing remarks. You should also thank Jane profusely for writing her review; I noticed that this book hit the low 100s sales rank on Amazon soon after Jane published this post, while the author’s other books languished in the mid six figures.

    I might have considered trying the author’s books after they are re-edited, but congrats: kneejerk defenses like this land authors on my never buy list. I already own more books than I’ll probably have time to read in my lifetime; unprofessional authors with attack fans do not get added to the pile.

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  32. Des Livres
    Aug 11, 2012 @ 06:55:43

    I don’t understand why self published books have lower standards than writing something for someone else. If an author doesn’t care enough about the work to minimise spelling errors, why should anyone else care enough to read it?

    Perhaps I am being ignorant – does the process of electronic self publishing automatically irredeemably mangle text? How else could someone’s name be miss-spelt twice in the same paragraph? That’s a genuine question – not a rhetorical one. Surely when writing the book the author would not confuse the names herself?

    I have been naïvely assuming one typed the book using some sort of word processing software and then pressed a button as part of a process on Amazon somewhere to “publish” it, a bit like selling something on ebay.

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  33. Courtney Milan
    Aug 11, 2012 @ 07:35:47

    @Des Livres: Surely when writing the book the author would not confuse the names herself?

    Er… *raises hand* I confuse names all the time. In the book I’m writing, there’s a character whose last name is sometimes Charingford and then Charington and then Castleton, and I keep trying to make it consistent and keep screwing it up. In Unveiled, my heroine’s fake last name changed back and forth and I didn’t even notice it until the second draft. This is something I’m really, really bad at.

    When I’m doing my last proofreading passes, I have to make a huge sheet with my character’s names on them, written in big letters, and look at them ALL the time to make sure I’m not screwing them up.

    So it’s very believable to me that this kind of error could arise in the first instance.

    The reason it doesn’t get fixed is simply that there are not enough eyes on the text.

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  34. Des Livres
    Aug 11, 2012 @ 08:12:32

    @Courtney Milan: oh, well then.

    It feels like the barrier between professional and non professional work is becoming ever more porous.

    ReplyReply

  35. Courtney Milan
    Aug 11, 2012 @ 12:35:20

    @Des Livres:

    No, not at all. The difference between professional and nonprofessional work isn’t that the professional makes no errors. That’s impossible to expect, and setting up that kind of expectation gives rise to the attitude that errors are inevitable.

    Professionals make errors. They just have processes in place to catch and correct them. Part of being a professional is recognizing that there are some things that you are bad at, and (a) outsourcing those things to other people and (b) thinking about processes that you can implement to minimize your own deficiencies.

    Most traditional publishers have made production choices that result in few, but non-zero errors. Some institutions have closer to zero errors in their work, and so their processes will be more stringent. A sloppy book is often the result of no process whatsoever. (And note: the lag time in publishing has little to do with production, and much more to do with the necessity of pitching books to the accounts six months in advance.)

    Errors are inevitable. Uncaught errors are a result of choices made at the production level as to the kind of processes that the product is subjected to.

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  36. Moriah Jovan
    Aug 11, 2012 @ 13:16:04

    @Des Livres: The editor is the filter. I don’t really understand the concept that a work should come out of the hard drive perfect on the first go to be considered professional.

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  37. Rach
    Aug 11, 2012 @ 23:44:32

    I fell in love with all the character’s in the books. I started to read them as I just wanted something fun, easy, humorous, and that didn’t leave me depressed at the end. 

    I really like the style of the writing and all for 99p.  Yes there were a few mistakes but I forgot about them as I became so involved in each book. (and there weren’t really that many)

    I feel that the comments on here are very negative and not actually helpful, all everyone has done is complain of the same thing. Yes I understand that all are entitled to an opinion, as am I but it all just seems very mean. 

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  38. Ann Somerville
    Aug 12, 2012 @ 00:02:18

    @Rach:

    “I feel that the comments on here are very negative and not actually helpful”

    The thing is, Rach, Ms Mathewson is now in the big leagues. The time for ‘help’ from her readers was back when she was writing her books and sending it out for beta reads, if not actual editing. Now her work has to stand or fall on its own merits. Since she’s made it to the best-seller’s list, it looks like it’s going to stand, regardless of errors and anyone’s opinion.

    But what can actively hurt her – especially after nearly a year of self-published authors making the news for spectacularly losing their shit when criticised (and unfortunately enabled by their fans), so that readers and reviewers are now battle-weary and hypersensative to bad behaviour – is fans ramming the idea down people’s throats that criticising this book is ‘mean’, or that the author is somehow being bullied or mistreated in any way because her book is being taken seriously by big review blogs like DA. That kind of attitude has already driven curious readers away from wanting to try the book, right here, just from one terribly misnamed ‘Ally’. You surely don’t want to drive more away, do you?

    You want to help Ms Mathewson? Pimp her books to like-minded readers but LET THEM MAKE THEIR OWN MINDS UP. You can’t bludgeon someone into liking something. You can very easily dissuade them from not trying – and for a self-published author, however successful, that’s the kiss of death.

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  39. Ridley
    Aug 12, 2012 @ 01:14:04

    @Rach:

    I fell in love with all the character’s in the books.

    I can see why the errors didn’t bother you.

    ReplyReply

  40. Des Livres
    Aug 12, 2012 @ 02:02:14

    @Rach: Occurring here is a broader vent amoungst DA commenters about a broader issue that is driving us all up the wall – poor editing – copy editing in this case. I am reading more and more reviews of books where there are apparent editing problems – be they broader ones (“how can the heroine be in the living room when in the last paragraph she was in the bed room” “I thought at the beginning of the book it said she was from Kansas not Washington” “plastic? it’s 1819!”) or copy editing (errors such as names words or spelling). These issues are present to some extent in books released by publishing houses as well – perhaps due to cost-cutting.

    Noteworthy in these comments is the fact that the complaining is generally impersonal. None of the complainers (including me) have anything against R L Mathewson. We just wish the books did not contain rotten spelling. Only the author’s “defenders” are making this personal.

    For what it’s worth, my take-away from this discussion is a bit more patience with my favourite authors when it comes to getting their books out (some of whom may or may not be participating in this discussion). As a reader I would rather wait for the book to look its best within reason – for my own pleasure as a reader, but also for the sake of the reputation of the author.

    Mathewson must be quite an author – he/she seems to incur strong loyalty and and his/her books great enjoyment despite their unedited state.

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  41. Ros
    Aug 12, 2012 @ 03:43:35

    I don’t get it. Two complaints have ben made about these books: poor editing/proofreading and unlikeable characters. How is that in any way a personal attack on the author, or ‘mean’?

    ReplyReply

  42. Ann Somerville
    Aug 12, 2012 @ 04:06:13

    It seems that the whiteknighting seen here possibly results from Ms Mathewson’s Facebook post

    https://www.facebook.com/Rlmathewson25/posts/315208855242161

    I think it’s one thing to link to a review and say that it was hard but fair, but to then go and breastbeat:

    I apologize to anyone who didn’t enjoy the books for whatever reason. I also apologize for the editing errors, those are pretty embarrassing. I think Jane did a wonderful job reviewing the book. She was spot on and the first thing that I did after reading her review was to fix Miss. and the mistakes that she mentioned that slipped past me. I apologize and I hope that the quality of the book will be improved with our recent changes.

    Only encourages an evitable ‘But you’re so perfect! And they’re all poopyheads’ response and criticism of DA, which she then seems to validate with

    I enjoy what I do and I’m not about to change anything to make someone else happy. I’d probably hate it if I did. I was more than happy that they caught some grammar mistakes. But, as Maura pointed out, the book they reviewed seems to be a very old version. Curious about that.

    First she acknowledges the book needs editing, but then says she won’t be forced into changing anything (who’s even trying?) and then tries to throw the blame back on Jane for reading an old edition. Uh, who put the lousily edited version up for sale?

    That crosses over into badly behaving author terrority if you ask me. She’s not so subtly encouraging the idea she’s being victimised and picked on to an audience that seems eager to believe she is perfect in every way. It’s not the most egregious ‘woe is me for I am so abused’ act I’ve seen, but it’s still poor form.

    Such it up, Ms Mathewson. You’ve had success most authors only dream about, and if you only have to cop a bit of crap because you didn’t edit your books *before* you put them up for sale, then count yourself lucky. Your fans aren’t doing you any favours, and you’re not treating them like adults either.

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  43. Kaetrin
    Aug 12, 2012 @ 04:41:35

    I’m tempted to respond to the FB post but I’m the “real” me there and I don’t need the fangirls stalking me IRL so I’ll resist.

    ReplyReply

  44. Ros
    Aug 12, 2012 @ 06:16:56

    I read the FB post too. Who on earth is Maura?

    ReplyReply

  45. Rach
    Aug 12, 2012 @ 06:33:38

    @Ridley: This is not ment to course you any offence put please could you tell me where I have gone wrong in that statement. I have looked and can’t see what is wrong and am now curious. Thank you.

    ReplyReply

  46. Rach
    Aug 12, 2012 @ 06:38:25

    I was only stating my opinion. I want her to do well, I’m sure she has taking what you’ve all said on board, not that I personal know her.

    As for picking up on what I’ve said, I’d rather you actually tell me where I’ve gone wrong instead of just writing that I have.

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  47. Loosheesh
    Aug 12, 2012 @ 06:42:25

    @Ridley: *snicker*

    ReplyReply

  48. Loosheesh
    Aug 12, 2012 @ 06:51:20

    @Rach:

    I’m not Ridley but here goes: “character’s” = possessive; characters = plural. The second usage is the proper one because you are speaking of “all” the characters.

    (And I apologize for the *snicker*; the irony just got to me, sorry)

    ReplyReply

  49. Rach
    Aug 12, 2012 @ 07:10:34

    Thank you.

    ReplyReply

  50. Jane
    Aug 12, 2012 @ 08:54:42

    @Ann Somerville – I reviewed the book I had purchased. Amazon hasn’t notified me that there was an update so I didn’t know that there was a “new” version v. and “old” version. It does make me wonder, though, how many versions Mathewson has uploaded!

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  51. Anne V
    Aug 12, 2012 @ 09:18:30

    @Jane: The version I’ve got has all the errors you cited. Further, there’s no update available, so the reference to an “old” version is confusing at best and to me feels disingenuous.

    The thing that I find frustrating and wish that the author and her street team would get a handle on is that ultimately, poor editing and proofreading and the like are bad for the author. If you sell enough shoddy product, people will call you out on it. Once enough people call you out on it, your intermediaries will call you out. That’s not mean – that’s the deal with selling stuff, whether it’s trash cans or concrete block or ebooks. It’s a transaction, not a friendship.

    I enjoyed these books, but I can’t recommend them to my friends or family, all of whom are really enthusiastic readers because the editing, etc. are so abysmal. Which means those people also won’t ever recommend those titles. As more and more titles get published (self and otherwise) and goodreads and amazon reviews and recommendations become entirely (instead of mostly) unbelievable, credible word of mouth will matter more.

    That’s the score of DA, really – large scale word of mouth from fairly neutral reviewers.

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  52. JenM
    Aug 12, 2012 @ 09:33:06

    I haven’t gotten any update notifications either. I just purchased and read Sudden Response last week in response to the news that the price was going to go up and it still had a fair number of errors, so I don’t think there are any “new” versions yet. I thought the author was planning to put up the newly edited ones when she increases the price to $2.99. Because I’d already read 3 of hers, the quality of the editing (or lack thereof) in Sudden Response didn’t surprise me.

    Really, I agree with @Des Livres that the issue here is the broader one of poor editing in books in general. I can’t believe how quickly my standards have plummeted over the last 2 years of reading ebooks almost exclusively. Even books published by large publishing houses have annoying copyedit mistakes. For example, I just finished Gunmetal Magic by Ilona Andrews (which I adored and inhaled) but there was a bit of a continuity mistake in the middle of the book. This is in no way a criticism of Ilona and Gordon, whose writing I cannot say enough good things about. I’m only mentioning it as yet another example of how the publishing houses are letting down their wonderful writers by cutting editorial staffs. Do they think we are so stupid that we just won’t notice? I don’t know how they can insist that they are the last bastion of quality publishing when they’ve let the quality of their own books go downhill so rapidly.

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  53. Anne V
    Aug 12, 2012 @ 09:45:13

    It’s not a really genius time for big publishing to fall down on providing quality service to authors and readers.

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  54. Ellen
    Aug 12, 2012 @ 10:49:57

    My versions of the books are less than a month old and I found (which is not a good word because I wasn’t looking) many an error. I have gotten “better” at reading over errors by highlighting so I can let it go. In these books I stopped highlighting because I got used to them.

    I still enjoyed them; however, as someone earlier said, I can’t recommend them to anyone because of the previously listed errors. I can’t recommend they spend any money on things I know will drive them bonkers.

    Like Jane’s issue with “Miss.”, I had real problems with the incorrect usage of “discretely.”

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  55. If you can’t afford an editor, you shouldn’t be publishing | Shuffling through a book-less desert
    Aug 12, 2012 @ 19:31:15

    [...] This review of R.L. Mathewson’s book over at Dear Author and the comment thread made me want to pound my head on my keyboard.  Especially the fangrrls who seem to think that commenting on abysmal copy editing is an attack on an author.  Not long after reading that head-scratcher, my daily browsing led me to this article at Galley Cat on the need for editing in self-published work; in the comments an author noted that many authors (presumably herself included?) cannot afford an editor. [...]

  56. Ann Somerville
    Aug 12, 2012 @ 19:37:37

    @Jane:

    “I reviewed the book I had purchased. ”

    Yeah, I figured, and I also figured you hadn’t bought it months ago and hidden it in your virtual sock drawer. Mathewson’s little dig was disingenous at best, and dishonest at worst.

    Even her devout fans admit there were a ‘few’ mistakes. They can’t imagine the possibility of there being different tolerances for errors. One person doesn’t know the difference between ‘discreet’ and ‘discrete’, and to another person it’s like nails on a chalkboard. It’s how the world turns!

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  57. Loosheesh
    Aug 12, 2012 @ 20:50:43

    I bought my copy this past Friday at Kobo and it had all the errors mentioned here (including multiple instances of “discretely” for discreetly), and more (“brother-in-laws”, “band” for ban, “peck” for pec [pectoral] etc etc). I missed the misspelling of the heroine’s name, but that may be because I was a teeny bit overwhelmed by the 200+ instances of the word “little” o_o

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  58. Des Livres
    Aug 13, 2012 @ 00:12:43

    ***subsiding to an impulse I’ve been suppressing***
    - I hope do not offend the people who do this for a living who participate in these comments, but:
    Would someone please post up a link(s) – if they exist – to
    *”so you want to be a writer”
    *suggested book editing steps
    *where beginning writers can find people to help them out including volunteers?
    *guidance concerning professional standards?

    The more available this information is, the more likely that sprightly neophytes to the world of writing/publishing generally will commence their published careers at a certain pleasing standard and thence maintain it. Authors’ adoring support networks might also find it helpful in terms of assisting their author in the ways most needed.

    The more available the information and resources are, the more likely the standards of published writing are likely to rise. Converting white-knights into meticulous copy editors would be a positive step.

    Just sayin’.

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  59. Meoskop
    Aug 13, 2012 @ 01:06:05

    @Des Livres – no. Just no. This is a review site, not a career guidance site. Resources abound for authors, would be authors and the author curious. There are an abundance of resources available. It is not Dear Author’s job to facilitate anyone’s career. If you want to perform any job you have to do the work required. I don’t bring my medical team anatomy books.

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  60. Meoskop
    Aug 13, 2012 @ 02:29:06

    Excuse my frustration on the above. I recognize the somewhat tounge in cheek nature of the suggestion but enough already with pretending an author’s failure is a reader’s responsibility.

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  61. Des Livres
    Aug 13, 2012 @ 02:38:50

    @Meoskop:
    No indeed. Your medical team would already be across the different roles and responsibilities and how to find out more if they need to. They would also be aware which are the reputable resources and which are the dodgy exploitative inappropriate ones. There would be no way they would have those jobs without such knowledge and judgement.

    Yes, this is a book review site – I’m not saying “Jane et. al tell everyone how to do this” – long may they continue with their excellent reviews. But this issue is arising more and more frequently, annoying more and more of us. There is no harm in referral to resources, as part of these discussions. I am addressing the comments/discussions, not the review itself.

    I knew this would be a controversial suggestion. But the more available information and resources are, the more likely the standards of published writing will improve.

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  62. Ann Somerville
    Aug 13, 2012 @ 02:51:47

    @Des Livres:

    “the more available information and resources are, the more likely the standards of published writing will improve. ”

    If only there was a way that a would be author could freely, and with no cost, search for information on her computer, accessing sources from all over the world, without ever leaving her living room.

    ReplyReply

  63. Meoskop
    Aug 13, 2012 @ 02:57:52

    Oh god, it was sincere.

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  64. Des Livres
    Aug 13, 2012 @ 03:02:49

    @Meoskop: There are two sides to providing such information.

    On one hand it can be seen to be “being everybody’s mum”/”readers taking responsibility for author failures” as you put it. Hence my own ambivalence in making the suggestion.

    On the other hand, once this information is provided and ubiquitous, the onus then shifts, and the authors (in this case) don’t have an ignorance/innocence problem/excuse anymore.

    I would not have posited this as a response to Jane’s review of Mathewson’s book. This is a book review site, and this is an excellent book review. It stands on its own.

    I am speaking to the ongoing discussion, including the wails from the author on Facebook, and her releasing updated drafts as subsequent editions (or something). The world of authors/publishing-/readers is growing more porous. Obviously, publishers are cutting costs by reducing their editing staff, and authors are self publishing to the world, some, initially, without the first clue about professional standards, with subsequent embarrassment. There is increasing porosity around the dialogues/information between authors, reviewers and readers. We all need to learn new ways to navigate this realm.

    The work of Dear Author is not to be anyone’s beta-reader – but the more impossible it is for authors to be ignorant of what a beta-reader is, the less readers will be lowering their standards to ignore egregious typos.

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  65. Kaetrin
    Aug 13, 2012 @ 03:10:27

    @Des Livres: I think the point is that this information is ubiquitous. It’s really not hard to find it. Google is [insert (aspiring) author name here's] friend.

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  66. Ann Somerville
    Aug 13, 2012 @ 03:11:19

    @Des Livres:

    “The work of Dear Author is not to be anyone’s beta-reader ”

    I guess the hint in my previous comment was too subtle, so let me spell it out for you.

    No aspiring author would come to a review site to learn the basics of her craft. If she did, she’s a blithering idiot.

    There are literally thousands of sites on the internet offering pretty good advice on writing, many by real professional authors and agents. Even searching for “what is a beta reader”, gets you over a hundred thousand hits. If an author is too weedy, needy or flat out stupid to know how to look for this information, they won’t find DA in the first place.

    The role of a reader is to read and enjoy, hopefully. The role of a reviewer is to tell people what they thought of a book.

    The role of an author is to tell a story in the best way she can, using properly honed craft, and acquiring what basics of grammar and sentence construction that she may have failed to grasp at school.

    These roles may overlap, but they do not replace. A reviewer is not a teacher. A reader is not an editor. And an author is not a student to be fed like a baby bird, but a professional with a product to sell.

    The word for what you are doing is ‘concern trolling’. It’s unattractive and annoying. You can use Google to look it up. It’ll be good practice.

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  67. Ros
    Aug 13, 2012 @ 03:15:59

    Fine. You’ll get all the information you need with a built in forum of professionals and people to critique your work at Absolute Write. Now can we get back to being readers here?

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  68. Des Livres
    Aug 13, 2012 @ 03:23:26

    Professionally I have found it wise never ever ever to underestimate the level of ignorance in clients (you know non-professionals).

    People need to learn there is a question to be asked/a search to be done, before they can ask the question/do the search.

    Unlike lawyers and doctors, people can become writers without professional accreditation. People can now self publish to the world with no background in writing/publishing or any education whatsoever.

    As a reader, should I just deem all self published works off-limits unless the writer has already published with a publishing house, or has some other professional /scholarly background? At the moment frankly, I am leaning in this direction. I don’t want to waste my time reading illiterate garbage. I’ve had a few books I’ve DNF’d due to their unreadability, after having paid money for them.

    One way to mitigate this situation is to disseminate information. Or we could make it unlawful to publish anything without some sort of professional accreditation (dip. spelling? dip. “know your editor”?). I’m not sure that is a better or more popular option. (actually the dip.spelling might be).

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  69. Des Livres
    Aug 13, 2012 @ 03:26:18

    @Ros: there you go.

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  70. Ann Somerville
    Aug 13, 2012 @ 03:40:37

    @Des Livres:

    “Professionally I have found it wise never ever ever to underestimate the level of ignorance in clients (you know non-professionals). ”

    That’s fine, but authors aren’t clients of reviewers. Their ignorance is not a reviewer’s problem.

    “People can now self publish to the world with no background in writing/publishing or any education whatsoever. ”

    They always have been able to, actually.

    “As a reader, should I just deem all self published works off-limits unless the writer has already published with a publishing house, or has some other professional /scholarly background? ”

    If you only want to read books by the Big Six or people with MFAs, that’s up to you. Neither is a guarantee of a good or even well written book.

    “we could make it unlawful to publish anything without some sort of professional accreditation”

    Sure. And while we’re at it, let’s make it unlawful to post a review without being a professional writer or an academic, and forbid people from making comments on reviews unless they provide a full resumé and phone number along with their real name.

    Mathewson is clearly not a stupid or ignorant woman. On her site she says “Before I tried my hand at writing I was a receptionist, cafeteria worker at the college I attended, museum worker, bellhop, and about a dozen other different things… I got a little direction in my life and tried my hand at emergency medicine…I opted for the fun job in EMS, an EMT.” Presumably that required some serious training. Her written English skills are pretty bad, not to mention the fact that no author can edit their own work effectively (though it helps if you try). She was perfectly capable of recognising that eventually without help from DA, and has apparently hired an author. Why would more links and more advice, let alone higher degrees, make any difference to her? She’s able to educate herself, and look stuff up. That’s pretty much a starting point for an author. She has the skills and tools – now she needs to apply them.

    However, if she didn’t have them, it’s nothing to do with DA, and if the world was deprived of another Western English language novel because of it, it’s not like our brains would starve to death from lack of mental nutrition. There’s plenty more where she came from.

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  71. Kaetrin
    Aug 13, 2012 @ 04:23:05

    @Des Livres: Actually, a Cert. IV in SpellChecker would be a good start…

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  72. Des Livres
    Aug 13, 2012 @ 05:11:32

    @Kaetrin: Like I said earlier – I don’t get how all those errors get through! I was wondering if web publishing software mangled all the words somehow – otherwise how would so much of it get through a spellchecker? Oh well – hopefully it’ll get better.

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  73. Anne V
    Aug 13, 2012 @ 06:41:06

    The errors have nothing to do with software and software won’t fix them. Spellcheck won’t help with homonyms, misplaced apostrophes, misused real words, etc. To catch that, you need a proofreader/copy editor.

    Reliance on spellcheck, grammar check and autocorrect isn’t going to make these issues go away.

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  74. Ros
    Aug 13, 2012 @ 06:50:02

    @Des Livres: Spellcheck won’t tell you whether your heroine is called Haley or Hayley. And no, the software doesn’t mangle words. It can mangle formatting if you don’t set it up properly.

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  75. Des Livres
    Aug 13, 2012 @ 07:55:17

    @Ros: That’s what I thought! I’ve just been trying to imagine scenarios to explain how this situation has arisen.

    If it were me I would use cntrl + F to do name (and other specific word) checks with “Ha*” in the “Haley” situation.

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  76. Las
    Aug 13, 2012 @ 09:52:03

    @Des Livres:

    I knew this would be a controversial suggestion. But the more available information and resources are, the more likely the standards of published writing will improve.

    I think your optimism is completely unwarranted. Just look at how many authors respond to criticisms of the editing of their books–accusations of meanness all over the place.

    While it frustrates me as a reader, from a purely practical point of a view I don’t blame authors for putting out crap when that crap is selling. I might not choose to read their books, but if they find an audience, more power to them. What I do blame them for is the bitching they do when readers criticize their works. If their books are selling despite all the errors, they should either shrug off the criticism–because at the end of the day they’re making money–or make an effort to improve if the negative comments bother them. If their books aren’t selling as well as they hoped–and I suspect that’s the case for most of those authors who lose their shit over negative reviews–then maybe they should consider the fact that the reason no one’s buying is because they need to improve and read those criticisms to find out how. Because Jane’s review, while meant for readers, can absolutely be seen as helpful for the author if s/he cared to improve her writing.

    That doesn’t mean I think reviewers’ intentions should be to help authors, but writers can choose to read those reviews try to learn from them anyway.

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  77. Meoskop
    Aug 13, 2012 @ 09:53:56

    ” That’s what I thought! I’ve just been trying to imagine scenarios to explain how this situation has arisen.”

    It isn’t rocket science. I can’t imagine why it requires this much handwringing. There have always, since the beginning of ever, been people who think they don’t need to check their work. People who don’t feel a need to have others check their work. People who think editors are just a waste of time or big meanies. Then there are professional authors who strive to put out their best work with the best team they can find.

    Books are products. When a product fails to deliver, you stop patronizing the company. You don’t volunteer free consultant services.

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  78. JenM
    Aug 13, 2012 @ 09:54:16

    The over-reliance on spellchecker programs is one of the reasons so many errors are getting through these days. The most common errors that I see nowadays are either words like “principal” instead of “principle”, or just flat out incorrect usage of correctly spelled words like “where” instead of “were”. All are proper words and aren’t picked up in the spellcheck, but of course, the usage is completely different. Grammar checks will usually pick this up, but they also give lots of false errors, so they are pretty tedious to use.

    At this point, I don’t even care whether the author has a content editor (although most self-pubbed authors certainly need one), but at the very least, if they would just get competent copyediting, that would be a start. Sometimes I’m so tempted to mark all of the mistakes I find and then send a list to the author for free. I don’t have formal English training, so I usually can’t name the grammar rule being violated (and therefore wouldn’t want to call myself an editor), but I’m one of those people that can instantly spot most grammar and spelling mistakes just by scanning a page.

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  79. Des Livres
    Aug 13, 2012 @ 10:38:39

    @Las: I hope I’m not being optimistic. I have found the fact that some of this stuff is apparently selling well dispiriting.

    I do wonder what world some of these authors are living in, when they respond as they have been to their books’ reviews. I can understand an initial ignorance about editors – but books reviews?

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  80. Des Livres
    Aug 13, 2012 @ 10:44:51

    @JenM: I can’t get past more than a few rare typos in a text – but then, I couldn’t bear to read JR Ward because of all those “h”‘s and weird awful spellings – completely intentional as they are.

    With this author the typos put me off, then the content issues – her heroes are not the sort I enjoy – and then there was the Facebook Wail. The first two I can get past easily – writers can change their heroes and heroines over time, and get a grip on this editing thing – the Wail is likely to stay with me though.

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  81. Des Livres
    Aug 13, 2012 @ 10:52:24

    @Meoskop: I meant as a writer – how someone having written a text, could have the text published so error-laden.

    I had a boss once who authorised the wrong draft for release (this was in the days before the internet) not the corrected-by-me draft. It was hell. Not my fault, but still hell. Okay – all my hand-wringing is suddenly understood. Shutting up now!

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  82. Tamara
    Aug 13, 2012 @ 11:56:32

    @Des Livres “Obviously, publishers are cutting costs by reducing their editing staff, and authors are self publishing to the world, some, initially, without the first clue about professional standards, with subsequent embarrassment.”

    There’s nothing like a little public embarrassment to focus a writer on self-improvement.

    I know you mean well, but it all comes down to the individual writer and her drive to improve her skills. As Ann and others have pointed out, the resources are endless and easily come by, if a writer just takes a minute to search. They were easy enough to come by even before the advent of the internet. The how-to-improve-your-craft books at my public library were plentiful when I started writing and are now even more so.

    I think part of the problem is that a new writer very often just doesn’t realize her skills need that kind of honing. She hasn’t received the dozens of crushing rejection letters from editors that spur her to look at her work with a more critical eye. She’s skipped over the private process of submission–>rejection and jumped into the public arena with heartbreakingly naive confidence her work will find the same sort of reception it does among her friends.

    In that sense, I can’t help having a lot of sympathy for these writers. This more public process of publishing can be brutal, especially if you’re new at it. You really do have to learn everything, including how to handle reviews, and if your learning process, with all its attendant ups and downs, is exposed to the public, you can wreck your career in the blink of an eye.

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  83. Robin/Janet
    Aug 13, 2012 @ 12:07:27

    @Las:

    While it frustrates me as a reader, from a purely practical point of a view I don’t blame authors for putting out crap when that crap is selling.

    Which is one of the reasons I think readers bear the burden in these cases. If we care about these kinds of errors and don’t want to see them so ubiquitously in books, we need to stop feeding our money to the machine.

    I realize that you don’t always know how bad the editing is until you buy, but once you do know, let other readers know and don’t buy any more of that author’s books until and unless the editing changes. Because if an author makes a ton of money by putting out books with lots of errors (and this goes for publishers doing this, too, including trad NY print pubs), there is no incentive to provide better editing. And it may be sad to think that baseline grammar, punctuation, and continuity require an incentive beyond the essential integrity of their existence, but apparently that’s where we are.

    As for authors shouting “meanie” in response, perhaps Justine Larbalastier’s suggestion might suffice:

    Someone hates your book? That’s a good thing because it means they actually read it. (Even better you got a passionate response!) No one reading it. No responses? That’s the fast track to out of print and gone and forgotten.

    That’s what I fear: not being able to sell my books because I have no audience. I do not fear people hating my books. Jane Austen is hated. Every writer I love is hated. It’s a feature, not a bug!

    So here’s my advice: if an author has a go at you for a less than gushing review of their book—take it down. And if it’s possible leave a polite note explaining why. Something like:

    This space was occupied by a review of X by Cranky Author. Cranky Author was incensed by the review so I have removed it and will no longer review anything by Cranky Author.

    See? Everyone’s happy. Cranky Author’s eyeballs are no longer assailed by your shocking blindness to their genius. You don’t have to deal with their crankiness.

    http://justinelarbalestier.com/blog/2012/08/13/what-to-do-about-cranky-authors/

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  84. Lynnd
    Aug 13, 2012 @ 12:56:27

    Thanks for this review Jane and thank you for pointing out the editing quality issues.

    When authors/publishers put out an error-laden book, it ways to me that they do not think that their story is worth the time and effort it takes to do it right. If they don’t think it’s worth it, why should I? Getting a book “out there” as quickly as possible should not be the goal (whether for self published authors or traditional publishers). I would far rather hear that a book is delayed (for whatever reason) than to open up a book to find numerous spelling and grammar errors which would have been caught had the author/publisher taken the time to proofread/copy-edit properly. For some readers spelling and grammar may n0t matter, but for those of us for whom it matters a lot, we really appreciate reviews that warn us of problems before we waste our valuable time and money.

    Self-published authors: If doing it right means that you can’t sell your books for $0.99 or you can’t get a book out there very two months (or less), then please charge a reasonable price and take your time to get it right. Word of mouth is your best marketing tool and if you have people like me telling my friends/colleagues that your books are full of errors (who are then telling their friends and so on and so on), how is that helping you in the long run? I’ll recommend a story that I don’t like because a friend might like it, but I will not recommend a book that is full of spelling and grammar errors.

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  85. CassieK
    Aug 13, 2012 @ 19:17:34

    “Which is one of the reasons I think readers bear the burden in these cases. If we care about these kinds of errors and don’t want to see them so ubiquitously in books, we need to stop feeding our money to the machine.”

    @Robin/Janet – this 150%. Until we stop buying and supporting this, it will never change. It saddens me to read that readers are getting so used to this they don’t even notice it. Just sad.

    And really, the author’s FB Wail? Sigh.

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  86. Janet W
    Aug 13, 2012 @ 20:11:36

    Way back in the day, an intelligent commenter said that self-pubbed books would do well to include the name of the editor attached to the project *interpretation mine* At the time I wondered what was the point of that … fast forward to today, now I think editors’ names should be included everywhere, Big 6, small indie and all those self-pubbed books. Of course I’m not sure that it would induce me to buy them … it’s not like the Good Editors Seal of Approval, is it?

    Which brings me to my next point — maybe the readers of “quick and dirty” self-pubbed books enjoy being beta editors, contributing corrections and ideas — more like the fanfic model. Yes, the difference is they’re paying for the books — but the money charged may be fine with them. What I’m trying to say is that they are enjoying the experience. No one is holding a metaphorical gun to their head to get them to read the books.

    Now as for the crazy bleating Facebook explanos and fan reaction — ugh, who needs that? Heck, if the authors and their posses are that much trouble, why review them at all? Which makes me appreciate Jane’s review: someone in her “trust circle” *jargon for reliable reviewers–interpretation mine* recommended it, she reviewed it, she gave a heads-up to the crappy editing and left the decision up to the putative purchaser. I’m at the don’t care point for all of this — let the Big 6 buy the most fantabulous popular dreck and clean it up and then see if they can make the public buy it. I’ll definitely be watching from the sidelines :)

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  87. Kaetrin
    Aug 13, 2012 @ 22:50:23

    Everyone knows I was joking about the spellchecker thing right? ;)

    For the record: Author Pro Tip #1 Get a copy editor.

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  88. Des Livres
    Aug 14, 2012 @ 00:49:33

    @Janet W: I had no idea about the fanfic model. It explains this whole situation. (I only discovered the existence of fanfic about a year ago – and feel no shame about this fact whatsoever).

    Putting editing credits on self published books is a great idea.

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  89. Roise
    Aug 14, 2012 @ 06:46:04

    i really enjoyed the books and found them very interesting. I agree with Rach it should be more about the story, the author knows that there are spelling mistakes so everyone just needs to clam it down instead of attacking each other on

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  90. Jane
    Aug 14, 2012 @ 07:48:39

    @Rosie – this book has been on sale since 2011. Mathewson has had a lot of time to perceive errors and correct them since she initially published the book. It is not our job as a reader to be sensitive to an author’s feelings when she puts out a product for which she is embarrassed because the quality of the product is entirely in her control.

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  91. CassieK
    Aug 14, 2012 @ 09:07:45

    I had a thought last night I thought fit here. I was presenting at my local writer’s chapter and with regards to self-publishing (my presentation was a Bootcamp 101 for new authors) and a couple of people listed the pros (self-published authors) as self-publishing is a way for people to learn the industry. And yep, one even noted to get better as a writer. As in taking the place of learning BEFORE posting. Of course, I had to comment and referred them back to the oh so excellent post about readers not being our Beta readers. I saw lots of of scribbling so I’m thinking I sent some more people this way. I hope so – especially if they are thinking about self-publishing.

    I don’t know who said it but I agree absolutely. There is no excuse or justification to put up an inferior product. Not age, inexperience or being a nice person.

    It’s all about instant gratification and unfortunately, until we readers hold these authors to higher standards (and I’m NOT just talking about self-published since as we know small press and NY publishers are not immune from publishing poor books) we will continue to have this. The apathy and acceptance that seems to be coming from the flood of these books is reflected in emails and letters – so many of the young, even with full schooling, have such poor command of English, it’s just sad. I’m not saying I’m perfect but I sure try to be in a product I ask people to pay for.

    I wish I could write a book riddled with errors and publish it to make the kind of money these authors do. But I can’t. I care about my readers too much – and I care about myself too much to put out something inferior.

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  92. Anne V
    Aug 14, 2012 @ 09:42:23

    On 5/3, the author’s website referred writers aspiring to self-publish to a service called BookRhythm, which provides isbn, marketing, proofreading, editing, copyediting, formatting and author wrangling services.

    So – yeah.

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  93. Joe Brewster
    Aug 15, 2012 @ 16:41:22

    “Is this 32 Long Point Road,” the short husky man who smelled like he bathed in a gallon of cheap cologne and garlic asked as he climbed out of the beat up Taurus parked across Haley’s driveway.

    This is an actual sentence from ‘Playing For Keeps’

    I bought it after smashwords founder Mark Coker featured it in a few of his updates and blog entries which I believe was a full year after first being offer for sale. At the time the book had more than 2,000 reviews on one selling venue (I think it was Amazon) most of which were 5Star. The average rating was 4.5. That’s fine. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion.

    But the weird thing is they all went out of their way to say how well written it was. If you like the story and the characters that’s one thing, but well written? No way.

    Even more bizarre were the 1Star reviews which also made a point of saying how well written it was. Who does that? “I didn’t like the book. The guy wasn’t my type. Oh, by the way, it was very well written.”

    Go through the reviews for, say, Bella Andre, and count the number of times someone points out how ‘Well Written’ her books are. They are well written. No one has to point it out. (I am not connected with Bella Andre in any way so please don’t go trash her okay RL fanatics?)

    Even 5Star reviews for 50 Shades or Twilight freely admit those books were not well written. The love affair with this author’s writing defies common sense.

    It isn’t just typos or poor grammar. After the opening paragraph she goes into 8 pages of back story by ‘Telling, not Showing’. This is universally considered poor writing. If this is acceptable to readers then it will revolutionize the way books are written.

    This is the first review (and comment area) that I’ve seen that feels honest and reliable. There is a negative review on Good Reads for another of her books that attacks a character as being so reprehensible the book was unreadable so she hasn’t gotten a ‘Free Pass’ everywhere but this one sticks to actual reviewing. And really it is not negative, is it?

    I believe RL Mathewson is a good writer. She instinctively creates absorbing characters and puts them in conflict after conflict that is partially resolved and then inflamed again and again until the final denouement and HEA. It makes for a good story and her type of infantile Alpha-Male seems to have struck a chord with readers.

    But this book is not a ‘Well Written’ book.

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  94. Jinni
    Aug 20, 2012 @ 11:34:35

    I’m a writer (with a publisher who catches my mistakes) but I’m also a voracious reader. After reading the review, in my RSS reader I was tempted to buy the book because I love the tropes of platonic sex and friends to lovers, but the ‘Ally’ comment and the author’s lack of grace in the FB rant turned me off. I think authors should. E concerned about writing first, sales second, and should ignore the rest.

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  95. It’s Not All About Taste
    Aug 21, 2012 @ 08:54:15

    [...] that wall, in fact, in increasingly frequent discussions like the one that erupted in the wake of Jane’s review of R.L. Mathewson’s Playing for Keeps. Jane notes numerous punctuation and grammatical errors, noting that “good [...]

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