Quality of e Published Books
I believe that the quality of epublished books are lower than NY published books
- Yes, I have read more than five. (43%, 126 Votes)
- No (41%, 120 Votes)
- Yes, but I haven't read any. It's just a perception (8%, 23 Votes)
- Yes, I have read less than five. (7%, 21 Votes)
Total Voters: 290
One of the greatest challenges facing digital publishing today is the perception gap. That is to say, there is a perceived gap in quality between books published in e form and books published in print by the NY houses.
I suffer from the perception gap myself which isn’t helped when I come across books like The Claiming. I’m curious how the DA audience perceives quality difference between digital pubbed books and print published books.
Please feel free to comment anonymously.
I have to say that the problem, to me, is one of percentages. Sure, there’s a lot of crud published by print publishers (not necessarily NY, but print in general, and NY is not exempt from that), but my experience has been that a greater *percentage* of e-pub books are crud.
This is also true of self-pub, which I am assuming you’re not including in your poll. That is, I think I’ve run across ONE self-pubbed novel that was worth reading (and I’ve read the first chapters of several), several epubbed books that were good, but certainly no more than 20-25% of what I’ve tried reading (I don’t read erotica–that may be part of the problem; it limits the number of e-pubbed books available to me). That number is reversed for print published books–maybe 20% of the ones I try are complete wallbangers.
(Oh, yeah, I am also assuming we’re talking fiction here.)
The percentage issue is one that I’d really like to see change, and I think it could. Part of the thing for me is that with print publishers, I know which lines work for me and which don’t. It’s a matter of branding. If there were e-publishers I felt I could rely on for a good product, I’d be more likely to buy them.
I can't help but agree.
Ok, I will.
Over the past few years I have read quite a lot of ePublished fiction. Clearly some of it isn’t NY’s cup of tea due to its explicit nature, or because it has a plot/theme/etc. that doesn’t have a large enough audience to be financially viable in print, but most of what I’ve read (and I think I’ve bought from all the major ePubs now) was simply not very good (or worse, what might have been fantastic was undermined by the requisite sex scene that seemingly has to occur at least once in every chapter).
I’ve only gone back to buy another book by ONE exclusively ePublished author and that pretty much says it all. There are, however, a couple of authors I autobuy who are both NY and ePublished, though I still tend to find their work for NY superior (but I enjoy that they ePubbed stuff is often edgier, with heroines that simply wouldn't float in NY).
Clearly there are plenty of books being put out by NY that are sucktastic as well, but I've found that the NY houses have a much better track record of pleasing me than ePubs do. I still try new ePub authors when sites like DA and SmartBitches rave about them, but somehow I just don't seem to have the same experience you all do (for example, I just couldn't get into Butterfly Tattoo; the writing was underwhelming and I struggled-‘and failed-‘to connect with the characters).
When you say “quality” do you mean the writing itself or things like copy editing?
I think the writing issue is arguable, but IME there are far more editing problems with e books than with standard publishing.
While I seriously doubt you’ll ever encounter a NY-pubbed book as poorly edited as The Claiming, I believe epublished books hold their own against big houses. Given the number of books published in a year, it makes sense that a sector putting out 40x (guesstimating, here) the number of titles would have 40x the number of turkeys.
I have to agree with Laura. I read a lot of ebooks and in general, I find way more crap, sloppy writing, bad editing, no plot, stories in ebooks. It’s my experience and not just a perception.
I also find extremely well written books in ebook format as well. But in percentages more ebooks are of poor quality. And I’m easy. If I read a good story I’m willing to forgive a lot of things if that story grabs something in me.
I find that print books are usually well written and edited but I might find a story that I don’t resonate with. It happens, so I’ll think it’s crap. But at least I can’t fault the quality of writing.
With ebooks though, quite often I have to fault the quality of writing that’s getting passed off on readers and it is frustrating since ebooks at this point are almost or just as expensive as print.
Because of this I do have the idea that epub standards are far less than print. I hate that I feel that, but I do. Still won’t stop me from buying since ebooks do offer stories that print pubs won’t touch.
Quality is too broad a term, I think. This actually took me a while to answer. Partly because I am more willing to take chances with ebooks/small press books, but when I go to the “NY” section of the dead tree store, I go to my tried and true authors. I don’t know why I have that buying pattern, but I do.
After reading some stuff (for review) from smaller epublishers – most definitely there’s a difference. I’ve gained a deeper appreciation for more professionally produced books, now that I’ve seen what barely edited books look like.
I’ve only read a handful of authors in ebook format, so I can’t say that I’ve formed an opinion. Shiloh Walker writes NY and ebook both. One of her Ebooks is my favorite novel by her (so far), but the NY book was richer, more complex, more detailed world building. All of her books were well edited, nothing that jerked me out of the story, etc. Maybe it depends on the author?
The one thing I’ve noticed, the nom de plumes used in Ebooks are kinda almost scary a lot of the time.
I admit to limited experience with ebooks, confined to Samhain, Ellora’s Cave, and my own publisher, The Wild Rose Press. Several of the authors at Wild Rose are Golden Heart finalists. Others are published with NY but continue to submit to TWRP, too. Still more have finalled or won writing contests sponsored by various RWA chapters. I’ve just finished the process of revisions, edits, and proofing as my own book goes to production. I’ll stack Wild Rose’s “technical” quality and cover art against any publisher. As for the writing, your mileage may vary, but the books I’ve read can hold their own with anything I’ve found on the shelves at the local B&N or Borders.
Is there crap out there? You bet. Almost anyone can set up an epublishing company and/or self-publish. But there are legitimate publishers out there who provide a quality product and they suffer a bad rap because of the perceptions.
I’d like to thank DA for opening the discourse.
I think you need to reword the question. I own a Kindle, and all but maybe 3 of the books on it were also published in print. Do you mean “books that are ONLY published as ebooks”?
I will say that publishers need to PROOF their e-copy as sometimes the format gets messed up in the conversion.
I jumped into the world of e-books enthusiastically, and with both feet several years ago. I am now a saddder, wiser, and much poorer person. I have paid for and downloaded books that were highly rated by someone, or were supposedly bestsellers on the e-pub website, that were sometimes mildly embarrassing, and at worst riotously and unintentionally funny. I’ve also read e-pubbed books that were as good or better than anything published by NY publishers. Unfortunately, the latter group is very small in comparison with the former group, and I am now much, much more selective about what I buy.
There is no doubt in my mind that a lot of what is published by the big paper-based publishers is mediocre or bland, but I have never, ever found anything in the brick and mortar bookstore as hilariously awful as some of the books that are still taking up space on my e-reader. There are a lot of very fine and talented writers who e-publish; the problem for me is finding them in amongst the really dreadful stuff.
It’s also important to look at the publisher you’re buying the ebook from. If they have a good reputation for quality products, like Samhain, then you’ll be happy with the editing. If you buy from a publisher with a questionable reputation, such as Ravenous or Bookstrand, its a completely different story.
The exact same statement can be made about print publishers. I recently purchased a non-fiction title from a college press (does’t college = educated?) and the editing was horrible.
I also read a historical romance in the late ninties that the history was So Wrong the author was forced to re-write it for the paperback version.
I mainly read ebooks now and the quality of e vs p is pretty much the same.
Throwmearope wrote: The one thing I've noticed, the nom de plumes used in Ebooks are kinda almost scary a lot of the time.
What? (blink) You don’t like stripper names? :)
Yeah, that's what she means.
NY books that are also available in eForm are not considered to be “ePublished” (which in generally understood by readers and authors to mean published by an ePublisher). For example, Ellora's Cave now puts out â€œdead tree booksâ€ too, but I'd still call them ePublished, since they were acquired and edited by an ePublishing house.
I guess I believe that the quality of books published by ePublishers are lower than books published by NY houses might be clearer to some . . .
If it’s the one I’m think of (and there is only one, isn’t there; cause how many historical romance authors get a HB debut?), she BEGGED to be allowed to fix it after receiving â€œfanâ€ mail taking her to task. She details some of the errors on her website.
I agree. I had a hard time deciding on my poll answer (Yes, I have read more than five.). It’s hard to make a yes or no blanket statement on this topic.
Generally, I feel I have to wade through more crap in E and the format makes the wading harder. It’s not like I can try the author secondhand before I buy new. (I think all ebook authors should post a free story on their website and chalk it up to advertising.) I can’t flip through a book in the store – I’m stuck with miniscule excerpts or excerpts that don’t include what I need to see. I can’t always find a review or reader opinions that aren’t plot summaries with a “this was great!” and a buy link – It’s pretty rare not to find some details about a pbook somewhere on the internet.
Maybe I’m not the average book buyer. I won’t buy a book just because there’s a possibility that I might like it. I buy a book that I’m pretty sure I will like. I’m not rolling in dough and my paper TBR pile (mostly acquired from UBSs and library sales) is unbelievably large.
On editing issues: Sometimes, the publisher’s own grammar is so poor that he/she vetoes the corrections the copyeditor has made, or their “house style” is flagrantly inappropriate and chock-full of bad usage. Because it’s so easy for anyone to hang out a shingle and call themselves a publisher with today’s technological advances, the publisher is not necessarily someone who ought to be doing that job. The writer who’s so excited about having sold their book doesn’t necessarily care that they’re giving their baby to someone who shouldn’t be allowed to touch it.
My perception, btw, has come from my experience reading a fair number of ebooks, and doing editing and copyediting work for three epubs.
I’ve 11 e-published books and I’d like to think they were all big pub-worthy. The ebooks I’ve read have mainly been from my publisher, Wings, and while I’ve not loved them all, I don’t finish everything I pick up off the shelves at the bookstore either.
I think e-publishing may just now be truly coming into its own, that those of us involved 10 years ago, are finally seeing quality and recognition come to where we wished it had been all along. Editing and content have definitely improved. They’ve had to in order to stay in business. Fool me once into buying one of your poorly-edited no-plot books, shame on you. Fool me twice? Not likely.
E-pub is still earning its stripes, but just like my father-in-law always claims, cream rises. I want to be at the top of the pail.
Where’s the option that says “the quality of epublished books *from certain publishers* are lower than NY published books” or something along those lines? Because there’s a few e-publishers that I believe are at least equal with NY, while some are frighteningly awful And yes, I’ve read more than five. :)
I said ‘no’, but I have to agree with many others here. I think a lot of it depends on the ebook publisher and the author. I don’t have but a few ebooks, but they’ve come from epubs who have a good reputation. Samhain, EC, I recently tried one from Red Rose Publishing. I’ve not found anything to complain about though I realize I’m one of many and others may not share the same opinion.
What I’d have rather seen is an “it depends” option. Let’s face it, I don’t think anyone who is a regular here ever expected quality of any kind from RR, mostly because of the way they threw themselves in front of everyone. I would never spend money there and I have to hand it to Jane for remaining sane during #romfail. I don’t think I could get past the first couple chapters. OTOH, I would never expect to see that lack of quality in the pubs I mentioned in the first paragraph.
So yeah, it depends. Because I’ve seen a few dead tree books that left a lot to be desired in the quality/editing department.
I prefer eBooks although it took me some time. I think that people’s perception has more to do with their expectations than reality. That may be because erotic romances (which I love) are more available by epublishing.
It depends on how you define ‘quality.’ I voted ‘No,’ because I define quality as original storytelling. I can overlook a lot of mistakes, but I bore easily. By lumping ePublished books, Small Presses, and even self-published books in with NY, I can stay out of Trend Hell.
This is a hard question to answer. Answer with my heart or my head?
I didn’t vote because it’s not a straight answer for me. Because it is so easy to start an epublisher, because there is lower risk in publishing books for some epublishers, and because there are so many epublished books available, I think the answer is probably yes. The very business model of epublishing works for us in some cases, but against us in others. In the case of quality, the sampling is going to be so vast because there’s such a large # of epubs started by inexperienced people, because they CAN start one, that viewing epublishing as a whole starts us at a disadvantage there.
I’ve been reading an enormous amount of epublished books the past three weeks. I’ve always read epub books but decided to make a conscious effort to sample from a larger # of pubs. I’m not sure how many pubs I’m up to, somewhere around 15, maybe (I have at least 30 I bought from, I think) but I will say, the editing/copy editing of some has been rough. Some pleasantly surprised me. Of some, it was downright ugly.
Obviously anyone coming from epub who posts here wants to believe that their pub, whether they work or write for them, is the the exception. I would say that none of us can answer truly objectively. I know that there are people out there who have said Samhain has terrible editing. Clearly, if I believed that, I would have to hold myself accountable and resign my position. But there ARE people who believe that and maybe I’m too close to recognize it.
But as much as I advocate for epub, I also recognize some issues within it and that includes quality control. I will admit that there are people who tell me they’re editors/copy editors for epubs and I inwardly cringe because I’m familiar with their “aptitude” or lack of for the position. Then I feel guilty and like I’m not in a position to judge that. But you know, this is a subject that’s obviously close to me, painful (and incredibly difficult) to discuss without coming across as pompous and hypocritical, and one that I wish wasn’t an issue at all.
Still, yes, I think, if we take a random sampling of epub books from across the many, many epubs and a random sampling of print-first books, then it’s probable that epub books would suffer in the comparison. *sigh* That was hard to say and I thought long and hard before posting it, but I decided to, because I think it’s okay for all of us in the industry to say that no, we’re not perfect. Acknowledge the problems instead of cheering on because we think that acknowledging the issues means people will take us less seriously. I guess I believe that people will take us more seriously if we say it’s not perfect, but we’re working on it.
I have found that while epublished books may be more likely to have editing issues, they are less likely to be homogenous than NY pubbed books. I’ve encountered gems and disasters from both types of publishers. I’ll be the first to admit I’m picky about editing and have eccentric tastes so I don’t know how that influences my observations. Looking back at my 2009 reading log, the worst and most frustrating books I’ve read so far this year were NY pubbed. My favorites were also NY pubbed.
If you are talking about every book put out my every epublisher, versus every book put out by every major MY press, yes I think there is a clear quality differential. But in terms of my favorite epublishers and my niche preferences, there is not.
The homogeneity issue looms large for me. (Like a previous poster, I bore easily.) I really can’t stand reading workmanlike, derivative fiction, and that’s about all large print publishers want to put out. So, at the very least, bless e-publishing for its willingness to take risks.
Moreover, plenty of “quality” can be found, if one looks in the right places. Loose Id’s editorial process is as thorough as any I’ve ever seen, and the variety of fiction offerings at Liquid Silver is commendable. Stellar publishers, both, and eminently professional.
Take risks? Maybe they used to, but now epubs like EC and Samhain are getting their formulas down, just like the big pubs have, and churning out book after similar book, nice and safe according to their own ideas of what will sell best. I understand that it is a business and it makes sense to choose manuscripts similar to those that have made you money before. But it’s getting to be all I see in the storefronts of these epubs these days; a glut of vampire/werewolf/shapeshifter, and contemps that are, to a one, trying to emulate the big-selling breezy chick lit style. Good luck finding something truly different at even epubs these days. I’m overfed on all of it and turning back to the NY publishers out of desperation to find something fresh and original.
As for quality, I find it does vary within epublishing and NY publishing, both. But taken as a whole, it’s worse in epublishing. I think in most cases it’s a lack of experience in writing and editing for the writer and a lack of experience in editing for the publisher. It has been my profound impression that as long as a book is chockful of explicit scenes, there’s quite a bit of leeway given in regard to strength of plotting, characterization, and writing skill. Epublishing seems to encourage quantity over quality, maybe because it can afford to. The end result is plenty to read–but a much smaller portion of it really good and worth the money.
In the end, I do blame readers. If they’re willing to settle for dross, why would publishers need to provide anything better? Go ahead and snatch up that formula romance that reads little better than your average fanfic at fanfic.net, put a lurid and usually tasteless cover on it, and voila, you’ve got another bestseller. In a world where quality is expendable in the name of instant and prurient gratification, arguing about whether NY or epub is better starts to feel pointless. They’re both going downhill instead of up, and picking up speed as they go.
I didn’t vote either. I am sure, by sheer volume, the quality is lower. And because of sheer volume, it’s harder to cherry pick the good ones. I have become pretty savvy in my ebook reading habits, though. I have some tried and true favorite authors that do not disappoint me, and some tried and true houses that I have better luck with.
And also, I like reading novella length a lot and I can find that much easier in epubs. However, I don’t always like strong erotic content, and it is harder to find the less hearty offerings in the epubbed world.
I don’t need to repeat what has been said multiple times already about the amount of books available and there being a few publishers I can count on. But I voted No, because I agree with Laura and the rule of percentages.
That said, I’ve found I’m more likely to take a chance on an epub-ed story. I’ve read some amazing epub stories. I’ve read some real crap. I’ve read some I enjoyed and days later went…. wait… holy crap that doesn’t make sense. I think the nature of e-publishing lets us take risks with less fear, which will lead to more books not everyone will enjoy. Or even more books that aren’t the highest level, but show real promise.
I agree with several of the comments above when they say that they’ve learned how and what to buy when it comes to ebooks. Because I’ve learned those lessons, I can honestly answer “no”. I can say for sure, that certain authors and publishers are as good as NY books. And, like said before, I will take chances on new e-authors or e-pubs because they’re generally cheaper & more accessible. But I do not sample widely. If I see an interesting ebook from an unknown author or pub, I look up reviews & ratings.
In all fairness to epubs, the quality of editing and proofreading has been deteriorating across all publishing formats and publishing houses. I recently loaned Alexandria by Lindsey Davis, a current bestseller in mystery fiction released last month by Minotaur Books, to my brother. It had several egregious errors, as did bestseller Lee Child’s Gone Tomorrow from Delacourt Press. We ended up discussing this just last night and ended up agreeing that it feels like publishing is using ESL people for editing and proofreading manuscripts.
The downward trend in the quality of editing and proofreading seems to accelerating. Along with the inability to punctuate sentences. I often find myself rereading sentences or whole paragraphs because of these issues. I can live with stylistic syntax – i.e. Lisa Lutz and Lee Child, but soul and sole are very different things. The problems are not limited to homophones and they seem to be getting worse with each passing year.
Are the problems worse with those publishers that are primarily epubs? Yes. But make no mistake, the big New York houses have nothing to brag about!
Agent can’t sell novel. Too adult for YA, and too YA for adult.
Web-savvy author who pays attention to internet happenings thinks to self: why not epub? Good epub companies don’t mind if novel does not fit neatly into genre box. Teh Interwebs readers like ebooks and Kindles and Sony Readers.
Author epubs. Author realizes too late that since millions and kajillions of other authors are also epubbing, getting word out about book is next to impossible. Unless author only wants to sell copies of book to other authors published by same epress, who are the only people who ever visit Yahoo message board for publisher.
No one ever hears about author’s epubbed book. People on Teh Interwebs show signs of malaise and distrust owing to enormous influx of epubbed books, and percentage of good versus bad.
*curls into a ball*
Which is why I cannot emphasize enough how important it is that AUTHORS know their stuff. Relying these days on copy editors to correct your grammar/punctuation can be a gamble. Not saying that all CEs are awful — whoever’s been working on my last several books is a gem, but then, Annie Anal here bends over backwards to make sure there’s virtually nothing to correct . But I’ve had some in the past who’ve “fixed” things in ways that were dead wrong. Not talking about stylistic quibbles, either, but — for instance — rewording that left the predicate in disagreement with the subject, changing out right words for wrong, etc.
I’ve been fortunate that I’ve never had a Copy Edit From Hell, where the changes are egregious enough to warrant a complete do-over, but I do read my galleys with an eagle eye. But I hail from a time where grammar and syntax were drummed into students’ heads long before high school (and in my case, it also took!). I sincerely feel for authors who might be brilliant storytellers but are lacking in technical skills — how do they know if the copy editor’s done a good job, or screwed them over?
“I sincerely feel for authors who might be brilliant storytellers but are lacking in technical skills.”
They’d better learn the skills. I bought an epublished book a while ago that literally had at least one typo on every page, but usually more than one. Every page. And mistakes like “in vein” instead of “in vain”.
And punctuation like this: “I’m going swimming.” John said smiling.
No commas. Periods where commas should be. And other mistakes that I can’t now recall.
It might’ve been a terrific story. I’ll never know. It started out fairly entertaining but it was so unreadable, I gave up on it after two chapters and threw it away.
I will say I’ve never seen errors like that in NY published novels. Typos now and then, yes, but not errors to such a huge degree.
I see usage like this a lot in newbie work. Which slays me because a) the correct form should be drummed into kids’ heads by middle school and b) it’s easily picked up by simply checking to see how it’s done in a published book.
Oh, wait. Maybe not. Because I’ve seen some of the strangest punctuation gaffes in published work recently. Print, in this case, not ebooks (don’t have reader, detest reading full-length work on computer. Sorry.).
Unfortunately I see way too much evidence that our collective language skills have deteriorated to the point where not even those who are supposed to know — i.e. editors — do. That people are coming out of college saying “I should have went” and using apostrophes to make a word plural, who don’t know the difference between “who’s” and “whose.”
I get that language is fluid, I really do. But necessity, not laziness or ignorance, should drive its evolution. (And that’s “its,” not “it’s.”) But I swear the way things are going now, we’ve become a nation of borderline illiterates.
What’s sadder still is that ten, fifteen years ago, writers with such weak skill sets would be advised to hone their grammar skills; would-be editors wouldn’t be hired. Now, however, it seems to have become a free-for-all, with the blind leading the blind in way too many cases.
Again, not tarring everyone with the same brush. Certainly there are writers, even newbies, who value the tools of their trade, as there are editors. But considering the increase of simply ignorant errors we’re all seeing slip into published work, clearly standards are slipping.
I kind of disagree with this. I understand what you’re saying, but I don’t think most readers intentionally buy dross. By the time you find out a book is crap, you’ve already bought it and your purchase has been counted. What recourse do you have, especially with epubs? You can’t un-buy the book.
I know some people return pbooks because of writing quality but that’s not a good solution because it assumes the buyer will read the book right away. Books can languish on my TBR pile for quite some time before I get to them. I suppose one solution is to complain to the publisher every time it happens so they know it’s a problem.
That’s the problem. If I got a defective shirt where the buttons were falling off or the seams were snagged I could take it back and get my money back. How do I return Alexandria for its typos and text errors? How do I get the idiots at New Concepts to grasp the difference between ‘sole’ and ‘soul’? For heaven’s sake, we have college professors saying, “I heart this book.” I may never forgive the New York State and the Virgina Beach tourism people for those damn bumper stickers that started it all. If those people in Wisconsin need to burn something, send them every bumper sticker with one or those ‘hearts’ on it.
How depressing this whole morning has been for me. I have been reading this thread and the one that spawned it.
I have a few books published with an epublisher and have never been happy. I tried to believe that the fact I had been accepted and published meant I could write, but deep down I always had my doubts.
Then of course, came the reviews. At first, a few good ratings chased my fears away, but then I began to notice the ratings some of my label mates got. Some of the books that I thought were terrible were being rated as highly, if not higher, than mine. So now, I don’t trust the reviews either. They tell me nothing.
I am selling although not in huge amounts but then so are the books that I think are awful.
How does an author find out if they are any good? As was pointed out in the other thread, critique groups are only as good as the people in them. Being published appears not to mean much and reviewers are unreliable. Would a professional critiquing service like the one Harlequin offers be the way forward?
I marked yes (more than 5), but that’s not to say I think that there aren’t high quality epublished books and low quality print books. I think that the quality of presentation is lower in general for epublished books – editing, how the text is formatted, covers, etc. – not necessarily the quality of storytelling. But I am investing my eye time in a book, so the presentation does matter to me. Bad editing and poor formatting lessen my pleasure reading the book. And a bad cover will deter me from ever even reading the blurb.
But there are some epublishers who get it right and have gained my trust as a customer (for me, it’s Samhain). I trust that the book I’m buying isn’t all jacked up and they’ve consistently given me entertaining stories by good writers. Yeah, there will be books I don’t like, but there are a lot of print books I don’t like, either.
I’ve written several manuscripts the past few years, none of them good enough to publish. However, last year I wrote a genre novel that I think is very good–at least it’s my best work to date. I built a website to promote the MS and shopped it to nearly 100 agents. I received three requests for partials, two requests for fulls. Most agents who responded personally said it was good, but the market is really tough and they couldn’t rep it right now.
I love this book too much to put it in a drawer forever, so I’m seriously considering using Smashwords to epub. Piers Anthony says good things about them, and I frankly think the epublishing world will soon be at a tipping point. Just as MySpace, YouTube and iTunes changed the music industry forever, epublishers may very well revolutionize the publishing industry. So what if I only sell 100 copies at $3.99 each? That’s more than I will sell if the book continues to languish in my computer or the desk drawer.
I write to be read. It would be great if it was material bound between two covers, but a Kindle or IPhone works just fine, too.