First Impressions

Posted: June 10, 2013 in Book Review
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I’ll admit it. I’m a habitual book sampler. I love downloading the free sample so I can try before I buy. It’s probably my favorite feature of e-books.

That being said, first impressions mean a lot. My first impression of a sample helps me determine how much I’m willing to pay to read the rest of it, if it’s the kind of thing I’d much rather borrow from a library, or if I don’t want to read any more and am grateful that I haven’t paid anything. In fact, I put more stock in what my own opinions are than a bunch of good reviews.

How does this apply to Shane Michael Murray’s The Orc of Many Questions? It’s probably one of the first previews I’ve downloaded where I felt the content was not ready to be shared with the public. I enjoyed the story I was reading. I thought it was a cute take on the standard fantasy genre where Orcs are perpetually dumb war mongers. As a DnD player I know Orcs are not the brightest crayon in the box, so it was fun to see what happens when a young, precocious Orc steps out of line and asks too many questions that the older generation tell him he doesn’t need the answers to. The story held within the first three chapters was fun to read and after a few pages I had been thinking I would like to purchase it.

And then I noticed it on the third page: a typo.

I’m pretty forgiving of typos, they happen even in professionally published media. I’d like to think we live in a perfect world where things like that are caught and fixed but I know I’m guilty of the same sin of not being as diligent with that as I could be. So when an error of verb conjugation jumped out at me I said, “Alright, so they typed that up fast and when they read through it their eyes filled in the proper ending. No big deal.” But then a few pages later it happened again, a missing linking verb, and then again a missing comma. I wasn’t even looking for errors, but I was finding them, and that’s what upset me. I know some people who have English degrees and speak of typos and grammatical errors in popular published books, things I never noticed because the story was so compelling I didn’t care if it wasn’t 100% grammatically sound. So, to say that I noticed the errors means they were obvious enough that it pulled me out of the story.

Knowing there were at least three instances that I noticed without looking for them I’m curious as to how many flew under my general radar that would be found with closer scrutiny.

After finishing the preview I wondered how best to proceed. The story was cute and interesting and I wanted to read more, but the errors I’d found within it made me think twice. I glanced at the page to see the price tag and couldn’t believe it when I saw it marked at $4.99. I’ve bought better for cheaper, and considering the quality I think the price point oversteps it.

Amazingly, none of the reviews even mention the grammatical errors. It’s standing pretty with 4.5 stars. For comparison of self published work, that’s the same as Wool by Hugh Howey who back in the day sold his story for the magical price of $.99 and has since gone perma-free. That’s the same rating that Susan Kaye Quinn has for her MindJacker Trilogy, which you can buy all three of bundled together for $6.99 and not run into noticeable grammar problems.

I suppose my problem is that I see a story with potential but the author didn’t take enough pride in his work to proofread, and that makes me sad. As I was reading I desperately wanted to contact the author, telling him exactly where I found the typos, relating to him that if the price had been lower I would have gladly purchased it and then probably still set about contacting him with a list of all the errors I found within. I would do this because I believe in the writing community. I believe that people should be able to give constructive criticism. When it comes to self-published work, I feel it’s even more important to give that kind of feedback. Hell, if/when I self-publish anything I want to know if my work is riddled with errors. I would love someone to tell me. I want to know if something I’ve put out with the intention of making a profit does not meet expectations.

I’m not talking about the expectations that were, “The blurb made the book sound really cool but I didn’t like it at all.” I’m talking about standards like, “Based on the free preview I was all on board, and then the pace became completely messed up as the author proceeded to throw several books worth of plot into the span of one.” I’m talking about, “Well, I paid for this, but I think I’ve read better for free on fanfiction websites in regards to grammar”.

I want to let Shane Michael Murray know that he has a real problem in regards to quality. Maybe he doesn’t care, but I would assume if he took the time to write all 264 pages of this book that he might care about making it the best it can be. These aren’t big problems, either. These are problems that only require a keen eye to notice and fix. I want to let him know, I just don’t know how. I didn’t read the book all the way through, and it would seem a shame to post the only review on there that says, ” you need someone to look over your grammar and fix the typos, because while the story was good enough for me to read through the preview, the grammar issues stopped me from buying the book”. Is it too presumptuous to contact him through his blog and privately message him?

Writing this blog post clearly isn’t the course of action I’d like to take in the long run. This is me ranting about something I want to change but perhaps don’t have the ability, or right, to change. This is my plea to all those currently writing that we take pride in what we show to others and find the support we need to make our art the best it can be. Proofreading does not need to be expensive. I know that if someone contacted me saying, “Hey, I need a beta reader to look over what I’m writing to provide feedback and help me catch my typos and grammar problems,” I would be all over that, especially if it’s someone I’d seen on message boards, knew in person, commented regularly on my blog. The internet affords us so many opportunities to network, to lean on each other as we all strive towards common goals.

I guess I’m just saying… I want to help people just like I know I’ll someday need help myself. I just don’t know what to do when I want to help someone who hasn’t asked for it.


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