Thursday, November 09, 2006

What Quality Control?

One of the biggest accusations leveled at the majority of self-published books currently on the market is the lack of quality control. And the more you look at that charge, the easier it is to prove. Astonishingly, there seems to be no end to the number of people who believe that spellcheck is entirely optional. But don’t take my word for it – take a look at this poor specimen for yourself.

Now, many people would be quick to blame Publish America for this travesty. Personally, I feel that the blame should start with the author. She obviously made no attempt to seek external criticism of her work before she rushed to publication. A fair use case could probably be made for the copyrighted image on the cover, but the fact of the matter is that Publish America should have known better than to allow something like that to go through.

(And that pretty much sums up my feelings about PA – every time you try to give them the benefit of the doubt, they do something else to shoot themselves in the foot. But I digress.)

Still and all, my basic point about quality control stands: it is the sole responsibility of the writer to make sure that every published product is of the highest possible quality. Not every publisher will take the time to check for you. Not every agent will take the time to check for you, either.

And if you actually believe that this is somehow unfair or discriminatory against the spelling-impaired, can I just point out that the alternative is unrelenting ridicule? Personally, if my options are a solid, well-meant critique that is intended to make me a better writer and merciless laughter that does nothing for my self-esteem or my writing abilities, I’d prefer to go with the one that makes me look like I know what I’m doing.

This set of choices is not limited to self-publishers, either. Even the professional writing advisors are starting to recommend hiring an editor/writing coach to make sure that your submission is up to par. If the industry best practices are starting to lean in the same direction as self-publishing best practices, you might want to take note.

Or you could just do what everyone else is doing and forsake the quality control process entirely. True, you could sell some books, but it’s far more likely that you’ll end up as an object lesson, proving the thesis that self-publishing simply isn't worth anyone's effort. Trust me, taking the time to make sure that everything is spelled correctly (for a start) is worth the investment. The same goes for grammar and sentence structure.

You never know – if enough people start doing it, it might actually become a trend.