Friday, May 10, 2013

Being a good storyteller doesn't mean you're a good author or publisher

A while ago, on the SPAN website, I read a very poorly prepared book announcement written by a good storyteller who needs help making the transition to publisher.

The new book is in a genre (Christian "end times" fiction) that I have no interest in. I probably would not have read beyond the headline, but that headline was so terribly amateurish (and so unnecessarily terrible) that I read more and found more to complain about.

The announcement's title is "Times of Trouble a Christian fiction End Times novel."  (Emphasis added)

Author Cliff Ball says he has published six books and has a BA degree in English.

Hey Cliff, I'd think that by now you'd know that it's not necessary to point out that a novel is fiction (unless it's being compared to a "non-fiction novel" like Truman Capote's In Cold Blood). I realize that Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls
 is not Harvard or Yale, but surely some professor must have pointed that out. Sadly, the ugly template-derived book cover repeats the redundancy error.

The book promo is flawed by sloppy writing and grammatical errors:
  • Cliff says "many Americans had known for over two hundred years." Huh? How many Americans live for more than 200 years?
  • Also, "Told in first person point of view, Brian Atwood, our main character, is . . ." Brian is not told in first-person, the book is.
  • "His work involves mostly cyber terrorism . . . ." That sounds like he is a terrorist, not someone who fights terrorism.
  • Brian's faith is tested every day as he deals with a man that [should be "who"] has no morals . . . ." 
On the SPAN site, I pointed out some of the errors and said, "I hope the book is better edited than this promo, and I strongly urge you to re-do the promo before you circulate it further."

Sadly, I then found the same poorly crafted promo on Cliff's website, booksellers' sites, and even on the back cover of the book.

The back cover bio tells us that Cliff "was led to the Lord when he was five by his mother." How could anyone who writes such a crappy sentence have a degree in the English language? Could I be five by my mother? Cliff -- or an editor -- should have rewritten this.

Sadly, the book apparently had no editor ("Delaney's" is not the plural of "Delaney," "withdrawal of Iraq" should be "from Iraq," "look-out" doesn't need a hyphen). Apparently it has no designer, either.

The cover uses a common and uninteresting CreateSpace template. The interior is ugly and screams "AMATEUR." The text is set flush-left and there are no hyphens -- so pages are ragged and jagged. Even if Cliff was too broke or too egomaniacal to hire a designer, a little bit of research could have led to a much nicer book.

The copyright page says that the book was published by Cliff Ball. This is not Cliff's first book. When he produced his first book, he should have established a name for his publishing company.

  • An amateur's book has to compete with professionals' books. It has to look professional. It's not difficult.
  • Cliff's website is as amateurish as his book. The beginning says: "Welcome to the website of Cliff Ball. Hi there! Welcome to my site. . . . Please check out my site." ENOUGH! We get the point. Cliff says, "The Bible . . . is a unique book unlike any other." If it's unique, it's unlike any other. Where's the editor?
  • The book trailer is very simple, a little bit interesting, but as sloppy as the rest of Cliff's work ("Down's Syndrome" should be "Down  Syndrome.")
  • Cliff brags that the book was "Nominated for the 2012 Global Ebook Awards." Anyone who pays $79 can have a book nominated. A nomination is not the same as winning.
  • While I have no interest in Christian fiction (I'm not even sure why it exists) or the "end times," and almost never read fiction, I did read enough of the online preview to know that Cliff is a good storyteller. It's a shame that he doesn't care enough about his words to invest in professional editing and design. Sadly, many other authors make the same mistake.

One Amazon reviewer wrote: "I found myself disappointed with this book, most especially because the cover of the book states that this is the author's sixth book, and his degree is in English. A good editing would have been a great help to the story. While the story line was an interesting one, I found the quality of writing left a lot to be desired. There were enough grammatical and punctuation errors to be distracting."

Another said: "I had ordered and read another book by this author. It was so poorly written that I removed it, didn't even read this one and also removed it from my Kindle. Not worth the effort or the $."

And another: "It was OK, but seemed amateurish. I was hoping for something a little more professional."


The mission of SPAN (Small Publishers Association of North America) is to support self publishing authors and independent publishing companies as a non-profit trade association. It provides a lot of valuable services to both established pros and newbies. I've been a SPAN member for several years, and recommend it.

Writers often use its website as a venue to announce new books, and perhaps to get the attention of other members, and maybe get them to buy, read and recommend the books.

Since SPAN is an alliance of sympathetic supporters of small publishers, I'd think that someone with a new book to promote would try really hard to impress members.

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