Thirteen months ago I reviewed a self-published e-book series called Worlds Apart. Everything I said in that review remains true (go ahead and read it—I’ll wait right here!). I just wanted to talk a little further about it in light of recent events.
With the uproar over the Amazon/Macmillan pricing feud, a number of people have spoken up claiming that writers don’t need the publishers—they can self-publish and find their own audience. And to an extent this is true. I’ve certainly covered enough of self-published writer Henry Melton’s work here to make it clear what I think of it.
But on the other hand, there are a lot of people who simply won’t read self-published works because of their reputation for poor quality—if the books weren’t “good enough” to make it through a professional publisher, then they probably aren’t worth reading. And certainly this is true for quite a few works as well.
Worlds Apart really falls somewhere in the middle. It has some great ideas behind it, an intricately-detailed background with page after page of supplemental material, and has excellent characterization and a gripping epic storyline. The problem is that it really needs the services of a professional editor.
Editors make things better. Something that many “Storyteller’s Bowl” publication efforts have in common—certainly the Big Meow project by Diane Duane, and Fledgling and Saltation by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller—is that the authors planned to pay for the services of a professional editor out of the proceeds of their story subscriptions, because they knew it was an important part of the process.
An editor can make a considerable difference in quality. Anyone who read the serialized first draft of Fledgling and then the published novel can tell you that the difference the editing process made was considerable.
Worlds Apart has not gone through that process, and it shows. Apart from the numerous typographical and editing errors I mentioned in the previous review, the pacing of the stories is often uneven, and things could stand to be tightened up.
I still think they’re really good overall, but they are on the order of rough diamonds—people who want their books to be more polished may not find it worth their time to read them. This is a pity, because I feel the books otherwise have a lot to recommend them.
And this is the same problem that self-publishing currently has in general. Editors cost money, and most self-published writers simply aren’t making enough money to be able to afford their services. Unless someone comes up with a cost-effective way of having these books professionally edited, the problem is going to continue.