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What is it about self-publishing that upsets some?

Over the last six years, self-publishing has taken off in a phenomenally steep curve and is here to stay.

However, I continue to encounter a degree of disdain and even the occasional snide remarks from people in the literary arts. Such behaviour from people with vested interests – publishers and legacy published authors – is understandable but not condoned. Even more galling is the great clamour by some book reviewers, journalists and ill-informed readers.

This is a pity because instead of encouraging, such reactions serve to stifle and destroy the confidence of many budding authors.

I recall vividly how I lost interest in one of my favourite subjects in school – history. The school curriculum was crafted by “educators” – notice the parenthesis – who took a devilish delight in destroying my ardour.

They made us memorise and tested us on names of royalty, dates of their rule and dates when their empires rose and fell. We read some vignettes about the kings’ and emperors’ deeds and follies and nothing more. Oh, we also had to memorise all the names of Henry’s wives and mistresses.

But I was interested in more mundane stuff. How on earth did ordinary people live? How did they do their toilet? How did they tend to flesh wounds and illnesses? Did lovers actually kiss – what with their poor oral hygiene? Yes, I was at that stage in my life and had begun to take notice of females-girls-women-ladies of the fairer sex. How did they light fires? I meant literally. What were you thinking?

Did people carry with them flint and kindling in pouches, I once bravely asked my teacher. The man, a local Singaporean – a Mr Yong – didn’t know. I thought he would check and get back. That’s what the British military wives who taught me English and literature would do. My father worked for the Royal Navy and I was brought up in stiff upper lip correctness and had no reason not to expect the same from my local teachers.

However, Mr Yong turned red around his ears, pinched my stomach and ordered me to sit down. He then posed a history question taken from a chapter we had not yet covered and when I fumbled, he derided me – to the embarrassed amusement of the rest of the class, who felt obliged to fall in line with Mr Yong’s smirks. Shades of “the Great Leader’s” North Korea. Yes, Singapore was ahead of its time in many arenas. (Jeez, Eric, what did you have for breakfast? Well, certainly not a full English, my man.)

But, I digress from the topic at hand. Poor wit? Nope! Books? Getting warmer. Ah, self-publishing. Bingo!

One of the biggest bugbears for self-publishing’s naysayers is quality. Self-publishers are notorious for putting out poor content. Quite often – and I refer specifically to works of fiction – the stories meander hither and thither; character development is non-existent or inconsistent; and of course, the technical aspects of authoring are horrendous – sentence structure, grammar, paragraphing, and, typographical errors.

I agree the world of publishing is now clogged with flotsam that tries to pass off as literary works but my issue is with the propensity to wield a single brush to feather and tar all writers. I also believe, in time, the reading public is discerning enough to separate the kernel from the swarf.

That as it is, I wonder whether self-published authors are held to unreasonably higher standards. I wonder whether book critics who gloat over legacy published books wear rose-tinted glasses.

I regularly discover errors in legacy published books from brand name publishers – books that make it to the New York Times bestseller list, no less.

FALSE IMPRESSION by Jeffrey Archer (NYT Bestselling author)

This is what the Daily Mail had to say: Plotted with his customary skill, it moves at a breakneck pace. Best Archer novel for many years.


I found numerous inconsistencies in the novel. Here are a few:

  • Page 353 – The assassin, Krantz, swung up on a handstand and executed a difficult gymnastic stunt – days after she was shot in the shoulder.*
  • Page 413 – a few hours later, it is all the more interesting as she could not even lean on her right shoulder.*
  • Page 414 – she is in excruciating pain. Right!*
  • Page 421 – Krantz went over a wall and ‘rolled over’ – no more excruciating pain in the shoulder!*
  • Page 426 – Nakamura refers to his visitor as ‘Lady Arabella’. Then he switches to addressing her as ‘Arabella’ and reverts back to ‘Lady’ Arabella’. These are two people who just met, steeped in culture and history and very formal in all their interactions.

*All the events between pages 353 and 421 happened within a couple of days after she was shot.

By the way, in page 353, Krantz escapes from the hospital where she was restrained in manacles by pulling out a lock pick she had hidden in her anus. She had set out to make a hit with a lock pick up her anus – in case, just in case, she was shot and put in cuffs. Reminds me of aliens appearing in chapter 14.

THE LOST SYMBOL by Dan Brown (NYT Bestselling author)


I’m not going to highlight the errors. If you have a paperback edition, check out the pages and see if you can find the errors.

  • Page 37 – 5 lines from the bottom
  • Page 54 – last sentence, 2nd last paragraph
  • Page 55 – Chapter 10, last paragraph
  • Page 99 – 2nd last line
  • Page 377 – his body were (was)
  • Page 537 – last paragraph

The older novels are not free from errors too. However, they did not have the technology, such as spellcheck, we now take for granted.

DRACULA by Bram Stoker (A true classic)

  • Page 27 “It is more dangerous that (than) you think”
  • Page 121 – It at once occurred to me that that this wound

Nevertheless, I enjoyed DRACULA and it remains one of my all-time favourites.

1959 Book Cover

Incidentally, you might not find this Dracula book cover on the internet. It’s a 1959 edition, a tattered copy included in my antiquarian book collection.

Back to the topic…

It’s not my intention to disparage the works of other authors but rather to point out that the brickbats tossed at self-published authors regarding “quality” could be toned down and be a bit more selective. After all, even top publishers, with their vast resources and expertise get it wrong.

My second point is, and I’ve said this before, one should not strive for perfection. Let’s leave that to the grammar Nazis. However, neither should one have to endure silly errors in every page. These are distracting, demolishes one’s reading pleasure and reels us back to reality from the worlds we readers seek to escape to.

Let me digress again and highlight some writers whom I immensely enjoy. Their language and writing melds into one and I simply and unabashedly love their use of words – and I’ve mentioned this in my blog posts before. And, in no order of merit, some of my favourite writers are:

There are others in blogosphere whose contents I thoroughly enjoy reading. Some have since stopped blogging – so sad. For me, where language and words are concerned, the above writers have a unique draw.

You will notice that none of them are legacy published. They don’t have the services of an army of editors and advisors. Straight from the gut. Straight from the heart. And as raw as it gets.

Moving along, I can live with the occasional error in books. These are wont to occur in most novels that run into 60,000 to 100,000 words. But perfection? Is there such an animal in literary works – works conceptualised within human minds and written by human hands.

That said, I’ve yet to find any errors whatsoever in novels that won Man Booker Prizes. Then again at my age, fully aware of the temporal nature of life, I reach for my reading glasses – the rose-tinted variety.

Your comments are very welcomed. And you’re also welcome to share this post on your Facebook, blog or Twitter.

I also plan to share some thoughts on Man Booker Prize winning novels. Perhaps for another time.

All good wishes 🙂

P.S. In case you’re wondering – and even if you’re not (Heh! Heh! Heh!) – upon leaving school, I gravitated back to my love affair with history and had been devouring history books ever since. She has been a faithful and nurturing friend. History led me to fell in love with reading. And reading led me to writing. 

P.P.S. I’ve since gone over this post and corrected the numerous errors. Amazing how these miss one’s eyes. 16 July 2016