Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Hickory Sticks

By guest poster: Veronica Helen Hart

“Reading, writing and ‘rithmetic, taught to the tune of a hickory stick.”

I resent spending time and money on a poorly written and/or edited book, hence the title of this blog. I have decided to create a new rating system of assigning Hickory Sticks instead of rewards such as stars. This rating system will rate negatives in writing. The worst writing will receive ten Hickory Sticks, the best, none. Reading, writing and arithmetic were the fundamental lessons in America’s early school days. With those skills new worlds opened to every student, each able to further his own education by going to a university or by reading. Open any book published before the advent of on-line publishing and look for errors. You will find very few.

Now flash forward to the current milieu of publishing. A potpourri of opportunities exists for every level of writer, from the most elementary beginner to the high achieving best selling author. We read best sellers from the major publishers and find an occasional typo and we can forgive the error because the story is so compelling. We probably also forgive an occasional error in a self-published book, as well as those from an independent publisher.

What I will not forgive, and will take my hickory stick to, are writers who self-publish, or pretend to be traditionally published by calling themselves a publishing company, who have not had their work professionally edited for content or typing errors.

Recently while in a self-imposed exile, I downloaded several books to my e-reader for company in the evenings. I chose a few free books, a couple of inexpensive self-published books, plus two books from best selling authors. Out of that group, the best, Hickory Stick free, were three traditionally published books by Anne Rivers Siddons, Nelson DeMille and Rosemary Gemmell, and one self-published by Maureen Fisher.

Hickory Sticks will go to:

• Stories that did not meet their promise.

Example: A romance/mystery with the promise of thriller-like chases and tension in the first few chapters, but it dwindled down to a predictable romance and lost all its conflict. Eight Hickory Sticks

• Obvious errors because the writer depended on a spell-checker.

Example: a book about a female ob/gyn whose father was “tinkled pink” about her joining his practice. Five Hickory Sticks (for more reasons than that one error.)

• Books with blatant errors, poor grammar, weak story.

Example: There are too many to put in here, but I had downloaded the “free” books, hoping to find some for which I could provide positive reviews. None of my free reads fell into that category. Two were allegedly produced by a publisher—turned out to be each author’s own company; two were unashamedly self-published. In the two self-published free books, I found I did not have the patience to read all the way through to find out if there was even a point to the writing. They contained major typing and formatting errors, and an incredible number of incomplete sentences and incorrect word usage. If I reviewed them in Hickory Sticks, going from bad to worse, the last two would receive ten each. The self-published, for which I paid, ranged between five and eight sticks.

On the positive side, I find that most of the small, independent publishers provided quality material. There is such joy in opening a well-presented volume and knowing that it will be “Hickory Stick” free. Self-published authors seeking editorial services face a common problem; how do they know a good freelance editor from a bad?

Traditional publishers provide excellent and comprehensive editorial services for the good of their own reputations. They carefully examine manuscript submissions, most of which have already been screened by an agent. Accepted manuscripts are subjected to several rounds of editing covering all aspects of the product.

Self-published manuscripts seldom receive such close scrutiny, so how is an independent author to compete? How can freelance editors be rated, bearing in mind that they must provide services equivalent to those of several editors in traditional publishing? There is obviously a need for a system of editorial evaluation. Perhaps even a register such as those for agents.

I am launching the Hickory Stick rating so maybe if the authors get enough Hickory Sticks—or a lack of them—they will report the results by blog, Facebook and Twitter. That will be a start. First, I have to screw up the courage.

About the author: Veronica Helen Hart, raised in a vagabond family, never had time to make friends as a child, so she turned to books as travelling companions. They became her best friends. Now settled in Daytona Beach, Florida, she is slowly collecting a friend here and a friend there when she is not being grumpy about reading. Her book, The Prince of Keegan Bay, is available at Champagne Books.


Jenny Twist said...

About time! I am so fed up with poor grammar, typos, incomprehensible passages and just downright poor writing!

Big Mike said...

What confuses me about reviews sometimes are the inconsistencies across and within reviews. Think I'll turn that into a future post with examples.

Michael Davis (
Author of the Year, (2008 and 2009)

Julie Eberhart Painter said...

Excellent idea to reward well-edited work with the absence of censorship, namely 0-10 hickory sticks.

Good post.

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Loved your post - especially when you've mentioned Dangerous Deceit so positively! Thanks so much for all the kind things you've said about it, Ronnie.

Maureen Fisher said...

Thanks for mentioning my HICKORY STICK FREE book in your post, Veronica. I must confess, I too am a stickler for grammar and correct spelling, not to mention a great story with lots of conflict. To ensure a quality book, The Jaguar Legacy was professionally edited, but only after my husband (and brainstorming partner), my critique group, and several beta readers tore it apart. Oh, the pain.

Margaret West said...

One publisher I was with many years ago published my book with the main characters name morphed from Brian to Brain!!! it was the bane of my life that book lol Loved the post.

Rita Bay said...

I feel cheated when I buy a book that's doesn't measure up. I can live with a meatloaf going into an oven and a roast coming out in the next scene but I expect a good story. Great story. RB