Thoughts on an unpolished, excellent indie novel

Ended up buying and reading The Demon Girl (The Rae Wilder Novels) by Penelope Fletcher. It’s rated 4 stars on 14 reviews at Amazon and my rating would be 4 stars too.

Update: You can find The Demon Girl free at Smashwords.

It’s the sort of book that’s got a ton of qualities – good and bad.

The good -

  1. It captures the ‘this makes zero sense to me. Why would she do this?’ feeling perfectly. Any man knows the feeling – the utter incomprehensibility of women. A world full of strange things like feelings and self-sacrificing empathy and stubbornness/strength mixed with delicateness/vulnerability. It was exactly how you feel when the woman you’re with gets upset over something that makes zero sense to you – Like not asking her where to go for dinner or asking her where to go for dinner.
  2. There’s a lot wrapped into the story. There’s a vampire, a good fairy, an evil fairy. Predictably, they are all after the Demon Girl. Even more predictably, and in the most frustratingly true way possible, the Demon Girl is in love with two of them.
  3. It captures another thing very well – the whole love triangle thing. Look carefully and there’s usually one person in that triangle who wants it, perhaps even needs it. The book captures it perfectly without adding any excuses. It would be presumptuous to claim that a large percentage of women have a fantasy about having 2 men vying for their love – but there might be a lot of truth to the claim.
  4. The characters are very human. They might be vampires and demons but you can relate to them.
  5. It was a good read and an engrossing one. Things moved quickly – both on the story level and on the emotional level.

A good comparison in terms of the protagonist’s feelings would be Robin Hobb’s Assassin series. There, the protagonist is a boy, and the feeling throughout was – He’s doing something crazy but I know why he’s doing that.

In this book you have no clue – Rae (the protagonist) switches between utter self-centeredness and total empathy for others. She’s totally driven by emotion – it’s almost as if she can’t control her emotions at all.

The bad -

  1. The level of editing is shockingly bad. If the author confessed that she wrote this in an opium induced haze and then sent it out without ever looking at it again it would explain the utter lack of polish perfectly. It would also explain the beauty.
  2. This wasn’t a major pain but the book is the first book in the series. You’ll have to wait until summer for part 2.
  3. The strength (that it’s very driven by how the protagonist feels) is also the weakness. It’s literally a sea of emotions and everything is viewed through the eyes of the protagonist Rae.
  4. Everyone’s names have excess e’s and n’s stuffed into them.
  5. It could really, really use more polish.

Strangely, a book like this highlights that editors and publishers (of some sort) will always be needed.

With 6 to 9 months of polish and shine this book could be a Top 10 book. It has the basic ingredients. It’s going to be interesting to see what happens with this author and this series. It’s not that different from I Am Number 4 in terms of movie potential. The only thing is that this book is so real (as opposed to the Walt Disney ‘love you forever’ romance in #4) that it might not interest Hollywood.

That’s actually the best thing about this book – It’s real. It’s frustrating because the people in it behave like real people and do crazy, incomprehensible things. However, that’s the beauty of it – at no point are you laughing at how much of a fairy tale it is. It’s a book about real life with demons and great possibilities thrown in.

One last thing – the author is making a huge mistake by not putting this at $1. It’s a make-or-break mistake. She has a shot at hitting the Top 100 with this book – By going for $3 she’s losing that opportunity. The book is totally worth $3 but it has to be at $1 to minimize friction and increase sales volume. It’s the most short-sighted thing possible – she can price the later books in her series for $2 or $3. She has her big window of opportunity right now and she’s throwing it away.

25 Responses

  1. Thank you for finally saying this: “a book like this highlights that editors and publishers (of some sort) will always be needed.”

    –because most of these so called indie authors have no idea of the processes a book should go through before being turned loose on the public, and if they do, they aren’t willing to pay for it. So the public is getting an inferior product.

    I love to read but don’t want to waste one second of my precious life on an unedited book.

    • I disagree. I’ve found some indie books to be very readable. I like the idea that I may be reading a diamond in the rough. If the book proves to be too tedious then I use the “delete” key on my kindle.

      Note: It may not be that an author doesn’t want an editor. It may be that they can’t afford or find one.

      • Finding an editor is fairly easy. :) Affording one is another issue but I guess it depends on one’s pride — does the author want to put out a product he is proud of? Or does he want to be hearing about plot holes for the next 5 years?

    • “…if they do, they aren’t willing to pay for it.”

      Probably, “can’t afford to pay for it”, would be more like the real situation… but yes, I agree the public gets an inferior product when the author lacks the education and/or motivation to see that his/her book is polished and presentable to the public.

      The solution would be for the author to take some remedial English classes at a local community college. In the long run, such classes would cost less than hiring an editor, and the over-all quality of that author’s output would be vastly improved.

      • It is my understanding that indie authors publish their work for free in part to get feedback. I agree, honing your craft, no matter what it may be, is always a positive step to take. And, in my opinion, a person can never have too much education.

  2. Thank you for this great review…finally a review that tells it like it is (both good and bad)…and a good book for budding authors to read, simultaneously paying attention to your notes – it’s a long process from the spark in one’s imagination to uploading…we all need to appreciate what goes into this magical art of writing…

  3. Editing is a problem. I’d like to see more of it across the board.

    Case in point: I’m reading Dean Koontz’s “Odd Hours.” The last sentence on page 1 (hardcover edition) reads: “The problem is that a few of my dreams have come  have died.” In case my formatting isn’t clear, there’s extra space before the last two words. So glaringly obvious that a video game-addled fifth grader could have caught it. If Dean effing Koontz can’t count on “professional” editors catching something like that, what hope do the rest of us have?

    But yeah. Having a literate friend go over a hardcopy and note mistakes is better than nothing. Going over a hardcopy yourself and noting mistakes is better than nothing. (Reading it backwards can help.)

    If you don’t want to kill trees, I’ve found that the Kindle’s note-taking functionality works pretty good for a self-edit. I caught a few typos, noted places where wording needed work, where some extra verbiage was needed, where verbiage could be eliminated… I like to think of it as making the bug hunt more rewarding for whoever ends up editing my MSS.

    • Sorry I didn’t do this right the first time, FAR. :) What you’re talking about is copyediting. (And in the case of the Dean Koontz book you refer to, that was actually the fault of proofing, which is the step that happens after copyediting.) What I was referring to above, though, was substantive editing. It’s a different thing altogether. And reading backward doesn’t help. :) (That’s advice they give to proofers.)

  4. Yes, but you’re talking about copyediting now. I’m talking about developmental (sometimes called substantive) editing. Finding plot holes and such. It’s a completely different animal.

    Although I agree it’s a shame to see typos.

  5. I completely agree with your assessment of this novel. I find much of it to be true about many indie books I’ve read. In fact, I’m reading one now that could use a good editor and some polish.

  6. What is the premise of your book?

    • Thanks Scott. I followed the link and I have a feeling this is a book my 10 year old would love. I’ve downloaded a sample and can’t wait to show it to her.

  7. Not all books in all genres sell much better at $0.99 than $2.99. I’ve tried both prices, and the impact on sales hasn’t been very dramatic for me. Some people may consider $2.99 a more likely price to find quality work. I guarantee you won’t find the copyediting or formatting problems people are complaining about in my books. That’s worth an extra $2 to some people.

    Also, a low price is no guarantee of skyrocketing into the Top 100; plenty of well-written $0.99 books never get there.

  8. Thank you for mentioning early on that there was a vampire character. It saved me from having to read any further.

  9. thanks for the offer but I don’t do reviews. This was pretty random.

    • I’m a bit confused. Who are you replying to? I’m just curious about your book. I had no intention of reading it in order to proffer a review.

  10. I agree with the person that said that many Indie authors have written books that are great. And i’m talking “shine” not typos. And Indie authors keep the price down so smucks like me can afford to read them. You see, part of my weekly get was 3-4 books a week. And I am sure the publishers and not the authors seen most of that money.That was when I had a job, before 3 of my children and 5 grandchildren moved back home because of job loses. Now I live on the road in a semi with my husband and those wonderful Indie writers allow me to seill be able to have my reading indulgence without starving my grandchildren off while the mommies finish school so they can be independent again. THANK YOU INDIES. You are diamonds that shine , even if my mind has to use a little polish.

    • Shar,
      I’m sorry to hear about your job loss and other woes. However, I agree with you about the indie authors (I think I’m the person you were referring to). I’m a book junkie. The price of books in bookstores has become criminal. Kindle prices for new releases aren’t much better. I also thank the indies for publishing their work for free. It gives me an opportunity to read things I might never have purchased.

  11. Hey, I’m the author of The Demon Girl. This review made me smile, wince, and pull off an odd combination of the two.

    I agree that copy-editors are needed and should be praised. I put my hands up about the editing issues in the book. There’s no excuse for it, there is a reason, but still no excuse. Book two in the series won’t have this issue but I realize it probably stopped readers finishing or enjoying the story as much as they could have.

    The pricing issue is purely down to Kindle DTP list/sales pricing requirements. To have a 35% royalty option you HAVE to price your book at $2.99 and you cannot use the 70% royalty option and go for a lower list price (like 99 cents) if you offer the book for a lower price elsewhere … in case you were wondering.

    Awesome review, the best I’ve read to date.

    • I’m going to put up a post about $1 versus $3. I sent you an email.

    • Again, I never was talking about copyediting. I was talking about substantive editing, developmental editing, the sort of editing that happens BEFORE the copyediting. This editing addresses issues like plot, structure, pacing (and on and on), and every book (Jodi Picoult, John Grisham, Jonathan Franzen, et al) published thru traditional means goes through this process. It’s a really good thing, honest.

    • I would pay money to have seen that particular expression! Just wanted to let you know that I downloaded The Demon Girl from Smashwords. While I agree that it could use some editing, I want to let you know that I enjoyed it very much and am looking forward to the next book in the series.

  12. Well done, Scott. :)

  13. Just curious why you deleted my comments? I was being very cordial and kind. I didn’t offend anyone. I’ve been a reader since you started the site and I’m kinda bummed to get deleted. Just curious… :(

    • Because –

      1) You keep linking to various sites you own. It’s not polite. It’s not enough for you to link to your book, there are other sites of yours you keep linking to.

      2) You keep linking to your books.

      3) You keep using bit.ly type urls and then it takes a ton of time to check whether they’re legitimate or not.

      4) On the amazon kindle forum you used to keep posting about your books. Not just once or twice.

      5) You are only commenting to promote your book – as opposed to contributing anything to the site.

      This is the third time I’ve thought about deleting all the links you keep adding and decided that it’s time.

      There are a lot of spam posts on this blog every day and you’re falling into that category. You never contribute anything to the conversation. You just try to route traffic to your sites. You can’t expect to contribute nothing and get links to all your sites and books.

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