What Are You Doing to Me, Smashwords?!!!

I know Release Day for The Maze: Book Three of the Osteria Chronicles is less than a week away (squeeee!!!) and I should be using this blog space to cajole/guilt you into pre-ordering the book, but something is frustrating me and, rather than bang my head on the wall, I thought I’d share my irritation with my lovely readers and see your reactions.

My gripe is twofold: Smashwords and NaNoWriMo.

For those of you who don’t know, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. It occurs each November and within the 30 days you’re meant to write a 50,000-word “novel.” I’ve griped about this terminology in previous posts, but my basic issue with NaNoWriMo is that it’s misleading. Unless you are incredibly talented, you are NOT writing a novel; you are writing a draft. And if you’re writing fast enough to crank out 50,000 words, that draft is probably in need of some serious work (again, unless you are quite talented).

Many people have written on this very thing and even the NaNoWriMo folks the finally gotten on the bandwagon of telling participants that whatever they come up with during the 30 days of November is going to need to go through many rounds of editing to be a real novel.

That’s good. NaNoWriMo is admitting that people are writing drafts, not novels (maybe changing the name to NaDraWriMo – National Draft Writing Month – would really help push forward the idea) and I was starting to tolerate the whole idea.

Then along came an email from Smashwords that had me ranting all over again.

Smashwords is running promotion in which they are telling their authors to PUBLISH their NaNoWriMo work. Not say in early 2018 after it’s been edited. Not after its been proofread. Not after beta readers have given it a once over. Not even before the 50,000 words are complete!! They’re asking authors  to publish their NaNoWriMo stuff during the month of November 2017 as they’re doing it. On Smashwords. For customers to buy. And these non-novels even get their own special promo place on the Smashwords site.

As Charlie Brown so succinctly put it, “AAUGHHHHHHH!!!!”

The idea is that the people who buy these NaNoWriMo promo books will continue to download updated versions when (if) the author rewrites the draft. But come on, we all know people are lazy and I wonder how many of the readers ever bother to get that final version, how many of those readers will never touch another thing by that author, and how many writers bother to rewrite their NaNoWriMo draft (either from giving up on it or from thinking their “draft” is a fully formed novel worthy of a Pulitzer).

The hard part about being self-published is the stigma that “self-published book” means “crap book.” And too many indie authors still feed into this stereotype by rushing to put out books. At the very least, these books end up with so many grammatical, spelling, and punctuation errors that they’re painful to read. At the worst, it’s a crap story that needed some serious editing.

It’s not to say that traditionally published books don’t have errors and every story is Pulitzer worthy, but every time someone picks up a poorly edited/non-proofread book by an indie author, it just feeds into the idea that self-published books are crap books. And it makes more work for me to assure people that I put a TON of time into rewriting and polishing my novels to ensure I have a quality product BEFORE I ever hit the Publish button.

And I don’t like it when I have to do more work!

So when Smashwords encourages indie authors to publish things that aren’t even complete and to make those “books” available for people to buy, I have to wonder what in the world they are thinking.

Because of the promo status for the books, I was thinking of participating with my draft of Book Four because I thought Smashwords meant for authors to put their “books” up for pre-order as they worked on cobbling the manuscripts into actual novels (this is actually a marketing strategy I’ll write more about later). But when I read more closely and saw they expected me to actually publish my crappy draft and let readers download that crappy draft I was so angry I wanted to reach through the screen and strangle Mark Coker (head honcho of Smashwords).

Of course, at the very end of the email (aka “the small print”) there is a note saying that your NaNoWriMo manuscript will need rewriting to polish it into a novel. Sigh. No shit. That’s why these things should NOT be published.

I’m curious about your thoughts on this. Do you think Smashwords should encourage people to publish these incomplete, unedited drafts? Do you think this adds to the stigma of self-publishing? Or do you think it’s a great way to encourage writers? I’ll be back Saturday with the final installment of Finn’s Maui Mayhem, see you then!!


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