There’s no excuse for not reading, not learning the craft—no one can actually make you write, other than for a class assignment. Writers choose to write. You could just as easily choose to paint, sew, bake bread, braid hair or weld metal into a sculpture.
Yet, writers with only a slight command of language write…and publish, now that it’s so easy literally anyone with an internet connection can become a publisher. So either learn to write in a workmanlike way, or don’t publish. Writers need to write. They don’t need to publish what they write. There’s no entitlement in the marketplace, sorry.
This post began as a review of an Indie Published “book” Blacky and Me by Thina Muhammad Ali. I will take care that it does not become longer than the book itself, which is at most 10 printed pages. I first became aware of the work as one of many seeking “feedback” on KDP’s Voice of the Author forum—back then the title was Me and My Blacky, and the author was blissfully innocent that her title might be offensive to many, many of her potential customers. After all, it’s simply the story of a girl and her cat, a children’s story.
Now the book’s out. And there was another request for “feedback”. I’ll stand by what I posted: This book should be required reading for all Indie authors. Here’s why:
It won’t take you long. Fifteen minutes, maybe twenty. What you’ll learn: It’s way too short to be broken into five chapters. And extra blank pages and weird formatting are as unattractive as poor spelling and illogical plotting.
It won’t cost you much. 99 cents. What you’ll learn: That’s still a lot of money for not much of an experience. Don’t promise your customer what you can’t deliver. Customers expect content, not just the honor of reading your work.
It’s got a real nice cover—a lovely witchy woman holding a black cat in front of some scary trees. Might be the book the author had in mind, but it’s not really the book she wrote. What you’ll learn: Don’t mislead the customer with your cover. (And if you credit an illustrator in the Product Description, there ought to be some illustrations in the book.)
We’ve all been there. Writing. Yearning to share. Mostly we’ve been 12, and we didn’t publish, but still! I wrote my first books in old diaries. Carefully hand-printed text and chapter headings, dust jackets with watercolors over ink and pencil. I’m so grateful that they are safely locked away, that I never had to face the temptation of sharing them with strangers all over the world. That I kept writing and readings and learning until I had something I was happy to share with an editor, with a publisher, with readers.
Thina Muhammad Ali is very brave, to put a barely literate work out for the public’s merciless judgment. May we all have such courage—but let’s learn from every other writer, even if it’s only that there’s a better way, that it’s smart to be prepared, that there’s no need to rush into anything other than doing our best, literate work.