Well, it happened again. An author submitted an adorable children’s picture book to us at BookLocker.com, complete with a cute, adventurous story, and beautiful illustrations that she’d hired an artist to create.
Since we’ve been publishing books for 18 years, we’ve pretty much seen it all, and then some. (Oh, the stories I could tell…that are entirely inappropriate for a family audience!) So, I know that a flowery font and bright, bold, beautiful illustrations can sometimes hide severe flaws in a story.
This book in particular was pre-formatted, and ready to print. The author had paid someone a pretty penny for the formatting and design work because it looked amazing!
The nice thing about children’s picture books is they can quickly be vetted. It takes about 5 to 10 minutes to get through the entire story if it’s less than 20 pages (most of which are filled with colorful illustrations).
So, I began reading and, on page one, in the second sentence, an apostrophe was missing. I kept reading, and found a missing period. One sentence didn’t start with a capital letter. I found five errors on the first page alone – really obvious, amateur errors that anybody with a third grade education could spot. And, I stopped reading.
This author could have hired a professional editor for $50 or less to correct the errors in this very short book. It would have probably taken me 30 minutes or so to edit it (yes, there were that many errors in this short picture book). I could have offered my services but I’m too busy with publishing and writing to also work as a freelance editor.
I rejected the book, telling her it contained far too many errors. Her response?
“It’s for children. They won’t notice. I don’t want to hire an editor and, besides, it’s already formatted and ready to print! I don’t want to pay those people to make changes to my book.”
Then, it all made sense. She didn’t care about children. She probably didn’t even care if she never sold one copy of her book. She was probably a person with plenty of money, and a large ego to boot. She wrote a short story, and then hired people to do the rest just so she could have a book with her name on it to show people.
“Look at me! Look at me! I’m a published author!”
Ug! Gimme a break!! ANYBODY can be a published author these days!
What really gets my goat is that careless authors seem to think it’s okay to parade numerous grammatical, spelling, and punctuation errors in front of impressionable children, who learn about language arts far more from voracious reading than they do sitting in a classroom. Why in Heaven’s name would any author want to teach these children poor writing, punctuation, grammar, and spelling skills?
You need only glance at social media posts and memes to see the obvious dumbing down of our youth in recent years. Heck, you can hardly find a national news story without errors these days, which is one of the reasons we launched the WritersWeekly’s “Find the Typo” Contest a few weeks ago.
We have been homeschooling our children for several years. Workbooks, videos, one-on-one teaching, online classes, and homeschooling groups have all contributed to our children’s education. But, relaxing, entertaining, and educational reading on a daily basis has contributed to our children’s writing and communication successes far more than all of the others combined.
They don’t even think they’re being educated when they’re reading the classics (Mason, age 10, is currently reading Catcher in the Rye.) And, when they get to read the latest Diary of a Wimpy Kid or a Harry Potter book, they’re positively ecstatic, and we won’t see or hear from them at all while they immerse themselves in those imaginary worlds. They even prefer bookstores over candy stores!
I was also a voracious reader. I would read anything and everything, from the cereal box at breakfast, to every issue of my mom’s Reader’s Digest magazines (I would read these while lying on the front porch swing), to required reading for school (my absolutely FAVORITE was The Scarlet Letter), to forbidden books (even censored ones), which I’d save my allowance for.
My mom never knew I’d purchased a copy of Forever by Judy Blume when I was only in middle school, which introduced me to teenage SEX. Oooooh! My mother would have been mortified if she knew what I was reading but, in my opinion, the more scandalous it was, the better! Those “forbidden” books were, of course, my favorites, and they, too, contributed to my education (in more ways than one!).
As I got older, I read everything from trashy romance novels and crappy (but entertaining!) Flowers in the Attic-type books (and ALL the sequels), to Stephen King’s novels, and John Grisham’s legal thrillers. I wasn’t too keen on horror but I loved legal and medical suspense novels. My favorite genre was, and still is, dystopian novels. (In case you’re wondering, yes, I’ve read The Handmaid’s Tale and I’m all caught up on every episode that’s appeared on Hulu so far!)
All of this personal information illustrates how a child who loves reading can find success not only in their schooling, but in their professional life as well. Good writing makes your written and verbal communications far more impressive. People who meet Mason can’t believe his advanced vocabulary. He is small for his age but the words that emerge from his mouth are at times startling for people who have just met him. If I had a nickel for every time somebody said, “Oh my gosh! He talks just like a little grown-up!”
What if we’d been buying children’s books filled with errors all these years? Our children would have unintentionally, through that exposure, started to mimic the errors. And, those errors could very well become habitual.
We have always encouraged them to read, read, and read some more. And, they think they’ve having “free time!” (Wink wink! Don’t tell them it’s schoolwork!”)
Last year, we had them tested in language arts to ensure they were performing at their grade level. Mason is 10 and Max is 15. They were both performing at the college level in almost all areas.
MY ADVICE FOR CHILDREN’S BOOK AUTHORS
What’s my advice for authors of children’s books? Have your work professionally edited LONG before you hire an illustrator, a formatter, or a publisher. And, do NOT hire your publisher to edit your book! Read why HERE.
If you make a mistake writing a book for adults, only your reputation will suffer (and that of your publisher). If you make mistakes in a product written for impressionable young children, you’re not only impeding their education, but you’re also teaching them bad habits. And, when parents see those errors, you can bet they won’t be buying any more books written by you! You might also find yourself on the bad end of some pretty nasty book reviews and online rants.
Do the right thing. Don’t expose children to errors that could have so easily, and inexpensively, been avoided! If you do find errors later, invest the time and money necessary to make it right. If you’re not willing to do that, do all children a favor, and remove your book from the market.
AND, FINALLY, BEWARE! READING CAN ALSO BE DANGEROUS!
Remember above when I wrote about reading Reader’s Digest on the front porch swing? I only fell off once…and gave myself a concussion. No, I’m not kidding!
About The Author
Angela Hoy is the publisher of WritersWeekly.com, and the co-owner of BookLocker.com (one of the original POD publishers that still gets books to market in less than a month), PubPreppers.com (print and ebook design for authors who truly want to self-publish), and Abuzz Press (the publishing co-op that charges no setup fees).
WritersWeekly.com - the free marketing ezine for writers, which features new paying markets and freelance job listings every Wednesday.
BookLocker.com - According to attorney Mark Levine, author of The Fine Print, BookLocker is: "As close to perfection as you're going to find in the world of ebook and POD publishing. The ebook royalties are the highest I've ever seen, and the print royalties are better than average. BookLocker understands what new authors experience, and have put together a package that is the best in the business. You can't go wrong here. Plus, they're selective and won't publish any manuscript just because it's accompanied by a check. Also, the web site is well trafficked. If you can find a POD or epublisher with as much integrity and dedication to selling authors' books, but with lower POD publishing fees, please let me know."
Abuzz Press offers FAST and FREE book publication, but only accepts a small percentage of submissions, and only works with U.S. authors.
PubPreppers.com - "We Prep, You Publish!" Print and ebook design for authors who truly want to self-publish. Offers formatting and design services only, and then provides simple instructions for authors on where to sign up to have the print and ebook editions printed/listed/sold. Cut out the middle man. Keep 100% of what bookstores pay for your book!
Angela's POD Secrets Revealed Series can be found HERE.
Have a POD Book with another publisher? See if BookLocker can give you a better deal. (BookLocker offers "disgruntled author discounts" to those who want to move from other POD services.)
See BookLocker's publishing packages HERE.
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