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February 21, 2009

A few months ago, my husband and I hit the local used bookstore to search for a few out-of-print titles. When we arrived, a big sign outside the store announced a book signing that Saturday, so I was immediately excited because I always enjoy meeting authors.

When we entered, the obligatory signing table stood just to the left of the tables, and a thirty-something woman sat behind it, with stacks of books piled all around her. I ventured over to the table and picked up the top copy.

Normally I would skim through the book before even considering a purchase, but she greeted me right away and explained that her book was a memoir about the horrors of dating after divorce. I explained that I was happily married, but I’d give her book a try, and let her sign the inside cover.

Later, my husband and I got home, and I started sorting through our purchases so I could place them on the correct shelves in my office. I got to the signed book, thought I’d give it a try, and opened it to the first page.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered the first sentence was full of grammatical errors. Even worse, the sentence didn’t actually make sense. Flabbergasted, I turned to the copyright page and found that the book didn’t even list a publisher—just the copyright symbol, the author’s name and the ISBN.

Wait! The horror doesn’t end there. I flipped back to the cover where the author had signed the book and discovered this message:

Sam – Hope your luckier than me.

I know I actually winced before I slammed the book shut and tossed it away in disgust. A self-publishing nightmare for which I’d paid a ghastly $14.95.

Shouldn’t self-published books be marked in some way for easy identification? I don’t understand how a bookstore can, in good faith, market an author who doesn’t know the difference between your and you’re, and whose book is riddled with similarly atrocious grammar.

Have you ever bought a self-published book without realizing what you were purchasing? How did you feel about it? I want to know.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Amy permalink
    February 21, 2009 10:40 pm

    This happened to me once too, but it was at a regular bookstore, not a discount one. I asked one of the sales people why they don’t tell customers they are buying a POD book, and they said they don’t have to. What really bugged me is they let the author do a book signing but they normally don’t carry his books. Thank God I figured it out before I actually bought the book.

    • May 14, 2017 10:52 pm

      Hey, good to find sooemne who agrees with me. GMTA.

    • June 7, 2017 4:36 am

      I see there’s this new movie called “Dark Shadows”. For a moment I thought it was about Mulcair’s front-bench viz-mins, but it turns out to be just vampires. Mind you, it can be hard to tell the difference…

  2. Sam Tamlyn permalink*
    February 21, 2009 10:42 pm

    Thanks Amy. You’re exactly right, and I think this happens more often than most people believe. It isn’t to say that a book is automatically awful just because it’s self-published, but it always raises questions for me. Read the first few pages before you buy. 🙂


  1. 10 Reasons Self-Publishing Sucks « Chief Writing Officer

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