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In Search of ... the WORST in sci-fi POD samplers!

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Showing 51-75 of 170 posts in this discussion
In reply to an earlier post on Mar 18, 2010 6:18:55 PM PDT
Ronald Craig says:
Unless that someone sent you a note specifically saying they were buying your book because of this thread, I'd say you're being a bit rash assuming it IS anything more than a coincidence. :)

But congrats, eh! Hope it's enough to keep you out of the poor house!

Posted on Mar 18, 2010 6:42:26 PM PDT
terzap says:

There's a lot of bad self published books out there, certainly, which give any decent ones a bad rap out of the starting gate. But please stop calling all self published books POD. Small presses as well as large, well established publishers are using this technology (Print on demand, erroneously sometimes called Publish on demand) to keep warehousing costs down and backlists active, and you can't lump all POD books as self published.

That's all---you may continue. :)

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 18, 2010 11:23:35 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Mar 18, 2010 11:24:08 PM PDT
Ronald Craig says:
Sorry, ILmQP, but it's too late to change the thread title now.

Either way, I think most people here with a working brain do understand the difference, but as more publishers move towards a POD system, the self-publishers are moving along with them.

Besides, "POD people" has such fun resonance, no?

Brooke Adams points and emits a piercing alien scream! ;)

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 19, 2010 12:44:08 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Mar 19, 2010 12:44:27 AM PDT
terzap says:
LOL, Pod people is one application I was thinking of the term in this context. I wasn't asking for the title to change, just for people to be aware that this particular acronym doesn't always mean self published, as a lot of people come to believe. That's all.

But in the SciFi context, the Pod people type Pod thing works for me. (I've seen the same term used in fan-fiction when canon characters are suddenly acting out of context, too.) :D

Posted on Mar 19, 2010 4:55:50 AM PDT
Dear Quaker:
I understand your concern. If it's of any reassurance, I knew what POD meant in this context before I opened the thread. Because I'm one of the more clueless people on the planet, I think the small presses are safe. No fear! :-)

(We really shouldn't call them 'Pod-people', either. Whales have enough problems...)

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 19, 2010 10:49:28 AM PDT
terzap says:
My bad. I shouldn't reply to posts before I put my glasses on and see the thread length is reasonable enough to read through the entire thing before making a comment. Now I see it is a readable 3 pages. I confess that I should have read the entire thread, so I wouldn't have repeated what others said before me. No worries. (And yeah... we must think of the whales, at least when they are Pod, they are behaving normally, though.)

Now everyone is happy and knows a pod from a PoD or POD... I've had to roll my eyes or stifle a snort (to protect my keyboard) so much at some of the examples here (and elsewhere) of truly awful writing that I've had to share this thread with a few friends. It's almost like a mini MST3K.

Posted on Mar 19, 2010 11:24:32 AM PDT
Paul Cassel says:
I stumbled onto this thread finding it a bit distressing. The sneering mockery ladled out to earnest writers who, due to lack of skill or luck, find themselves without an editor or publisher isn't very flattering to those who do such mockery.

The question of why people write is simple. They wish self expression. They feel they have a story to communicate. They may wish to see themselves in print. Perhaps they believe that the established publishing houses only produce homogenized pap but in contrast they have something unique to offer that such houses can't understand.

I agree that the examples posted here are funny and the parodies even funnier, but just because some of the posters here are witty doesn't dismiss that they are also cruel. Even prison guards often have a well developed sense of humor, but they are still guards.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 19, 2010 12:46:09 PM PDT
M. Helsdon says:
One of the problems is that some of these 'authors' fail to perform any critical checking of their own work: spelling, punctuation and grammar is often idiosyncratic whilst characterisation, plot and originality is of a low standard.

Whilst many capable writers are forced to use Print on Demand as they are unable to break into professional publication, the less capable use it as effectively vanity publishing to unleash on an unsuspecting world writing of an abysmal standard. The publisher doesn't care: they print and bind the product, when a professional publisher would have the overhead of editors and proofreaders. Often these books receive gushing five star reviews from friends and family, when they lack any objective merit. In contrast, a professional writer will seek out and assess criticism before publication; they may not implement all the recommendations from their editors and trial readers but use this feedback to enhance their craft. In writing, as in many other pursuits, valid criticism may be cruel but is necessary for improvement. There used to be fanzines and cheap magazines where an amateur author could learn their craft, often receiving a great deal of critical and sometimes cruel comment; it was part of learning how to write. Perhaps PoD books serve the same process, though not so effectively.

A further feature of Print on Demand authors rarely seen with professional writers is the use of the books as a vehicle for unusual or bizarre personal theories which are `proven' and affirmed by the book. Where a professional author might utilise some of the props of science fiction such as hyperspace or telepathy, the author doesn't actually believe in these things. It's a game where the author writes a constructed fantasy and the reader agrees to suspend their disbelief. If the author makes serious mistakes in known science, the reader's suspension of disbelief is dispelled. However, PoD authors often use their novels to propagate their own beliefs, whether a misunderstanding of the theories of wormholes and black holes, a totally different model of theoretical physics, or reptilian ETs.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 19, 2010 1:14:33 PM PDT
What have you written? So what if people's first attempts at writing meet with failure. At least they had the balls to publish something. You should write something Ronald. Put yourself out there. See what its like when some twit like yourself, who thinks he's a critic, bashes it.

Since you haven't produced anything, I'll comment on your photo. You look like you could use a good workout or at least some liposuction in your overhanging throat bag. I don't know what that is called. Since you know everything, you should enlighten us.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 19, 2010 2:16:45 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Mar 19, 2010 2:17:51 PM PDT
Paul Cassel says:
I agree wholeheartedly that most of these POD products are terrible and for the reasons that you, M. state. I think you sum the reasons for most POD very well. While most of these authors probably think of themselves as either undiscovered jewels or victims of some Authority who is out to either ignore their greatness or suppress their revelations, they've worked hard to get down in print their work. It's the effort and dedication I appreciate rather than the final product.

These authors aren't capable of self evaluation. If they were, then they'd edit their own works or choose not to publish. I still get a few first chapters a year asking for my opinion. The authors polish these chapters to their best abilities yet they still usually are embarrassing for their overheated figures of speech and poor grammar.

Please understand I'm not defending this method of publication nor am I encouraging anyone to spend a great deal of time on these books which one can see aren't worthwhile based on the sample. I'm only saying that I respect the effort made by even those I consider kooks (for their strange theories) and therefore prefer not sneering at what they produce.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 19, 2010 2:48:50 PM PDT
Todd Hunter says:
Myself, I'm still trying to figure out whether Ronald actually read the sampler for my book, or just decided that a formatting glitch (which I've come to learn was generated via an automatic process by Amazon...interestingly enough) in the blurb was enough to warrant inclusion in his list here.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 19, 2010 3:50:44 PM PDT
M. Helsdon says:

"I'm only saying that I respect the effort made by even those I consider kooks (for their strange theories) and therefore prefer not sneering at what they produce."

The problem is that some may have the capability of producing better work, but with the ease of publication and the lack of, or ignoring of critical comments, how would they actually work to achieve their potential? Most professionally published authors have a drawer of early manuscripts that failed to be published, often rightly so, and some have early inferior work published to their subsequent embarrassment.

Given what is effectively vanity publishing, uncritical reviews and samples that cause other readers to steer clear of a purchase, how do they receive the necessary incentive to improve by recognising the flaws in their work? Nothing worth achieving is ever easy.

Posted on Mar 19, 2010 4:57:30 PM PDT
Peter Piper says:
My comments here are mainly in response to Ronald's amusement at discovering my novel's product description. Perhaps you noticed that when I offered him the opportunity of a preview (see this thread, page2) he withdrew very rapidly from his:

"No previews yet, so can't mock, I mean, discuss the quality of the writing, but I'm sure it rises to the task".

I am a retired teacher / lecturer. Since the mid 1970s, I have taught Communications Skills amongst several other subjects. In the 1990s I spent ten years abstracting from chemical patents - that was just a hobby - the abstracts were published weekly by a large London publisher for subscribers around the globe doing front line research. And, yes, it was paid work. I have trained colleagues in the intricate art of writing references, the sort that get students those coveted university places. I admit all this involves technical writing, not fiction, but I do have a proven track record of being able to write, so any mockery falls on stony ground indeed.

Long before my novel, many times revised, went anywhere near a print shop, I obtained critical feedback from several colleagues (including some well versed in literary criticism). You may not like my words, my novel may not suit your taste but forgive me if I say that I can at least together string a sentence or two. You may not like my story-telling, my themes or my plot and if you think it's not well edited, I am sure you'll let me know.

Peter Salisbury, author of -Passengers to Sentience - slightly maligned, yet not so widely read...

Posted on Mar 19, 2010 6:45:06 PM PDT
D.L. Mains says:
Everyone who picks up a book is a potential critic. You cannot place your work, good or bad, with the largest retailer in the world and expect to please everyone. Just look at any of the boards of the Twilight books and you will see everything from glowing praise to vicious and scathing critiques. This is the nature of the beast, to coin a phrase.

Writing is hard. If it weren't, everyone would do it...oh, yeah...everyone IS doing it. Therein lays the problem. If someone is not prepared to receive critical opinions of their work, they should keep it to themselves. That's why there are live journals and other places to post your personal, creative thoughts. Most authors develop thick skin going through submission and rejections processes and must carry on. If you have gone straight to print by self-publishing then you have lost an important aspect of the procedure in the preparation of having your work under the proverbial microscope.

Remember, everything posted on these boards is someone's opinion. They have every right to it, just as you have a right to disagree. The comments here are also about the piece of work, not about the author. What Paul said: "Since you haven't produced anything, I'll comment on your photo. You look like you could use a good workout or at least some liposuction in your overhanging throat bag." is offensive.

If you agree or disagree, say so (which most of you have). If you don't like the subject, don't read it. But don't malign the thread or the people posting here for drawing attention to what, in their opinion, is bad writing. I have seen A LOT worse on reviews that actually appear on the book's page.

PJ, having your book mentioned several times on this thread gets attention. People are going to check out the book and decide for themselves. If nothing else, you have created traffic to your book page.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 19, 2010 9:22:35 PM PDT
Todd Hunter says:
I think the trouble comes from those who would lump everyone into the same bucket, regardless of whether they've actually seen a sample of the writing they're bashing. Certainly, developing a thick skin is just part of what a writer must do in this business. However, thick skin comes from experiencing honest criticisms of the book, or opinions based on having read it (or a sample). It would appear that some would basically take an action (such as plugging one's book) and decide that's enough to say that this person obviously can't write at all, then tell everyone else as such.

That's the issue I have trouble with, myself.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 19, 2010 9:24:42 PM PDT
Todd Hunter says:
And yes, I've seen a lot of poor writing samples out there in the land of POD...however, I've also seen some stellar writing as well. That's why I like the idea of using a sample to make a judgment. I'd thought that was the purpose of this thread, to point out samples that don't make the cut...apparently, I was wrong.

Posted on Mar 19, 2010 11:42:03 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Mar 20, 2010 2:07:30 AM PDT
Ronald Craig says:
Paul: You are a kind and delicate soul. Say hello to the flowers for me, m'K?

Seriously, the effort people put into something is irrelevant. The result is what matters. If the result is crap, years and years of sweat, blood, and tears that went into producing it were ... wasted.

Forgive me if I take a rather dim view of the now all too common belief that everybody should get a ribbon just for participating and doing their little best.

Jeffrey: Charming! I believe the word you were struggling for is "wattle". :)

(Edit: Whenever I hear that wee small voice whispering in my ear, "The laddy doth protest too much, methinks," it invariably proves interesting to search Books for that person's name. And while military sci-fi is a minor side interest, I'm afraid your book doesn't qualify for discussion here. I did enjoy a bit of the sample, though, and it's always entertaining to watch an author respond to reviewers as you did to "Seven Kitties".)

Todd: No Kindle or PC here (or intention of getting either), so no reading of sample. Set up an author page and put a sample in a discussion thread on it. Or do like Peter and put a sample on another site and make people jump through hoops to have a look at it. :)

Posted on Mar 19, 2010 11:59:01 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Mar 20, 2010 1:12:20 AM PDT
Ronald Craig says:
And Peter: stony ground, perhaps, but look what a lust forest of words has grown from it!

So ... let's have a peek at your sample, shall we?

(The link skips you to page 10, since that's where the actual text finally begins.)

"Sonia sighed over the hypo. Her eyes widened as the light reflected, shimmering, from the silver brooch with its large, synthetic opal concealing a fine-needled pistolet urging precisely metered, costly fluid through her skin. The chemical rush struck her brain in mid thought. A rainbow burst of fireworks sparkled behind Sonia's eyelids and she absently steadied her body for the afterglow.

To accommodate her appeal for a party, Sonia's parents Dave and Patty had taken the opportunity to enjoy a night away and had left a few hours before to stay in a hotel across the valley.

As the sense of suffuse, warm light filled Sonia's mind, long gone was any sense of anxiety over having lost count of the number of times she had used the Yellow. Lost was any fear of its progressive destruction of cells deep in her brain. Careless and her every pore open to perception, she stepped through a freshening sea of swirling, subtly-coloured music to await her friends.

Light years away, relaxed and comfortable, I accessed multiple threads of data traffic streaming between the dozens of worlds populated by human life. I was detached, free from direct involvement. I'd learnt to manage close interpersonal relationships, once they'd got going, it was starting them up I found hard. So, instead of working face to face and one to one with other individuals, I felt easier looking for subtle, abstract changes in data flow, discrepancies which might be characteristic of illicit transactions, mismatches and anomalies signifying criminal activity. Luckily, these were skills my bosses appreciated."

Oh, slightly maligned but MOST unjustly, I can now see. My apologies, Peter, I was so wrong about this: that is simply MASTERFUL! I especially enjoy the shift in narrative perspective here. And the TELL TELL TELL exposition that follows the above excerpt certainly draws the reader in. (Seems a bit Matrix-influenced, but hey, what isn't these days, right?!)

Thank you for helping me change my obviously erroneous view of self-published/POD works!

(Edit: Seriously, it's not nearly as bad as most of the things mentioned here, but the transitions in perspective are a bit jarring, and the sentence flow is a little clunky in spots. On p.17 it still hasn't really grabbed me.)

Posted on Mar 20, 2010 5:35:14 AM PDT
Peter Piper says:
Did I ever say I was a MASTERFUL story-teller? I don't think so. I said I had proven technical writing skills.

Ronald, all sarcasm aside, I want to thank you for the constructive criticism. I agree with your views on `telling' at the start in the section you have posted, and beyond some way. I took the advice of an agent in the past and he suggested I rewrite the story with certain things in mind. This I did. That was at a time when the opportunity for POD and ebooks did not exist. On retirement, having taken various other bits of advice along the way, I published the story myself. Still at the POD stage, I sought a couple of independent reviews:

The initial feedback was not wholly discouraging, so when Amazon contacted me and offered the use of the beta version of their DTP to non-US residents, I took them up on it. Sure, if I was to do it all over again, I would do it differently, who wouldn't?

Thank you once more for the opportunity and for your input. However I may come across, I find `touting my wares' around the discussions distasteful (perhaps it's because I'm from the UK). Frankly, I don't need the sales but what I do very much value is the feedback.

I would also like to thank those above who offered reasoned comments and advice.


In reply to an earlier post on Mar 20, 2010 5:53:29 AM PDT
Todd Hunter says:
Two clicks (one on my name, and another on my site) will get you to where you can find samples from both of my published novels, as well as links to my published short stories.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 20, 2010 6:46:54 AM PDT
Paul Cassel says:

I"m not sure that these self publishers do have access to critical commentators or at least productive ones. What makes you think that? If you are correct there, then it leaves one to wonder why they ignore, at the very least, the grammatical errors when those are pointed out.

Yes, a kook author who is claiming that Martians run the State Department will ignore criticisms opposing that claim, but the same author would not ignore a critic pointing out mixed metaphors, overheated similes and comma misuse. Yet a good deal of what's been lambasted in this thread are those sorts of errors rather than poor elements of plot or credibility.

This is why I think these authors lack an editorial source. Why do you think they have them? The published author who has unpublished Mss. got published when he found an editor - not when he found grammar on his own.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 20, 2010 6:52:07 AM PDT
Paul Cassel says:

I don't think anyone should get a participation ribbon. Nor do I make any apologies for these POD authors or their poorly crafted work. My only point is that they do not deserve ridicule for same.

Among other things, I judge science fairs. The quality of the submissions vary by community. One community near me has the highest percentages of Ph.D.'s of anywhere and most of them are in science or math. The submissions from that community are world class. Within a 20 minute drive there are communities consisting mostly of American Indians. Their submissions are frankly laughable but I don't laugh. The judges do not retire to our council and ridicule the Indians.

Instead we discuss how we can offer helpful criticisms to both groups which is pretty tough in the case of the Indians. Yet nobody awards or suggests we award the ribbons to those who 'try hard' or who are oppressed by some liberal standards. We award based on quality alone.

That's how I feel about this. I'm not buying POD volumes but I'm not laughing either.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 20, 2010 7:01:40 AM PDT
M. Helsdon says:

"I"m not sure that these self publishers do have access to critical commentators or at least productive ones. What makes you think that?"

Anyone writing in isolation or with their immediate readers limited to those who will only give positive uncritical comments needs to urgently seek out people who will give them honest opinions, which may well be cruel or hostile. Simply receiving praise and flattery won't serve to strengthen their writing skills.

"If you are correct there, then it leaves one to wonder why they ignore, at the very least, the grammatical errors when those are pointed out."

At the very least, unusual spelling or grammar should be detected by a decent word processing package.

"This is why I think these authors lack an editorial source. Why do you think they have them?"

Most people have friends or contacts who will give them an honest appraisal, and if not, there are numerous writing circles on and off-line.

"The published author who has unpublished Mss. got published when he found an editor - not when he found grammar on his own."

If a writer cannot use available tools to enhance their grammar and spelling, then they probably lack the necessary capabilities to be a writer. Many professional writers are self-taught and this requires dedication and discipline.

Similarly, when writing in a given genre, a writer should be sufficiently aware of that genre to detect when they are utilising cliches or simply hewing well dug soil. Writing requires several skills, not just imagination and a wish to be published.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 20, 2010 8:32:28 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Mar 20, 2010 8:35:03 AM PDT
Ronald Craig says:
Paul, while your science fair work is laudable I rather resent the implication that laughing at these authors is in any way comparable to the heinousness of laughing at the science projects of children(?) from less advantaged communities.

You ask M. Helsdon why these people would "ignore, at the very least, the grammatical errors when those are pointed out". Why indeed? But it does happen. After one in these forums called me an "IDOT" in a couple of threads, I had a look at his book and author pages. I pointed out a few (of many) spelling errors in his biographical note and his response was to call me an "IDOT" yet again and to make statements that could have been taken as vaguely threatening. It took several days, maybe a week, but he eventually rewrote his bio. He also deleted all his comments in our exchanges, but you can still follow my half of the "conversation":

Infinite Possibilities: Chronicles Vol.1: 2853-2857

I think in his case, he is so convinced of the brilliance of his own writing that any criticism is taken as a personal attack. (And I see this evening that after a year with his book available here, he has recently hired a paid reviewer.)

(I'm not Todd, btw.)

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 20, 2010 9:04:15 AM PDT
Ronald Craig says:
OK, Todd. Clicky, surf, jump, clicky clicky and I can download a 13-pp PDF sampler.

So ... start with dream (nightmare) sequence in first-person. Sorry, but I'm bored by the third paragraph ... and that's just NINE lines in. Honestly, it was off to a bad start with the very first line: "Even in the depth of my nightmares, Lycus IV was a formidable hell." Oh please.

Come on, it's a NIGHTMARE, right? Why not start from the third paragraph, and work in some of the information from the first two?

"My filthy clothing, ripped and shredded, exposed bloody skin. I gazed back across the clear, inviting water of the wide, slow-moving river in front of me at [something something, etc.]"

Wouldn't that be more immediate and likely to draw your readers in? Who cares about the name of the planet when you've a giant chasing you. (By the way, if he's looking "back across" the river, doesn't that imply he came from across it? That confused me a bit.)

After that it's fairly standard space opera fare. Vroom-vroom FTL spaceships, sassy AI, oodles of alien races. First-person narrative.

I'm kinda finicky when it comes to first person: I want to know exactly in what way the narrator is relating the story to me. Am I reading something the person has written during or after the events portrayed? Are we sitting in a bar, one stranger talking to another? Am I a disembodied observer of the narrator's stream of consciousness? I'm not really sure about any of that with your story. (That was a problem for me with what I read of Peter's book, too.)

Final observation: a little too much TELL-TELL with all the alien stuff; distracts from the action.

As always, IMHO. :)
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Initial post:  Nov 7, 2009
Latest post:  Sep 28, 2014

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