author C.C.Cole's blog

Monday, May 30, 2011

On Book Eating by C.C.Cole May 30, 2011


I’ve known two types of readers.  Those who read slowly, taking their time in every word, mesmerized by the content and beauty of literature.  Then there are those whose interest in a book becomes almost an obsession, with only physiological needs (sleep, etc.) in order to put it down until completed.

I describe myself as the latter reader.  If I lock into a book, that’s it.  Nothing else can happen in my life until I’ve finished it.  I don’t feel like I’m reading, it’s more like I’m eating it.  As a kid reading Mother Goose, it was war with my two siblings if they dared try to take it away.  Coming from a family of educators, reading was encouraged, so as a pre-teen I devoured “Catch-22” three times (took that many to understand it, and it is a masterpiece),  “The Exorcist,” which was very controversial in rural Mississippi at the time, and as a teen, I got into Robert Ludlum’s books, with my favorite “The Matarese Circle.”  Let me make a small note that my family didn’t want me reading just anything, but they were fine with bestselling novels.   During college, I had the misfortune of attaching to “Dune” (only the first of the series) during final exams.  The virtual teeth marks in that book exist today.  By the time the final Harry Potter book came out, I burped the paper after 22 hours, including sleep.  I doubt that’s a record, but I gave myself a sore back from reading so long at one sitting.  Don’t get me started on the reading of “No Country for Old Men,” that book was grinding in my molars within a couple of hours.

This gets back to us new authors and getting to know our audiences.  Each reader has in his/her own mind what he or she wants out of the book (I use genre novels as my example, since that’s what I write).  Even the most perfectly copy-edited manuscript can leave readers unsatisfied, and other readers breeze past the typos and move on with the content.  So, is copy-editing important for the new author?  Yes, yes, yes!  I’m no grammar expert, so if I see outrageous grammatical errors I get turned off, knowing it’s hard for me to spot them.  Other reviewers more sophisticated at grammar get turned off at the first misspelling that I likely wouldn’t have noticed on my third read. 

Does it matter which kind of reader is in your audience?  To me, the content drives the audience to like or dislike, while grammatical errors add pertinent negatives but offer little positives in the way the story is perceived.  In other words, get your grammar the best you can, to avoid stumbling on avoidable mistakes.  A myth exists amongst some that traditional published authors have fewer grammatical errors and self-published authors have so many errors the manuscript is unreadable.   I believe neither is true.  Publishing companies churn out books (some very successful ones) that I can spot the mistakes, and after having my own work copy-edited three times, and I see a grammatical error in the finished product, I either scream, make a martini, or both.

How has the new digital revolution affected readers?  As a lifelong book-eater, I am an impatient reader, and prefer to read a book two or three times than have a dozen sittings to just take the words in.  With my impatience, comes my short attention span, and with that, I tend to start a lot of books, wanting to eat them all, and realize my eyes are bigger than my stomach, like when I order sushi.  So now I have a nice combination of e-reading devices, all with different types of books, and I’ve read some of all of them.  In the past, it was a book, standing alone for me to read veraciously or not at all.  I get irritated with myself for getting behind on books by fine authors I want to review, while distracted by movies, especially when “The Dark Knight” is on. 

What can we as new authors do with our writing to keep up with the growing ebook demand?  My answer:  write.  That’s what authors do; new and unknown, or famous and regaled.  Readers want to experience our stories, regardless of genre.  Some say ebooks will allow books “that are not any good” to “contaminate” the market.  I don’t buy that.  And the audience won’t buy it either (literally), if they have no interest.  The final decision of a book’s value is not the author, the famous paid critics, or reviewers (clarification:  many reviewers are unpaid readers so there’s a gray line there), it is the readers that decide.

So what of my book eating?  Well, it’s tougher in the digital age; the kindle cover is hard to bite through, and my computer is just a click away from a shoe sale.  So competition for especially the new author remains to be tough, but definitely worth it.

Special thanks to Mirta Oliva for the art, see link below for more of her excellent works!!


1 comment:

  1. I sometimes too HAVE to finish a book in one sitting. Finishing a Harry Potter book in 22 hours? Yep, I did that too. I'm not sure exactly how long it took but it was less than 24 hours. I can usually finish 2 books in a day when I have the time to read.

    For the grammatical errors, I'll notice them while reading but as long as there's not too many, it won't bother me. It is annoying though when you can stop them every few pages.