I know Release Day for The Maze: Book Three of the Osteria Chronicles is less than a week away (squeeee!!!) and I should be using this blog space to cajole/guilt you into pre-ordering the book, but something is frustrating me and, rather than bang my head on the wall, I thought I’d share my irritation with my lovely readers and see your reactions.

My gripe is twofold: Smashwords and NaNoWriMo.

For those of you who don’t know, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. It occurs each November and within the 30 days you’re meant to write a 50,000-word “novel.” I’ve griped about this terminology in previous posts, but my basic issue with NaNoWriMo is that it’s misleading. Unless you are incredibly talented, you are NOT writing a novel; you are writing a draft. And if you’re writing fast enough to crank out 50,000 words, that draft is probably in need of some serious work (again, unless you are quite talented).

Many people have written on this very thing and even the NaNoWriMo folks the finally gotten on the bandwagon of telling participants that whatever they come up with during the 30 days of November is going to need to go through many rounds of editing to be a real novel.

That’s good. NaNoWriMo is admitting that people are writing drafts, not novels (maybe changing the name to NaDraWriMo – National Draft Writing Month – would really help push forward the idea) and I was starting to tolerate the whole idea.

Then along came an email from Smashwords that had me ranting all over again.

Smashwords is running promotion in which they are telling their authors to PUBLISH their NaNoWriMo work. Not say in early 2018 after it’s been edited. Not after its been proofread. Not after beta readers have given it a once over. Not even before the 50,000 words are complete!! They’re asking authors  to publish their NaNoWriMo stuff during the month of November 2017 as they’re doing it. On Smashwords. For customers to buy. And these non-novels even get their own special promo place on the Smashwords site.

As Charlie Brown so succinctly put it, “AAUGHHHHHHH!!!!”

The idea is that the people who buy these NaNoWriMo promo books will continue to download updated versions when (if) the author rewrites the draft. But come on, we all know people are lazy and I wonder how many of the readers ever bother to get that final version, how many of those readers will never touch another thing by that author, and how many writers bother to rewrite their NaNoWriMo draft (either from giving up on it or from thinking their “draft” is a fully formed novel worthy of a Pulitzer).

The hard part about being self-published is the stigma that “self-published book” means “crap book.” And too many indie authors still feed into this stereotype by rushing to put out books. At the very least, these books end up with so many grammatical, spelling, and punctuation errors that they’re painful to read. At the worst, it’s a crap story that needed some serious editing.

It’s not to say that traditionally published books don’t have errors and every story is Pulitzer worthy, but every time someone picks up a poorly edited/non-proofread book by an indie author, it just feeds into the idea that self-published books are crap books. And it makes more work for me to assure people that I put a TON of time into rewriting and polishing my novels to ensure I have a quality product BEFORE I ever hit the Publish button.

And I don’t like it when I have to do more work!

So when Smashwords encourages indie authors to publish things that aren’t even complete and to make those “books” available for people to buy, I have to wonder what in the world they are thinking.

Because of the promo status for the books, I was thinking of participating with my draft of Book Four because I thought Smashwords meant for authors to put their “books” up for pre-order as they worked on cobbling the manuscripts into actual novels (this is actually a marketing strategy I’ll write more about later). But when I read more closely and saw they expected me to actually publish my crappy draft and let readers download that crappy draft I was so angry I wanted to reach through the screen and strangle Mark Coker (head honcho of Smashwords).

Of course, at the very end of the email (aka “the small print”) there is a note saying that your NaNoWriMo manuscript will need rewriting to polish it into a novel. Sigh. No shit. That’s why these things should NOT be published.

I’m curious about your thoughts on this. Do you think Smashwords should encourage people to publish these incomplete, unedited drafts? Do you think this adds to the stigma of self-publishing? Or do you think it’s a great way to encourage writers? I’ll be back Saturday with the final installment of Finn’s Maui Mayhem, see you then!!


16 thoughts on “What Are You Doing to Me, Smashwords?!!!

  1. I once read a quote that went something like “Nobody wants to write. Everybody wants to have written”. I forget who said it. Working in a public library, we do get self published books that we just cannot add. We have Tammie’s books because you can tell she puts in the work to publish a well written book.

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  2. Mr Snail has done NaNoWriMo successfully three times… i.e., he’s written 50,000 words in 30 days three times. The first time he got the draft of half his first novel; the second time, he got the draft of what I would call a novella and the third time he got the beginning of a novel, The first two were finally published, but only after a lot more work and the third one is still a work in progress, two years later! On no attempt did he produce something that he would have wanted to release for general consumption… usually even I don’t read the whole of the first draft. What’s the point in releasing an uncompleted, unpolished, rough piece of work? Seems silly to me… plus it’s bound to be full of typos, which will make it horrible to read… and I say this as an editor myself.

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    1. Exactly! I think NaNoWriMo is great to motivate people to jump into a book idea, but to publish the results from those 30 days during those 30 days? The very idea gives a big knot in my stomach at the mess these things must be. Glad to hear Mr Snail stuck with what he wrote and saw it through to the final product!! I’ve never really been at the first draft stage when November has rolled around.

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  3. That seems like a horrible idea, one that will not only hurt the authors who put their unedited work out there, but to other authors by association. Ugh. Not sure who thought that one through.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Definitely ugh, and it’s that “by association” damage I worry about (because it’s all about me :)). Looking at the site, they’ve been doing this for several years now. I have to wonder what the follow-through rate is both for readers to download the finished book (I’m not sure how they find out when/if it’s updated) and for writers to complete what they’ve “published.” Like I said, I think putting the NaNoWriMo stuff in as a pre-order would be brilliant and motivating to work the draft to completion, but publishing an incomplete work? No no no no.

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  4. I remember when I first self-published, I struggled just to find reviewers who took such books. And yeah, there are a lot of crap books out there…But mine was written over 9 years, with readers and lots and lots of rewriting/editing/proofreading! This idea really will not help the stigma. Also, I’ve never wanted to do the Nano thing. Not only does it make writing too much like work, I’m not sure where I’d find the time.

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    1. Wow! Nine years, now that’s dedication to an idea/dream. Good job! I also don’t feel any need to participate in NaNo. I know it gives some people a boost with a project, but I find it more important to find your own motivation if you want to be a writer long term. Thanks for stopping by and commenting! 😊

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  5. Eeeeeek, who thought this was a good idea?! Why would anyone want to pay money for a half-finished book? If this is the way creative business is being handled in the real world these days, I’m going​ to rock up to my first market with my stock as it currently is… “Yes, I know this Beastie is unstuffed and has no face, but if you pay for him now, I’ll make sure he’s finished for you sometime never!”
    Yeah!! People are DEFINITELY going to go for that! 😂

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    1. Yes, I’m sure at your next event if you just lay out a pile of fluff and skeins of yarn people will gladly plunk down their euros. I mean why wouldn’t they? 🙄 I have to say I thought I’d read something wrong in the email from Smashwords. But after re-reading the email, reading the same info on their web site, and even clicking on the promo thing, it’s true…they really want you to publish a hastily assembled draft. I really don’t know what this says about Smashwords or the quality of things they want on their site. In their defense, they do remind you you can put it up for free, but still! I would die of embarrassment if anyone read my first drafts because they would look at me and say, “Um, you sure you don’t want to go back to that science thing?”


      1. Brilliant! That’s all the encouragement I needed… Cue a day of watching Miss Marple in my pyjamas and not doing any craft whatsoever! 😂 The worst part of this idea is that I can completely picture the kind of person who would jump at the chance to take Smashwords up on their offer… And I tell you now, I would NOT want to read those people’s books!

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      2. I can’t wait to see the pictures of your next event table! Be sure to post a promise that you’ll finish the Beasties “some time” in the future. When they ask when that might be, just say, “Dunno, when/if I get the motivation to do it.” I’m sure your sales will sky rocket!

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  6. Terrible! And sounds like they are just conning/manipulating artists in order to make money–despicable. Sadly, this probably appeals to a lot of people who don’t care about sending garbage out to the masses/think they might hit it big with that promotion. I’m sorry!


    1. I know how exciting it can be to have completed (or think you’ve completed) a manuscript and having that burning desire to send it out to the world, but in most cases these drafts should never be seen…even by people who love you! Believe me, I thought my first book was the best thing since sliced bread as soon as I typed it out, but when I let a critical eye read it, I realized I had a long long way to go (that book has STILL never been published, by the way). I just wonder how many people’s writing careers are harmed by Smashwords encouraging this.

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