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The awful truth about “flimsy” books

May 22nd, 2018 by Bob Bly

Recently, a colleague handed me a book on communications she got
at a seminar on that topic from the speaker.

I flipped through it and immediately thought of a comment I read
in a book review once: “This is a book that should never have
been written.”

And increasingly, in this era of self-promoters and CreateSpace,
the rise of books that should never have been written — or
published — is increasing at a tremendous rate.

I call these works — most not worth the paper they’re printed on
or the price of a Kindle download — “flimsy books.”

And I urge you to neither read, buy, nor heaven forbid, write and
publish such books.

They are 9 times out of 10 a waste of both the writer’s and the
reader’s time, effort, and money.

Why?

Because these flimsy books have a number of characteristics in
common, which make them good for lining bird cages or starting
fires in the fireplace — but not so good for actually reading.

>> To begin with, flimsy books are actually flimsy. That doesn’t
make them bad in itself, but is an identifying trait.

When you see a flimsy book, your first impression is that it’s a
pamphlet, not a book. And actually, that is essentially the case.

The communications book I was given has barely 50 pages with text
on them … and the page size is small.

Reason: Authors of flimsy books are more interested in having a
published book for use as a marketing tool or to enhance their
reputation, rather than writing a good book.

So they tend to dash them off quickly, often without much effort,
thought, research, or editing.

>> Second, the vast majority of books I am referring to as
“flimsy” are self-published, more often than not today on
CreateSpace.

Again, that doesn’t make them bad in itself.

However, anyone who has written a book for a big publishing house
knows that those books almost always get a lot more attention to
detail — especially in the editing, proofreading, and production
process — than self-published books.

My editors at these publishing houses are tough, and don’t let me
get away with being lazy or doing a half-assed job, or being
unclear or incomplete.

Most self-published authors I know don’t hire a copy editor, and
so their books lack this essential quality control.

“Submitting a book for publication is also submitting to the
discipline of the market,” says my Facebook friend WC.

“Indeed, there are worthy self-published books, but I tend to
agree that added prestige is given when books are published by a
major publisher.”

>> Third, you don’t get much for your money with flimsy books.

The flimsy communications book I am using as an example is, as I
said, barely 50 pages and less than 15,000 words total.

By comparison, my average 200 to 300-page trade paperback for the
big publishers is 80,000 to 100,000 words — so the buyer gets 5
to 6 times more content than in a typical flimsy book.

>> Fourth, as mentioned in my first point above, the motivation
for publishing a flimsy book is more often than not marketing —
either to sell for maximum profit with minimal effort … or to
serve as a sales or reputation-building tool.

As Dr. Jeffrey Lant notes: “A book is a brochure that will never
be thrown away.”

>> Fifth, most flimsy books I review are — uh, how can I put this
— just not very good.

It is painfully obvious that they have not been fact-checked,
proofed, researched, or written with careful attention.

In so many flimsy books, the writing is disorganized, the text
meanders and is full of pointless digressions, and the coverage
of the topic is woefully incomplete — with much of the key
information missing.

But — why am I complaining? Why bother to protest? Is there
really any harm caused by the growing practice of writing,
publishing, and selling flimsy books?

Answer: Yes — some. And here’s why I think the world would be
better off without so many — or even any — flimsy books….

Reason number one: The existence of flimsy books cheapens the
value of real books.

When I started writing books in 1981, having a book published was
prestigious. But flimsy books make people think less of books and
authors.

Reason number two: People write and publish flimsy books to
convince others they are experts.

To write a 300-page book that is vetted by a top publishing house
does require some expertise or at least a lot of research.

Writing a flimsy book, not so much.

Reason number three: Flimsy books are a major source of “content
pollution” — which I loosely define as books, reports, courses,
and other materials that, to put it charitably, should never have
seen the light of day.

You may disagree. But that’s the way I see it.

Before you ask or say anything, yes, I have written a few
books that are small and slim.

But, of my 95 published books, I have written many that are
200, 300, or 400 pages — and in one case 800 pages.

So my average book is indeed a real book, and not a flimsy
pamphlet.

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, May 22nd, 2018 at 8:58 am and is filed under Writing. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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