Chop-shop publishing, the wave of the future
I recently downloaded two new books to my eReader, both of them kickoffs of new series, one of them from your house and the other from another major publisher. I found them both to have excellently structured, highly entertaining plotlines, but I will only be reading the next entry from the series put out by the other publisher.
The other book was a wonderful story with execution to match, and I was able to lose myself in the story and eagerly keep turning the pages. The book you published was also a wonderful story, but far from a pleasurable reading experience. Rather, it was a tedious read that I largely skipped over, because you failed to do your job of polishing the author's writing. In all my years of reading I have never read a book published by a major publisher of such poor editorial quality. This was written by one of your top-selling authors, and she deserves much better. This book read like one of those dreadful, error-ridden self-published works: Bad punctuation (not even remotely following the Chicago Manual of Style), misstatements of facts, and unpolished writing. One thing it didn't have was misspelled words. This suggests to me that the manuscript was spell checked, but nothing else before it was put into production.
This is no way to treat a bestselling author who brings in plenty of revenue for your house, and since I have read other books you've published by authors who are not African-American (as this author is) and never noticed them to be lacking in quality, I have to wonder about the reasoning behind publishing a book in such a state. I must tell you that the first thing that comes to my mind is those so-called "separate but equal" policies of the past, like public schools in black neighborhoods getting out-of-date textbooks for their students while the latest and greatest went to white students...in other words, not equal at all. At worst, it's blatantly discriminatory, i.e., the way supermarket chains deliver fruits and meats past their prime plus other subpar products to their stores in black neighborhoods.
In my opinion you have done this author a grievous disservice by not giving this wonderful story the editorial attention it deserved, perhaps because your management feels that her largely African-American readership won't notice anything amiss. But to this African-American consumer, it read like the first draft by a first-time author, not by a seasoned writer, and it reeks of editorial neglect.
I know that some writers' work will need more TLC before it is ready for publication than others, but this should not be apparent in the finished product; that is what editorial staffs are for. I also realize this is popular fiction and not a literary work, but a thorough line editor would have removed those excessive "had"s and "was"s that were used to distraction in the narrative, often twice and occasionally even three times in a single sentence. A skilled line editor would have pointed out that there is a three-hour time difference between Eastern and Pacific Times, not two. A skilled line editor would also make sure that any reference to the Almighty is capitalized, not a lower-case "he" that is used for mere mortals. I understand that your bottom line is profit, but quality should stand for something.
I don't blame the author for my unhappy reading experience, I blame you. The author did her part by delivering her manuscript. She had a right to expect her work to be polished like a freshly minted copper penny as she turned her attentions to meeting the deadline for her next project, but you let her down...big time. The result was a book far substandard than those published by your colleagues in the industry (and other authors within your house), and the loss of at least one consumer (me). I read for enjoyment, not to be jarred out of the story again and again by subconsciously counting all the errors and word overuse. The only reason I kept skimming was to determine whether I correctly guessed a pivotal plot twist not revealed until the final pages.
In the name of all things literary, I implore you to give your authors, particularly your top-selling authors, the editorial support they need and present the best possible product to the consumer...not just something that's been spell checked in a rush process to get it on the store shelves, and certainly not because you feel that it's all right to give African-American consumers inferior products. Because it's not all right.