Reading and writing isn’t supposed to be this exclusive club, it’s just supposed to be entertaining.
Confession: I used to be a grammar Nazi. I used to be a snob when it comes to people who didn't spend enough time editing and polishing their work. But the more years I've been in indie publishing, the more time I spent studying bestselling books and the readers' reactions to it, I realize that my standards - even my perception of writing - have been largely dictated by traditional publishing. I'm not saying everything they believe in is wrong - DEFINITELY NOT - but there are new rules now, brought about by digital publishing, and writers today shouldn't be faulted just because they happen to thrive in those new rules.
I'm getting too vague, aren't I?
I'm going to be honest.
I no longer mind when a book I read has poor grammar and/or editing. I just find myself enjoying the story as it is, and I don't begrudge the author at all for his/her success. The thing is, many readers today don't even seem to notice or at least they don't seem to mind that the book hasn't been properly edited and proofread. All they care about is the story, its characters, and how the book made them forget, even for a little while, about how stressful their day-to-day living is.
Same goes for cover design. I used to look down on books whose authors obviously didn't spend enough time conceptualizing the covers for their work. There has to be a connection at least, you know?
But now, I just ignore the unattractive cover and focus on the story. It's the blurb that grabs my attention the most, anyway. If you have a great-sounding blurb, I'll be most likely sold on your book regardless of your cover, title, and even your writing style.
Does this mean you shouldn't bother with professional editing and cover design?
NOT AT ALL.
I still work with my editor and cover designer for every book I put out. But that's MY choice, and that's what makes it right for me. As for you and your work, it's all about your choice, too.
These days, I've come to think of authors as being one of three types.
The first type is the author who would always have his/her "writer's hat" on. This type of author enjoys the intricacy, exactitude, and harmony of word play. This type of author focuses primarily on the beauty of word and doesn't care about the potential (or lack of) commercial value of his/her work. Work of this type of author has a high probability of eventually turning into a literary classic.
The second type is the author who works with his/her "storyteller's hat" on. This type of author is all about the story. Literary critics may be predisposed to dislike the work of this type of author because of the way it violates almost every rule of writing. On the other hand, given the right niche, platform, and enough marketing effort, this type of author has good chances of enjoying commercial success.
The third type is a hybrid of both.
Whether you're Type 1, Type 2, or Type 3 - there is no right or wrong choice. Ultimately, it's about choosing what makes YOU happy and what meets YOUR publishing goals and emotional needs.
Be at peace with the kind of author you are, but strive to take constructive criticism.
Also, there's always the chance that you may be a Type 1 today but you could turn into a Type 2 or 3 down the line...and vice versa. It happens. It happened to me. I used to be a Type 1, but in the end I found myself being more a Type 2. I can't even say I'm a Type 3 because these days, my #1 priority is story and I've also made a deliberate attempt to write simply so that more readers would be interested in reading my work. Don't mistake this for dumbing it down (but I won't kill you if you want to think otherwise; you're entitled to your own opinion). Rather, I'm doing this because I have a lot of readers who read on the go (during one-hour lunch breaks, train commutes, etc.). Readers have told me how much they love that my work is a fast and easy read, and how it's able to take them away from the real world even just for a little while. They don't read my work to think. They read my work to feel. And I love that because that also happens to be my goal as an author. As a storyteller.
I've experimented with this, actually. I took a random sample from my books and without fail those that have been written the simplest also happen to be my best-selling books.