On Tough Love And Typos
I’ve been intending to start reviewing books here, focusing specially on free books because I’m poor. And I’d been really looking forward to getting on my high horse for the first book in the review docket because this author committed the cardinal sin of the indie: he left TYPOS in the manuscript.
Giving indies a bad name– taking respect in your product– understanding your craft– rawr rawr rawr rawr
Oh man, it was gonna be great! And I felt completely justified in my loftiness because I KNEW I wasn’t the kind of author who would ever let such things slide in MY books.
“Now, I’ve seen much worse editing than this, but then I’ve seen some extremely bad editing. Here, there are missing spaces, there are missing words, there are partly-revised sentences with doubled-up words…”
And my glass house had been so beautiful, too.
First, let me say that I’m very grateful that the reviewer took the time to point these problems out. I took months to edit Mask/Master. I had an editor and beta readers, and I combed through carefully to catch as many typos as I could. But typos are pernicious and tiny and, clearly, fell through the cracks in this case.
Without actually being told about these problems, I would have continued blithely promoting the book unaware of these flaws, figuring that I’d caught all the technical problems during that process. Now that I know about them, I can take the time to correct the problems and publish a new edition that’s up to a more professional standard.
But the fact that this review showed up just before I was about to write a smug, superior review based (in large part) on the proliferation of typos in another indie author’s work made me stop and think.
When there are typos in a book published by a Big Six publisher, do we disparage the author and say that he/she has no respect for craft? No intelligence? No ability to string words together? No! We blame a big, faceless process, overworked copy editors, and a rushed production schedule. The blame gets really diffused, and it’s much easier to ignore the errors and judge the book for its artistic merits.
But with a self-published title, there’s nowhere for the blame to hide. When typos– especially lots of egregious ones– are still lingering in a book that the indie author is offering for sale, my sense is that, as readers, we think badly of that person, not some nebulous process. My gut says that the little guy/girl publishing indie books is much more likely to get negative reviews for minor typos than some very successful late-career author with the same errors. When you consider the fact that the author who’s already made it could care less about a little bad feedback, while the new writer could have an otherwise good book really hamstrung by a few slapdash one-star-reviews, it’s enough to give me pause.
What does this add up to?
Addressing typos is important. I think that indie authors have an obligation to publish books that are as free of errors as possible.
But I was a little humbled by that review, even though it said otherwise nice things. It made me realize that there’s a reason publishing has historically been the purview of an army of white-collar worker bees, and not authors putting their stuff out independently. It takes a lot of mind-numbing work to go through a 130,000+ word novel and ensure that it has absolutely no formatting or typographical errors, especially if (like me) you’re working on spec, puttering away until your series takes off and you’re making a living at it. You can do everything right, like getting an editor and other readers involved, and still not catch all the problems.
Luckily, there’s an awesome thing about ebooks. It’s really easy to upload new editions. Correcting typos in a print run of 50,000 copies takes a lot of white-out and doesn’t look so good. Correcting typos on Amazon is just about uploading a corrected file. Problem solved!
So there’s a new edition of Mask/Master on the way very soon, with (hopefully) no typos, and a few other new features.
And as I start posting reviews here, I’ll mention typos, but I won’t harp on them. And if it’s a review of an indie book, I think I’m going to contact the author directly and let him/her know of the errors I’ve found. If months and months go by and no new edition is released, then maybe I’ll get snarky at them here on the blog. But there are plenty of other things to talk about in a review, and you’d probably rather read a deeper analysis than “typos. 1 star” anyway.
Not that I’m capable of deep analysis, but you get the drift.