Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Writer Wednesday: Pointing Out Errors

Today's topic comes from Rick Starkey. Rick asked:
"I sometimes read books of others and leave reviews. I know that errors can slip through the publishing process, but should these be mentioned to the author? Is it fixable in the ebook version? Can it be fixed before the print version is printed? Or is it something the author probably already knows about and has to accept?"

This is a tricky subject, and here's why. A lot of authors, including me, refuse to read the finished book once it's out in the world. The reason is we are afraid of finding things we'll want to change. There comes a point where you have to accept the book is finished. Personally, I don't want to read my book and find a missing comma or typo. I'd cry because I know how much editing goes into all my books. But…editors are humans too. We do occasionally make mistakes. It's been proven that the human brain can read misspelled words and even insert missing words into sentences. Things happen. Even after you have an entire team of editors reading your book.

So, do you as a reader point out an error to the author? Well, if he/she is traditionally published, the print and ebook probably released simultaneously, which means that the first print run is already done. Those books cannot be changed. Things can be updated before the second print run, though. But ask yourself how you'd feel as the author if you knew thousands of copies of your book were in the hands of readers and that those copies contained an error. It's not a good feeling.

However… Did you know that was coming? If the author is self-published and/or using print on demand, these fixes are much easier. Files can be updated and there aren't thousands of print copies all over with mistakes in them. So telling an author in this situation could be very helpful to the author and publisher (if there is one).

But PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE, if you do find errors and feel the need to tell the author, do two things. First, make sure you are correct. Are you 110% certain it's an error? Second, contact the author PRIVATELY. Let me say that again. Contact the author PRIVATELY. Do not tell them in a review on Amazon or on their FB wall.

So, Rick, I hope that answers your question.

If you have a question you'd like me to answer from the other side of the editor's desk, feel free to leave it in the comments and I'll schedule it for a future post.

27 comments:

  1. I feel the same way. I don't want to find errors in my own work after all those rounds of editing. I agree that this should be pointed out privately.

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  2. Thanks, Kelly. Yes, this does answer my questions.

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  3. I agree--privately is best. I see errors in self-published/small press books all the time. Heck, I even see a few in traditionally-published books. After going through the process myself, I can see how the last one happens. Yes, you pass the book back and forth between a billion people a billion times--but those last pass pages are done by paper, where you write the changes in pencil. If the person typing up your changes makes a mistake, it's final. There's nothing we can do about it at all. So definitely don't point them out in traditionally-published books!

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    1. Yes, it's nearly impossible to change a traditionally published book. It's just not going to happen. I do see mistakes in just about every book I read, but I keep them to myself. ;)

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  4. Excellent advice. I've seen errors in books traditionally published that go through a lot of vetting, so it is not an easy thing. I'm always surprised too at what I miss in my own writing.

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  5. I've seen it in mainstream publishing where there's a glitch, perhaps a word or a punctuation issue. It happens.

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  6. Agreed! 100%. But mostly, ignorance is bliss in my opinion.

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  7. Agreed. So true. I've seen Amazon reviews mentioning typos etc and saying 'I'm a proofreader!' And even on FB, someone said on the authors wall...I'm a proofreader and I found these errors. The author very graciously replied...thanks for pointing it out but I wanted it to be that way!

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    1. When I see people do that I feel like they are trying to sell their proofreading services to the author. Not cool.

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  8. I agree that contacting the writer personally is the best way for small errors.

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  9. Good advice. I doubt that there are very many books published that don't have at least one mistake. It may not be noticeable to the reader, but as authors we tend (at least I do) to see that missing comma or whatever. I don't read my books after they're printed either. :)

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    1. Yes, it's very rare that I read a book and not find an error. It happens.

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  10. I only point out errors when I know there is opportunity to fix them or when an author asks me to review something.

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  11. I read a book where the main character's name was mixed up with the antagonist's through a whole chapter (tradionally published), and read an awful review about the mistake. That was really bad form on the part of the reviewer. Sending a private email is a great idea. As for self published books, it's sometimes not financially possible to make changes for authors especially if they've paid for editing, production, and printing.

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    1. Good point. A lot of self published authors do it all themselves, which means they can fix mistakes. However, those who don't can't fix these thing.

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  12. I wouldn''t want to hurt the author by mentioning the typos in an Amazon review, and yes, I would crumble if I find mistakes in my books after the release. Recently, I read a favourite (Big, big, big name, prolific) author's ebook and was not that surprised to find typos there, too.

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    1. Sorry, just wanted to add that I don't think typos ought to be an excuse for poor editing, but ... sometimes, things happen.

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    2. No, it shouldn't be an excuse. Books need to be properly edited, but even after that an error can slip through.

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  13. Amen to this. I know of one typo in my published book that I wish I didn't now about. At a certain point proofreading must be done.

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    1. Yeah, it's heartbreaking to know there's an error and you can't fix it.

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