Typographical Errors

One of the biggest problems facing a self-publishing author is that of editing. It's possible to edit your own work up to a point, and with training and experience that point gets closer and closer to a finished novel. But it is impossible to produce the grammatically correct, properly spelled and nicely polished prose that a good professional edit and proof-read can give you on your own. For that you need outside assistance. A second (and third, fourth, fifth) set of eyes. The problem is these extra sets of professional eyes cost money, and lots of it. 

I'm not a professionally trained proof reader or editor, but I've done both jobs enough to be reasonably good at spotting my own errors. Lately, however, as Natural Causes cruises past the 100k downloads and upwards of 100 reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, Apple iBooks and Smashwords (and other places I keep finding them - they pop up everywhere, like mould), a small but relevant percentage of people have started to complain about grammatical and typographical errors. I've even had an email from Amazon telling me to upload a corrected version - which I will do in due course.

In all of these comments, however, only one has made the effort to point out any of the errors (the occasional use of thankyou rather than thank you). Now I don't really expect my readership to act as unpaid editors, but there's something of the snark about saying 'the book was full of typos' and then not even bothering to mention one.

Simon Haynes, he of the Hal Spacejock series which I really must get around to reading more of soon, has an ongoing offer on his website. Anyone who emails him with the details of a typo or grammatical error they find in one of his self-published books automatically gets a free copy of the next one in the series. It's a great idea, and I'm happy to steal it.

So if you've read one of my books, liked it, but found issue with my grammar or spelling, please let me know. I will send you, gratis and in the electronic format most convenient to you, any of my other books available. If there's nothing you fancy, then I'll put you on the free list for the next in the series you did like - who knows, I might even ask you to be a beta reader.

You'll also have my undying thanks, even if I disagree with what you think is a typo. And really, there's no greater reward than that.


Suw said…
The wonder of ebooks is, of course, that they can be corrected. Despite several people proofing Argleton, some typos still got through and, sadly, they will remain forever in the printed versions. But an upcoming second edition should see them all squished like cockroaches in the ebook. Hah! Take that, typo!
terlee said…
Having been a proof reader and an editor in the past, you would think the proofing with my own novel would have been well-nigh perfect. HA!

And worse? After at least four different printed proof copies, I'm still finding errors; minor ones at this point, but still...
JamesO said…
I can't remember the last professionally published big name author novel I read that I didn't find at least a half dozen typos in, so it's not as if self-pubbed authors are the only ones at fault.

I thought I was good at proof-reading, but having just had a list of corrections as long as my arm sent in by one of my beta readers, I'm not so sure.

I quite liked the idea of chopping up the manuscript into single pages and using crowdsourcing to error check them. Unfortunately the only decent crowdsourcing setup I could find was US residents only. I'll just have to keep bribing my readers to let me know whenever they find a mistake.
Kumilady said…
I have written, proofread, and been an editor of a magazine. I can tell you from experience that no matter how many times one person proofs something, errors will get through. When I was the editor of a monthly newsletter for a writers group years ago there was one member who absolutely delighted in catching at least one error every month.

When I read for pleasure my eye just naturally goes to the misspellings, or typos or whatever. However, I just keep reading and enjoy the book or story because I understand the difficulty of finding every single error.

I do believe, though, that the person doing the writing can't possibly proof their own work and expect to catch all the errors. The eye tends to see what it "thinks" is on the page, rather than what is really there. (Does that make sense?) You need at least one other person to read for you. I like your idea of having what you call "Beta" readers. Can I be one?

I loved "Natural Causes", and can't wait to read all your works.
akwexynyc said…
Hi James,
I love your Inspector McLean books and the Ballad of Sir Benfro bookd as well.I'm very impressed by the versatility that you show in writing two such different genres of fiction so well. I have always been a stickler for correct spelling and grammar and am surprised at how much of that makes it into published works. But I never knew whether I was the only one who cared about that stuff these days.
So I would be more than happy to let you know if I notice any in your books - and no need to comp me any others,they are worth every penny - just please get that third Sir Benfro book finished soon - I'm dying of suspense!;-)

I did wonder however,if some of the recurring spelling errors I have noticed are not really errors but reflect the subtle differences between UK and US English? For instance, the word "lead" shows up consistently in all your books as the past tense of the verb 'to lead'. In the US we spell that word "led".
Is that simply something that got "lost in translation" but would be correct for your UK readers?

Regardless, please keep up the great writing. I can't wait for the next installments of both series'!
akwexynyc said…
Oops!See,I actually missed a typo in my own comment - I meant to write 'bookS' of course!(Which just shows how easy it is for those things to slip through the cracks, even among the most conscientious of us.lol.)
JamesO said…
Thanks akwexynyc - Benfro book three will be published soon. Don't get your hopes too high though, there's a fourth book to round of the series and that will be a while in the writing.

There are some notable differences in spelling between US and UK English. I think it was Winston Churchill who described us as two nations divided by a common language. The lead/led one is, however, my consistent error and will be corrected in the next update. Thanks for pointing it out.

Kumilady - you're right; it's impossible for a writer to spot all their own mistakes. Even after putting the manuscript aside for a while (a few years, in the case of Benfro book three), my brain will start reading sentences the way I thought I wrote them, and miss errors on the page.

Thanks for the offer to be a Beta reader. I tend to work with a few close friends who are themselves writers, and return the favour for their manuscripts. Keep an eye out here in the next couple of months though - I may release some advance reader copies into the wild before publication in the hope of nailing down those last few persistent typos.
Anonymous said…
Hi - I absolutely loved Natural Causes, and would like to send you the list of typos I found, because I can't wait to read book of souls. So please tell me how I can email you my list, I can't find a contact email on your blog.
akwexynyc said…
Hi James,

I'm not at all disheartened to hear that the Sir Benfro series won't end wth the next book.On the contrary - It's a marvelous world you have created there and I will enjoy visiting it for that much longer.:-)

I believe you are right about Winston Churchill coining that phrase ,which is actually one of my own favorites.

I noted your comment about how it can be hard to proofread ones own work, because often one 'sees' the sentence as we thought it and don't aways catch the errors.So true!
I had a teacher (or someone) who recommended reading papers, essays etc. backward to help catch simple typos and spelling errors, since it kind of short circuits that effect. It works pretty well, although clearly not for grammar or syntax.;-)
You might want to give that a try sometime.
Esteriel said…
Hi James,
I wish I'd read this before I read The Golden Cage because I could have noted page numbers. I didn't really notice many typos in your previous books, but for some reason the apostrophe gremlins invaded The Golden Cage. I'm not sure if it is possible to search a manuscript on " ' ", but there are a few cases of "it's" and "you're" that you might want to revisit.

I'm really glad I've found your books (and your blogs) but I am once again in that frustrating situation of having found a talented author and of reading his books faster than he can write them!

While I wish you every success with your planning application (pity you can't just use the Subtle Arts to make them believe they've already granted permission!), selfishly I regret that you won't have much time to write while you grapple with the challenges of house-building.

Thanks for the many happy hours your books have already given me.
JamesO said…
Hi Esteriel.

I'm really pleased you found my books too! Thanks for letting me know you enjoyed them. It's feedback like yours that keeps me writing.

I always do a search and replace on key words I know I mis-type regularly, so I should have weeded out all the it's/its, your/you're and there/they're/their mistakes. It's not that I don't know the difference so much as my fingers have learned certain typing patterns and rattle them off without much input from my brain sometimes. If you've spotted some I've missed, then I'll have to go back and check again.

As for writing whilst continuing with the day job and battling with building a house - well I just have to be as organised as possible. I'm working on the third of my Inspector McLean novels right now, and hope to have a first draft done before Christmas. The first three months of 2013 are pencilled in for Benfro book four. I don't anticipate watching much television any time soon.

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