How to alienate your readers: typo edition

It seems as though everything is changing so fast in the publishing industry these days. There are options that would have been unthinkable five years ago. A whole new world has opened to authors and readers alike, a host of miracles bringing publication to the masses.

Of course, new methods encourage new problems, the most insidious of which are probably typos. In my experience, there’s two breeds of typo issues in ebooks: OCR typos and typos in direct-to-ebook publications.

OCR (scan-to-text) typos are incredibly easy to spot; consistent, glaring misspellings and pseudowords are most prominent, as in “arc” for “are” or “quiddy” for “quickly.” The fact that many publishers choose not to regulate their OCR transcriptions is depressing. They’ve spend thousands of dollars to bring this book to the public, but when it comes to the ebook readers, it’s as if they’re saying we’re not worth the effort to give this text another once-over. We get a third-rate edition while still paying first-rate prices.

This is also unfair to the authors who depend on their publishers to present their work in the best possible manner. A significant portion of the readership is getting subpar material, with errors that would make any author wince. Even the most excellent stories can end up looking like garbage. This is not the work the author intended.

That said, I read a lot of small press/self-pub ebooks: I’m a freebie hunter. I recognize the validity of “you get what you pay for,” but most of the freebies I encounter are firsts in their series. These are the author’s gateway into paid readership.

In these ebooks, the author is often in charge of all facets of publication. This means they are in charge of their own editing process and final presentation. Far too often, these authors cut corners in their haste to get a book to market. And in these cases, it’s the authors themselves who apparently don’t care if their work looks shoddy because, well, the readers won’t notice, right? This is not only lazy, it’s disrespectful.

For example, you don’t want to know how many mystery/thrillers I’ve read where there was a “grizzly” murder, but I have yet to see ursine interference. The word they want? Grisly. Like gristle. Evokes blood and bones and mess and ick. Grizzly = bear. Be aware that the words you use really do change the meaning of what you think you just said.

I’ve seen Adams turn into Alfreds and Davids into Daniels halfway through the story. Race changes, eye color changes, even random teleports as the map details change. Every time I have to stop and track down if it’s a new character or an old one, where the change took place, and which is the proper name/color/location for the rest of the story; that takes time and effort that shouldn’t be required for reading a story. It also makes the author appear as though she doesn’t care about her own work.

Note: these sneaky errors will not show up in spellcheck! These are legitimate words, just misused. This is why authors absolutely need to have someone else’s eyes on their work; they may not realize there’s a difference between vise and vice, but their editors should. At bare minimum, get multiple beta readers who look at more than just plot.

Even though ebooks are a “new” format, most are traditional stories (like those in genre novels). Proper grammar and consistent editing should not incur bonus points. Unless the final product is some new-media art-lit project, the quality of a book is still judged by traditional standards.

Big Pub are corporations; all they need to care about is the bottom line. The small press/self-pub errors are more significant.  This is the author herself showing her pride and joy to the world. Doesn’t she care about giving the best reading experience she’s capable of? Why, then, would she publish sloppy work?

If a book is worth putting on display for hundreds or thousands of readers, we need to feel that you, the author, respect your readers. Let us know you care about your work. It shows. And we’ll take notice.


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