Monday, 29 August 2016

Adventures in self-publishing: errors and perceptions

This week Donna of Words Turn Me On promotions pointed out two errors in The Bonus, my first Zeta cartel novel. The first, a spelling mistake, turned out to be a false flag due to my UK English and her USA English perspective.  But the second was a doozy.  See if you can spot it.

     As I said earlier, I have a talent for terror. They gave me a couple of tough cookies to debrief, and I went at it hammer and tongs. Don't ask me exactly what: it would make you lose your lunch.
     You might think that people like me are evil. From my point of view, I'm a fighter, so there's no point in talking to me about the 7th commandment. No point in talking to me about the Geneva Convention, either. When you pick up a gun and threaten my country, I'll do what it takes to stop you, and I'll play by the rules. But if you use terror tactics, then the gloves are off, and you can expect to get what you deserve.

This is Kyle, my dark hero talking.  Did you see it?  If you didn't, not to worry because The Bonus has been out since November 2013.  It's been beta-read by several people and edited twice, once by an amateur proofreader and once by a pro. I've sold over 5000 copies and Donna was the first to mention it.

The mistake that Donna pointed out was that the 7th commandment is the one about adultery.  It's the 6th that discusses killing.

For me, this is an interesting point. Not because of the error but because Donna was worried about pointing it out. People, she said, can be upset when you point out errors.

And that's what got me thinking.

Writing is a joy, a wonderfully fulfilling creative process. Editing is soul-sucking horror and thanks to e-publishing where mistakes can be corrected easily and universally, the dratted process is endless.

I've been writing 20 years and in this time I worked with traditional publishers on print books before venturing into self-publishing so I've experience of both worlds. 

One of the joys of working with a huge team in a big publishing house is that they organise the proofreading and editing.  Small presses tend to stick to one pass but the bigger ones will do one to two passes in-house, then one or two with the author.

Even so, I've seldom seen a book emerge without errors. Longmans, Marshall Cavendish, MPH - they're all terrific companies, they do a superb job always, but they'll be the first to agree that there will be a typo or bit of dodgy punctuation somewhere.

I see correcting errors as part of business. It's not personal. However, I do see a difference in how readers approach errors.

Let's take a classic as an example. In Georgette Heyer's Black Sheep, one of the characters remarks,
"You're as fat as a flawn, Nally!
A flawn is a custard tart so the sentence makes no sense. It might be "flat as a flawn" or "fat as a fawn", but we'll never know because the error appears in every edition, from it's first publication in 1966 until today, with publishers like Bodley Head, Arrow, and Sourcebooks Casablanca failing to correct it.

Yet if you look at the reviews, you won't see mentions of it. Discussions of the error are confined to specialist discussions of regency literature.

I've also got a Jane Austen somewhere with "recieve" instead of "receive" and a classic that has "wierd" instead of "weird".

While most books will have an error, I think that some readers expect to see mistakes in self-published works. This has two main effects.  First, it means they are more likely to notice an error in a self-published book than a big press book.  Second, they're more likely to flag errors incorrectly.

Me, I welcome readers helping me correct errors, and I'm not fussed if it's a false flag due to regional differences or other problem.

When it comes to seeing an error in someone else's work, I'll write if it's someone I know and like but otherwise I don't bother. After all, it's just fiction, a bit of fun. I don't mind the odd error.  All I care about is being entertained.

What do you think?

1 comment:

  1. I can't help taking note of errors, whether in trad-published works or indie. If I know the author I'll ask if they want my notes. If there are a bunch of errors - both on trad and indie pubs - I'll mention it in a review, because I find them so distracting. But I try to be nice about it, I think.

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