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Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Are Bad Edits Discouraging Readers?

First: I'm not perfect. I make mistakes.

As a former teacher, book errors that are not corrected just seem to "jump out" at me and drive me crazy! I'm seeing more grammatical/tense/POV errors...and know this can't be good for authors who hope to gain a fan base.

More and more, I'm finding errors in blurbs and excerpts that I read from many sources: yahoo groups, author websites, publisher websites, etc. That makes me wonder how readers react to finding these mistakes.

Who's at fault? The author has to take most of the responsibility for this. Read your book many times before submitting. Then, check what an editor sends back to you in the form of edits.

Editors and publishers also possess responsibility for text mistakes. If it's your job to correct author errors, be careful and do a quality job.

It's not just self-pubbed books that present blurb/excerpt/book mistakes. I've seen text that has gone through agents and publisher editors...and glaring mistakes haven't been corrected.

I had one great editor who worked well with me. I had one who gave me a hard time, because she kept trying to correct "errors" that weren't errors. As the author intent on publishing my books, it was my job to make sure those correcting me were right! Everyone makes mistakes - spelling, POV, etc. - but it's my reputation that takes a nosedive if my book blurb or excerpt isn't presented as quality material. My complete book must be error-free, or else I lose readers.

As the main "poster" for the Romance Books '4' Us blog, I enter 8-10 extra posts a month to the blog...these are guest blogs and interviews. I've made suggestions to some authors about errors I find, but if it's in something that's already been published (blurb/excerpt), there's not much else I can do. Most have thanked me and made changes; some ignore my suggestions.

I make spelling/grammar/etc., changes in guest blogs or interviews, but won't make blurb/excerpt changes unless the author agrees with my suggestions.

I've told authors that I won't post excerpts with song lyrics. My understanding has always been (and the Authors Guild agrees) that authors can use song titles but not the lyrics. Editors/agents should know this. Why don't they "catch" this before publishing a book?

Is the quality of romance books declining because the quality of edits has slipped? Are we losing readers because of bad edits?

Photos:Flickr: Matt Hampel, Nick McPhee's photostreams.


Sue Palmer Fineman said...

I'm really picky about editing my own work. I know I make mistakes, but I go through a book so many times I catch most of them. I have 32 books published, and I have yet to have a reader comment on my editing.

As a reader, I can overlook a few little errors, but when I find several on one page, it takes me out of the story. If I read a blurb that's poorly written, I won't buy the book.

Sultry Summers said...

I agree with you about mistakes. I'm an author who doesn't have a strong background in grammar and have to be very careful of not only my writing, but of the edits done to my writing. That is, to make sure the editor has made a mistake and I've missed that - or, she has missed something I missed on the first round as well. It slows me down. Over the years I have improved. However, I envy authors and editors who do not have this problem. In the years I've written I've had editors who were marginal and barely better than I was in grammar, which made for a poorly edited book. On the other side, I've had editors who over edited a book, and that affected my 'voice' and hurt the book in that manner. Luckily, I've had some really great editors too.
However, I've been on the other side when reviewing over the years. I've seen books ten years ago when reviewers only judged a book by the plot alone and not any errors in grammar as long as the book's plot was sound. Now days, not only must the plot be sound, so must the grammar, no pov pops and of course the formatting. Does a book with poor editing hurt the book, certainly. If poor editing interferes with the flow of the book, it will damage the rating and the enjoyment of the reader.

Lynne M-S said...

Then again, there are editors working with authors who have a poor grasp of English, and persistently refuse to Accept Changes. The book can end up going to publication with errors replaced by the author.
If the editor's name is included in the published work, it doesn't help the editor's credibility either.

Berengaria Brown said...

As a reader I can't finish a book that has too many shocking errors. Especially if they are basic spelling and grammar mistakes or headbanging POV changes. I've seen published books where a character's name has changed part-way through. I'm sorry, but if the author doesn't know who the characters are, I can't care about them either.

Victoria said...

As both a writer and an editor, as well as reviewer and bookseller, I am right up there with you with cringing at errors. That being said, I also know that nobody is perfect. For the books I edit, I go over them at least four times. So does the author. And then another two editors go over it - and yet, goofs slip through. Fortunately, it is rarely more than one or two. It's the books with errors on every page that have me tossing the volume against the wall.

Tina Donahue said...

Bad edits would stop me from reading that author again. If you have to ponder what the person is trying to say, it pulls you out of the story.

To get a truly horrible and timely look at this country's poor grammar/spelling, just go to the comments section on any major story.

I can't count the times someone has written "loose" when they mean "lose". Stops me dead each time, along with lack of punctuation, capitalization, etc.

JoAnne Myers said...

Hello, I for one dont hold writing errors against authors. I dont think any book can be 100% free of errors. Between the author and editors, there should be minimal errors, but to get every single one corrected, I dont know if that is possible. I dont blame anyone for the errors. I think is just happens in this business.

Barbara Herrin said...

Errors drive me crazy and take me right out of the story. I can overlook one or two if they are minor and not glaring. I recently read a book that had the phrases, "It's too much, I just can't bare it." and there was something about a "blazing infernal". Those are glaring and just show the stupidity and/or carelessness of the author. I think self-pubbing has spawned a whole new level of such idiocy. As a matter of fact, one of the contributors to this blog has managed five errors in only three lines of comments. Case closed!

Sandy said...

LOL I saw it, too. Yes, I admit that too many errors will stop me in my tracks. If there is an error in every sentence, or every paragraph I won't read it.

Okay, that being said, my sister informed me that I made some mistakes in my blog last Sunday. She said there were left out letters and even some words. I was tired, up late, and didn't read over the article before I posted. It can still happen to anyone.

J.S. Wayne said...

I'm of two minds in this.
As a writer, I've learned the hard way that NO ONE bats 1000 and despite the best efforts of everyone involved, sometimes things get through that shouldn't. I see it in my own work, I see it in Jim Freaking Butcher's work, I see it in Yasnine Galenorn's work. If folks like that can shrug off the (very occasional) editing gaffe, I can too.

That said, as a reader, if the book is riddled with editing errors, it had better be a freaking amazing story for me to keep reading it. I just finished a series by John Marco (Eyes of God, maybe?) where the line editor was clearly asleep at the switch. The only thing that kept me reading was the fact the basic plot was so good. There have been many books I've read where neither I nor the author was so fortunate, and I wound up not finishing.

Anybody can make a mistake or two, but when a manuscript is so riddled with errors that it becomes hard to read, I have to ask what the author/editors/agent were doing, because it clearly wasn't editing. That said, if a writer's genuinely good and knows their business, I like to think of the occasional error I find as an Easter egg of sorts. Kind of like a bone to throw to my inner literary critic to show that yes, I am paying attention to the basics as well as the story. :D


J.S. Wayne

jean hart stewart said...

A really glaring error can take me so far out of the book I never get back in. I go through three edits before publication, so I think mistakes are at a minimum in my books. I hope. No story is good enough to survive multiple errors.

Melissa Keir said...

I think that everyone makes mistakes. As an author, I do put a lot of trust into my editor. I pay to have a wonderful service where they catch my mistakes. I've still found that some do come through.

Only many and glaring errors throw me out of a story. I realize that many people are just publishing books without the help of editing and that can hurt all of us.

Suz said...

I'm picky about this--I edit and re-edit even before a WIP goes to my critique partner! However, as someone above noted, no one can always bat 1.000.

Too many editing errors will throw me out of the book, and then I, in turn, will throw it out.

And from what I have heard, readers can be turned-off by poor editing.

I don't think the explosion in indie publishing has helped. I also work as a freelance editor, and on one occasion, I sent an edit back to the client, expecting him to make revisions and then send it back. He didn't--he sent me the published version! It was predictably awful, not only due to copy-editing errors but developmental flaws as well. I was amazed that a newbie writer was so careless.

This is not to say that all indie published books are poorly edited, but they are often written by newbies. In my experience, newbies are really attached to their words, as though they are Holy Writ. As we advance through our careers, we come to accept that neither we nor our work is perfect.

Anonymous said...

Both the quality of editing and writing seem to be slipping. I will not read a poorly written or edited book as to me it says the writer did not care sufficiently to make certain their work was really ready for publication.

I do think the influx of self-pubbed and fly-by-night e-publishers has helped. The work is often poor quality and even if the story is good, poor editing may make it unreadable.

There need to be more 'gstekeepers' so that readers can find decent books without having to dig through stacks of weak entries.

Jean Joachim said...

I'm not sure it's possible to catch every single typo, but larger errors shouldn't be occurring in books. Everyone is responsible who handles that book before publishing, but it's the author's rep at stake, so he or she should make correctness a priority.

E.L. F. said...

As a reader, I have always been thrown out of stories when they are riddled with errors. As a reviewer, I try to get through the story without cringing too much and judge primarily on the storyline (although I will contact the author directly if I notice large numbers of errors--with varying responses). As an editor, I have come to (reluctantly) realize that there is no way to catch ALL of the errors but I definitely do my best to catch as many as possible.

I think that it shows when an author cares enough to rectify errors when they are pointed out and I cringe when authors tell me that they 'can't do anything about the errors' or 'that is what their editor is for'. My thought is always that one can at least keep a file so that when the book goes into its next edition (yes, I am an optimist, lol) one can correct it. I am constantly adding to my knowledge and the authors I respect the most are those who are continually honing their craft.

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