Oopsie!   4 comments

The digital revolution has made it very easy to publish your own book, without concern for editorial and marketing department scrutiny. All too easy, some would say, and those who say so point to the errors that are common in so many self published works. You don’t need to make an exhaustive survey of self published material to see that, although the critics are not above a bit of cherry-picking to make it seem worse than it is, there is truth to their claim.

To combat this impression, ever larger numbers of “indie” authors are engaging the services of freelance editors and copy editors. Nothing is truer of writing in general than this: the worst editor for a given work is its own author. No matter how careful you are, no matter how diligent, you will miss typos, word usage errors, and plot breaks. You’re too close, and you know the story all too well. The writer’s mind can be a tricky thing while proof reading, not at all averse to filling in the blanks or smoothing a rough spot, since you already know what is supposed to be there. And so freelance editors and copy editors find they can make a living. It only makes sense.

It also costs money. In my case, it’s money I don’t have. When I decided to leap into self publishing I was fully employed, and making enough money that none of this seemed troubling at all. Between starting out and publishing Mr. Olcott’s Skies, however, the mushy US economy caught up with me. The job folded, and so far I’ve found nothing to fill the gap. This created a huge problem when that first book was done. Should I sit on it until I was working again, and could afford to hire an editor? Many stressed that I “must” do so, or risk creating a very poor first impression as an indie author. Waiting seemed like a very bad idea. I’m not getting any younger, and with politicians on the Left and the Right too busy beating the snot out of each other to do their damned jobs, the economy isn’t getting any stronger. Rather than face a wait of indeterminate length, I did what I could to make Mr. Olcott’s Skies as clean as humanly possible. I talked friends into serving as beta readers. I read the book out loud. I highlighted the entire manuscript file in black, and examined each line one-by-one as I un-highlighted them. Then I did it again. Backwards. And no, I’m not kidding about that. At the very end, my wife went through it one more time, spotting errors and a few missing hyphens. With all that done, I ran it past one more beta reader. Then I took a deep breath, formatted the book for ereaders, and turned it loose.

So far, three typos have been brought to my attention. I suppose that’s not too bad, for a book more than thirty thousand words long.

I did it all again for The Luck of Han’anga. The same routine, but this time with a book of more than one hundred and ten thousand words. (I think I had a brain hemorrhage while reading it line-by-line backwards.) So far, six typos have been brought to my attention by readers. There may be more, but I don’t know about them, yet.

That any errors at all slipped past such an effort is galling. I reacted to each revelation of error the way most people react to a one star review on Amazon. And then, while reading a professionally edited and produced novel by one of my favorite authors, I realized that a main character’s title – a made up word in a sci-fi universe – had been spelled several different ways through the book. And someone neglected to tell that particular copy editor that the word “meant” does in fact have an “a” in it. Every time you use it.

The experience provided a useful perspective. By dint of extreme effort, and with a lot of help from friends and a very literate spouse, those galling errors in my books put me on a par with the pros.

I feel better. And will, until someone spots an error in this piece.

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Posted August 17, 2012 by underdesertstars in Books and Writing

4 responses to “Oopsie!

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  1. That is a very small amount of typos! I sometimes wonder if readers like to “pick on” indies.
    I notice quite a few typos in trad published books and it really doesn’t bother me. *shrugs*

    • I keep telling myself that, but it bugs me all the same. There are people who think indie publishing is a “bad thing,” and they do go looking for evidence that poor quality is the norm for self-published work. Sadly, it doesn’t take much cherry picking for them to build a case, as a lot of books are being thrown out there without the necessary work being done. This is why I went to so much trouble, and gladly accepted the assistance of literate friends, to make my books as clean as possible. When I can afford it, I’ll hire it done. For now, I am most thankful for beta readers!

    • Speaking as someone who can be thrown completely out of a book by copy-editing errors, I thank you for taking the extra time and effort to fix these kinds of problems.

      I used to do a party trick with our local newspaper (the Portland Oregonian). I’d open it to a random page, look at it for 30 seconds or less, and find a typo or grammar problem or missing line or &etc. So I’m pretty good at this sort of nitpicking.

      (My wife, on the other hand, is a freelance editor and is good enough to do it for money. She has repeat customers and everything!)

      So I can report that I saw no errors in _The Luck of Han’Anga_. Your hard work paid off!

      Nice to meet you at CopperCon – I’ll look for you at Tuscon.

      • You’re welcome! And thanks for giving the book a try in the first place. (Tell a friend! 😉 )

        I’ll have to discuss editorial rates with her at TusCon in November. Sooner or later I’ll have regular employment again and be able to afford such things!

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