Publishers or Authors…Who’s Responsible?

Posted May 16, 2007 by Holly in Discussions | 11 Comments

When I did my review for Dara Edmondson’s Compromising Positions back in January on Sanctuary’s Finest, I mentioned the issues I had with the constant typos and grammatical errors. At the time I said I wasn’t sure where to assign the blame for it, and that hasn’t changed.

I’m noticing a continuing trend here, however, and it bothers me quite a bit. Why are there so many typos? Who should take the blame for them? I’m not talking about just misspellings either, but also inconsistencies and plot holes and a big one for me, sentence structure.

I realize the average reader isn’t bothered as much by these things as I am, but I feel it needs to be addressed. Take, for example, a book by one of my favorite authors. Dangerous Tides by Christine Feehan. I read this book in July of last year and put up a rant post about it then. At the time, I placed the blame on CF, asking, “Does she think I’m too stupid to notice?” But I have to wonder, is it really the authors fault?

I realize that typos, errors, plot holes, whatever are bound to happen. As I’ve said before, shit happens and even when I’m writing something, even if I go back and reread it, there are bound to be mistakes that I missed. I know that these mistakes are mine and mine alone, but I don’t have an editor to read through my things, and I’m not being paid to publish these works. But in the novels I buy, they do. Who’s at fault with the misspellings, errors and plot holes in the books that we read?

The Publisher, Author or the Editors?

The Publishers hire Editors to catch these sorts of things so why are the editors not catching them? It’s one thing when there are just a couple of noticeable spelling errors or what not but if you’re reading a story with more than 3 spelling errors and typo’s every 3 pages, it kind of ruins the story for the reader.

At least for me it does.

Another thing that I’ve noticed is the quality of print books versus eBooks. You won’t catch too many typo’s and errors in a printed book but every single eBook that I’ve read has been riddled with grammatical errors and typo’s. It’s enough to drive me up the wall ten frickin’ times.

I started working on this post several months ago, and I asked that authors, editors and publishers to email me with their thoughts. Of the 30 or so authors who responded, 95% of them said it was the editor’s responsibility to catch them.

One author had this to say:

As far as the typos, if you want to lay the blame on anyone it’s the copy editor. I, along with my sister (who was an English major in college) and my aunt went over my galleys. There’s certainly a possibility that we missed one or two things, but the mistakes should have been minimal.

From what I’ve heard from other Dorchester authors, there should be a revamp of the copy editing department. One author’s book actually had “she stoods”. I would fly to New York to personally choke the person who put “she stoods” in my book. As I make my way in this business, I learn more and more everyday that writing the book was definitely the easiest part.

And yet another:

The editors are paid to EDIT. This means finding things like typos. Yes, the author does get the manuscript back to proofread before it goes to press. However, after reading the same work 20-30 times over, we tend to nearly have it memorized and thus will skim over most typos. We’re counting on editors to find this stuff.

I learned a valuable lesson though, when this blog docked me some major review points for typos. It was a wake-up call for me. I just sold a book to a relatively new Epublisher and the manuscript was returned to me for edits with less than 2 dozen fixes. This sent up a red flag. Not only did I edit the thing line by line, very carefully, I decided not to send that publisher any more manuscripts.

The difference with a print publisher is the number of hands a manuscript passes through. Although a few epubs do have special line editors, most only have one editor – one set of eyes. The more eyes that are put to a manuscript, the cleaner it will become.

I hope and pray my latest books do not have the typos my first two did. Live and learn!

Shannon Stacey, an author who publishes with Samhain put up a post of her own on the subject, stating it was all on her.

Barring some unpleasant circumstance in which an editor goes in and inexplicably mucks things up after a final edit, the author is responsible for every single word on the page. Every typo, every grammatical error, every inconsistency or plot hole is the author’s fault. The buck stops with her.

Nothing—nothing—sets my teeth on edge like an author responding to having an error pointed out with, “I know! Can you believe my editor didn’t catch that? She’s awful!”

Another author, Heather Rae Scott, commented on that post:

Very excellent post, Shannon. I take full responsibility. In all honesty though, I think what this all boils down too is yet another way to slam epublishers and their authors. Before it was they were smut by piss poor authors–not my opinion–but now that the market is evolving and expaning, they need new ammo to toss into the fire.

Because like shit, typos happen.

While I agree with her to an extent, I guess my biggest issue isn’t with the typos. Yes, they bother me. Quite a bit. But not nearly as much as grammatical, punctuation or plot hole issues. And as for her comment that this is just another way to pick on ePublishers, I’ll only say I think that’s ridiculous. As a fan of romance AND eBooks, I don’t try to find things wrong with ePublishers. Perhaps some do, but we here at Book Binge don’t.

Of course, since I originally started working on this post (so it’s been a few months? What can I say, I’m lazy) others have discussed it as well.

Karen Scott just posted about this, because AngieW of Samhain had an article up about it at Romancing the Blog.

Angie Said:

To be clear, I’m not saying lower standards should be applied to epublishing, or that bad editing and bad books don’t exist but it’s my feeling that many readers have grown so skeptical of the ability of editors at epublishers to get the job done (or skeptical of the fact that any editing is done at all), that they sometimes go in predisposed to expect typos, so that’s what they see. Once upon a time I was a therapist in the mental health field and I used to counsel patients about this in relation to always seeing the bad side of things, things that made them angry, etc. I would give them this assignment: “When you wake up in the morning, choose a color. It doesn’t matter what color it is but let’s say red. Look for every red thing you can during the day. Make a list in your head.” The next day (or week) I would ask them if they noticed things that were the color red. Of course they did. Now I’d ask, what did you see that was yellow? Invariably, I’d get a blank look. Why? Because they were so busy looking for the color red, that’s what they saw. They saw what they were looking for.

I have to completely disagree with her. Well, from my point of view, anyway. I never go into reading a book thinking “this one is going to suck because so-and-so published it”. Never. Not once. Perhaps other do, but I don’t.

Having slogged through all that crap, let me tell you what I think.

Side Note: This is strictly my opinion. Everyone is entitled and I’m no different. So don’t take the entire romance community to task over my thoughts. They are mine alone. :End Side Note

I think it’s a combination of the two. If there are a few spelling errors, oh well. That happens everyday, in every publishing house. We’re human, and therefore will make mistakes.

But if there are plot holes, awkward phrasing, bad dialogue, character or plot inconsistencies and etc, that falls on the first the author, then the editor. The author’s name ultimately ends up on the book. While reading a novel, I don’t think, “Oh, my gosh, I can’t believe Angela Knight wrote that!” I’m thinking, “Oh, my gosh, I can’t believe Nora Roberts wrote that!” Because I buy books based on the author, not the editor.

On the other hand, the editor is supposed to catch these kinds of mistakes. That’s what editors do. They edit. Content, storyline, characterization, etc. And if they don’t, what’s the point? Why even have an editor if they aren’t..well, editing? That makes no sense to me.

Do I think they should shoulder all the blame? No. But I do think they should shoulder the majority of it. Especially if it’s a new, never been published author.

Authors, maybe you should find someone you trust and trust well to proof-read for you. And not just for spelling errors, either. You might save yourselves some embarrassment along the way….

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11 responses to “Publishers or Authors…Who’s Responsible?

  1. Typos and grammatical errors in books drive me crazy, too, but then I’m one who is driven crazy by typos and grammatical errors, in general. I admit I haven’t read very many ebooks, but I have noticed errors are more commonplace in the ebooks I’ve read, than the print books I’ve read. I have to disagree, as well, with the comment made by Angie. When I start an ebook or any book for that matter, I’m not looking for typos or even expecting them—I’m expecting a good story, but I’m interrupted in that pursuit by typos. It’s the typos that find me, not the other way around. What always bothers me is: if I, the reader, can catch all these errors, why couldn’t the editors catch them before the book went into publication? I don’t know who to say is to blame. Authors are always going to make errors because they’re human and as humans, we make mistakes. But multiple errors shouldn’t be getting through a paid production team. So I agree that the blame could be placed on a combination of shoulders: both the editors and the authors. Good post! 🙂

  2. I’m one of those readers whose eyes pretty much gloss over the occasional typo, but I came across this trend a few years ago when I started reading ebooks – they were glaringly obvious, and it really annoyed me because it wasn’t just typos, it was all those other things you mentioned too. Right or wrong, I came back with the conclusion that if the writing/editing is this shoddy, then I’m really not getting a quality product, and I’m not going to put much faith in the company.

    I still read ebooks, and since then I’ve noticed that it has gotten a bit better, more so if the author is a big name and not a newbie. I’ll admit I haven’t noticed it as much in print books, but I have seen it, so it’s not just an isolated thing.

  3. It’s my opinion that typos, punctuation errors and the like are absolutely the editors and type editors problem.. or whoever does that work. When it comes to plot holes and the like, without a doubt I would blame that on the author first and foremost. If the editor doesn’t catch the plot hole, than that editor either isn’t taking their job seriously or thinking that the reader surely won’t notice such a thing.

    No writer is perfect by any means, they are all bound to make errors, but if the editor doesn’t put their attention into the manuscript to catch those things than what the hell else are they doing?

    I love the post, btw!

  4. You and I have had talks about this and I agree and disagree. I specifically remember the discussion we had on Dangerous Tides where you told me that the heroine had two separate outfits on in ONE scene. Did I notice? No, I didn’t. So am I stupid because I didn’t?

    My opinion is as a reader. I would think that the author is completely responsible for any plot holes. As for bad dialouge, that just makes the book bad. There can be a good book and author (i.e., Dangerous Tides) that has grammatical errors and misspelled words. I think that type of thing needs to be caught by the editor.

    I was reading a Holly Lisle book recently and I read part of it to my husband b/c I found it vastly amusing. It was something about watching Modern Marvels on the Discovery Channel. He told me that Modern Marvels is on the History channel. I had no idea. LOL

  5. if I, the reader, can catch all these errors, why couldn’t the editors catch them before the book went into publication?

    Exactly, DC! While I understand that editors and authors read the same work numerous times, I would think if, in one read, you and I can see them, they could too.

    I agree that it seems to have gotten better, but I still stand by my statement that the standards are lower for ePubs than for NY Pubs. It’s frustrating.

    but if the editor doesn’t put their attention into the manuscript to catch those things than what the hell else are they doing?

    Exactly! I was under the impression that they were paid to…Edit. lol

    No, it doesn’t make you stupid. It makes me anal. lol But we love each other anyway, right?

  6. As an epublished author, and one who was taken to task in reviews for typos and grammatical errors, I do take responsibility for any mistakes that made it to publication. It’s my book. My name is on it.

    On the same hand, I also hold my content and line editor responsible for those errors as well.

    I’ve addressed this issue on my blog not too long ago and stated that, although I write a book alone, it’s edited as a team. Errors I don’t catch should be caught by my editor(s). If they’re not, it’s the entire teams fault. I would only shoulder sole responsibility for mistakes in my books if I had no editor working with me on it. And any writer worth her salt knows for damn sure that we ALL need editors. Period. Even Nora Roberts. 😉

    I don’t trust an editor who points a finger at her/his author and refuses to take responsibility for errors in books they worked on. Nor do I trust an author who does the same with her editor. Team – remember?

    I’m blessed in that I’m working with an editor who is simply incredible. Her work on Tempting Darkness and Setheus helped to make those books a million times better than I ever could have without her. She’s a marvel. 🙂

    (Forgive me if this comment made no sense. I recently had surgery and just popped a vicodin. I just didn’t want to let this subject drop without putting in my two cents since these wonderful ladies addressed this issue with me when they reviewed my books)

  7. Since my name is mentioned in this post, thought I should weigh in. When I first started writing (including the book that was docked for errors) I admit I didn’t know how carefully to check my proofs. I counted too much on editors to catch things.
    But after those early lessons, my next book, also reviewed here, was nearly error-free (verified by Miss Holly;-) And it was put out by a different publisher with an awesome editor.
    What I’m saying is, there’s a learning curve for authors. We get better over time. The same can probably be said for epublishers. The team that edits a book for a New York publishing house is just that – a team of people. Epublishers generally have 1 editor who edits for both content and spelling and grammatical errors. Most Epublishers just haven’t been around that long. They’re working their way along the curve. Let’s give them a chance to get better. I thing soon enough, those epublishers that don’t improve will fall by the wayside and leave the stronger ones, thus improving the quality for readers and authors alike.

  8. Rowena

    This was a great post Holly and I totally agree with everything you said which is why I didn’t add anything to it! haha.

    Dance Chica,

    You’re totally right, I mean if we can catch ALL of these errors, why can’t the editors? I mean, that is what they get paid to do right? Catch the errors and eliminate them? If there are so many glaring spelling errors and punctuation errors, why aren’t they caught in the many rounds of editing that goes through? A few I don’t mind but a whole lot of them can take me right out of the book, I’m all about glossing over some errors but if they continue to happen, I’ll probably end up throwing the book at the wall.

    Who wants to pay money on books filled with stuff like that?

    Not me, that’s for sure.

  9. Rene and Dara,

    Since I’m the one who took you both to task over your typos and such, I can say with all honestly, both of your latest releases are much better.

    (does that sound condescending? Because I truly didn’t mean it to!)

    I think you’re both right in saying it’s a team effort. And as I said, I don’t look at who the editor is, and I don’t buy a book because of an editor. I buy the book because of the author. And ultimately it’s the author who’s going to take the flack for any issues in their book.

    But I also think you need to have a strong support staff behind you. Typos are one thing, they happen, but the other issues I mentioned? Well, that’s just not acceptable.

    But I do think both of you are truly talented writers and despite the issues I had with the typos and such, I’ll continue to read your books as they’re released.


  10. As a reader whether it is print or ebook I’ve just noticed more errors that are glaring errors. I really think that book editing seems to be suffering everywhere. I remember being shocked recently with the wrong use of the word there for their in a mainstream, big name hardcover. Believe me I don’t remember seeing stuff like that 5 years ago.

    I always wonder if it’s due to the sheer volume of stuff published, the reliance on technology instead of readers or just what. I do know, for myself personally, that I’ve re-read stuff I write for my blog and newsletters for places I work and after proofing something several times I begin to read what is supposed to be there instead of seeing the glaring errors.

    Editing and proofreading is grueling and painstaking, it always has been. Why does it seem to be suffering so much recently?

  11. Rosie, you bring up a very excellent point. I suppose that should have been my initial question. Not so much who’s responsible, but what’s caused the decline in the first place.

    I think ePubs have gotten better, as a whole. But there are still way too many mistakes.

    If I had to hazard a guess I’d say it’s a combination of all the things you mentioned.

    I put up a post ages ago on my personal blog about how Technology is making me Stupid. It’s true. I rely so heavily on spell check, etc, that I’ve lost a good portion of the knowledge I had before. I don’t have to know how to spell, spell check does it for me.

    Same with sentence structure and grammatical errors. Word has all sorts of nifty little things nowadays.

    Of course, that’s just my personal issue. I have no idea what programs authors/editors use.

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