The book stuffed with bookmarks on my bedside table is a really good one. Written by a highly respected, world-renowned author in his field who, disillusioned with mainstream publishers, has decided to go down the self-publishing route. Reading this book is an interesting experience… for several reasons… and not all of them good.
It is a gem of a book… full of information, snippets of knowledge pertinent to our own ongoing adventures and references that have already dragged me out of bed to get straight into the research. I would highly recommend it… except, I don’t want to associate my next remarks with either title or author… as a book, it deserves better.
The cover and title are great… attention-grabbing, if a tad misleading. They hook you with the implied promise of something that is barely included between the covers.
The content, though, is superb…The layout is clean and attractive, the illustrations pertinent and fully explained in the text.
But… and it is a huge but… there seems to have been no attempt at all to edit, proof or correct the errors in the text.
I am not talking about the odd elusive typo or errant comma here. There are very few books, even those published by the Big Publishers, that manage to go end to end without some minor error or oversight. It happens. Either at the editing, proofing or typesetting stage. At best, there are always those clunky phrases that could have been polished. Writers are human.
No, I am talking here about masses of typos, misspelled or repeated words or whole words missed out altogether. I don’t think I have found a page without several errors… And don’t get me started on the punctuation…
The book reads as if it was written as a ‘stream of consciousness’ piece and, as such, it has a freshness and immediacy that is both exciting and engaging. Unfortunately, it would seem that the writer left it that way, without even a cursory check and ignoring anything flagged up by the most basic word processing programme.
I’ve just finished the first pass of editing and proofing a book, so, to be fair, I am probably still reading in edit mode, but some of these errors are so glaring that there is little excuse. Or maybe, after having just individually checked over seven hundred apostrophes, I am being too critical…
But the point I want to make is that even though I may have noticed every error, it did not spoil my enjoyment of the book. Nor, judging by its many and excellent reviews, has it marred the experience for other readers. I loved it, learned a lot and will undoubtedly read it again. The content is worth far more than the errors.
As indie writers we do, I believe, have a responsibility to make sure that the books we publish are as well presented as possible. For many of us, though, no matter how much we believe in our work, we simply cannot afford to outsource the tasks like editing, design or the creation of cover art. So we do it ourselves and learn as we go.
No matter how carefully you self-edit, you will inevitably find an error on the first read after it has been published. Even if you played it safe and pored through a proof copy. But, although that misplaced comma or appalling typo may seem like the end of the world, all is not lost.
Most readers will forgive the odd error. The brain fills in gaps and perception often corrects as you read. Most errors won’t even be noticed, except by the author. Especially if you are caught up in the narrative.
If, as the writer, an error really bugs you… and if you publish via KDP… you can always correct the manuscript and re-upload it. For ebooks, that is fairly well-known. But you can do the same with print books too, as long as the error is a minor one.
Or, you can do what we are doing… with several years and a bookshelf of experience and learning behind us… and republish from scratch.
Fresh eyes, fresh edit, updated design and newly created covers.
But no matter how carefully we peer at words, commas and apostrophes to get the second edition right, I can almost guarantee that something will slip through the net. Because the problem is that writers too get caught up in the story…