Jerks & Irks XLVII: Should Readers Hold Indies’ Hands?

A little while ago someone posted a link on Facebook. I clicked on it. It was a blog post in which the blogger ranted his/her frustration with reviews of Indie books always pointing out typos, grammatical errors, etc. S/he went on to say that the reader should instead contact the author directly and alert them to the problems with their book. Then they continued their tirade, paralleling the plight of the Indie author with that of early Indie musicians and filmmakers.

I take issue with all of these points. Major issue. So much issue, that I clicked out of the blog rather quickly, didn’t make a note of it (which is why I don’t have a link here, so if you’re the author of said blog, feel free to defend yourself politely in the comments section), but the points s/he made still managed to fester in my brain for days and has now landed in front of your face in the form of my own blog post.

First and foremost, I think it is the author’s responsibility to research, and hire an editor that has been fully vetted, whose work they would proudly attach to their own. I also think even editors and proofreaders are human. Therefore, it is also the author’s responsibility to proofread their own work once or twice, backwards and forwards if necessary, before hitting that publish button. You can’t honestly expect the reader, who has found your work, purchased it with their hard-earned money, and read it with their precious little time, to then contact you and let you know that there are faults with your work. That’s not fair to the reader, now is it? Now, some readers are sympathetic little lambs and might do all this. Any do you know what might happen to them? They might run into an ignoramus of an author, an all-knowing, prick-on-a-stick (if male) or pot-o-twat (if female), who will not be very gracious to a mere reader pointing out the errors in their genius. Yikes! None of this sounds good to me. So, authors, don’t count on the reader to hold your hand. And, conversely, readers, some authors are like caged beasts. Beware.

Next up, the assumption that just because Indie musicians and Indie filmmakers weren’t taken seriously when they first came on the scene, it makes sense that it’s the same deal with Indie publishing. I would say, yes and no. Indie authors and Indie publishing are making gains every day. In just the space of a year, for example, ThrillerFest went from being all about querying an agent to including the VP of KDP and reps from Createspace. (Kristin Lamb is the bomb-sauce, by the way. If you don’t follow her blog, you should.) But that doesn’t mean authors can ignore the basic properties of the English language. Did those early Indie bands save their shekels, cruise down to the music store, buy the first guitar they could afford, and start recording as soon as they got home? Are you telling me they didn’t at least learn how to play their instruments first? Don’t Indie filmmakers learn how to hold the camera and edit film before they hop a plane to Cannes? So why should authors publish something before fully grasping story-telling and the art of language? And/or hiring someone who can polish it up for them? I just don’t get the comparison in that regard.

S/he also said something about Indie authors using punctuation incorrectly for individual expression or something, but that was around the time I clicked out of the post, so…

Anyway, what do you all think about this? Do you leave reviews that mention if there are typos present in the book? Do you contact the author? Has an author ever bit your ever-lovin’ head off? Please leave a comment below, and keep it clean and free of artistically incorrect punctuation, please!

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29 thoughts on “Jerks & Irks XLVII: Should Readers Hold Indies’ Hands?

  1. I’m always happy to read praise of editors (because I am one), but also happy to read that authors have a responsibility for proofing their own work. I love your indy music reference, because you’re right: they’re the same but different. But should we support something simply because it’s an independent offering? There’s only so much altruistic ‘sticking it to the man’ we can do. If I review something, my focus is always on the content; but if poor spelling and grammar get in the way of something good, it’s worth pointing out. If you went to the theatre and couldn’t hear the actors speaking you would be justified in mentioning this in a review. The same must be true of everything, whether it’s too many spelling mistakes or bum notes or too much pepper in the soup.

  2. Nice post, Miss J. Grammar is an important part of the reading experience, and if it’s not up to par, reviewers should note. Imho, it should be noted in a kindly and constructive fashion, just like any other crit. Because indie writers don’t have the same advantages of publishing-house writers backed by editors and proofers, I give them a little more latitude when I review at Honest Indie Book Reviews — the same way I give amateur athletes a little more latitude than the million-dollar pros. But I still expect some mastery of the basics by anyone who charges admission to the game, even if that admission is just 99 cents. I liked your metaphors of musicians learning their instruments and film-makers learning their cameras. As author and reviewer, I’m still learning too — another reason to be gentle with the crit, but not one to look the other way.

    • Exactly. Gentle. The author reads the reviews, they still learn from them. But holding their hand? No. You wouldn’t email someone after Cannes and explain film splicing or lighting. But maybe a review might mention a flat character and the director could take that critique to the next film they make. I’m just sick of Indie authors wanting to being treated as seriously as trads, but then also wanting special treatment. You can’t have both.

  3. I completely agree with everything you said. I’m just as prone to missing a typo as the next person, but it’s definitely my responsibility to check and recheck my work, then have a few other people check it over, as well.

    As far as mentioning typos in reviews, I generally don’t unless there were many. (I reviewed a 27-page short story that had a mistake every two or three pages, so I did mention it in my review.) However, I don’t email the author about it. If I’m reviewing a book already in print, there’s not so much that can be done at that point. With the advanced review copies I request via Edelweiss, I never thought about emailing the author about mistakes. There’s one series I consistently get ARCs for, but I’ve noticed the number of typos has increased over the years as the author started pushing out two or three books a year. I also found out this same author never reads any of the reviews of her books, so emailing her may be necessary. I’d hate for her to publish another book where she accidentally misspelled a main character’s name.

    • Yeah, I don’t mention if it’s only a few either. My method is this: I highlight every error. After 5-10, I mention it in the review, but don’t remove a star. More than that, and the editing not only gets its own paragraph in the review, but I remove a star. This especially sucks for 4* works which become 3* works. I feel bad. But I always say in my review that if the author re-releases, I’ll amend my rating and my review. I think that’s fair.

  4. Okay, strange… Somehow my comment ended up on the WRONG post… Let’s try this AGAIN. Sorry, Jordanna!

    Okay, I am a book reviewer, and I have done both – emailed an author a list of mistakes found in a novel, and commented on mistakes in the novel. I have also had varying levels of success in these endeavors of response.

    One author, with a grand total of 147 mistakes in her novel, thanked me graciously, even went so far as to ask me to proofread her next novella after it had been gone over by an editor. I still found a lot of stuff… On the flip side, she also tried to pressure me into not writing about the mistakes in my review. I ended up caving only so much as she promised there would be an update to the book live VERY soon, which I mentioned in my review. I mentioned there were some mistakes (but not how many), and suggested readers wait until the update.

    Now, I also based whether I’ll read a book or not on how clean it is. And certain things (like mixing the action of one person with the dialog of another or poor comma usage, which can confuse the meaning of a sentence), are almost immediate nixes. I’ve gotten to where I won’t response to a request for a book review if I won’t read it. I get too many mad diatribes about how they HAD a professional editor. I also get called names regularly. I’ve been called a pedant (which I had to look up the precise meaning of because I’d never heard it used with quite so much animosity before). I had to eventually block that guy’s emails from coming in. He was practically email stalking me in the end. He wouldn’t let it go…

    I DON’T comment on editing if an ARC is sent to me. I do stress that it was an ARC if there were a lot of mistakes in it, though… I warn people that ARCs are not fully edited, thus I can’t fully make comment on the polish of the piece.

    Now, interestingly enough, I had one author who read my review, and fixed all the mistakes I commented on in the review (I updated my review later). I found a bunch of fact checking mistakes, and she went back and fixed it later. I’m still in contact with this author, and reviewed her second book as well.

    See, authors? It PAYS to play nice with your reviewers. Sometimes, developing relationships with them means getting reviews is easier the second time around! And, sometimes we’re willing to do things for you later. At least, I am.

    • Haha, no worries. I had a stalker author once, too. I used to let authors see the review before I posted it. My policy was I wouldn’t alter it, but I wouldn’t post it if the author didn’t want me to. This author lost it. Said I didn’t get this, I didn’t get that. Ok. Maybe you didn’t explain it well enough. Stories are subjective. I said I wouldn’t post it, but he wouldn’t let it go. Ugh. Anyway, thank you for sharing!

      • Yeah, I didn’t even review his book, either. I wrote a generic rejection email, saying I wouldn’t review his book due to “inadequate editing.” This used to be my default email for rejections (almost all rejections are due to editing):

        I’ve downloaded a sample of the book and decided not to review it. My reasons are due to inadequate editing. It is my policy to not review any book that is not properly edited. I believe books like that are simply not quite ready for publication. I have read some books in the past that weren’t edited to my standards, but were exceptional books. However, I am a perfectionist and it’s hard for me to get past the mistakes to give an honest and thoughtful review of the book’s content rather than editing. As always, I would be more than happy to take a second look at the book after an additional round of editing.

  5. Reblogged this on The Eternal Scribe and commented:
    Found this post on a fellow author’s blog. I kind of loved it, and since I had nothing to say today, I thought I’d try reblogging. I’ve never done that before, and I was curious how this works…

  6. Taking the time to contact the author doesn’t bother me at all. But I AM an author, so my perspective on that is different. I once tried to read a book that was written by a friend, and the errors were so terrible that I couldn’t read the book. The premise and the story were fabulous. But,, the, random,,commas, the constant, misuse of there they’re their (I mean, really), it was just impossible to read. I mean it was awful. The few reviews that she did have focused solely on these points and said almost nothing about the story. I couldn’t blame those readers at all. It was really hard for me to accept that someone with a B.A. in English had
    1. written it that way in the first place, and 2. that she had a PUBLISHER AND AN EDITOR!!!! Who let not just one mistake get by them, but several, so many, on every page. I looked into her publisher and it looked to me like it was some gal running it out of her garage or something. Everything is done online these days, and she probably thought she had a real publisher. I contacted her privately about the rampant glaring errors, and she told me that she had a terrible publisher and editor (whose name was listed at the beginning of the book). Now she got rid of the publisher and the editor and released the book again through createspace. I got the update for the book, and the. errors. were. still. there. I have never finished the book, have never left a review. Another friend asked me if I thought she should approach the author and offer to edit it for her (this friend does it for me to-she is not an editor but has an eagle eye). I said it couldn’t hurt because my 7 yr old son could do it better than the chimps she must have had doing it before.
    I don’t leave them in reviews, just because a review is so permanent (though the reviewer can remove it, once people have read it, the damage is done). Some people (like me) honestly can’t pay an editor, and we use friends and try to be as careful as we can. But how do you vet an editor? I suppose you could find out what else they have worked on and see how that was. But this lady had a supposed editor and the result was a complete disaster. I’m not against getting an editor-if you can, go for it. But not having an editor isn’t necessarily cheating the reader either. If you have no editor, that means even more work for the author. You have to get several friends to read it-and believe me, they will all find different mistakes from each other! You have to read it yourself over and over until your eyes are ready to cross. So don’t be too hard on those of us who don’t have editors!

  7. I agree with Julia. If there’s one or two typos or mishaps that you can gloss over, that’s fine. But if it’s something that makes you have to put on the breaks and is a huge glaring NO-NO, then it’s fair game to mention. Where I have the problem is when a reviewer turns the review into a personal attack against the author. That’s just unprofessional.

  8. Any book has typos, even those from mainstream NYC publishing houses. A few typos are one thing, but lots of typos – I’d probably stop reading the book. I also stop reading if I encounter seriously bad grammar in the narrative (as opposed to finding it in the dialogue, where it might be an attempt to show something about the character who’s speaking). The thing is, if you’re an AUTHOR you should kind of know how to put sentences together. Whining at readers for expecting good grammar and correct spelling is about as logical as a musician getting annoyed at listeners who expect him to be on-key.

    In general, authors who rant about being mistreated and misunderstood are not helping their sales at all. The best thing to do about any bad review – whether it’s criticizing the story or the style – is to ignore the hell out of it. The only exception would be if a review is slanderous or downright threatening or obscene – and then I’d take it up with whomever published the review.

      • It didn’t make it to my copy if he did 🙂
        It’s part of the charm of the book. To be honest I like to think of James Joyce filling his last few years in a few other pursuits than fixatedly wrangling over one of his old manuscripts!

      • Well apparently he never gave up the pursuit of learning anf language, which included updating the errors in his manuscripts. I don’t know if he just didn’t get them all or if they still sell the original version and that’s what you read. I’m curious, would you see the same “charm” in a modern day novel riddled with errors?

      • I don’t go for laziness but if it’s enthusiastic and runs well, if it can carry me, why not?
        To be honest it’s not something I’ve come across that much.
        I’m not against constructive criticism but rants, rudeness or sarcasm can crush creativity. I’ve lost count of people who believe they can’t do art because they were told that as children they were doing it wrong.
        That’s what is wonderful about Ulysses. That something so wrong can be quite remarkably fine.

      • I actually can agree with you to a degree. I think publishers have told people for too long that their art wasn’t saleable or whatever and that sucks. I had an art teacher rip up my work in class in college, so I get it. But I think grammar is different. But I do appreciate you stopping by, politely offering your differing opinion, and reminding of Ulysses. 🙂

        Come again sometime!

      • God love you, never mind that auld one!
        Thank you for the discussion and the great post that kicked it all off – keep up the great work 🙂

      • Sorry about the ambiguity (it wasn’t a cut and pasted reply) I was more concerned about correcting the spelling mistake I had made in my original reply 🙂

      • It didn’t make my copy if he did 🙂
        It’s part of the charm of the book.
        I like to think of James Joyce spending a little time during the last of his years engaged in his other pleasurable pursuits rather than fixedly sweating over one old manuscript! Bless him 🙂

      • Because of the ambiguity in your copy-and-paste reply, I get to interpret your meaning. And I choose to interpret it as old ass books with typos are charming in the same way as old ass men grabbing women’s asses are cute and new books with typos are repulsive in the same way as young guys grabbing women’s asses are repulsive. 😉

  9. Could not agree more. That’s NOT a reader’s responsibility. An author can put out what he or she wants and needs to be adult enough to take responsibility for his or her work. Period.

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