C h a z z W r i t e s . c o m

The publishing revolution already happened.

Indie publishing is getting better

Grammar police

Grammar police (Photo credit: the_munificent_sasquatch)

First bold statement:

The quality of indie books has improved.

We’re maturing. Ludicrously, readers expected the indie ebook revolution to produce immediate perfection, some even demanding a higher quality than they get from trad publishing. As soon as I post this, I expect a deluge of naysayers racing to come up with examples to disprove my assertion. That’s a misguided instinct, by the way. Yes, you could come up with lots of examples both tragic and comedic and I’d counter with a plethora of examples in favour of the indies. So let’s skip that and settle on this: I have over 200 books on my Kindle and my impression is that there aren’t nearly so many grammatical errors or typos as one might expect if you believe all those rabid grammarians moaning over on the Kindle boards.

Recently, I read an Amazon book review where some bonehead’s  first observation was that he’d counted five grammatical errors. Note that this was a book that he liked, but he went straight for that in his review’s first sentence. He criticized not as a book lover interested in story (which most readers are) but as a raging grammarian who couldn’t bear five errors in 250 pages. (I clicked the “non-helpful” button after I read that review.)

Second bold statement:

Most readers aren’t nearly as sensitive to typos as some would have us believe. 

As a writer, I hate errors in my books when they occur.

As a reader, I notice errors but my world doesn’t explode when I see them, either. 

In traditional publishing in the late ’80s, editorial departments were swollen with employees. Mistakes still crept in. They still do, trad or indie. We can’t afford eight levels of defence against errors. No one can hire that many editors and proofreaders. Errors will occur. But you know what?  When I get a book for $2.99 or less (or free), expecting perfection seems petty and silly, like angrily demanding lower taxes yet more services. We do need many eyes on our manuscripts. Everyone tells you to hire an editor and well you should. However, the edit and suggested corrections will also introduce errors, so comb it again. If you’ve gone through a major edit using Track Changes, for instance, you know the maddening confusion of figuring out what’s underlined and what’s not, making the changes and going cross-eyed after a few hours of peering at comma placement and comment boxes.

Most grammatical errors don’t obscure meaning so much you don’t get what the author was going for. No, this is not a call to publish your first draft, damn of consequences to readers’ understanding and comfort and ease up on yourself as a writer. This is a call for us  to celebrate the many authors who are obviously working hard to write well. Many of us are getting help to catch us when we trip.

Don’t mind the naysayers. Most of those rabid grammarians aren’t writers and I’m not even sure a bunch of them even enjoy reading that much. It’s like they take a book as a test and each typo is some kind of moral victory. That’s the Internet for you: perfectionism as a weapon to make haters feel better. But perfection is unreachable. (I just started a sentence with the word “but”! Oh, no! Yes, some people are still clinging to that.)

Perfectionism is a sign of self-loathing. Instead, go for excellence.

And lighten up. We’re getting better!

Filed under: publishing, , , , , , , , ,

12 Responses

  1. Chazz says:

    Ha! A one-star rating on this post minutes after it was posted? I wrote a happy blog post and the angry Internet showed up. Hee-hee!

  2. Glynis Smy says:

    I have just read a book by one of the big six and it had three big errors. Missing speech marks at the end of a conversation, a large gap in-between two words, and an extremely long sentence with no punctuation. I am sure my book will have a few errors for folk to pick on, but no-one has picked on this one!

    Getting better at ignoring those who are ready to bring down indies, is what I hope to achieve after May. :)

  3. Sam X. says:

    Completely agree with both points, but emphatically with the second. One of my guiding thoughts has been that mistakes are inevitable–do your best to eliminate them but don’t kill yourself over a missed comma or misplaced period. As you say, they drive the authors and editors insane–when it’s their project. When I’m reading for fun, a typo makes me smirk. Then I move on.

    The insistence on perfection always struck me as silly. No other art is so insane with perfection. Musicians record flubs all the time. IMDB is stacked to the brim with continuity errors or production mistakes. You can laugh at how it breaks the verisimilitude but it’s a momentary lapse, like having to go to the bathroom.

  4. Rolando says:

    Excellent post Chazz (I gave you 5 stars)! I have written a handful of posts where I argue the same thing. Sometimes it feels, like you mention, that some people read to find mistakes. If a handful of typos or a few misplaced comas makes a reader not like some of the best stories in the world, then there is something wrong with that reader; as easy as that. All the Indie books I’ve read so far I have found excellent, and because of their price you get a lot more bang for your buck. I don’t doubt there are bad indie books but that is where you have to pick what you read (read reviews, excerpts, author blogs etc.). It’s a market (like any other), and people need to learn how to buy.

  5. I’m afraid you’re taking a bit too much liberty with generalizations. Your opinions are yours, and opinions they are, as there are few, if any, facts in this piece to substantiate it.My question is why would you want to take a stand for errors in grammar and punctuation? How could that possibly serve indie writing?

  6. Chazz says:

    I don’t think you’re reading the piece I wrote, Christina. There’s more nuance than you’re giving me credit for.

    I included caveats against the careless stand you ascribe to me. (e.g. “No, this is not a call to publish your first draft, damn of consequences to readers’ understanding and comfort and ease up on yourself as a writer.” And: “We do need many eyes on our manuscripts. Everyone tells you to hire an editor and well you should.”)

    Yes, it’s an opinion but it’s based on a reasonable sample from a voracious reader who has worked inside both traditional and indie publishing. I’m aware of the errors in both. I don’t have a scientific survey on this subject, but I’m not aware of a relevant one. If you know of one, please let me know. Opinions and generalizations are okay, though. This isn’t a math blog.

    How could this piece serve indie writing? By injecting a more positive attitude and realistic expectations into our work. There has been a drumbeat by some, repeated as gospel within the industry and without, that indies suck. In the past, that generalization was often valid. I happen to think that opinion is becoming dated.

    I repeat: “This is a call for us to celebrate the many authors who are obviously working hard to write well. Many of us are getting help to catch us when we trip.”

    In this blog, I aspire to inspire. Condemnations don’t do that. Catching people doing something right inspires us all to higher heights.

  7. Reena Jacobs says:

    Excellent post, Chazz. I have noticed reviews for indie works are more likely to focus on errors than reviews for traditional works. Five errors for a full length novel truly is insignificant in the big picture. I WISH some of the traditional ARCs I receive and review were that clean. Yet reviewers are told to overlook the errors in ARCS (in not so many words) we receive. I certainly don’t read complaints from reviewers receiving traditional copies, and I know their copies are as error ridden as mine. Who knows if all the error will get caught. I know the books I pick up from the shelf aren’t always error free.

    Personally, I think reviewers who mention minor errors (like the one mentioned in the article) are searching for validation. They expect a indie book to be full of errors, so they go in with that focus… searching for as many errors as they can possibly find, then say “See! Indie books are inferior because I found 2 errors in this epic novel.”

  8. [...] Indie publishing is getting better (chazzwrites.com) [...]

  9. [...] Indie publishing is getting better First bold statement: The quality of indie books has improved. We’re maturing. Ludicrously, readers expected the indie ebook revolution to produce immediate perfection, some even demanding a higher quality than they get from trad publishing. As soon as I post this, I expect a deluge of naysayers racing to come up with examples to disprove my assertion. That’s a misguided instinct, by the way. Yes, you could come up with lots of examples both tragic and comedic and I’d counter with a plethora of examples in favour of the indies. So let’s skip that and settle on this: I have over 200 books on my Kindle and my impression is that there aren’t nearly so many grammatical errors or typos as one might expect if you believe all those rabid grammarians moaning over on the Kindle boards. Chazz Writes [...]

  10. [...] Indie publishing is getting better (chazzwrites.com) [...]

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