Saturday, 7 December 2013

ebook quality

I've read a lot of Kindle ebooks recently, many of them self-published, others published by digital-only publishers, most of them by writer-friends. (They advertise on Facebook, and I just have to go and buy their books!) Without exception I've enjoyed reading every single one of them.

But, and it's a bit of a ranty but.

Some of them are full of errors. Typos, spelling mistakes, incorrect grammar and punctuation, and endless formatting problems. I do find this very off-putting. In most cases these errors could have been spotted and corrected by a careful final proof-read. The formatting problems can be avoided by doing a bit of research on how to publish on Kindle, and formatting can easily be checked after an initial upload. I do feel that if you are trying to sell a product, you should make it the very best it can be. You've slaved over your plot, characterisation, dialogue and description so why not also ensure your manuscript is pristine, error-free and perfectly formatted? Don't you owe it to your reader?

I've self-published a couple of books as you know, and perhaps some of you are reading this and tutting, saying 'people in glass houses....etc'. There may be a few errors in my own books, and if there are, I do apologise (if you spotted any, email me and I'll correct them and re-upload the books). But I know I made a huge effort to ensure they were as error-free as possible. I proof-read on screen, then printed them out, read through and corrected more errors, emailed them to my Kindle and read through again to check formatting, corrected more errors and only when I could find nothing more did I publish them.

Some of the ebooks I've read this year cannot have been proof-read, they're simply too full of problems. In one, the name of a story changed between the contents page and the start of the story. In another, the first page on my Kindle alone contained about 4 errors. In a third, the formatting was so poor there were paragraph breaks half way through sentences. These books have received some great Amazon reviews, and rightly so because they are good books with fabulous plots. But the formatting and punctuation errors feel like the elephant in the room - the big problem that no one is talking about. I could bear it no longer, hence this post.

I should also point out that some of the ebooks I've read this year have been perfectly formatted, with not a single mistake throughout the book. And those are an absolute joy to read.

So this is a bit of a plea to all self-publishers and small ebook-only publishers out there. Spend the time and get it right. Or if you don't feel you have the skills yourself, get someone else to do it for you. If you don't know anyone who can proof-read and format it for you, pay someone to do it, for instance Soundhaven.com offer very reasonably priced services for formatting, cover design and uploading (though they don't proof-read).

A beautifully-presented book is so much more professional than an error-ridden book. People are much more likely to review it, recommend it, and buy your next book if your first book was a quality product.


27 comments:

Wendy's Writing said...

Hear, hear, Kath. I so agree - it's what gives self publishing a bad name. (Incidentally, I didn't find any errors in your ghost book, so if there were any, they must have been small!)

JO said...

Absolutely. Sometimes I think I niggle at these things because I can be pedantic about spelling and grammar, but too often there is a succession of silly mistakes - and I've been known to give up.

I know I'm rubbish at spotting typos - and so pay a copy editor. My books must be the best they can be - I want readers to enjoy them, not sit there tutting over typos.

Anonymous said...

It's not just self-published Kindle books. I have seen a traditional publisher's book with weird gaps in it which equated to the page turns in the paper volume.

Gayle Beveridge said...

Well said. I've also read many enjoyable self-published stories and I would read those authors again because they spin a good yarn. It's a shame some of these novels are marred by spelling and grammar errors; they trip the reader like a raised tree root trips a walker. It's even more of a shame when there are so many of them I feel obliged to note it in a review or hold back a five star review because of it. Sometimes it's a good idea to get two or three others to read the work as the writer's mind can be tricked into reading what should be there rather than what is.

sam bacchus said...

I agree it can be really off-putting. If you have spent all that time; blood, sweat and probably tears - then a bit longer to get it checked properly is nothing.

I am doing a proofreading course at the moment and it is a real eye opener! But that said, even when I finish it, I would still get someone else to proofread my work as you just don't spot your own mistakes as easily (however proficient you may be!)

Kate said...

Great post. Everyone, absolutely everyone, who is publishing a book needs a proofreader.

Janice Johnston said...

Totally agree. I'm checking through the proof copy of an ebook we're about to publish as a paperback now. Eight of us got together, calling ourselves LiterEight, to produce our first book last year. This one, Dark Twists, is number 2. We've each gone over it and there is still the odd misplaced comma and full stop - but no glaring spelling mistakes, thankfully! I agree with Jo - I've given up on some ebooks because of easily corrected mistakes jumping out of every page. Gayle - I feel the book doesn't deserve a 5* review if the writer hasn't taken the time to make it as perfect as possible. And it does take time.(And if we have missed anything in our books, please let us know!)

Samantha Tonge said...

Yes, i agree Womag, it is really off-putting and distracts me from the story if i start questioning paragraph breaks etc.
It's a pity if a story and writer's hard work is let down, at the last minute, but something like that.

Rena George said...

Lots of important points here. Most writers are not editors, copywriters, or proofreaders, so no matter how fastidiously we check and re-check our work for typos, mis-spellings, and (oops!) those embarrassing name changes, mistakes do still slip through. Gayle hits the nail on the head with her comment "The writer's mind can be tricked into reading what should be there rather than what is." Proof positive I think that our work needs a professional eye before we publish. Rx

Maggie Cobbett said...

I agree with everything you've all said and think I probably spend almost as much time checking the stories for my eBooks as I spend writing them in the first place. After that, my journalist son also goes through them with a fine tooth comb.
That said, one glaring error in my first collection was pointed out to me shortly after publication by a friend with no literary pretensions at all and I was humbly grateful for the opportunity to correct it for the benefit of future readers.

nigel tigwell said...

I agree totally with everything said. I set out to discover new authors and styles when I got my Kindle and went for the free or low cost ebooks as these were essentially the new talent trying to get exposure. The vast majority had glaring errors that were a complete off-put. The basis of any published book is that the author is making a contract to entertain the reader. By failing to resolve basic errors in the type, the author has broken (or failed to establish) that contract right from the start. The consequence is that the majority of readers will not come back for a second book.

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Anonymous said...

I'm currently on the sixth edit of my novel and I'm still spotting the odd 'off' where it should be 'of'. How do I ever know it's ready? I have a friend who completed twenty-eight edits. I'd submit to a proofreader if I could have confidence in believing they could ensure perfection but they are only human too. I have read of some software packages such as Editor and Prowriting Aid has anyone tried this sort of thing? Thanks

womagwriter said...

I'm glad I'm not the only one!

Anon - you stop when you can't find any more errors. A good tip is to look at the book in a different format - if you've been editing on screen, print it out. Or change the font size so words appear in different parts of the line (some writers have blind spots at the ends of lines) Or email it to your kindle, and do another read through there.

I was sent some editing software to review for this blog. But I wasn't hugely impressed so didn't review it. It looked for repetition, use of lazy words such as 'quite', 'very' etc. It picked up on misuse of apostrophes also, I think.
But nothing beats a slow, careful, thorough proof-read by a human, in my opinion.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Womag. I'll keep at it.

parlance said...

I agree. If I come across one mistake, I put it down to inevitable human error, but a second jumps me out of the story, and at a third or fourth I find it hard to plough on.
Maybe things will get better as writers get feedback from readers.

BTW, I didn't notice any problems in either of your books on writing, lol.

Maria Perry Mohan said...

I hear you on this. I roared with laughter a few months ago when I was reading a kindle book and found the heroine looking at a picture of herself in the *throws* of orgasm. Throws indeed. Sounds wonderful, doesn't it? It just so happens I had the author's email (she'd asked me to review) so I mailed her and mentioned that maybe *throes* would be more appropriate. She went back in and changed it. Apparently she'd had it proof read professionally, but it just goes to show, you can't be too careful....

Karen said...

I daren't even read my own ebook, as I can't bear to come across any errors - even though it was professionally edited, I'm sure some have slipped through the net!

Anonymous said...

My grammar is terrible so I would never spot those mistakes. Thanks to PF, WW and TAB for their kindness, that's what I say. A book? It would have to go to a proofreader because I'm too much of a worrier!
Leonora Francis

Anonymous said...

Leonora I love your stories. I'm so glad you didn't let your grammar issues prevent you from writing and glad the editors have been kind too. I'm dyspraxic with varying neurodiverse issues which affect my writing and oh how hard I have to work. I'm sure many editors of magazines have been kind to me too.

Sue Barnard said...

An excellent post, Kath. I know exactly what you mean - and unfortunately this is the sort of thing which can give self-publishing a bad name. Which is a great pity, because there are some excellent writers out there (I know, I've worked with several) for whom self-publishing has been a gift from the gods. It just needs to be done properly!

Denise Watson said...

I always proofread my own work and find that errors are usually typos but, like someone commented here, typos such as ‘from’ and ‘form’ or ‘off’ and ‘of’ don’t get picked up by a spell checker. I always edit and proofread my work two or three times, until I can find nothing more and then I will go to the spell checker for the last glance. My first Kindle book went up and a friend told me she had found one typo. Unfortunately, she didn’t make a note of where she saw it and, try as I might, I can’t find it!

I find that, with all of the proofreading I do for myself and for others, I always seem to send e-mails without checking them. It’s not something I have decided upon, it just happens. I hope I have never committed an error equal to the writer who sent an e-mail to an editor (thankfully, she had a good working relationship already in place ..), stating that, ‘at this time on (date), I will be wa.king down the aisle.’

P.S. I’ve checked this one ..... but I'm still keeping my gingers crossed.

Denise Watson.

Simon Whaley said...

I agree, and now I worry that standards are slipping everywhere. There is one publisher who says that most books published these days have errors in them, which is a shame, because it suggests they have given up on perfection - and we should all be striving for this in our work.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your kind words Anon. I do have to work hard at it and I now have a program that reads my work back to me. That has helped enormously, so perhaps you could try that. Even writing something like this takes me a while because I have to re-read it several times. That's why I don't post on blogs so often. I do on FB though, because no-one seems to mind, lol x Leonora

womagwriter said...

Never rely on a spell-checker - I consider it to be the first pass only for proof-reading. You do need to be eagle-eyed and a bit of a pedant to spot all errors. If you know you're not good at it, it's always wise to ask someone else to do it. Leonora - knowing your own weaknesses is half the battle. My grump is against those who either don't know or don't care, and especially those such as ebook publishing companies whose job it is to iron out errors, but who don't do it adequately.

I've been promised a guest post on this subject by someone - hope to bring you that soon.

Anonymous said...

A final edit of my published novella caught medieval soldiers pouring 'scolding' oil over their attackers!

"You naughty boys! How dare you attack our castle?"

Very Python-esque.

Della G said...

Coming in very late on this but yes, I so agree, self published or trad published it's vital to get a good proof reader. I have been a proof reader and editor professionally (for Accent Press) but I still wouldn't dream of trying to proof read my own books - not as a final proof reader - it's almost impossible to get it right. We just don't see our own mistakes. Thanks for raising this one because for me personally, too many mistakes at the beginning of any book WILL put me off and will stop me reading another from that author. ) hastily proofreading this comment and keeping fingers crossed I haven't made a mistake ;)