I Found A Typk, What Should I Do?
Cedar is on the road today and discovered that WordPress is being evil and won’t let her log in. ‘nother Mike is filling in with a guest post. Cedar will be back next week, WordPress willing.
I Found A Typk, What Should I Do?
By ‘nother Mike
This is really a posting for fans. See, I’ve noticed that sometimes in our enthusiasm, we whack our favorite authors in the face, publicly, and I think it’s a mistake.
Let’s back up and think about history. One of the great changes in the publishing world is that authors are much more accessible to their fans. Back in the day, the accepted wisdom was that if you wanted to contact an author, you wrote a letter (on paper!) and mailed it to their publisher, who would, eventually, forward it to them. In fact, I have done this.
But with the electronic age? We get to see them at conventions, read them on blogs, follow them on Facebook, and so forth. They post, we reply, and sometimes we even get a bit of dialogue going. It’s great!
But, one activity that has also heated up is finding typos, grammatical disagreements, and even structural disagreements in their books. As fans, we stumble over these, and know in our heart of hearts that the author needs to know about this immediately, so that they can correct it! Which results, all too often, in an off-topic reply to some posting by the author in which we explain all about the problem we found in their book, or even a string of them, on a blog, forum, or other place that we associate with the author. We’re talking directly to the author, and the other readers won’t mind, will they?
Whoa! Stop a moment, and let’s talk about how to handle those observations. Because, frankly, yes, the authors and publishers do want them, but not laid out in the public like a cat putting a dead mouse in your shoe.
First of all, make a list. More than likely, you are going to find several typos or whatever in that book you are reading. In the Kindle app, you can use the highlighting and commenting tools to mark what you find, and then send the whole thing to your email. Personally, I go through and clean it up a bit. Or use your local notes, notepad, or whatever to keep track. I tend to include a bit of context and then my suggestion as to what the fix is. But either way, get all the remarks in one clump.
Second, don’t just dump the problem out in the nearest public venue. You may need to use the public venue to get a contact address, although many authors make an email address easily available if you look around a bit. You also want to think about who is best to contact. Yes, the author is the obvious person, but… For example, Baen has asked that typos be reported to firstname.lastname@example.org, where the publishing elves can do something with them. Think about what you are commenting on, and who is likely to be able to use your comments, and see if you can send it to them privately.
Third, I suggest starting with a bit of positive comment, and warning the author about what you are sending. “I really enjoyed reading Spiders of the Outer Moons. However, I noticed some typos, and made a list. I’ve attached that list for your use.” Something like that. Give them a chance to get set before pointing out that their baby has dirty underwear, okay?
Incidentally, don’t expect that the author is necessarily going to immediately republish their book, with all of the corrections and changes that you have suggested. Remember, they are in business. Yes, making corrections is good, but… It doesn’t pay the bills. Also, if you are sitting there with a published book, gathering comments for a while before you push another version out there is smart. You really don’t want to get tied up in daily revisions!
So, my advice. Put together a whole package, don’t send it out in dribbles and drabbles. Send it privately to the right person. And give them a bit of positive boost before you hit them with the problems. Then be patient, and start reading their next work!
Amanda here. I want to second what ‘nother Mike said. Authors are generally more than happy if a reader contacts them privately when they see a problem with a book. We appreciate it when folks contact us via email, or even snail mail, with their comments and with their praise. The key is sending the “corrections” privately. Why? It really isn’t because we don’t want it made public. Sure, it stings when we realize that we missed something. It really stings when we have had an editor go over our work and they missed it as well. But that isn’t the real reason. What I, and others I have spoken with about this have discovered, a lot of the “corrections” that have been sent to simply aren’t valid. Whether it is someone who believes the rules governing business writing or formal research writing should apply to fiction — and they don’t always apply — or those who don’t believe dialect should be reflected in writing to those who think they know how to spell something but really don’t, not every “mistake” they see is an actual mistake. The last thing we, as authors, want to get into is having to explain to a reader in a public forum why their comments aren’t valid.
Mike’s post brings up something else I want to address to indie authors. I have seen, and more than once, indie authors commenting that they really don’t worry about making sure their work is completely proofread because ebooks can be edited and corrected as many times as necessary. Don’t take that attitude. Please. Readers want to know that they are getting the best book from you they possibly can. We are already fighting an uphill battle with some readers who expect a lower quality product because we haven’t gone through the traditional gatekeepers. Don’t give them more ammunition. Besides, where Amazon used to automatically push through the corrected version, they don’t now. Your reader has to go in and update the file they have downloaded. So don’t put the responsibility on your reader to do so.
All that said, a big thanks to Mike for his post and, for those of you who have been sending in your corrections, keep doing it. Just follow his advice and do it privately. Trust me, authors really do appreciate it.