Take this Clock and–

So there I was, reading Pride and Prejudice Fan Fic — don’t judge me. I’m starting to read some mystery again, but P & P fan fic is what I read under stress just like I only eat bland, vaguely sweet stuff — when something made me stop cold.

The something was the following sentence “Darcy handed the footman his hat, his walking stick and his clock.”

Because that time — it’s not every time — I was running a movie in my head as I read, I saw Darcy hand over a grandfather’s clock and the footman looking bewildered.

Let he who is without typos toss the first stone. And I’m sure this woman, whose manuscript was otherwise exceptionally clean, had a lot of proofreaders. Who missed this one typo.

It won’t save her from the review that every indie gets. “It’s okay I guess, but really badly written and it needs a proof reader.”

Do some indies need a proofreader? Heck, some indies need a minder. A minder with a chancla and the ability to say ‘stop that or I hit you.’ (In other words, a Latin grandmother.)

Take the one yesterday who had all the men curtsy all the time. Curtsy. Like this.

I will never ever ever get the image of Mr. Darcy curtsying to the duke out of my head. EVER.

But you know what I’ve found no indie doing so far? Have the first 8 chapters from a book, and the last 3 from another. Or, you know, have a character die in one chapter, and then be completely okay three chapters later with no explanation in an obvious editing and proofing error.

I also very rarely EVEN IN FANFIC count 15 typos in the first half of the book. Drop-mouth typos at that. The kind like the clock above.

Yet the top two happened in trad published books (the second one of the World of Tiers books.) And it’s rare anymore that I don’t count fifteen typos in the first half of the book.

Having gone through the process from the other side, I can tell you by the end of my trad career I was paying proofreaders to go over the galleys and the page proofs (because sometimes the publisher introduces errors.)

So why is that comment about ‘typos typos everywhere” only in indie books?

My husband thinks trad pub employees swarm successful indies to leave those. I think that’s a conspiracy theory too far. Though I’ll be honest, these last two years have made me stop sneering at conspiracy theories.

I think it’s people who respect authority and its imprimatur. They go into reading indie looking for typos,b ecause they’re sure that’s what traditional publisher “fixes” for writers.

The poor sods probably also believe the government uses taxes for roads. Some people are born credulous. What can you do?

It is however a warning. Beware what you are bringing to the book. You might hate a book because it pushes your buttons. (I often do) That’s your right. Leaving a review blaming the author for that isn’t though.

And the same goes for typos.

Indies in general — yeah, there are always exceptions — have the same quality as trad. The “Tsunami of crap” all trad told us would come without their wise guidance never happened. Of all the predictions of the last couple of centuries that one failed harder than “Heavier than air cannot fly.”

And all the crazy people running around screaming “indie! Typos!” can’t change that a bit.

78 comments

  1. I tend to wander around Royal Road sometimes. Lots of newbie writers, some gems, others, well… We all have to begin somewhere. I’ve read the “fifteen typos in the first chapter.” I’ve also read the amazing reviving side character who dies in the first half only to show back up unannounced and unexplained in the second. On both of those stories I can see potential.

    Typos are typically not TBAR, full immersion breaking, kill it with fire stuff for me. One I just finished had only three typos and one continuity bobble in the second to last chapter. Easily fixed stuff. Still a darned good read. I want to hear about typos from my readers, and those continuity wobbles, definitely. So I can fix them. But whining complaints are just annoying. Nobody writes a perfectly clean first draft.

    As has been said here before, by wiser heads than me: Readers will put up with a lot of stuff to get their fix as long as it is good story stuff. I’ve read horrendously bad translated works that still had a good story underneath, straining to get through. Make the story the best you can, then fix the little stuff in the editing stage. I first wrote that as the “enditing” stage. Which I kind of like. Sometimes typos are fun!

  2. Your comment on this becoming a ‘thing’ because of (insert reason here) is probably more down to Dunning-Kruger and Mell-Gann amnesia driving the stupidity that flourishes best in social media. But, YMMV. I don’t know.

    What I do know is that having watched three recent YouTube channels there’s a lot of evidence of how social media is affecting society. Channel names and titles FYI.

    Veritasium: Post-Truth: Why Facts Don’t Matter Anymore
    EverydaySpy: The Difference Between Information and Knowledge
    tvlpodcast: Episode 294 The Five Laws Of Stupidity

    Stay safe, be well.

  3. How bad is it that I can almost guess what kind of school the writer went to on the basis of the mistakes made in reading fanfiction? Public school grads (in the US) make some of the most basic errors in grammar and research. People learning ESL tend to be spelling errors and sentence construction. And, if they have zero idea of how human sexuality works and nominal desire works, they gradated from a non-STEM college program in the last 15-20 years.

    (Joking…mostly.)

    Considering who they’re hiring these days in Trad Pub, I’m only surprised that the general “mechanics” mistakes in books aren’t worse. I went to B&N yesterday and flipped through some new author books and they were just bad in a technical sense. One author made my head hurt because her tangents had tangents, and for a story concept that requires you to get the reader in quickly…she was going in reverse.

    I think there’s an industry for Indie where you have people that can actually read and edit. I keep thinking about what I’ve been seeing in Solist At Large when I’ve been reading through it again…nothing major, just…”could it be better here?” questions that having a second pair of eyeballs would be nice.

  4. I’m currently reading an indie litrpg series and there aren’t all *that* many problems, but they’re around — using emancipated instead of emaciated, occasional dropped words, or words in the wrong order, stuff like that. I’m in the 2nd book now, and it’s cleaner than the 1st was, at least.

  5. Slight disagree: there was a tsunami of terrible writing, it’s just that, like all tsunamis, it hit once and then didn’t come back again, because the giant backlog of decades of rejected manuscripts was, in fact, a finite resource. Furthermore, it quickly became obvious that, once you got past the stuff that was obviously terrible, most of the indy-pubbed stuff wasn’t that much worse than tradpubbed midlist, and was frequently as good or better.

  6. The worst set of typos I hit in trad-pub was in a non-fiction book. It kept saying that obstructions (in this case rolled up prayer rugs) got caught in the threads of the tanks. Over. And Over. And Over. “Tank threads . . . . threads of the tanks.” I . . . how . . . Arrrrrrgh!

    “The tsunami of swill,” ah, yes. I should get a tee-shirt “Proud Contributor to the Tsunami of Swill since 2012” or something.

  7. I wonder if the author of that first Austen example meant “watch” instead? As to the second one, that’s a hilarious basic research fail. If you’re going to write anything historical I advise three things:

    1.) Research
    2.) Research
    3.) Research

    1. And research some more. Don’t just dress up modern people in quaint costumes. The past is a foreign country, and they do things differently there.
      I’m having unfortunate flashbacks to the second-most awful historical novel that I ever reviewed, where the author did just that – wrote a modern soap opera episode, all dressed up in mid-19th century garb.

            1. It’s called “The Cobbler of Normandy” by Otto Berliner. It may not be the most awful book on Amazon, but it was certainly the most awful one what I agreed to review. Usually, I could check out the “look inside” feature before deciding whether or not to commit, but now and again, I fell for the blurb alone, and regretted it.

                1. I was specific – yes, The Empress Theresa may be the most awful book on Amazon – but I referenced the most awful book that I personally ever got suckered into reading and reviewing. (Although I confess, I got halfway through it and only bailed after reading about a subterranean hidy-hole under the cobbler shop which was insulated by a materiel only developed in the US in 1942, and certainly not available for structural sound-proofing in Occupied France. (Yeah, I am a freak for noticing time-line improbabilities like this. I write HF, for ghod’s sake.) I was internet-book-savvy enough, early on, to avoid having to read the very worst that was on offer. But now and again, I got suckered in.

      1. You may get a kick out of this– I’ve read reviews where they decided that the author had taken X period characters and put them in costume (fantasy and scifi novels), and then they got pissy about the lack of research in something the author never said they were doing…

    2. Possibly someone whose first language is Spanish. The Spanish word “reloj” can mean either watch or clock, depending on context.

      1. And now I read the comment about it should be “cloak”. Of course. That makes a lot more sense, and is a much easier error to make.

  8. Some people get pretty darned close to perfect before anyone else sees their stuff. I proofread occasionally for Francis Porretto and feel like a fraud because all I can find to carp about in an entire book is something like, “Uh, you put two spaces between words in line 10 of page 73.”

      1. Boy howdy, you can say that again.
        Uncle Lar does love his digital niece and never passes up the chance to tweak her big toe.
        Last bit was not terrible, one or two nits per page, not at all like that batch we did a few years back that were ported over from some obscure and defunct word processor. A tsunami of artifacts indeed!

  9. “short, brain hair” <<<< second paragraph. Lots of laughs about what color that would be, short, irritated email at Amazon to please upload the corrected file NOW.

  10. When pretending to be a copy editor, I bleed red ink. In the last three years, I’ve started to read many novels, only to be bludgeoned and stopped with spelling, sense, and grammatical errors. It serves me right for buying $.99 novels.

      1. Yep. Even as a “rank newbie,” I decided long ago that shorts would be $0.99, novels would be at least the $2.99.

        I have abandoned the notion of making everything free the first ten days – all that got me was a bunch of downloads from compulsive collectors… Although, when the series get going, I’ll probably follow the Baen model.

  11. I think the harshest review I’ve ever left was “really well written story that I didn’t want to read.”

    Matter of taste, the specific story type is one that annoys me to tears.

    But it had no flaws. Not even typos, and the cover-art was even nice. I bought it because I thought it was a slightly different flavor of funny, and they ARE sold in the same manner, and the author played fair the whole way through.

    **********

    I have run into more grammar errors in tradpub, even stuff from the 80s and forward, than in self-pub. They’re usually a bit better for spelling, though worse for suffering from a thesaurus bite. You know, that thing where they went to the book and replaced it with a synonym that doesn’t actually work, which is what I thought was the problem with the quote. That someone had replaced “watch” or “time piece” with “clock.”

    I have only run into “chapters from two totally different drafts” once and thought I’d misremembered something.

    1. I suspect that coincides with the move in Trad Pub from in house copy editors to job shoppers working remotely, mostly retired English teachers looking to augment their retirement allotments.
      Not necessarily bad people, but a bit entitled and insistent that they as teachers know far better than a lowly author precisely what a word or sentence has to mean.

      1. There was an infamous sf novel from before the Horrible Publishing Transition, which was published with no ending pages. It just stopped. The Architect of Sleep by Stephen Boyett, 1986. There was a sequel, Geography of Dreams, which Boyett bought back from Ace. He eventually pubbed the full version of The Architect of Sleep in July 2021, through this little Centipede Press outfit, as a 400 book edition, but he didn’t do the obvious thing and put it up on Kindle. (Much less the sequel, which would be even more obviously in need of pubbing.)

        I don’t even remember liking the book all that much, but it was literally the worst tradpub fail I’ve ever seen.

  12. Maybe the “clock” was a Bulova Dali model, first popularized by Larry Niven. This would, of course, be the model that doubles as a cloak.

  13. I know that we check, recheck, print out, run various programs, do it all over again, format and find and fix errors, repeat. Errors still slip through. I think they breed as soon as you finish a page and move onto the next.

    Grammasites. They’re everywhere, a dozen different species that specialize in different parts of speech. I learned about them from Jasper Fforde and cannot argue that he is wrong.

      1. Alas, my family were printers through most of the last century. I avoided the business, but the mindset sticks.

  14. It occures to me there’s a simpler answer: the folks who leave ‘Wah! Typos!’ comments would have, thirty years ago, written the publisher a note about the typos and mailed it. Except who reads tradpub books anymore?

    No, seriously, if it’s not Mr. Butcher or one of the other few big big names, or a couple of certain genres, does anyone actually buy AND read tradpub? (Pretty sure the romance novels at the grocery get bought and read.) I suspect there’s a lot of bought and not-read, bought and skimmed, bought and am totally going to read one of these days that never actually comes after I reread this other book again (my mom has gotten into this one lately), but a lot of books just aren’t really getting read even if they are selling, and from what I understand, most of them aren’t, the print runs have a zero knocked off the end from the 1960s print runs, at least, and tradpub just isn’t selling.

  15. I do have one nitpick that I *will* definitely nitpick over. Because it annoys the ever loving p*ss out of me. Lay. The word is lay. It is the past tense of the word lie, as in to put something in a horizontal position. Saying “I lied down in the bed” is wrong, wrong, wrong. The past tense of the word lay is laid, if you are using that one as opposed to lie. Lied just means uttered an untruth. And I’m seeing it everywhere, from trad pub to indie to professional publications that should darned well know better!

    Spread it far, spread it wide: don’t use “lied” as the past tense of “lie” when using the definition that means to place in a horizontal position! /rant

          1. It does, sadly. My defense is I was raised by an English teacher. She does *not* tolerate it when I screw up. That, and having to re-learn how to talk somewhat made me question a few things, so I went through a period where I was looking everything up, just to make sure I wasn’t crazy.

              1. Yeesh. I’d almost forgotten seeing that one. I want to think that’s just a typo… But I can see people using Capitol for Capital. Last place I saw it was in a Light Novel I think, so that was probably the translator or editor (if there was one) making the mistake.

                I know there are a lot of deficiencies in the public school system other than poor grammar and spelling. Truly. There needs to be a support group for people who can’t stand to see the language so poorly used. I promise not to suggest death squads until at least the third meeting.

      1. There, their, they’re
        To, too, two
        Whether, weather
        Bear, bare
        Such are the bane of every copy editor ever was.

        1. You’re, your
          Right, wright, rite
          Hear, here
          Its, it’s
          *shudder* It is when the people who are paid to catch such things as their profession (looking at you, professional media and news people) miss this stuff that it irritates me more. I get authors speeding through a manuscript to frantically get the words out and missing a few things here and there. But the AP pays people to catch this stuff!

          Maybe I should just stop reading the news anyway, and go back to reading fiction more often. It doesn’t bother me there. Okay, that’s a total lie. It doesn’t bother me quite as much there. *twitch*

  16. Sarah said: “The “Tsunami of crap” all trad told us would come without their wise guidance never happened.”

    I’m sorry Sarah, have you been in a bookstore lately? Read any of the SF/F award nominees? Perused what’s getting hype on Goodreads? A veritable tsunami of complete, horrifying, unreadable CRAP has inundated the entire tradpub supply chain. As always, Leftists and other fellow-traveling @$$h0les live by projection. They project onto others that which they do themselves.

    Not to mention, they were reacting to the sudden freedom available to authors by doubling and tripling down on their odious gatekeeping. If it didn’t pass through the hallowed halls of tradpub to be blessed by their priests and bishops, worked over by the holy monks of the editing floor, et cetera, then it was by definition crap and not to be countenanced.

    My robot girlfriend book, (Unfair Advantage by Edward Thomas) produced, written, directed, cover-arted, proofread and edited by me, has less spelling, grammar and continuity errors than most tradpub tomes I’ve seen of late. It also has a type of story you won’t see in -any- tradpub book from the last ten years. They used to have them, but now they don’t.

    My book is the type of thing that has vanished from bookstores along with Poul Anderson’s “Trouble Twisters”, L. Neil Smith’s “Probability Broach” and a ton of other less famous but still fun stories. (I’m not pretending mine is as good as that. I’m just saying the chances of “Trouble Twisters” being picked up by tradpub in 2021 are zero. Lower than the proverbial snowball’s chance in Hell.

    1. Tradpub is dying, friend. Success is measured by little pieces of paper with Washington’s picture on it, not the whims of the endangered species called “agents” and “gatekeepers.” Indie is where it’s at. Amazon, goodreads, wherever there are reader eyeballs. I haven’t read much of the tradpub tsunami of crap because it flat isn’t worth my time.

      They aren’t where the reading public goes for books anymore. Amazon is the current stand out leader. They sell dozens of indie for every tradpub, and hundreds of ebooks for every physical copy. To paraphrase the words of a wise man, you aren’t competing with tradpub, and they’re not competing with you. You’re competing with Budweiser and Pizza Hut. Can the pittance your customers pay yield more entertainment than the equivalent spent on beer and pizza? Or video games and donuts?

      This is why I’ll never pitch to tradpub. They aren’t my audience. They’re not the ones that want to read the next story of the kind I’ll write. They are what stands between me and my audience. And I don’t need that. They’ll never give me the push that I can get busting my butt on my own. I’m not Sanderson good, or Weber good, and won’t be without tons more practice and words onna page.

      Keep writing good stories and pitching them to the masses. Folks need good pulp, good sci-fi, good westerns, and good fantasy. They want good entertainment. And they aren’t getting it, by and large, from trad pub.

    2. “…and edited by me, has less spelling, grammar and continuity errors…”

      FEWER! FEWER!!

      Your books may have =less= nonsense, but they have =fewer= errors!

      /peeve

      1. I had to resist harassing my kids with the compare-by-cups vs compare-by-size-of-pile trick question.

        When there’s less oatmeal in a container, there are fewer servings available.

      2. At 65, I must admit this is a rule I am not familiar with. English has many such rules, most of which I’m happy to learn as I go along. Less vs. fewer, okay then. Sounds right, anyway.

        I was thinking more of the thing where you see “compilation” instead of “complication”, or “star” instead of “start,” “bag” instead of “bad,” “ran” vs.
        run” etc. Those helpful spell-check autocorruptions that seem to garble the meaning of a sentence in every chapter of dead-tree paperbacks since about 2012.

        “He pushed the star button on the dash and the big V-12 roared to life. This development was a compilation for the bag guys, who were now about to be ran over.”

        I see that kind of thing in paperbacks now. I never used to. There’s none in my book that I know of. I weeded many of them out, let me tell you.

        More subtle errors, well, I’m a house painter not an English scholar. There are lots of people out there who know more things than I do about English, and lots of them work in tradpub. But from their output these days, I’d say I’m doing pretty good for a house painter. ~:D

        1. Oh, we’re all pretty good compared to what’s now “professionally” published…

          I’ve noticed a number of shifts in tradpub editing quality over the years. The first was in the early 1990s, when many authors went from the typewriter, and the ability to see a large swath at once (if only by scattering pages atop the desk, or taping ’em to the wall) to the word processor — suddenly everything was in predictable 25 line chunks, just like the screen in DOS. Sometimes you could actually see editing artifacts where they’d paged down and hadn’t checked that Screen 1 Line 25 actually mated up properly with Screen 2 Line 1…. and neither had their editors.

          That gradually went away with familiarity and more with the GUI interface, but soon after 2000ish those who’d learned grammar before the Great Leap Backward of the late 1960s began aging out, and soon no one knew how to use past perfect anymore… and I’m told one fiction publishing house said flat out that they no longer use the subjunctive mood.

          Around 2010ish what had been a gradual decline became riddled with WTFs — typoes, wordos, unidentifiable fonting objects. Also noted a sharp QC dive after Biggest Dick SF Pubber fired Evil-Tempered Bitch Editor, who may be a boil on the face of the Earth, but is a =very= good editor (I say, having seen a before-and-after).

          Somewhere along the line everything went from mechanical to electronic, and the assumption that whatever file the author submitted and the editor mang– er, worked on was good enough to pass on to the printer, and I think that has had a lot to do with it… there’s more skimming and skipping, and no physical type-in or mechanical typesetting to catch what mere mortal eyes are happy to skim past, and the less said about autocorrupt the better. (All too easy to miss when it’s just eyes on the words. I had a _the the_ that escaped notice for over 20 years.)

          Remember — proofread carefully to see if you any words out! 😀

  17. Darcy would have not have a grandfather clock.

    He would have had a tall clock. (Or possibly a long-case cloak, or a couple of others.)

    You can’t have grandfather clocks before 1876, when Henry Clay Work wrote “My Grandfather’s Clock.” Even then it would take time to spread, but certainly NOT before then.

    Now you know.

  18. Was the clock story on Fanfiction.Net? And, if so, what was the title and author’s name? (I have, I confess, an ulterior motive for asking; I have a series on that site where I turn particularly suggestive malapropisms into short vignettes, and this would put me within striking distance of being able to branch out into the Pride and Prejudice subcategory.)

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