Books in the Time of E-Publishing

We’re all readers and we all read multiple books a year. I read on my Kindle, but I also like to browse bookstores and when in Sonoma, I frequent the quarterly Friends of the Library book sales.

There is a common thread I find in hardbacks, paperbacks, and e-books. Rarely do I find one that is typo-free.

This was a common complaint of my mother-in-law, the late Jean Gibson, who’s primary purpose in her retired life, it seemed, was to read as many books as she could. She got them from the library and they were almost always hardbacks. I cannot remember a time when I didn’t see a book either in her hands or on a table nearby.

The problem has been compounded with the rise of the electronic book. Formats are different and they have to be proof-read carefully. Too many self-published authors forget this important step. They give a cursory review of their e-books once they are uploaded to the Amazon, Kobo, Nook, and i-Tunes sites. The minute they’re available for purchase, the typos jump out at you.

The good news is the books can be taken down, fixed, and reloaded, as soon as you find the error (or, somebody tells you about it). I consider myself fortunate because I have people who tell me if there’s a problem or even a quotation mark out of place.

My worst experience was two-fold: drugs and inattentiveness. Capt. Mark was just home from surgery when it was time to upload my first novella to the St. Helena Vineyard series, Plumb Crazy About You. He was on serious pain medication, but I had never learned how to do it, so he valiantly did the upload. The good news? Upload successful. The bad news? It was the copy that still had editing marks in it.

The proof came. I was so excited I flipped through the first few pages and said, “It’s a go.” A full three weeks later an author friend said one of her fans had read the novella and it was full of editing marks.

We pulled it. Fixed it. Put it back up for sale. This time I checked to make sure the editing marks were gone. But I didn’t proofread it. It still had a couple of minor things. A period with too much space; double quotation marks on a quote, and a couple of formatting issues.

Now I read proofs. Not only do I read silently, I am starting to read them out loud. I catch most typos, but alas, not all. I swear, they hide and reappear when you’ve declared a book to be error free. It’s like a little kid who sticks it’s tongue out and says, “Bet you can’t find me.”

My books with small presses hire professionals to proofread. When the galley proof comes to me, I still find a few things. I am now re-reading the four books in print that I control. The three with traditional publishers won’t be corrected until I get the rights to those books back in about five years. I’m sure there are typos. There always are.

So help me out here. If you find something, let me know. If it’s a book I control, it can be changed. If you want a free copy of an upcoming book and promise to let me know if it has an error, I will love you forever.

But I’ll coerce…er…encourage you to do a review, too.

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