Let me begin by saying that the invention of the e-reader is one of the best inventions since the electric light bulb. Not only is it a handy little device for reading just about anything in print but it also makes a great little game console and video/music player. To top it off it’s small and easy to carry around wherever you go. And the e-reader is amazingly good at keeping antsy little children happily occupied when you need them occupied the most.
Now for authors the e-reader is absolutely the greatest, most revolutionary literary achievement. It’s no secret that getting published is one of the most daunting tasks a new writer has to face, even above writing the story. Let’s face it, it has a lot to do with who you know and who you can afford to know, such as literary agents.
The invention of the e-reader flung the already cracked door of self-publishing wide open. Suddenly authors all over the world, published and unpublished, could self publish their writings and make money from them to boot without the need for a middle man to cinch the publishing deal. Also, these new literary creations could be distributed to a worldwide audience and even translated into multiple languages for a minimal cost for both author and reader.
As always, there are cons for almost every pro, such as needing a WI-FI connection to purchase the books and having your reading and playing time limited by the length of the battery life. However, in my opinion, the biggest draw back to self-publishing is that some of the reading material is published hastily and has not gone through the proofreading and editing phases properly as a traditionally published book would have gone through.
I’ve been reading e-books for several years now, and I’ve noticed what seems to be a trend in self-published e-books, especially from newer authors. There are a lot of books that have spelling errors, errors in word usage, punctuation, and unclear phrases that are distracting to the reader and takes away from the story. If a book has too many errors throughout it makes the book very unenjoyable to the reader and makes the author appear unprofessional. In the old days of publishing, a book had to go through a serious routine of proofreading, editing, and re-writes before it could go to print. Now the trend seems to be write it and publish it quickly. But at what cost?
This trend may have a lot to do with the publishing platform. I use Amazon Kindle for all of my e-books, so I can’t speak for or about other platforms. I recently became aware that Amazon “rewards” authors for fast, consistent publishing. If you can publish something, be it a short story, novella, or by some chance a full length novel, every thirty to ninety days you are more likely to get on Amazon’s Best Seller’s list and keep your other titles high up in the ranking. So here we answer the question “At what cost?”
When a writing project is rushed it lowers the quality of the writing. There may be authors out there who can churn out a book every thirty days. But I’m willing to bet that they aren’t doing their own proofreading and editing. Most likely, they pass the work along to an editor and/or proofreader. Then the author most likely moves on to the next project or takes a needed rest for a few days. When the editor sends back the manuscript the author either accepts or rejects the changes and publishes the book, confident that the book looks polished and professional, not rushed and sloppy.
In general, we all tend to rely too heavily on the electronic world. We expect our unintelligent computers to catch every mistake we make, failing to recognize that a computer can only catch what it is programmed to catch. For instance we may want to say that “Jim went to the store with Kate”, but we may accidentally type, “Jim went too the store with Kate”. Spell check will not catch this error and usually grammar check doesn’t catch it either. This is where proofreading by a human comes in handy. A human can differentiate between the meaning in the two words and which one needs to be used and where it should be placed.
I’ve always been good with English grammar and spelling, but even I make mistakes. We’re all imperfect, and that’s why I’ve made it a habit to read and re-read my writings at least three times and then still have someone else read what I’ve written to catch any mistakes I may have missed. If you’re going to self edit, it’s extremely beneficial to take a few days, or weeks if you can spare the time, to set your manuscript aside and then look at it with fresh eyes. You will be better able to see the mistakes with fresh eyes, and the time away from your manuscript baby will give you a little emotional distance from it to look at it more objectively.
My first read through is to find any mistakes in spelling, punctuation, grammar, and word usage that jump out readily. I also check for proper syntax (word structure of my sentences). My second read through is to see how it reads with the changes. Almost inevitably I will find more mistakes on the second read that I missed on the first. My third read through is again to see how it reads with any additional corrections and to make sure the story flows well, that the characters are properly developed, and any facts are correct. Then I will have someone else read it for me to see how it reads for them and to see if they spot any mistakes I may have missed. This series of steps is what is called proofreading and editing. These are very necessary steps for a solid writing of any genre.
The proofreading process gives the author an opportunity to look at the writing with a critical eye that will find hanging modifiers, misspelled or misused words, poor punctuation, run on sentences, overly used words or phrases, sentences that are unclear, misplaced dialogue, and many other errors that can distract the reader from the plot. The editing process gives the writer the opportunity to make the needed changes before printing or publishing.
There are occasions when some above mentioned mistakes may be made intentionally, such as in the case of dialogue. After all, most of us don’t speak correctly, and authors like for dialogue to sound natural and exhibit the character of the speaker. So in such cases “errors” are expected and actually welcomed. On the other hand, errors are not so welcomed in the narration of the story. Now when it comes to non-fiction and technical writing it is absolutely critical that the author proofread because errors in these writings can destroy the credibility of the author, thus damaging the success of future writings.
In a future post I will offer some examples of the errors I have come across and discuss the impact on the reader and the story line. Until then happy reading and careful writing.