Shannon Stacey

Whose fault is it?

Recently, Sanctuary’s Finest asked the question:

Who’s responsible for typos, etc, in the novels we read and why does the standard seem so much lower for ePublishers than it does larger publishing houses.

I missed the cut-off for responses, so I’ll just ramble on about it here. I’ll break the question into two parts, though.

Who’s responsible for typos, etc?

The author.

Barring some unpleasant circumstance in which an editor goes in and inexplicably mucks things up after a final edit, the author is responsible for every single word on the page. Every typo, every grammatical error, every inconsistency or plot hole is the author’s fault. The buck stops with her.

Nothing—nothing—sets my teeth on edge like an author responding to having an error pointed out with, “I know! Can you believe my editor didn’t catch that? She’s awful!”

But that’s what editors are for.

Editors are not crutches for lazy or sloppy writers. Yes, it is their job to edit the book. And between the content editor and the final line editor, almost everything gets caught. Sometimes things slip through the crack—and those things still belong to the author. She’s still the bottom line.

In doing print galleys for Adrenaline, I found an error in 72 Hours. It looks like it might have been a copy & paste error and it’s fairly glaring. And I wonder how in the hell it got by multiple readings by three different people. But you know what? It did. I put those words there and I accept responsibility for that error. I’m thankful I caught it before it was immortalized in print—along with several other typos I’ve found.

Why does the standard seem so much lower for ePublishers than it does larger publishing houses?

Touchy, touchy subject. But I read a lot of loops and boards and excerpts and, quite frankly, some epublishers do have lower standards than larger publishing houses. There are a couple who seem to have no standards whatsoever. If you can write something that merits multiple naked men with fangs or fur groping one naked woman who’s bound and gagged as a cover, they don’t care if you have the writing ability of a drunken dyslexic baboon.

Now, taking those “publishers” off the table, I’ll just offer two points which are my personal opinions:

1. I think doing everything electronically plays a small part in catching errors. Not plot hole errors, but typos and such. I’m willing to bet if you took a manuscript that’s been through one editing pass, printed it out and had the editor read it on hard copy, she’d catch more mistakes. I could be totally blowing smoke, but I think the brain processes a computer screen and hardcopy differently.

2. Do NY editors edit on the screen with 3 open IM windows, multiple email notification bubbles popping up, the TV blaring cartoons and their kids running through the house chasing a terrified dog? I don’t know.

I think all we can do as authors and as readers is to research a publisher—whether NY OR digital—and judge the quality of their output for ourselves. If you’re proud to place your work with a publisher who puts out Debbie Duz A Dozen WereDonkeys, then I’m happy for you. If you’re happy reading it, then I’m happy for you, too.

Unless all of digital romance publishing is being painted with your brush. Then I’m not happy.

All I can say is that I am extremely satisfied with the editing my books have received. They’ve been professional and thorough, and my books have been better because of that. But those little typos and errors that get through no matter how many times a book is gone through? Blame the author.

12 comments to “Whose fault is it?”

  1. Nicole Reising
      · March 21st, 2007 at 10:42 am · Link

    I just wanted to put my thanks here — so often I’ve wanted to say… its your book – take the responsibility… knowing myself how astonished I’ve been at times to have looked for errors in my own work at least a hundred times only to print it off and within seconds spot several OR have friends who do.


  2. Emma Wayne Porter
      · March 21st, 2007 at 10:50 am · Link

    Terrifying subject, this. And you’re right, bottom line, it’s our responsibility.

    Perhaps some houses value quantity over quality. I’m not qualified to judge, but yeah, a few bad apples can sure do some damage.


  3. Charlene
      · March 21st, 2007 at 12:54 pm · Link

    Shan, #1 is true. Heurstics studies have proven that reading on-screen “fools” the eye and that by its nature you’re likely to “scan”. Printing it out will catch errors you don’t see on-screen every time.

    And I fully agree: my editors are not to blame for my mistakes. I am.

    That said, there will always be mistakes, no matter how careful and thorough everybody involved in the process is. There’s always something you miss. That’s not an excuse to be sloppy, but until we have a world of perfect people and perfect processes, there will be no perfect products. I’m still anal enough to try for it, but I’ve accepted it will never happen. :roll:

  4. Emma S
      · March 21st, 2007 at 1:28 pm · Link

    Amen sister!

    That said, I hate the fact the people need ot point out every little typo. Frankly, print or ebook I’d be surprised if one of my books didn’t have any typos. It’s not that I don’t try to make them error free, but I’m only human. As much as I’d like to be, I’m not perfect. I freely admit that.

    And it does kind of bother me that someone expects me to be.

  5. Shannon
      · March 21st, 2007 at 1:34 pm · Link

    What’s kind of funny (to me) is that I’m an obsesser. Angie has to pull the book out of my hands kicking and screaming because I won’t give it up until I’m convinced it’s as damn near perfect as I can get it.

    THEN I get it back and I can NOT believe the crap I missed! I always have an urge to email her and say “I SWEAR I self-edited this!” Somebody reading 72 Hours might say “Look at this mistake—what a hack!”, but that’s not it. It’s just…I don’t know.

    Having had two children with early speech disabilities, I’m well aware of how the maternal brain will translate a child’s sounds into words. While somebody else would hear a really bizarre blending of consonants and vowels, I heard a sentence. I really think the “reading” brain does that, too. Between the eye reading the words and the mind registering them, the brain does some kind of “visual translation”.

    Plus the little suckers breed like rabbits whenever the file’s closed.

  6. Holly
      · March 21st, 2007 at 1:53 pm · Link

    Wow. What a wonderful post. Unfortunately I’m not going to have time to post mine until after I get back from vacation (after the first of the month) but I’m glad to see this post.

    Of the authors that responded to my queiry, only 1 said it was the author’s responsibility. All others said it was the editor. I’m going to extend the time frame for answering, so if anyone sees this and is uncomfortable answering here, please feel free to email me @

  7. Natalie J. Damschroder
      · March 21st, 2007 at 2:20 pm · Link

    I agree that it’s the author’s responsibility. I take it seriously enough that I print EVERY galley and proof it with a ruler under each line.

    HOWEVER. WE don’t set the final copy. We send corrections to the publisher, who has the responsibility of making them in the final copy. Some things might get missed. The smaller the correction, the more likely it will be overlooked. And some “corrections” may have new typos. We are, after all, all only human.

    So even though it’s the author’s responsibility, it is not always the author’s FAULT.

  8. Michelle
      · March 21st, 2007 at 3:38 pm · Link

    Sorry…what? I got stuck on the WereDonkeys…:hide:

    This is a hard one because I review as well as write. As a reviewer I come across these mistakes, some more prolific from certain pubs, and if it is just one or two typos I just read it as it should be and move on. If someone has called someone by a different name or something changes part way through the book then I usually mention it. I don’t expect authors and/or editors to be perfect but if no one mentions it to them then how will they know to look out for that in the future? In the case of epubs it is something they can fix easily so the next download doesn’t have those errors, and I’m sure it is especially helpful before it goes to print. Once it’s in print I realise that there’s not much to be done, and I’m certainly not trying to hurt anyone, but large editorial erros hurt the overall feel of the book.

    That said as a writer I do see how easily this stuff can happen. One of my recent ms’s I had described the girls eyes as blue and then I changed them to grey and it was only as I was at the end that I suddenly figured it out. I went through and made sure to change them all but I can only hope I actually got all of them. Then, if I didn’t, hopefully my editor will catch it.

    OK, long story short (not really, sorry :roll:) I think it is the responsibility of both parties (or however many there are). Yes, the buck stops at the author but when you are writing and working for a publisher you are a team.

  9. Karen Templeton
      · March 21st, 2007 at 5:07 pm · Link

    Yeah, I think I go with “team,” too. I’m about as anal as they come, read through my ms probably five times before sending it in (I don’t do a hard copy, though, because I’m usually down to the wire and don’t have time. And also I’m cheap. :tomato:), and still catch stupid stuff at the line edit stage.

    But it’s true — the publisher is the one responsible for the final product. The author can’t stand over the copy editor or typesetter or whoever and make sure every correction gets entered, or — even worse — that they won’t “correct” something that doesn’t need correcting after she’s seen the book for the last time. :crazy:

    Someone told me my first SSE was “riddled” with typos — well, all I can say is *I* didn’t put them there. With each book, maybe 3 or 4 actual typos — the wrong word, a misspelling, and the like — make it through to the hard copy. By the time I get the line edit, I’m seeing the book pretty darn fresh, and I catch those puppies. And if I don’t catch them then, I catch them at the galley stage, because by that time I’ve read the book five times on screen (not counting interim editing), once on hard copy in my regular font, and once on hard copy in the galley font. So I know the books are as “clean” as humanly possible by that point. But several Har authors have complained about goofs and gaffes that slip into the books AFTER galley stage (okay, they’re not really galleys, but it’s the final printout so that’s what a lot of us call them).

    So. If someone points out a goof, if it’s mine, I do the mea culpa thing. If it’s not, I got no problem laying the blame on the publisher. :boogie:

  10. Shannon
      · March 21st, 2007 at 8:25 pm · Link

    I do get the team mentality. If y’all like On the Edge, I’ll tell you straight up Angie gets a LOT of credit for that book. I guess I just have this mental block about it.

    And changes made after I send in the final edits hasn’t happened to me yet, so I didn’t really think of that. I guess sometimes it’s NOT the author’s fault., :doh:

  11. Heather Rae Scott
      · March 21st, 2007 at 8:26 pm · Link

    Very excellent post, Shannon. I take full responsibility. In all honesty though, I think what this all boils down too is yet another way to slam epublishers and their authors. Before it was they were smut by piss poor authors–not my opinion–but now that the market is evolving and expaning, they need new ammo to toss into the fire.

    Because like shit, typos happen.

  12. Sybil
      · April 4th, 2007 at 7:41 pm · Link

    Well I am one of those nuts that says blaming Avon for paint by number historical books is shit because to me the author is always the owner of the book.

    If someone says write me shit and I will pay you for it and you say coolio. You signed, you own it, wear it well and shut the hell up. Of course I think there are still a few good Avon books out there so… color me a Pollyanna.

    As far as editing goes, an editor has a job. One of those jobs is to edit the book – no? Now the author can do that nifty lil over ride change thing (I forget what it is called). But the editor should try and help them not make stupid ass choices. If they do and the end product is crap, the ownership goes to the author and the editor should not buy that author again until they grow as a writer.

    At the same time if an editor is repeatedly having books go to print (epub or print press) that editor needs to be worked with and if they don’t improve, fired. It is a job like anything else and if you can’t work with 3 im boxes open you need to get thee ass off im and make times to check email. Unless it is from redwyne – then just answer her and send her what she wants cuz it is easiest in the long run. WHAT?

    Yes epublishing has a bad rap. And yes it is earned and enforced by some epubs today. I do think there are epubs out there that are trying very hard to be a publisher and there are those looking to make a quick buck and run then others that think shit this is easy publisher x sucks I can do better. And then close because it isn’t as easy as it looks.

    I think there are too many authors per editor. I am not sure this is just an epub thing though but I do see quite a few not ready for prime time players being picked up by epubs that shouldn’t be. The editor doesn’t have the time to hand hold or season the author. And the author just isn’t ready to play with the big boys.

    I can say I see this happening with print too because when they saw the coin EC was making they sqqquuueee’ed with glee and picked up a ton of shit that gave Epublishing, erotic romance and romance a bad rap. Or at least enforced the negative opinions they already had of us.

    How do you fix it? Write a better book. Point. Stop. End Story. I think holly is/was trying to get the opinion of others and make a fully informed decision for herself. And in the way of the blog… bringing us along for the ride.

    damn I ramble… what was the question? Did I answer it? And no I can’t edit myself for shit. And really think test readers are a must for all writers. You CAN’T see your errors after you have read something 10000 times. And there are many like me that auto insert words that aren’t there as they read.

    Aren’t there? eek is it just me? :doh:

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