Typos. Gosh, how I hate them! Don't you? They plague us in emails, on social media, in text messages, in blog posts... and in novels. Inevitably, something you write that someone else can see and judge will fall victim to the rogue punctuation mark, homophone, transposed pair of letters, etc. What's the old adage? "I do my best proofreading after I hit 'send'"? Yep. That's about right.
Some people can shrug off their mistakes as a product of human nature and life. Others of us internalize every error as if each boo-boo serves to prove we're mud-sucking, incompetent hacks. (Or is that just me?) Maybe because I'm so self-critical, I've also been known to be critical of typos in others' writing. Heck, catch me on a bad day, and I'll go off on a poorly-edited social medial post. Let's face it: pointing out typos makes us feel superior. "Ah-ha! I saw something the professionals didn't! Ergo, that means I'm a better writer than this person." But does it really work that way? Of course not. And it definitely doesn't mean that person was too cheap, lazy, smug, and/or apathetic (or all of the above) to have someone else look at her book before she published it. You know, like some kind of no-talent INDIE.
What does it mean to be an Indie? To me, it's simply someone who publishes her books independently of an agent or publishing company. The book still goes through all of the quality assurance steps (which I'm not going to go into here, because BORING!) before launching to the public, but I am in control of that process (i.e., I have to make sure it gets done). To the elitist establishment, it means an unvetted writer pens a book (or article or whatever), sort of edits it, sort of proofreads it, sloppily formats it, slaps a homemade cover on it, and publishes it. Nobody else reads the work before it goes public (except, maybe, the author's mom). Nobody examines it to make sure it's "good enough." The Indie author doesn't consult anyone else about what she's written, because FREE SPEECH! Or whatever.
[Excuse me for a second while I go into the other room and scream into a pillow.]
Okay, I'm back.
Time for a list of home truths, y'all!
- I've found errors in every one of my books after they've been published (embarrassing, but true).
- I've found errors in every single published book I've ever read. Ever. Regardless of author or publishing method.
- Just because something was independently published doesn't mean it wasn't painstakingly edited and proofread.
- People edit and proofread books, and people are fallible.
I read an award-winning book recently that I absolutely adored and will be gushing about until my dying day, probably (I'm sorry if you know me personally). It was published by a mid-sized publisher. It contained typos and grammatical errors. Not a lot, but a few. A couple of weeks before that, I read a book by no less than one of the godmothers of chick lit, published by a HUGE house. It had typos and grammatical errors in it. Again, not a lot, but a few. In neither case did I look at the copyright page of the books, tut and say, "That's a [insert name of publishing company here] author for ya!" Nor did I count the boo-boos, because I have a life, and I was too busy enjoying the stories to be a pedantic poophead about it. But they were there. They jumped right out at me, too, because it was my first time reading the books. I hadn't pored over them seventy bazillion times, like the authors surely had. I wasn't on a deadline to get it to publication, like the editors surely were. And if I were to write a formal review of either of those books, I wouldn't even mention the mistakes in the review. Why? Because they didn't matter (although the use of "I" in what should have been the phrase "...between you and me..." did kill a little part of the ridiculous grammar troll inside of me). It was still an excellent book by a talented writer with a voice and a story that deserve to be heard. Period. End of. I only mention them here to prove a point: that no one is perfect, regardless of how he or she publishes her books.
I'm sick of the Indie[endently Published Author] vs. Trad[itionally Published Author] Debate. Almost as sick as I am of American politics at the moment. Yes, I'm that sick of it. But here we are again, talking about it. Not because readers care how a book gets to them (they don't; when was the last time a reader said, "I only read books from Random House"?), but because some consumers of books (readers and writers and publishers alike) immediately assume the worst of an author or book when they find a mistake in an Indie offering. This never-ending, inane argument of Indie vs. Trad fosters the idea that not only are certain types of authors (Indies) the only ones guilty of publishing books that contain errors, but those errors are the hallmark of independently-published books, because big (and small and medium-sized) publishers release only error-free books. Not only is that misconception ludicrous, but it's easily disproved.
You want to call an author a hack because the story's cliché or the characters are flat or the plot is predictable? Fine. But don't presume that any and all failings in a piece can be chalked up to that person being an Indie. Don't insult an entire group of talented writers because their books contain what every single book out there contains... a few rogue errors. Don't judge one book based on another book you read by someone who independently published something and didn't perform his or her due diligence. How a book arrived in front of its audience shouldn't matter at all! Why cut Author McBigshot, with her team of editors, more slack than little old Indie? Conversely, why cut the Indie more slack, with her shoestring budget, than Author McBigshot? How about we all remember #4 in the list above and cut everyone the same amount of slack?
Do the errors distract from the story? If so, bitch away. You're a paying customer; you have a right to quality. But are you just pointing out things as a way of saying, "You don't belong here, and your voice doesn't deserve to be heard, because someone in a suit behind a desk didn't put their stamp of approval on you as a person"? Then you're a jerk.
I make no bones about being an Indie. I don't try to hide it. And I don't want to lead anyone to believe otherwise. Regardless of certain snobbish beliefs held by a few threatened, small people, I don't believe there's any shame in being Indie when you're good at what you do and work hard to serve your readers and produce quality work on a consistent basis. It's simply a choice I've made for myself. Does it work for everyone? Of course not. Some would argue it doesn't even work for me, but I'm not here to defend my choices or debate the pros and cons of every possible publishing method. That's exhausting, not to mention dull as arse. Plus, I would never presume to tell someone else what's right for them. Only self-important a-holes do that. Their blog posts go viral, but... at what cost?
Mistakes in manuscripts have nothing to do with Indie- versus Traditionally-published. I own the few mistakes in my books (go ahead... count them... they're there) because I'm imperfect. And the people on my team are imperfect. We screw up. We miss things.
Don't pin that on being "Indie," though. Pin that on being human.
And please... for the love of Jane Austen... stop using the word "Indie" like some kind of NSFW literary slur.
Thanks for reading! This post is part of the FICTION WRITERS BLOG HOP on Julie Valerie’s website. To return there, click here:http://www.julievalerie.com/fiction-writers-blog-hop-mar-2016