READER'S VOICE: Troublesome Typos

Have Your Say! What Do You, The Reader Think?
An interesting topic to be discussed or pondered over 

* * * 
(and rotten reviewers)...
by Helen Hollick

On my personal blog a while ago, I posted an article about those troublesome typos that appear – as if by some mischievous act of magic – into our hard-worked work. We (authors that is) all have them, even the Top Big Writers at the Top Big Publishers; those pesky little slip-ups that sit there, hiding in the shadows then leap out, totally unnoticed, when the button is pressed to do the final print-run.
I (one among many authors) was recently targeted by someone who advertises his proofreading business by sending out spam mail, mentioning his services and the typos he has found in XX book. These emails usually fall direct into the spam box, or even if they don’t, their very nature screams ‘spam’ so are sent there forthwith via the delete or block button. 

Then, a short while later – hey presto, a derogatory comment, of 1 or 2 stars appears on Amazon as in:

“Out of courtesy, the author and the publisher were both contacted before this review was posted, but neither responded.”

No, of course said author or publisher did not respond. Does this not, at best amount to  outright bullying, at worst blackmail?

This spam-person has targeted dozens of authors, to the extent that the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi) issued an official Watchdog Warning against his unsavoury tactics: (I have blanked out the names)

“During the first quarter of 2017, ALLi’s Watchdog Desk received several complaints about a company known as xxxxx. The complaints were not about the proofreading services offered by the company. Rather, they described a troubling and consistent pattern of behaviour by xxxx’s founder, Mxxx Rxxxx. In each case, Mr. Rxxxx approached an author or publisher to offer their services, including a list of corrections xxxx could make to the prospect’s book. When the prospect politely declined or did not reply, Mr. Rxxxx persisted, becoming increasingly hostile, even when the prospects made it explicitly clear that they wished no further contact…”


“The threat implicit in these reviews felt clear to their victims: pay me to fix your editing, or I will hurt your reputation. The actions we observed in the course of our investigation and the overall pattern of xxxx’s reviews seem to confirm this interpretation.”

One of my books has been so attacked on Amazon, receiving a 2 star 'review', just as ALLi reported. Spam email received. Spam email deleted. 2 star trashing of my book appears, complete with a list of errors.

Now, I admit, the errors mentioned in the comment on Amazon are there, some are my own *slap head/roll eyes* silly mistakes many of which a good editor should have picked up. Alas, the publisher did not provide a good editor and most are typos that were not corrected by the publisher because they failed to do that final proof-edit, nor did I see the final (supposedly proof-read edit) version until it was published. Which is very annoying but I can't do anything about it because this is a mainstream/traditional published book and is, therefore, out of my hands.
 (Take note indie authors! We have a HUGE advantage when this sort of situation arises!)

let's put things into perspective here. 
Are the errors xxxx  mentions really  that appalling?

I re-read my book, searching for the 249 errors apparently found. I undertook this task with a heavy heart and a feeling of dread: how would I be able to continue marketing the book, hoping people would buy and read it when it was littered with dozens and dozens of  errors? But face the inevitable I had to; at least I would know to write the book off and wait for a second edition to be proud of instead... 


hang on a minute....

We all know that it is not easy to spot your own errors (hence the essential element of using a professional editor) but I found less than 30 obvious errors. Let's assume I missed a few, so hoick that up to 40, maybe even 50. 
Where are the other 200 or so?

There are about 110,000 words in my book. It would be nice to be typo free, and I should not have slipped up with those couple of bloopers I made, but are minor things like a missing or, ‘off’ instead of ‘of’, or obvious editing slip-ups really going to ruin the reader’s enjoyment as this person claims? Now I'm hopeless at maths but 50 errors in a book of 110k words is something like less than 1%.* 

1% of something is not 'littered with' or 'unreadable', it's basically, just annoying! (And I am annoyed with the publisher, I can tell you!)

* (actual % gratefully welcomed!)

Things mentioned are:

- in the Timeline (p10) 1685 comes before 1684. [Yes a blooper that was missed]

- there are straightforward spelling mistakes: hansome (> handsome, p32); yeilded (> yielded, p34); rum and coke (> rum and Coke, p83); acolade (> accolade, p147). (missed errors)
- many proper names are incorrect: Isle of White (p268), You Tube (p283) [Again, missed bloopers]
- verbs don’t agree with their subjects in terms of singular and plural: ‘the ship were in northern waters’ (p233); ‘The delight of this adventure story are…’ (p194); [Again, missed bloopers  because of no final edit.]
- apostrophes are misplaced and incorrectly reversed. [ditto publisher/edit]
- sometimes there is no spacing between words: ‘July1726’ (p284). [is this really a big deal? Worth trashing a book for?]
- the author twice misquotes the title of the book as ‘Pirates: Truth and Tale’ (p202, p319: the actual title on the cover and title page is '...Tales')  [publisher's error, not mine, they changed the title after I submitted my final edit - but again is this worth trashing a good book for? Do these really ruin the reading experience - assuming the reader even noticed in the first place?]

Now, can I make one thing clear please? 
I am not whinging! 
I am outraged - but not for myself

The same thing has happened to several authors, mostly new, debut writers. 
And I am furious on their behalf.

I have no quibble with a review or comment mentioning missed typos – they happen, but to do so in a snide, nasty, harassing, bullying manner? 'Not Good Form' as Captain Hook would say.

Has this guy got nothing better to do than trash good books, upset good authors and rubbish their reputation - even their career - out of miffed spite because his original emails were ignored? It's interesting that books he has proofread get 5 stars. Alas, I haven't the time to waste reading any of them to see what standard the writing is like. 

This  proofreader person, from what I gather, uses a software programme to pick up the errors. I assume he scans the book and runs it through his computer. That is NOT editing, nor is it professional proofreading because it is mechanical-based not human-based. It does not allow for nuance, writer's style or the 'feel' of the plot and narrative. It is a
 soul-less pedantically picky machine. Many of us have our own writing styles. I am happy to ‘Boldly Go’, not ‘Go Boldly’ because, even if it is, technically, incorrect, the former sounds more ‘human’ and friendly. (And if it's good enough for Trekkies...)

To quote the ALLi article again: 
“While it’s evident that some of the books in question did have errors, that’s irrelevant to the manner in which XXXXX solicited business. Harassment has no place in the business model of a reputable service, especially when it escalates to invading someone’s home and personal life.”   (Read the report: ALLi Watchdog Report  )

well, we're writers -
we can do this, right? :-)
But this tale of harassment does not end there!

I had a nice comment left for the book, to which I responded with a thank you and a mention of the above 'issue', saying something like there were not as many errors as someone had implied. To which, with hasty speed (within an hour or so!) this XXX Bully answered that I had 'a febrile imagination and should stick to fiction'. I answered politely but drew attention to ALLi... and would you believe it? He came back with a comment that blatantly called me a liar! (I assume he meant I was telling porky-pies about there not being as many typos as he claims?)

However, Amazon stepped in and these latest comments have been removed. I expect I'll get another tirade having posted this article though...

So why have I said all that?
First off: don't respond to these sort of 'troll' comments on sites like Amazon or Goodreads or review blogs. I have only done so because a) attention needs to be drawn to this bully so authors know to block him, and b) I am an established author and 'daggers and hooks may poke my books, but bullies will never hurt me' (to slightly change a well-known phrase). Trolls like this thrive on getting responses - ignore them and eventually they shamble off to sulk in a corner.

Here at Discovering Diamonds we NEVER EVER trash a book in our reviews!
Yes, we might not review one that has a lot of typos, but usually the book could also do with some more technical editing and further polishing. We do occasionally mention typos or bloopers, but always in a constructive manner. (Typos in good, well-written novels often don't get noticed by readers anyway!)  There is nothing wrong with being honest in a constructive manner - but everything wrong with being snide and nasty!

putting errors into perspective
And just as a comparison: I ran this article through an entire grammar and style check for Word.Doc using ALL the available features. Apparently there are over 100 errors in the above text. Did you spot them? 

No, thought not.... that's because the check included very minor issues that are completely irrelevant. No sensible human reader would notice, let alone care… 
(But if you do spot them, I apologise for ruining your reading experience and quite understand that you’ve now unsubscribed from this blog and have smashed your computer in sheer frustration at my appalling writing….)

* * * 
So, what is YOUR view about typos and bloopers in novels - or the dreadful people who leave a 1 star comment on Amazon and say something like '1 star because the packaging the book came in was torn'? 

Or maybe you'd like to have a general rant about reviewers....  (keep it polite those please)

Note: all typos in this article are there by accidental design... 


  1. I, too, have seen the disgraceful tactics and reviews by this 'bully' and am glad that ALLi have taken him to task. His comments say nothing about the story, the style of writing and I don't believe he has actually read the book in question but has merely run it through his 'program' and highlighted the apparant errors for his own purposes and gratification. As a reviewer here on DDREvs, I concentrate on content, style and, above all, the story holding my interest and, if I'm honest, if the story is gripping I often miss any bloopers. Which is more a testament *for* the book than against it. There is a lesson to be learned, though: as we deal largely with Indie authors who do not have the resources to employ professional proof/beta readers, then it is well worth making absolutely sure that as many errors as possible are eliminated by the time they reachy the final stage. In your case, Helen, I can only imagine how galling it must have been to discover that a professional publishing company had not done their job.

    1. It is galling (putting it mildly!) Richard, but on the other hand this poorly edited traditional published book of mine has helped put typos into perspective for me (and therefore for Discovering Diamonds). Yes editing is important. Yes producing a classy, as error-free as possible final copy is essential... but a few, small, obviously overlooked errors in a well-written very readable book are not a reason to reject or rubbish a book. One that has obviously not been edited at all, is littered on every page with many typos, or is poorly written anyway is a different matter, of course. (And sadly they do exist in the indie world of writing). Constructive criticism is fine. Rude, deliberate nastiness is not.

  2. This is awful! Personally, I think it is really rude! Sometimes, I notice the mistakes in books but most of the time they are really minor (and, let's face it, my grammar classes are at least a part of the reason because I had to take them multiple times :)) But if the book is good, I overlook those small mistakes and often do not mention them in my reviews.
    And I realise that I often make mistakes of my own, in essays for example or reviews, because I when I start writing I just write, and as was said, it is hard to notice errors in your own writing because you always know what exactly you wanted to tell!

    1. Thank you Kaja. I think most authors welcome constructive criticism, and _genuine_errors are good to know about, but sent privately in a polite email, not as a 1 or 2 star tirade on Amazon, and certainly not in the context of touting for business!

  3. I couldn't agree with you more! To me, as a reader, if the story holds my interest, and the narrative is gripping I can overlook a few errors. I have seen the 'gentleman' (term used very loosely) attack you and other Indie writers - all in the name of drumming up business for himself. His trolling and bullying tactics could do irreparable damage to what could be the budding career of a debut author. I know you have deleted his name from your post, but I do know who you are speaking of and I have warned my Indie author friends privately of his existence and tactics.

    1. Thank you Kelly. I think one of the things that also makes me mad, in this instance, is that there is nothing I can do about these errors, which, again if this person was genuine about his reasons he would know and understand. And yes, such tactics can shatter a new author's confidence.

  4. Well done Helen. I know a good life counsellor should Mr R**** ever realise that he has a problem with 'getting a life.' Meanwhile the best thing to do is to not respond to his sad approaches but to draw his behaviour to the attention of appropriate bodies like the ALLi, the SoA and Amazon.

    1. Thank you Haydn. I completely agree about not rising to the bait with this person, or others like him - but authors do need to be warned and some of us, as established authors with a firm following are in a position to draw attention to this sort of unacceptable behaviour. Fortunately, as well, ALLi is on the case...

  5. Very interesting article, Helen. Finding typos is a maddening experience. I can't pay a professional editor, but I find numerous sets of eyes to read over my MS before publication. I consider myself to be a perfectionist, but those who read for me are even more so! Even so, I know there will be typos, and I am horror-struck when I find them after publication. I have no idea how any book can ever be absolutely perfect, to be honest. How does finding typos in others' books make me feel? I just smile, and sigh, and whisper a silent "whew, at least it's not just me." There is a bit of camaraderie in finding them (even more so if they are traditionally published). As you said, if the book is engrossing, I won't even notice. If I do, I shrug and move on. A good author is a good author, and a few errors here and there simply serve to confirm the author's humanity. :-)

    1. I think the difference between ignoring typos - and for us here at DDRevs at least - is whether a novel is presented with obviously missed errors or obviously not edited at all. Page after page littered with bloopers, spelling errors, incorrect punctuation etc very clearly has not had a final proof read, but where small, 'picky' typos occur they have obviously just been overlooked. There is a huge difference between the two when reviewing or leaving a comment about a book!

    2. Definitely! Was it Richard who wrote the wonderful article here about the nuances of reading for a review? I believe it was. You all do such a wonderful job, and every interaction I have had with members of DD have been exceedingly professional.

    3. Yes, it was Richard - he is an absolute Diamond! And thank you - we try our best! :-)

    4. Thank you Stephanie and Helen!!! I spent all my working life in offices, hoping that the 'ideal job' would come along and now I'm into retirement, it has!! It is an absolute pleasure working with Helen and the team and an honour for me to be associated with so many great authors, many of them friends albeirt 'within the ether'!

  6. Just saw this now, Helen - rotten for you and very frustrating I'm sure. There were errors in the Capercaillie produced version of Turn of the Tide - I was aware of them because a friend (good at such things) had checked, post publication. There were 11 that we knew of and some kind person told Amazon, and they threatened to remove the book if the errors weren't sorted... I found them in the e-file and fixed them - but 11 in 102,000 words! Really! Anyway that was a lengthy preamble to tell you that your 50 comes out at .045% - yes, less than a tenth of a %.

  7. 1% of 110,000 would be 550 errors...

  8. oops, delete last comment 1% would be 1100 errors

  9. Thanks Margaret - that low % is very heartwarming as it really puts things into context. And, apologies, I've left your error blooper up just to show that errors happen - everyone makes mistakes!

    It is interesting, however, that this pedantic pest of a 'review' person who enjoys trashing good books has not said a word against my latest (When the Mermaid Sings). Given that the text was checked with a fine-toothed comb I can only assume that this person has kept quiet because there were not errors to moan about! It just shows, though, that he IS only out to trash books, not give supportive reviews.


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