Sunday, May 11, 2008

Sunday Salon: Typos and The Next Book

I spent time this morning polishing off my review of Chelsea Quinn Yarbro's Lost Prince, a book that I finished last night. The cover is not the most attractive, at least not to me, and probably not one that would attract my attention at first glance. The story between the covers, however, was one that definitely held my attention.

As a frequent reader of advanced reader editions, I occasionally do run into typesetting errors. Because the book is unfinished, it is easier to dismiss such mistakes and move past them without further thought. Sometimes these mistakes are corrected before the final product comes out, but not always. Or so I have heard. It is more difficult to ignore such mistakes when made in the final copy, the one sold to the public, especially when the errors are more than just a few. If the errors are minor and the story is good, I sometimes do not notice the mistakes at all in a marketed copy, but it is hard not to notice when they are so glaring and frequent, as they were in this book.

The story itself was interesting enough to get me past the errors in this instance, but they were sometimes glaring ones: names misspelled or misplaced, an entire section printed twice, "rn" turned into "m", an offense which made me giggle a couple of times in the beginning, but had me rolling my eyes as it continued throughout the rest of the book. Such mistakes can pull a reader out of the story, out of the action, and dampen one's enthusiasm for a book. I find it sad, really. This is a book I enjoyed reading and think others who like a bit of the old fashioned kind of horror novel might like too. However, some of those readers will be turned off immediately by the errors and may not bother with it at all.

I will be posting my review of this book in the near future, with only a minor mention of my complaint. Had the book been an ARE, I would have been less likely to say anything at all. I felt it best to focus more on the story itself and the writer's skill in this case. It really is a book worth reading for those who might find the subject matter to their liking.

What do you think? Do typographical errors and the like immediately turn you away from a book or do your persevere if the story is engrossing enough? For those who write reviews, how do you address this issue, if at all? I would love to hear your thoughts on the subject.

Earlier in the week I posted a review for Jordan Dane's No One Heard Her Scream, a romantic suspense novel, which is both sexy and fun. I also reviewed The Cold Dish by Craig Johnson, a new-to-me mystery author who is going straight onto my favorites list.

As for today's reading, I am about to begin reading G.G. Vandagriff's The Arthurian Omen, a book I received through LibraryThing’s Early Reviewer Program. The premise sounds fascinating, a lost fifth century manuscript, murder, a puzzle to solve, all promising suspense. I have yet to read the other reviews posted about this particular book, wanting to read the book myself first, however, I have caught snippets and seen ratings which have lowered my expectations a bit.

I will probably not delay too much longer in reading The Raw Shark Texts by Steven Hall, a novel a coworker loaned me earlier this week. She asked that I read it so that I can tell her whether she liked it or not.

Recently added to my TBR collection (if you have read any of these, please do share your thoughts--without spoilers, of course.):
Willful Creatures by Aimee Bender
American Woman by Susan Choi
Down to a Sunless Sea by Mathias B. Freese
20th Century Ghosts by Joe Hill
The Polysyllabic Spree by Nick Hornby
House-Keeping vs. The Dirt by Nick Hornby
What I Loved by Siri Hustvedt
Admit One: A Journey into Film by Emmett James
Absolute Friends by John Le Carre
Nefertiti by Michelle Moran
Killing Rommel by Steven Pressfield
The Rottweiler by Ruth Rendell
Devil's Cape by Rob Rogers
The Miracle at Speedy Motors by Alexander McCall Smith
Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
The Ten-Year Nap by Meg Wolitzer

Now to start on my next book . . . Happy reading!


  1. The Arthurian Omen sounds exactly my sort of book. I shall have to look out for it. As to the issue of typographical errors I have to admit that they really do worry me if the book has hit the bookstalls. There was one (not the only one, but the one that really got to me) in the first of Robin Hobb's new trilogy where an apostrophe had slipped and become a comma. It took me three reads through to make sense of what I was reading and work out what had happened. I wonder how much of this is down to the pressure to get a new book by well known authors out every year?

  2. I don't read a lot of ARCs, so when I do find typos, I tend to think of them as careless editing. They really jump out at me, but are so seldom and usually minor that I rarely mention them in reviews. Once I read a book where a word was spelled as its homonym not once, but three or four times! The first time I found it amusing, then it just became annoying and made the book seem less well-written to me.

  3. I tend to ignore typos in ARCs assuming that they will be taken care of before final printing. I can't remember ever putting down a book because of typos but I have actually sent an email to a publisher telling them that the author deserves better editing (I cc:d the author). I never heard back from the publisher, but the author truly appreciated my feedback to the publisher.

    I'll be posting my review of Arthurian Omen later tonight. I'll add a link to yours when you post it. I look forward to hearing what you think.

  4. Ann - I wouldn't be surprised if the push to get books out faster plays part in the poor editing we are seeing more and more in published books. I wondered if perhaps Lost Prince was actually scanned being that it was a reprint of a book published over two decades ago--some of the errors could have been a result of that.

    Jeane - I find it easier to overlook typos in ARE's, but not so much in the finished product, which was the case of Lost Prince. It's hard to ignore so many errors, especially knowing no one is going back to correct them as it is the final product. Some of the errors can be quite amusing, I agree.

    Terri - It's too bad Lost Prince was final copy. I imagine the publisher has heard about the errors time and time again from those who actually paid for the book.

    I'm glad that in your experience with the ARC you mention that the author was appreciative. I imagine he or she would not want to put out an imperfect product if he or she can help it.

    I look forward to reading your review of The Arthurian Omen (after I finish reading my copy)! I'll be sure and save your review so that I can link it to my own once I publish it to my blog.

  5. Since I am a walking, talking typo, I can't say! It'd be like the pot calling the kettle black. :)

  6. Typos are a huge turn-off for me. If the book was really good, I'd keep going, but knowing in advance that a book has a lot of typos is a deal-breaker for me.

    I just read What I Loved this week, and posted about it here. Don't worry, no spoilers. :)

  7. In my last two blog posts, I observed a lot of typos. Infact I have written rot for rut! I think I will leave it like that as I suppose my mimd has started rotting!


    I wish I could get ARCs. No one sends me here and in India, the concept is unknown!

  8. I had only read one ARE so far, and definitely agree with you that they contained more typo errors than anything. But knowing that it's not an actual copy, I'm able to 'close one eye' and let it be but if the problem insists with the published copy, then I just feel that the publisher need to do something about it.

    However, sometimes, if the story is good and hold my attention, I wouldn't notice the errors at all.

  9. J. Kaye - Haha Sometimes I feel that way too. :-) I guess I just expect more from a published book that hopefully had an editor go through it with a fine tooth comb before it hit the market.

    Julie - If I were buying the book with my own money, it would probably be a deal breaker for me too. Minor ones are okay, but not when there are so many.

    Thank you for pointing me in the direction of your review of What I Loved. I am glad to hear that you enjoyed it. Andi was where I heard about it first too. :-)

    Gautami - Sometimes when I am searching through my old blog posts I find typos. They always make me cringe and I can't help but correct them.

    I wish you had access to ARC's too.

    Melody - It's easier to gloss over errors when you know it's not the final product, isn't it? I don't often notice minor errors in a book that has really grabbed me, or if I do, I ignore them, but it's hard to ignore when there are so many as there were in this book. :-(

  10. An occasional typo or misspelling doesn't generally pull me out of the story and makes me feel somewhat superior. Continuous mistakes make me crazy.

    The Arthurian Omen does sound intriguing. I hope that your lowered expectations only make you enjoy the book more.

  11. It seems to me that typos in published works are becoming more common. Either that, or I'm just noticing them more. They bug me but not enough to make me stop reading. Not yet.

    The one major one I can still remember was in a Dean Koontz book. He was talking about blood alcohol content - that's what cops measure when it comes to drunk driving suspects. In Koontz's book, he said someone's BAC was 1.9% What he meant to say was .19%. Anything above a .40 makes you a tad bit dead, so you can see why the mistake jumped out at me.


  12. Carrie K - After awhile they get rather annoying, don't they?

    I am enjoying The Arthurian Omen--and making good progress in it. It's a relatively fast book to read. I think lowering my expectations was a good idea in this case, honestly.

    CJ - It seems that way, doesn't it? I wondered too if it was just because I notice them more or if perhaps there really was an increase in the amount of errors being missed.

    That's too funny about the Dean Koontz book. That's probably something that would jump out at me too.

  13. I don't read a lot of ARCs either, but I feel like that would get so annoying. I'd want to call the author up (or the editor or whosever job it is) and tell them to straighten up and fly right. Especially if my untrained eye can catch the mistakes.

  14. It depends on how much the typos distract me from the story. Usually it's not typos that do that sort of thing though. It's stuff like in a recent S.F. novel I read, where the world used a system of telling time that had 32 divisions. The author explained it twice, in nearly exactly the same terms, about 50 pages apart. Or another book where the author had one of the main characters "giggling" instead of laughing the entire book. In other words, copy-editing issues more than type-setting issues.

  15. "Such mistakes can pull a reader out of the story, out of the action, and dampen one's enthusiasm for a book."

    So true. What bothers me even more than typos are translation mistakes, and unfortunately I've come across a good share of those. Some are so serious and so laughable that they make me want to put the book down.

    I hope you enjoy Nick Hornby!

  16. As an editor at a legal publisher, I know that there are many times copy is not read "word for word" by a human being at any time in the publishing process outside of the initial production of the raw copy. Computers are depended on for most of the work, and a very quick visual scan is done by a person. The quality of that quick visual scan varies greatly depending on the skill of the person. It's actually not something that comes easily to most, especially in this day of email and text messaging when people are used to seeing misspellings/abreviations and thinking nothing of it. Companies can't afford to pay people to read every word anymore and still compete in the marketplace. Very sad, but true. The "rn"/"m" conversion sounds suspiciously like a machine scan of raw copy to me.

    I haven't read "Killing Rommel" but Steven Pressfield has written two of my favorite books, "Last of the Amazons" and "Gates of Fire". I'm guessing this latest one will be fabulous! I can't wait to see what you think!


  17. I love that! Your co-worker wants you to read the book to tell her if she loked it or not! :)
    But some books are that way, aren't they? You finish it thinking, huh?
    Your new TBR's look fabulous! I have What I Have Loved on my wishlist and am looking forward to getting it and also what you think of it.

  18. Looking over your TBRs, I see one that's been in my stack for quite a long time: American Woman by Susan Choi. We'll see who gets to read it first! The two Hornby books are essay collections, aren't they? I just love him. I read and reviewed The Ten-Year Nap for MotherTalk a couple of months ago, and thought it was very good.

    Typos - and even more often, use of incorrect homophones - in published books irritate the heck out of me. Spell-check only catches this stuff if it's actually spelled wrong, not when it's used incorrectly.

  19. Hi Wendy!
    I just got No One Heard Her Scream in the mail. I can't wait to read it. Thanks so much for your generosity!

  20. This makes me feel so much better. I received a review copy that had a lot of writing errors. Simple things really but it was making me frustrated. I put the book down and read another and now I feel like I am ready to go back to the other book. Glad I'm not the only one who feels this way.

  21. Nikki - I feel terrible for the author, having her work put out there like that.

    Reading - Exactly. When they begin to be a distraction, then there is a big problem. I think the instances you mention would annoy me as well. I just finished reading a book where I was going to scream if the author referred to one character as the "bigamous husband" one more time. Maybe because the book had so many characters, the author thought I'd forget.

    Nymeth - I would probably miss those all together since English is my only language, but I can see how that would be quite bothersome.

    It was because of you I picked up those Nick Hornby books!

    Lezlie - Thank you so much for the information. It makes sense really, especially in today's society where machines have taken the place of humans in many respects. Convenience and cost savings is very much the motto these days over quality.

    My husband and I were thinking that too about the "rn"/"m" conversions.

    Thank you too for mentioning that you have enjoyed some of Steven Pressfield's other books. I am really looking forward to reading "Killing Rommell." I was quite impressed with the effort the author has gone to to market the book. He has a documentary on his website that looks very professional.

    Jaimie - Isn't that funny about my coworker? My boss did something similar to me a few months ago. I must be the go to person for determining whether a book is good or not--at least in my office. LOL

    Florinda - I ran across American Woman at the book festival and almost got it, but then decided I was already bringing home too many books. When I saw American Woman on the remainder table for $4 at the bookstore, I caved and picked up a copy.

    It was you who read The Ten-Year Nap! I couldn't remember, but I kept looking at the title thinking I was supposed to get it for some reason. :-)

    I love it when my Word spell check thinks a word is correct and then the blogger one things it is wrong.

    Jaimie - That was fast! I only mailed it on Saturday. I hope you enjoy it.

  22. Samantha - Sometimes when the errors get to be too much, it helps to set the book aside for a little while, doesn't it?

  23. Wendy, I am with you on being absolutely annoyed with typos - could be that I teach English and correct comma and homonym errors all day - but still . . . and to that note, check out this link. . .

  24. Typos can drive me crazy! If they are minor ones I can just continue reading with little distraction but if there are a lot of them it will affect my overall enjoyment of the book. I have actually docked a book a half point for annoying errors. The one I'm thinking of was kind of a cross between a spelling error and a language thing. The story was set in Japan and used the Japanese word in italics throughout the story instead of an English translation but the problem was it wasn't spelt right and because I know what it should've sounded like, every time I read it it really jarred and dragged me out of the story!
    Heck I'm always pointing out the funny English spellings you find here to H. ;)

    As for your new books, have fun with Hornby's column! The only other one I've read is 'What I Loved' which was great! I read it and Hustvedt's 2 other previous novels BB (before blogging) and enjoyed all of them. I really want to read WIL again someday.

  25. Typos and errors do detract from the story for me - at least if there are a lot of them. If it's excessive then I will mention it in my review. One of the books I read earlier this year - Terminal Event - was like that. It was a great story and good writing, but the typos and errors detracted a bit from it. I'd still recommend the book, but I didn't enjoy it as much as maybe I would have without all the typos.

  26. Oh my gosh, poor editing is my pet peeve. I overlook it in ARCs, even though it's annoying, because I know (assume) it will be fixed. Typos, misspellings, mistakes, etc. in a non-ARC make me crazy. They interrupt the story, jolting me out of the coma I go into when I read. I absolutely do bring it up in my reviews, because that kind of thing irritates the heck out of me. Maybe other people don't mind it, but I do!

  27. Oh my goodness, yes! Typos and grammar really bug me, but I figured that was just because I am a wannabe editor. They really do take my attention away from the content of what I'm reading though. I am sometimes amazed at what makes it through the editing process.
    As regards your TBR list, the two Hornby titles have been sitting on my shelf for over a year, waiting, waiting for me to pick them up.
    There are just too many things to read, and often the ones I buy get relegated to the bottom as the ones that I've borrowed from the library need to be returned by a certain date.

  28. Yep, typos and editing errors drive me nuts -- especially when they're in the final copy and/or repetitive. They annoy me so much, in fact, that when I'm reading a final copy (in ARCs, I do my best to ignore them, although they'll always interrupt the reading flow), I find myself marking the mistakes as well as the great quotes. The most distinctive mistake I've ever found was in a Harlan Coben book. On one page, a character stood up from a bed, and then walked across the room and stood up from the bed, again. Oopsy. In that same book, one of the characters had blue eyes at the beginning of the book and then later . . . the same character had brown eyes. So, the editing on that book was just plain awful. Glaring errors are definitely the most irritating.

  29. Typos really drive me nuts. It was interesting to read Lezlie's comment above - it's a shame that publishers are placing less importance on grammatical accuracy in the books they are publishing.

    Of course I'm not one to talk, unless I really concentrate, my grammar can be horrendous.

  30. Andi - Thank you for the link! As an instructor, I imagine you are much more tuned into stuff like this.

    Tanabata - I think that would annoy me too. I guess it's fortunate for the authors that who use other languages mixed in with their English text that I don't speak or read another language (I sure wish I did though!).

    I am looking forward to reading Hornby's too essay collections very much as well as Hustvedt's book. I am glad you enjoyed what you read by her!

    Debi - They really can be distracting, can't they? I'm sorry to hear you had a similar experience with Terminal Event.

    Susan - I love how you describe your reading--as being in a coma. That happens to me when I am especially engrossed in a book too. Too many or too big of mistakes can interrupt the process.

    Shonna - It is sad that a more personal touch to editing has been lost with the advent of technology.

    I know just what you mean about books waiting on the shelf for long periods of time. I admit that one of the reasons I do not use the library is because I have so many of my own already to read. I don't want them to feel short shifted. As it is, I've been reading so many review books lately that I've hardly touched any of my own books.

    Nancy - If I'd been reading the Coben book, I probably would have done a double take over the character's standing up from the bed, but I might not pick up on the eye color change. Those are pretty big mistakes regardless. Maybe he wears contacts of varying colors? ;-)

    Alisia - You make a good point. My grammar isn't always up to par either.

  31. Hi Wendy, I wouldn't say my grammar is fantastic but I do appreciate a well written book....

    I haven't read any of the books you listed in your new pile but I have seen Nick Hornby's book in the bookstore for some time. :D

  32. I feel like such a dunce just realizing this (or thinking I'm realizing it), but when you say TBR that doesn't necessarily mean those books are now in your library, right? If I'm wrong you must have one freakin' massive library! :) Anyway, I notice typos as well but am really only bothered by them when it can change the meaning--which has happened a few times.

  33. Alice - Mine grammar isn't always on the mark either, so you aren't alone.

    Trish - When I refer to TBR, I am talking about books I actually own. I refer to the list of books I want to read but don't yet have on hand as my wish list. The spare bedroom in my house has turned into a TBR library of sorts as that's where I keep most of my TBR books now.

  34. Oh my goodness! Alright, well there goes my theory! :)


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