Sep 11 2012

Even “traditionally” published books have errors

Posted by Mathias in General Things, Good Stuff

People like to knock self-published authors, those brave souls that have decided to try something other than traditional publishing, with broad strokes that lump every self-published author into the category of garbage.  Yes, most of what is self-published is horrid trash.  Bad plots.  Poorly contrived characters.  Not to mention continuity errors, misspellings, and awkward sentences galore!  Sometimes self-published books overcome these problems, Fifity Shades of Grey for one (though don’t ask me how or why), but it is not common.  The crap that is self-published gives everything else a bad name.

But the sad truth is that, for all the bashing of self-published authors who rush their works onto Amazon.com without proper editing and proof reading, traditionally published books are rife with errors as well.  Yes, they are often farer and fewer between, but they are still quite common.  Most traditionally books I read have errors that I spot easily.  So no way a “professional” editor couldn’t.  Usually it’s just punctuation or a cumbersome sentence that takes three or four passes to understand.  These errors stare me in the face all the time, and I wonder how on God’s green Earth they made it past the supposed filters.

For example, right now I am reading The Elvenbane by Andre Norton, Mercedes Lackey.  Want an example of an error?  On page 45:

“As she reached the end of the hall, another set of silver-inlaid, white-lacquered doors swung open before she could touch them, and she stepped forward and paused on the lintel of the cavernous dining hall.”

Did you see it?  No?  Ok, I’ll tell you.  It is the entire concept of pausing “on the lintel” that is off.  Of course, how many people actually know what a lintel is?  Let’s face it, this is just one of those $10 words we authors like to throw around from time to time.

One cannot pause on a lintel because the lintel is the spanning member OVER the door to carry the load of the building above it (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/lintel or http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lintel_(architecture) ).  Thus, if to be believed, Alara (that’s who is doing the action in this scene) is actually not walking through the door.  Rather, she walks over it, stands on top of it, and pauses there before continuing.  That simply doesn’t make sense.  But there it is, plain as day in a professionally edited and traditionally published book.

The scene should have been written, “… she stepped forward and paused under the lintel  …”

What about clumsy writing?  Well, The Elvenbane has that too.  From page 347:

“She continued with the entire story of the situation, beginning with Rovy’s bullying of Keman and Shana and ending with Keman’s running away from the second time.”

The entire story of the situation“?  Really?  That’s a little redundant.  The story is the situation and visa versa.  You would just say, “the entire story” or “She continued to relate the situation …”

The funny thing is, I have seen people knock self-published authors for far more minor awkwardness than that!  Look, we all make mistakes.  And I’m not knocking The Elvenbane for these, and other errors, within its pages.  I’m just saying that I rarely find a perfect book that is 100% free of errors.  And this just goes to prove my point.

Now, if we could just get self-publishing authors to hire editors before publishing … Sure, there will still be errors, but the quality will dramatically improve.  Problem is, convincing them to plop down $500 or more for a book that will probably never sell more than a dozen copies.

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