Question- how many mistakes should people find before you upload a fresh copy of your book?
Typos are the bane of every book. They multiply in the dark, like cockroaches. Best-selling author Colleen Hoover once said her editing team introduced eight errors into one of her books while applying revisions. As an author, you proofread until you’re cross-eyed, hand the book over to one or more proofreaders and your beta team, and still they creep in.
The difference between self-published books and traditionally published titles is that you are not stuck with the typo once it’s published. You can correct errors at any time and upload a new file. This is both wonderful and awful. It’s great to be able to fix your book, but it also means that “published” doesn’t mean “finished.” And while it’s simple to correct a typo in a manuscript, it can be onerous to transform your updated book into all the files you need and upload them to multiple providers.
Currently I upload to nine distribution platforms, each with their own file requirements. Even with advances in formatting technology that make updating the files easier than ever, It’s a lot of work. If you pay someone to format for you, it can be cost-prohibitive to order up new files every time a reader emails you to point out that a period on page 173 should be a comma or that your book says “two” where it should say “too.”
Today, Stacy Bender (author of Ursa Kane) messaged me to ask how many mistakes people should find before uploading a corrected manuscript. The answer is, it depends: Ask yourself, how egregious are the mistakes and where are they in the book? Are they true mistakes or grammar nazi* directives? How much time do you have?
One mistake on the first page is worth a new copy because it is a glaring red flag in your Look Inside. Readers will assume that the book is riddled with errors and wasn’t edited or proofed, even though that may not be the case. Always correct errors that occur in the first 10% of your books (the typical online sample) immediately.
Everything else is a value judgement. If you have five minor errors, it’s worth correcting no matter where they are. Fewer, but more egregious errors may require fixing immediately. If you do as I did in Drool Baby and accidentally reveal the killer’s name 20 pages early, stop whatever you are doing,—even if hot pizza just arrived at the door—and fix it. If more than one person points out the same thing, chances are many more people noticed it and are bugged by it, so it’s worth correcting.
On the other hand, If you did something that offends grammar purists, it may not be a mistake on your part. Some people will insist that contractions have no place in fiction, even in dialogue. Some people are excited by sentence fragments and overused elipses. Creative punctuation or patterns of speech intended to convey deeper meaning will always have their detractors. In such cases, consider each instance carefully.
Some you chalk up to operating by a different set of conventions. Others, especially when using creative punctuation or patterns of speech, are more serious. It may be that your intent is not clear in the choices you made and your readers find the result distracting to the point it pulls them out of immersion in your book. When this happens, your creative license is working against you. Then it’s time for some tough love. Is there a way to reframe your phrasing or punctuation to make your intent clear and distraction free?
Whatever decision you make, be gracious to the reader who pointed out the mistake. Whether you agree with them or not, they care enough about your book to take the time to tell you about it. Okay, some folks do have darker motives, but you can’t always tell who they are, so always err on the side of being gracious. Well-meaning (even if cranky) fans will appreciate it, and it will piss off the nasty sort. ;D
*I adore and rely on my grammar nazis, but there are times I don’t agree with them.