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Friday Midday Links: eBook Quality Issues and Borders eBooks Alerts

On Tuesday (I think it was Tuesday), I downloaded the teaser chapters of Connie Brockway’s Amazon Montlake book.  Amazon Montlake, you’ll recall, is Amazon’s romance imprint.  The teaser chapters are designed to promote Brockway’s book and encourage you to buy the title when it is released in November.  I am excited about Brockway’s releases.  I’ve been awaiting Giles’ story since forever and I am hopeful that The Other Guy’s Bride will be just as good as it’s predecessor, As You Desire.

That said, Amazon Montlake’s cover and then the title were in auspicious starts.  The cover, particularly the font, recalls an 80s contemporary and the title doesn’t have a historical feel, but a chick lit feel.  But setting that aside is the astonishing bad quality of the teaser chapters.

Update:  It has been pointed out that the teaser chapters are unedited. I don’t know if that changes how I feel about this, but I felt like I should point it out.

This is Amazon’s own product and frankly, mobipocket is really just a container of html files.  The cleaner the html file, the better the end product.  (Remember this point for the next part of this post). One would think that Amazon and all of its tech folks would put out a proper ebook, right? Particularly for a book that is intended to launch its line in a crowded market?

Let’s set aside some of the editing problems I think the chapters had and just focus on the formatting.

  • Random indents

The Other Guy's Bride  indentation

  • Inconsistent formatting

The Other Guy's Bride inconsistent indentation

  • Underlining where there should have been italicizationThe Other Guy's Bride editorial suggestion

And then this completely bizarre passage which I believe is an editorial suggestion:

The Other Guy's Bride editorial

Then there is the actual content.  The first couple pages contains this line.

Because aside from not knowing if the setting sun would be bright enough to cover his scramble for that depression, he had no idea if the linen would burn or how fast it would if it did

Shouldn’t that be aside from not knowing if the setting sun would be dark enough to cover his scramble?

As reader S. McNulty points out there are several continuity problems:

So what’s his name? Is it James Owen or James Owens? It changed by paragraph. Also, with the secondary male, Pomfrey. He was a colonel. Then he was a captain. Then a colonel again. And which is it? Colonel Lord Pomfrey or Lord Colonel Pomfrey? I know there’s a fun story here but the editing problems and the continuity problems kept taking me out of it. I hope the book is still in draft and that these issues can be addressed before the November 1, 2011 release date. I would really like to read the finished product.

None of this is Brockway’s fault, of course, but it does say something about Montlake and Amazon’s commitment to quality publishing. This piece is not ready for public release yet.

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Remember what I said about clean html?  It’s something that needs to be drummed into self publishers and those who deem themselves to be publishers.  BookEnds is publishing Christie Craig’s Dorchester books.  As Dhympna reports, the production quality is really poor.

Divorced, Desperate and Delicious 2

Divorced, Desperate and Delicious 3

 

Divorced, Desperate and Delicious 4

She has more screenshots but I figured this post was getting image heavy.  Any one who is in the publishing business whether it is Random House (who is notorious for these kinds of errors) or Amazon or an agency publishing books for their clients.  Don’t forget the Lora Leigh/Berkley debacle.   Some of these problems occur during the OCR process (turning the screen image into text) and some of them occur due to html problems.  My suggestion for authors digitizing their backlist? Go and pirate your own book. You will likely find a well proofed copy of your own book that will have pristine html code.

The question is, of course, does any of this really matter? Are we making mountains out of molehills?  Dean Wesley Smith, self publishing advice giver who proclaims that one should never ever ever give percentages of your work away, doesn’t want to hear about typoes from readers. He is going to write 100 stories in one year and publish them (although what does publish mean here?)

#1… Please, I know I will make typos and such.  I don’t care and please don’t tell me. Thanks. If you have trouble reading something with a few typos, please don’t read these stories. There is no such thing as a perfect story and I ain’t trying to write one. Or 100 for that matter.

****

Kobo is taking over the Borders ebookstore.  If you have bought even one book from Borders, go to this link and start the transfer of your books. It’s painless but important.  You will need your Borders username and password.

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Amazon has disallowed tagging for digital books. Some cry conspiracy by Amazon and the Big 6 because Amazon has an interest in pushing down the self publishers. OHREALLY?  Another author posits that this was taken away because Amazon was aware of how blatantly authors were using tagging to game the system.

I have no more data than anyone else so I won’t go so far as to claim no doubt but it’s my educated guess that tags stopped being a reflection of what readers thought and just a cheap way for authors to game the system. So Amazon killed them, at least in their original form.

****

This link has images of Jane Austen’s original manuscripts.  She edited herself.  A lot.

Jane Austen MS page

****

Finally, do you sometimes get the impression that cover artists are just, well, messing with us?  Is that a penis poking out of your pants or are you just the product of a photoshop job gone bad?

hiddenpeens

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

31 Comments

  1. becca
    Jun 03, 2011 @ 11:16:15

    It is possible to get inexpensive books well edited. I just picked up the Jennifer Crusie bundle from Amazon (4 books for $10), published by Mira. I’m through the first three books, and haven’t found a production error yet. I think Random House and the other Agency publishers are just being lazy (and greedy)

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  2. Suzy K
    Jun 03, 2011 @ 11:19:11

    Two comments

    #1: Amazon disallowing tagging of ebooks. Perhaps they are also concerned that readers will start tagging books #NeedsEditing #ProofreaderNeeded #WTF #RedoOCR #TYPOS_GALORE

    #2: possible bad photoshopping of covers. There was a book titled “Subliminal Seduction” that covered this topic. You’d see a glass with ice where the cubes had p*n*s heads or you’d see b**b shaped ice. I look at these covers the same way… selling sex & getting attention. They got attention here, right?

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  3. Angela
    Jun 03, 2011 @ 11:24:12

    Regarding ebook quality: Would we accept that kind of bad formatting in a paper book? Or would we think that it was unprofessional and cheap quality. I know I wouldn’t pay full price for a paper book that’s formatted like that. I most likely wouldn’t even pay clearance rates for it.

    I don’t think we’re asking for too much to have typos and errors at a minimum. I think we all realize that typos and errors happen, that the author and/or editors are human and mistakes will make it through…it’s when a book is bombarded with them that it’s frustrating.

    Formatting issues themselves take you out of the story. They pull your eyes away and can make things uncomfortable – at least for me. And I don’t think that’s something any author wants. When I’m out of the story I’m much more likely to notice other things that irritate me.

    Plus, I’ll think twice before I buy anything by that author/publisher again.

    To take the situation and flip it around on myself; working in a legal and financial environment is probably the least error-friendly place. I’m getting paid to do a job, and to do it error free. In a place where a single omitted word could cost millions…well, it’s just unacceptable. So, essentially, I have an editor. Everything I send out gets proofed at least 3 times, by at least 3 different people.

    This is my job.

    Writing is an author’s job. I expect your best effort, every single time. I expect you to have someone look over your work and make sure that you haven’t missed anything (it’s easy to read over our own mistakes)

    I’ve heard some say that author’s are just telling stories, and nothing else is important. But it’s important to me. If all that other stuff (grammar, typos, formatting) get in my way, I’m not enjoying the story.

    Enough of that rant, I suppose.

    You ended this on a great note Jane. I laughed when I looked at those pictures :P

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  4. abbe
    Jun 03, 2011 @ 11:55:11

    I have a pretty good eye for typos but they don’t really bother me unless there are a substantial number of them. That quote from Smith really irks me though because he makes it sound like he’s not even going to try to put out a clean manuscript. You should care if there are typos. It doesn’t have to ruin your life but the quality of the end product is important and should be taken seriously.

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  5. md
    Jun 03, 2011 @ 12:00:06

    If you’re a lazy editor of your own writing, I have to assume you’re a lazy writer, too.

    Thanks for the warning, Dean Wesley Smith. I won’t be buying your work.

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  6. lucy
    Jun 03, 2011 @ 12:02:40

    I’ve read brockway’s teaser and even I found mistakes that made me go wth. I don’t notice mistakes that much in books, but when I do, it really takes me out of the story. But even though I dislike the cover, the title, and all the errors, I will probably still buy the book. There is an interesting story underneath it all.

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  7. Charming
    Jun 03, 2011 @ 12:02:50

    I mind typos less than formatting errors, because yeah, it’s easy to miss a typo (and especially your own) but even the most cursory reading of the e-text would catch the messy formatting. Meaning they are selling me something without bothering to glance over it once after converting.

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  8. Kristi
    Jun 03, 2011 @ 12:18:46

    Oh my GAWD, those photos at the end! haha! It makes me think that they purchased naked photos and then slapped clothes on them via photoshop later or something.

    ReplyReply

  9. Lynne Connolly
    Jun 03, 2011 @ 12:35:53

    I’m glad about the tags, because there is pressure on authors to do it for themselves and each other. I don’t do it, partly because unless you’re putting a fact there, like the genre, then I think
    it’s a bit iffy.
    And it takes so damn long.
    Those pictures? OMG and that belt buckle just goes “here’s the shiny, laydees!”

    ReplyReply

  10. DS
    Jun 03, 2011 @ 13:19:28

    I downloaded the sample chapters of John Rector’s Already Gone– to be an October release from Thomas & Mercer. The description was:

    “This free Kindle download gives you an early look at the first three, unedited chapters of Already Gone from John Rector, due to be released October 25, 2011.”

    I just lucked at the Brockway title and it also says the chapters are unedited. (Under product description). I’m sure they will fix most of the errors by the release date.

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  11. Sheryl Nantus
    Jun 03, 2011 @ 13:24:06

    Maybe it’s just me but it seems pretty silly to release unedited chapters of anything to the public. I know Amazon is trying to build their audience, yatta yatta yatta, but I don’t think it’s such a good thing for the average reader.

    But then, what do I know. I actually keep working with these legacy/commercial/traditional publishers.

    XD

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  12. Jane
    Jun 03, 2011 @ 13:55:54

    @DS – I just downloaded the sample and didn’t go to the product description. I’m not sure why putting up unedited versions of the product is a good teaser/advertisement for this book.

    ReplyReply

  13. Lynn S.
    Jun 03, 2011 @ 14:04:09

    Hopefully Amazon gets their act together for the final product on Brockway’s book. I’ll take just about anything she wants to offer as long as I can read it without having to edit and format it myself first. For Giles Strand though, I’d consider retyping it from scratch. Digital publishing is getting to be a regular wild old west but at least there’s no danger of being hit by any stray flying books.

    The covers are so obvious, I would vote that they are messing with you. The Showalter cover actually looks like the family cat might be chasing something down the leg of that guy’s pants.

    ReplyReply

  14. Michael
    Jun 03, 2011 @ 14:05:04

    The removal of tagging doesn’t surprise me. A group of authors from one well-known romance publisher recently got together on a plan to tag and Like each other’s ebooks. I’m sure they weren’t the first and wouldn’t have been the last. I wonder how long the Like button will endure.

    ReplyReply

  15. Lynn S.
    Jun 03, 2011 @ 14:20:54

    @DS: Thanks for clearing it up for us. Of course now I’m left with the puzzle of who thought that was a good idea.

    ReplyReply

  16. Teddypig
    Jun 03, 2011 @ 14:27:25

    Is it about not knowing HTML or using yet another stupid Adobe suite product?.

    Because I know from experiences with Adobe Dreamweaver… I spent more time cleaning up the wacko HTML mistakes their software generated than doing it by hand myself.

    It’s a problem in this era that the people who understand HTML and page design are usually not the people who think they can just press a button in some software suite to make it happen like it’s some sort of magic.

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  17. elaine mueller
    Jun 03, 2011 @ 14:36:21

    dear author –

    if you want me to buy your book, whether it’s paper format or ebook, please give me your best effort. i don’t want something half-assed, sloppy, thrown-together. and tell your publisher about it, okay?

    i work damn hard for my money and i don’t have a whole of extra to throw around. is it selfish of me to expect that the person whose work i’m turning over my hard-earned money to should put forth the same effort and deliver the best she/he can?

    “None of this is Brockway’s fault, of course.” EXCUSE ME?? hell yes, it’s brockway’s fault. her name is on the title, on the contract. she was the one who wanted to go rogue to have control over what got published and how it got published. she’s the author; she damn well better take resposibility if what comes out under her name is rough-draft or polished.

    sorry if that’s harsh on my part but really, i do expect authors to give their best effort. if this is brockway’s best. . . .

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  18. Moriah Jovan
    Jun 03, 2011 @ 14:43:42

    @elaine mueller:

    [...]she was the one who wanted to go rogue to have control over what got published and how it got published. [...] she damn well better take resposibility if what comes out under her name[...]

    Amen.

    Too many of these shoddy backlist releases by traditionally published authors going rogue will completely dissolve any trust the reader has with that author and dissolve the brand she (and the publisher) have spent years building.

    As for the deal-with-it attitude of the DIYers… I don’t even know what to say to that. It’s too bad these people are being treated as self-pub gurus because, quite frankly, a lot of them give bad advice based on too little experience.

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  19. Christie Craig
    Jun 03, 2011 @ 15:59:18

    Hi Jane,

    Thank you for contacting me about the errors in my self-pubbed eBooks. All of this is new territory for me and I appreciate the heads up. I did have a company do the html coding and paid someone to proof the work.

    From what you’ve shown me, it looks as though the errors occurred during the scanning process and weren’t caught by the proofreader. I will be correcting these errors in the near future.

    As for your inquiry about my covers, Dorchester contracted the cover artist. I purchased the artwork from the artist. She did an excellent job and I’m grateful to be able to keep the designs.

    Have a great day.

    CC

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  20. Jane
    Jun 03, 2011 @ 16:38:00

    @Christie Craig: Thanks Ms. Craig. I hope that whomever is doing this work for you straightens this out.

    ReplyReply

  21. Jody W.
    Jun 03, 2011 @ 17:51:16

    Maybe Amazon is hoping to use the “disgusted reader letter” method to catch issues and save on the cost of editorial.

    ReplyReply

  22. Edie
    Jun 03, 2011 @ 18:06:06

    Okay I think the dean dude is a dick. He should care about typos, I don’t care if he is putting out 1000 books a year. It is his content, which he is selling to his customers, he shouldn’t be ripping them off.

    @elaine mueller: What she said.

    And I am spewing that I missed the Navarro’s Promise stuff.. I could have gone to town.
    Leigh’s books are notorious for painful grammar, typos etc, anyone remember the book with the baddie who was referred to as a she for over half the book, only to be revealed as a bloke?

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  23. Dhympna
    Jun 03, 2011 @ 20:44:22

    @Christie Craig:

    Besides the typos (there were 20+, I got tired of counting) there were some other formatting issues:

    –There were not any breaks (spaces) between scenes, which made it confusing to go from the heroine’s POV to suddenly the bad guy’s head.

    –The font was super teeny–I had to set it to extra extra large to get it to medium.

    Also, if this is self published by the author, then why is the agency listed as publisher?

    ReplyReply

  24. SAO
    Jun 04, 2011 @ 00:59:10

    Typos really jerk me out of a story. It’s like a skips or spots on a video.

    The publisher’s job is to make sure the product is error free. That means the author, for the self-published.

    I’ve seen e-books from major publishers where the first page had a blatant error. Obviously, no one had even skimmed the book before putting it out.

    What’s funny is you’d think an author could get a crew of gamma readers (one after beta) willing to flag errors in return for a free, pre-release read. Proof-reading for free!

    If authors like Dean Wesley Smith can’t organize this, it’s because he can’t be bothered to fix any errors found. I wonder if he’d hire a plumber who didn’t check if the pipe was still leaking before sending him the bill.

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  25. LVLMLeah
    Jun 04, 2011 @ 08:30:49

    1. Typos don’t bother me if there are only a few. I realize they are not easy to catch. Too many though take me out of the story.

    2. Formatting? Well, every Kindle book I’ve bought, all from publishers, have formatting issues when read on my iTouch. They don’t show up on the computer version. On my iTouch though, they look just like your section above. Random gaps between words, random indentations, etc. So I’ve gotten used to that thinking that’s how it is with Kindle books.

    3. I think it’s a really bad idea of Amazon to put out unedited samples of books. Why? Even if I know a book is unedited, that’s what sticks in my mind. The only way that is good for readers or business is if they are being used to teach writing classes. What author would want that?

    If I were an author, the last thing I’d want out there in any form is an unedited version of my book.

    4. A badly edited book reflects a “I give a crap about you” attitude towards the reader and readers will strike back on it. Digital shouldn’t = lack of professionalism.

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  26. Suzanne
    Jun 04, 2011 @ 11:22:56

    Why would any author put up unedited material for public reading? That makes no sense. And Mr. Dean Wesley Smith, if you can’t be bothered to correct typos then I can’t be bothered to buy your books. Treat me with at least a modicum of respect.

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  27. Honeywell
    Jun 04, 2011 @ 13:54:19

    I just downloaded the sample, and while I noticed the errors you pointed out, it was extremely readable for me. A lot more readable and less distracting than other edited teaser chapters I’ve read (Charlaine Harris’s obnoxious colored water marks that cover the entire page come to mind). For me, getting a sneak peak at the unedited book five months out is worth it but if it doesn’t generate interest and sales like it’s meant to I’m sure they’ll do away with it.

    I know it’s popular to be anti-Amazon but it’ll be a refreshing change to deal with a publisher who actually values me as a customer and treats me like it instead of the New York (and E) publishers who can’t even be assed to send a form letter acknowledging my correspondence. So if for some reason the book isn’t properly edited and formatted come release day I know I can return it and Amazon will give me my money back and bend over backwards to make me happy in the process.

    I’m looking forward to the Montlake Romance line and if there’s growing pains in the beginning I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and the time to work it out–Amazon has always been responsive to any complaints or feedback I’ve had.

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  28. Connie Brockway
    Jun 04, 2011 @ 15:01:45

    Hey Jane. Thanks for pointing out the all-too-many errors in the teaser chapters of THE OTHER GUY’S BRIDE. I forwarded your comments to Amazon. The teaser chapters shouldn’t have been offered as is. They were meant to offer a taste, but not a bitter one. I could offer excuses, but that’s just what they’d be. Yes, readers deserve the very best an author can offer and as seamless a reading experience as possible. That said, I can only assure you the book offered for sale will be *well* edited. No one can promise perfect, but I promise to do my best.

    Looking for good amongst the not good, perhaps it’ll be interesting for readers to see how much a book morphs as it it written and how different, or similar, my initial first few chapters are to the finalized version.

    As for cover artists messing with readers…ya think?

    And finally. Giles’s story will be written. Soon.

    Best, Connie

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  29. Jane
    Jun 04, 2011 @ 20:27:53

    @Connie Brockway – thanks for your comment. I look forward to the finished and finalized product. As I mentioned in the post, I did think that you deserved better.

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  30. Christine Rimmer
    Jun 06, 2011 @ 13:05:19

    This is really scary, re the Brockway sample. I mean, it’s Amazon’s product, their own new publishing arm? What are they thinking? I’m prepping a never-published mainstream romance I wrote to release for ebook-only. It’s a chore, checking and re-checking. The DH, who is really smart and thorough, did a copyedit for me. He caught some things. But I’m going through it again–and still finding little typos and stuff. I think I’m just going to pay Joe Konrath’s digital guy for the deluxe package that covers all bases. Yes, there are definitely things to be said for a publishing house that does the job right.

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