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Authorzilla, Episode 5019 of Authors Behaving Badly

There aren’t many people happy with the Ashworth novel, Duke of Scandal. I didn’t much like Duke of Sin so I wasn’t shelling out $8.00 for Duke of Scandal particularly after I read Ashworth’s own description of it:

As his feelings for her grow, he's confounded by her honesty, her naivetà© coupled with a glamour and sophistication he's never had to deal with in a woman.

I figured any heroine who was naive and glamorous and sophisticated was going to be too precious for words. Over at AAR, the readers are mostly panning it.

The posts on this book exemplifies what authors hate most about online readers.

  • One thread that contains numerous spoilers that can turn a reader off (evil woman done me wrong to the 100th degree in this case).
  • Another thread focuses on the jarring words used: smirking, snorting and once the hero is insanely crazy. LOL
  • Still another reader is complaining of the poor grammatical structure and copyediting. She recites this sentence:

    She suspected now that all his clever scheming and manipulation to get married quickly was to gain access to her accounts as her husband, made so much more sense to her through a dark night entertained only by her thoughts and the coming light of a cold and frosty morning.

While no authors are coming forth to post under her own name, an anonymous author (imo a fellow avon writer or the writer herself) came and tells readers that they shouldn’t expect quality editing from the romance publishing industry. It is another delightful episode in “Authors Behaving Badly” saga.

Should a reader forgive the awkward sentence structure and poor editing? Is it fair to the author to denigrate a book based solely on poor copyediting? Or is it that the readers were laying in wait to sabotage Ms. Ashworth?

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

35 Comments

  1. Keishon
    May 12, 2006 @ 16:44:11

    **stepping up to the mike**

    I read the thread and all I have to say is that there is no excuse for bad grammar and typos. Sure things get missed but don’t make excuses as it only infuriates the reader aka consumer who spends $8.00 on the book.

    As an aside —-I had a sales clerk tell me that the product doesn’t necessarily have to be high quality if your buying the technology. WTF?

  2. jmc
    May 12, 2006 @ 17:04:45

    Could the anonymous author have shoved her foot any further down her own throat? It’s only romance, so grammar and editing don’t really matter? Oh, puh-leeze.

    I don’t think that readers have to forgive awkward sentence structure or poor editing. Grammar and sentence structure are part and parcel of the storytelling process. Yes, they are part of the author’s voice, but at some point, an author’s grammar needs to be coherent in order to create a voice. An author can break some of the rules of grammar, if it fits with the characters or narrative style, but at some point it all comes down to reader comprehension. If a reader is too busy trying to decipher what an author meant to say, she’s probably not going to enjoy the book a great deal. Maybe she won’t even finish it. Some readers can forgive awkwardness or poor editing, and that’s great. But not everyone can get past a certain typo density. For me, if I found three typos on the first page (not counting commas, which I tend to overuse), I would put the book down permanently.

    I doubt that readers were waiting for an opportunity to sabotage Ms. Ashworth. Her earlier books seem to have been very well received, and the anticipation coupled with shoddy editing combined for a harsh reader-response.

    Disclaimer: I’ve only read Duke of Sin, which I didn’t really care for. I didn’t hate it passionately, but I also didn’t like it enough to be interested in Ashworth’s backlist or future books.

    Sorry about the book-length post.

  3. Maili
    May 12, 2006 @ 18:05:38

    Off topic:

    an anonymous author (imo a fellow avon writer or the writer herself)

    In fairness, all those years I have known her on message boards, she didn’t ‘hide’ behind anonymity, even when at times it was wise for her to do so, but she – as far as I know – never did.

    So I can’t quite imagine her doing it this time. I’m betting it’s someone else. Perhaps I’m wrong, but I’d be very surprised if it was indeed AA herself.

  4. Jane
    May 12, 2006 @ 18:22:07

    I really liked My Darling Caroline and Winter Garden. I know that Jayne hates MDC with a passion. Can’t recall what she thought of Winter Garden.

  5. Keishon
    May 12, 2006 @ 18:30:23

    I’m with Maili, Ms. Ashworth doesn’t hide behind anonymity.

    What, nobody liked my tanget?

  6. AAR Rachel
    May 12, 2006 @ 18:34:32

    I really liked My Darling Caroline and Winter Garden. I know that Jayne hates MDC with a passion. Can’t recall what she thought of Winter Garden.

    Ah, someone else who hated My Darling Caroline! It’s been so long since I read it, but I remember clearly that it was a wallbanger for me. Which absolutely shocked me after the enormous amount of praise it got here, there, and everywhere.

    Lump me in with the (one, two?) readers who was underwhelmed by Winter Garden too. But then I hate spy plots, and am not really that fond of sexually experienced historical chicks.

  7. Jayne
    May 12, 2006 @ 18:36:13

    Finally, it occurs to me and other authors I know that a lot of opinionated readers who get so angry over little things in books, especially spending $6 on a book they think is “insulting”, are spending too much time going over the book word for word, page by page, to find errors to complain about instead of reading the story for enjoyment. Why do you do that? Why do you think the author or editor or publisher is TRYING to insult you?

    I hope I don’t find out who this anonymous author is. I hope it’s not a favorite of mine who I’d have to dump after reading this insulting part of her post.

    First PC Cast rants like a fishwife over ARCs and now this person denigrates readers for merely wanting a well edited book. It’s our choice to buy the work of a particular author. But I believe it’s the publisher’s responsibility to deliver a quality product. I don’t read books in order to tear them apart. I want to like everything I read but when errors keep piling up, I get mad.

  8. Jayne
    May 12, 2006 @ 18:54:32

    There are books I liked that two weeks later, I can’t remember what the heroine’s name is. But even years later, I still know why I loathe MDC. Rachel I’m with you on hurling this one. I never actually managed to force myself to finish that book and it’s left such a bad taste in my mouth that I’ve never tried another Ashworth book since.

  9. Shannon
    May 12, 2006 @ 20:12:41

    Is it fair to the author to denigrate a book based solely on poor copyediting?

    Honestly, I think it is, because the author is the bottom line. (Except for the cover, blurb, and those nightmare exceptions where a publisher changes something without consulting the author.) Oh, a dislcaimer here: I haven’t read the book/author mentioned, so I’m speaking in general terms

    But if it’s decided a sentence was desperately in need of editing, perhaps the editor let it slip, but the author put it to paper. Those typos that slip by writing/revising/copyediting/line-editing (because some always do) were made by the author.

    And regardless of how many people are paid to polish a book, the author’s name is on the cover.

  10. AngieW
    May 12, 2006 @ 21:58:55

    But if it’s decided a sentence was desperately in need of editing, perhaps the editor let it slip, but the author put it to paper. Those typos that slip by writing/revising/copyediting/line-editing (because some always do) were made by the author.

    See, now as an editor (and I even happen to be Shannon’s editor!) I think it’s my responsibility (well, mine and the copyeditor’s) to catch the typos and make the book as perfect as possible. But the sad truth is, you can have five different people look at the book and things will still be missed.

    But I definitly do NOT agree with the statement that readers shouldn’t expect well-edited books. Geez. Maybe mine aren’t perfect, but I hope editing errors don’t make people want to throw it against a wall!

  11. May
    May 12, 2006 @ 22:48:48

    Can I shoot said anonymous author?

    I read Winter Garden, and it was pretty good. I didn’t pick up any others because they are historicals–not my thing.

    As a writer, you are expected to do your best to make things readable–unless you’re somebody like James Joyce or heck, Booker winner Banville. In which case you’re nuts and nobody really wants to read you.

  12. Jennifer
    May 13, 2006 @ 03:35:37

    Typos and bad editing – a true story:

    My contract for my last YA book did not give me last approval of edits. This meant that after I sent my final draft in and it was approved I got my first set of edits. I thought they were terrible because the editor did not edit anything, he only reformatted the book for printing. So, I edited the book myself with the help of an editor I am VERY lucky to have in my family. We spent 30 hours editing the book and sent it back to the publisher.
    The edits were denied by my publisher because they didn’t want me “rewriting the book they had already approved.”
    So – I had to approve the first set of edits or have the book pulled from the publishing schedule. (It had already gotten moved back ten months) This was what they threatened when I said that the first set of edits were not acceptable to me.
    Wait – it gets better.
    I had no choice as per my contract than to accept the edits and hope my editor would at least go over it and make sure it was correct, if not perfect.
    The book was printed and when I got a copy, I found typos and even a doubled phrase I did not have in any of my original documents.
    When I contacted my publisher they replied, and I quote; “The book is edited just fine for its target audience.”

    I’m not saying that all publishers are like this – thank goodness they are not. Out of my five publishers, I have only had problems with one – and it all boils down to the contract I have which does not give me a final say on edits. (Which is one clause I will insist upon from now on.)

  13. Jayne
    May 13, 2006 @ 04:59:40

    That must have been so frustrating for you. Had the publishers already started typesetting the book before you sent back your edits? And just out of curiosity, did you think that your book would be edited at any point after you submitted your final MS? Is that why you didn’t get your relative to go over it first?

    As a reader, I would be much less likely to ever buy another book from such a publisher. I might end up not liking a plot, or an author’s voice, or the characterization but I take my chances with those. I don’t want to be repeatedly pulled out of a reading experience by clumsy mistakes.

  14. Fiona
    May 13, 2006 @ 07:44:26

    As much as I would love to know who anonymous romance author is, at least she has learned something of late and kept it anonymous.

    I want accuracy in my history and I expect accuracy in sentence structure. It is not nit-picking a book to death to be irritated at mistakes in a book. For myself and apparently many others there is nothing that will yank me out of the story and leave my head spinning faster than a mistake in a sentence. I shake my head, reread it, think about it and now I’m lost, forgetting where I am in the story so I put the book down and go make a cup of tea. If it happens again, within the same night, now I’m only thinking about the next mistake I will find and not what the characters will do next. Is that a reader flaw? Um, I don’t think so.

    I am not liking the overall theme that is coming to light this week that readers are not being respected for their intelligence. Starting to irk me.

    And what I find even more entertaining is the authors I know who are lurking around this week, afraid to say ‘boo’. Funny stuff.

    …Fiona…

  15. Jennifer
    May 13, 2006 @ 08:18:28

    HI Jayne –
    To answer your question –
    The final draft of the manuscript was accepted in June 2003 and was slated for a June 2005 publishing – I waited for edits and then was told the book was being pushed back to December 2005. I got a letter from my editor (who I had never worked with) in May 2005 telling me he wanted my final draft copy. I sent it to him after a quick going over to make sure it was pretty clean. He sent it back a month later reformated and with a request for me to name my chapters (not just one, two, three…) As I checked over the manuscript I saw typos and little errors that he hadn’t fixed – so I asked my relative to help me edit and she very kindly printed my manuscript out and spent the next- 3 days going over it and getting it perfect. I sent it back (with track changes,) and told the publisher what I’d done, expecting they would be happy. They castigated me – I got letters from people in that publishing company I’d met once or twice telling me that I should keep my mouth shut and not say Anything, Ever, and that I was very Unprofessional.
    I was deeply shocked and even more upset when, going over my contract, I saw I did not have final say for edits. (Big mistake, authors beware!)
    I was furious with the added typos – they were not even in my final draft which was pretty clean – believe me, 3 days for edits is light editing and my relative said it was mostly nit-picky things she cleaned up, along with a couple misplaced modifiers and a typo or two – nothing like what is in the book now.
    So what happened?
    I have no idea. The publishing company does not do e-books, they do hardcover and mass market and pride themselves on being an ‘author’s’ company. So did my editor shaft me when I complained he didn’t do his job? I’ll never know. But just a word here to the readers so they will understand that the bottom line is rarely the author when the book comes out. We have no say in the cover and the edits. (Especially for new authors like myself) .
    That said, now I have an agent and I believe things will be different now that I am no longer negotiating contracts and such. I am SO relieved.

  16. AngieW
    May 13, 2006 @ 08:26:35

    But just a word here to the readers so they will understand that the bottom line is rarely the author when the book comes out. We have no say in the cover and the edits. (Especially for new authors like myself) .

    I’m sorry Sam, but I have to disagree with you. This is a publisher by publisher thing you’re talking about. You can say that with authority for that particular publisher you worked with. But you cannot possibly know what each publishers contract–whether NY or epub reads.

    To be clear, at Samhain, authors have a say in both edits and covers. The cover art is produced from a request they fill out. It is up to the author to make the requested changes for edits. Your statement is not only sweeping, but untrue and paints an unfair picture for readers of the entire publishing industry.

    I agree there are some publishers out there who operate like that. But please don’t lump us all in with them. It hurts ;)

  17. Shannon
    May 13, 2006 @ 08:30:04

    But just a word here to the readers so they will understand that the bottom line is rarely the author when the book comes out. We have no say in the cover and the edits.

    Outside of the e-publishing world, authors do have very little say in the cover. But, with all due respect, your experience doesn’t justify saying the bottom line is rarely the author because they have no say in edits.

  18. AngieW
    May 13, 2006 @ 08:35:04

    I feel I need to clarify–there are publishers who operate as Sam described. And NY operates somewhat differently than e-pubbing, but my statement was intended to say that such sweeping generalizations can’t be made from one experience. Because each publisher, whether NY or e-pub is different and has different policies.

  19. Jennifer
    May 13, 2006 @ 08:38:10

    Shannon,
    If you don’t have final say in edits in your contract, the publisher can do pretty much as he wants with it, including cutting and adding things (that don’t change the meaning of the book). My editor replaced some words in my book that make me Cringe when I read them.
    In all my e-book publishing contracts, I’m lucky enough to have final word on edits, and I’m lucky to have terrific editors. In my first foray into mass market paperbacks, I did not have an agent to negotiate and no experience and ‘guts’ to get final say on edits.
    I think that you’ll be surprised to find that outside e-book publishing, where you work one on one with an editor and develop a real working relationship, in other venues the author is often ignored. Once you sell your book the attitude is, ‘We’ve done you this incredible honor, now let us take over and SELL it’ so just shut up, sit down, and get back to work.
    I know that e-book publishers are great to work with – but the big world of publishing is full of surprises, believe me.

  20. Jennifer
    May 13, 2006 @ 08:42:47

    Angie,
    I especially didn’t lump you in there sweetie!
    If you read my post, I said only 1 out of my 5 publishers did this, and the said publisher did not do e-books.
    Don’t get your feelings hurt – I love my e-book editors more than anything and wish I had the smarts to negotiate final edits with my other publisher – that’s all.
    But there are a lot more authors out there than you can imagine who are truly at the mercy of their publishers and too thrilled to just ‘get published’ to dare say anything about the contract. I know – I was there.

  21. Jane
    May 13, 2006 @ 09:05:42

    Fiona said: I am not liking the overall theme that is coming to light this week that readers are not being respected for their intelligence. Starting to irk me.

    I feel that way as well, Fiona. It’s as if some authors are saying that as authors they are superior for being able to write. I know that I couldn’t write a book but I suspect that each person has a skill that other people (including authors) can’t replicate. I am sure anyone who has been online before has heard authors arguing against readers giving reviews as the readers have no “credentials”.

    I also feel that while on the one hand romance authors are clamouring for respect there are quite a few who believe that romance readers should simply accept poorly edited, poorly researched books because it is just a romance book.

  22. Jayne
    May 13, 2006 @ 10:30:09

    Sam your experience with that publishing house utterly sucks. I’m glad to hear that you have someone negotiating for you now. And perhaps this will be a lesson for newbie authors in what to demand for their contracts. Best of luck to all of you.

  23. Shannon
    May 13, 2006 @ 13:10:37

    I’ll be sure to add that to the list of things I hear about contract issues to watch for, Sam. It’s very unfortunate that it happened to you, but by throwing it out there, others will know to be on guard. I hope your future endeavors are much less frustrating for you.

    Sam’s situation excepting, I still think the author is the bottom line. Maybe that comes from administrating for my husband’s business? No matter how many subcontractors we have come through or inspectors inspecting, our company name is the bottom line. And whether you’re paying $4.50 for my book or $8000 to have your new house wired, any mistakes belong the person who contracted to get the job done. Thankfully, we both have people in our lives who help us put out the best product possible.

  24. sybil
    May 13, 2006 @ 19:42:08

    Angie I think it is fair to say Samhain is the exception there not the rule. Most publishers and even Epublishers (EC, LSB, Loose ID) the author doesn’t have a say in title or cover for the most part. So really that is a fair statement, unless things are changing.

    I don’t know what to think of the whole thing. After all the crap with DoS(in) and the way Adele was treated it does almost seem people are gleefully going after her and her books.

    At the same time to say don’t expect quaility because it is romance is the stupidest thing. But people really… the get a rope thing is a little much.

    Yes whoever the author is said a stupid thing. You as a reader will say a stupid thing at some point. I will say stupid things (often). I wouldn’t look at a readers and decide to write you off as worth listening too because of a couple of stupid remarks.

    Agree with PC Cast or not, I admire the fact she blogged what she thought. Can’t we just agree or not with her and she still be an ok person? I don’t look at the anon author on AAR and think gee at least they were smart enough to keep themselves hidden. I think it is sad they have to worry about being lynched.

    If we start shooting every author for saying something dumb, we will soon have no others left and lots really smart readers who never make mistakes, or write books.

    Adele Ashworth has never struck me as the type to hide behind a anon name but with the way people are behaving I am surprised she hasn’t. I am surprised any authors bothers to talk to oh so smart readers.

  25. Jaci Burton
    May 13, 2006 @ 20:00:50

    Angie I think it is fair to say Samhain is the exception there not the rule. Most publishers and even Epublishers (EC, LSB, Loose ID) the author doesn’t have a say in title or cover for the most part. So really that is a fair statement, unless things are changing.

    Sybil, that’s not true. I can only speak to Ellora’s Cave since I’m an author for them. The only time I had one of my titles changed was because it too closely resembled an already published title, and I have 26 books published with EC. All authors are given detailed cover art requests to fill out for their books and the covers that are produced are a direct result of our own vision of what we’d like to see there, with the input from the cover art department.

  26. sybil
    May 13, 2006 @ 20:07:53

    Hey Jaci,

    hmmm that isn’t what I hear from authors but to be honest, not as many are as big a seller as you are…

    Do you think that plays into it at all?

    Very interesting though, hee shall add question to epublisher interviews! I have heard nothing regarding edits and have always assumed the author had last say on that but no idea what is correct.

  27. Jaci Burton
    May 13, 2006 @ 20:21:28

    Sybil – not for me. My experience has been the same since i sold my first book for EC, which was my first published book, when I had no sales track record at all. I can’t and won’t presume to speak for any other author’s experience, of course, which may be different than mine. But the authors from EC that I know personally have the same experiences as me.

    As far as edits, I have always had final say The buck stops with me. I see and approve the final line edits on the book and unless something technologically wonky happens to the book when it’s formatted, if there are typos or grammatical errors then I missed them and it’s my bad.

    I’m just now going through my first experience with NY publishing edits. So far so good. I’ll keep you posted since I have two publishers I’m working with ;-)

  28. Jane
    May 13, 2006 @ 20:53:51

    I can appreciate that it seems like us readers are against them authors but I think it comes down to money and the fact that books are so expensive these days (along with many other goods like gas) that we have to use something to cull the field. For some, it means that bad behavior will get an author crossed off the to be bought list. I have liked some of Cast’s books and would buy another one of hers even though I think she sounded ignorant in her rant. Same with Ashworth. If she wrote a book that had a good plot and good characters, like Winter Garden, for me, I would buy that again.

    Now, Jayne will never buy AA but it’s not due to any reader/author animosity but rather the fact that Jayne despised the one book that she did read of AA’s.

    Keishon made a good point when she said that author’s have to sell their books to us and not the other way around (am paraphrasing here). Any public figure has to be careful of the way in which they are perceived because it can impact them financially. Readers, as readers, don’t have that concern. I’ll tell you that I am constantly aware when I am in public that any one individual may be a potential juror of mine. I am not going to act like an ass because they may hold it against me/my client. It’s not fair, but that’s business.

  29. Cece
    May 14, 2006 @ 10:26:02

    Most publishers and even Epublishers (EC, LSB, Loose ID) the author doesn’t have a say in title or cover for the most part.

    I’m with Jaci–not true! I’ve never known LSB to change a title. That’s not to say they haven’t ever done it, but they didn’t do it to me and I’ve never heard of it happening. And just like at Samhain we get to fill out cover request forms, we give the art dept as much info as possible and can even request who does our cover. They do the best they can based on what WE give them.

    Raine was asked to change one characters name, out of four ebooks and two publishers, because they’d just published a book with a similiar storyline and same character’s name.

  30. sybil
    May 14, 2006 @ 19:57:11

    It is based on what you give them but do you get to approve them?

    I have often heard, be it with print publishers, that the final product didn’t have anything to do with the cover sheet that was sent in. And that it wasn’t changed.

    To be fair though, I have heard some authors recently getting hair color and such changed to match the characters (I hate it when they don’t match!).

    So more control over title and cover would be a fair comment regarding ebooks? Than what the hell are you eauthors thinking? Because more than half of the ecovers out there sucks ass. I just assumed you guys didn’t have control over it.

  31. Cece
    May 14, 2006 @ 20:25:07

    Because more than half of the ecovers out there sucks ass.

    Sadly I have to agree.

  32. raine
    May 14, 2006 @ 21:41:19

    It’s true–in my limited experience, at least, e-authors are given cover art request sheets and a say in the editing process.
    But cover artists are not necessarily psychics, and a lot of authors have no CLUE as to what they might want on their cover. If you say, “I want a vampire on the cover, and my favorite color is red”–well, yeah, you’re liable to get some kind of monstrosity.
    And there are other things often factored in…if the house is short on artists, or if it’s too close to the publication date, or if they’ve had one that’s very similar recently, chances are there will be problems. You’re also not dealing with a major publisher’s resources, so they’re only going to spend so much money for art.
    And if you’re a newbie, you’re likely to be happy just to see your NAME there. *ggg*

    Not making excuses–yes, a LOT of the covers are AWFUL. I would like to see big improvements there.

  33. May
    May 14, 2006 @ 22:46:56

    But ladies, even authors pubbed in print get Art Sheets to fill out.

    Same thing, no?

    And as for where I got my information, it was on an eHarlequin board when somebody asked an author how cover art was done.

    I figure standard for Harlequin means standard for NY too.

  34. Jorrie Spencer
    May 15, 2006 @ 07:36:12

    I don’t actually think that standard for Harlequin is standard for NY in this situation. I’m sure someone more knowledgeable could say for sure, but I believe not all NY companies do the art sheet.

  35. Cece
    May 15, 2006 @ 08:46:12

    I know Harlequin has a cover art setup, but I don’t know about any other house. I *do* know a friend of mine who’s been in the biz a long time has never filled one out for her pubs in the seven years I’ve known her.

    Unless you’re really big, I don’t think you get a lot of say so, and even if you are really big, you still end up making concessions (remember marketing and sometimes big chain stores get cover –and sometimes title– input too). Tess Geritsen blogged recently about the title for her latest book.

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