For What It's Worth

Friday, January 17, 2014

Blogger Ramblings: Are we killing quality with kindness?


How should a blogger review books with editing issues?
 
 When I first started accepting self-pub/indie review requests several years ago, I noticed spelling and grammatical errors. I'm not the pickiest person in the world when it comes to those things. I also felt like these were new authors brave enough to put something out there and were still learning their craft and couldn't afford to hire an editor. I'm not talking about a hot mess of errors or overall bad writing; just enough that you notice but it doesn't deter from the story.

But then 5o Shades of Grey took off and became a HUGE hit despite the lack of editing. THEN it gets published, mistakes and all, by a major publisher. 

Flash forward and I'm picking up the next big thing at the bookstore. A NYT best seller, published by one of the big guys. I get home and WTF? This book is FILLED with grammatical and spelling errors and little to no editing. It also cost me $9.99 not .99. Now I'm pissed.

It appears that these days that the rush to get the book out is more important than the editing. Book after book by very popular, best selling authors, gets published and become huge hits with no mention of editing problems in reviews.

This came to a tipping point for me with a Christmas novella I read recently. It was a great story that came highly recommended by my favorite bloggers, but there were a lot of editing issues. British slang used by American characters, use of the wrong pronouns (he instead of she, etc.) and spelling errors. It was noticeable to the point where I had to go back to re-read lines to figure out what was going on. It was still a great story and I enjoyed it for the most part but felt let down that I wasn't forewarned. 

I read review after review for this book (& other books that I've had similar issues with) and no one mentioned the editing problems. If someone rates a book 5 stars, I expect both a great story and good editing. I wish I had known before I spent money like that so I could have decided if it was worth it. 

But then - I would hate to deter people from reading a book that 99% of people loved and was good otherwise. Heck, they didn't notice, or didn't care, so why should I be the Debbie Downer of the group? But if I don't mention it in my review, will other people read it and think I made them waste money, like how I felt?

I find this happens mostly with the real angsty romance books. Are we so caught up in the drama that we miss or are willing to overlook the mistakes?

I also wonder what it does for the quality of books in the future. I have been lucky enough to beta read several books and no book comes out of the gate perfect. But that's what the editing process is for. After it goes through many, many, sets of eyes, you get the finished product. There's always a chance someone will miss at least one thing but the goal should be 0 mistakes. I also know quite a few self pub authors that spend the money to bring in a quality editor. It shows and it's worth every penny.

If reviewers don't mention editing problems anymore, does that mean publishers will feel like it's a good way to cut corners? It seems like they're headed that way already with quite a few self-pub titles that they bought and published.

It drives me batty when I see some authors go through a rigorous, year+ long editing and re-writing process with their publisher to make things perfect and then a book with horrible editing breezes through and becomes popular.  

But back to the reviewing side of things…

As a blogger: Do you mention editing problems in your review? I never used to but I do now if it impairs my reading. If I start counting mistakes or get confused because of them then it goes in my review. I do feel bad about it if I really loved the story though. I always want to email the author and say please…please edit this book. But that's rude lol

As a reader: Do you want reviewers to warn you about editing issues? Would you still buy the book if the review is positive otherwise? Would you feel angry if you purchased the book only to find the editing problems?

*I just want to point out that, as always, I'm not targeting or trying insult any group of authors or readers. I'm honestly curious about how this issue influences your reading and reviewing.

* I also want to note that I am aware that I am writing a post about editing and grammatical mistakes and there are probably a dozen in this post. 

57 comments:

  1. Assuming I notice editing and grammatical mistakes (and I think I usually do), I would definitely comment on it. It would have to be extreme for it to effect my view of the book substantively, but then again, "extreme" is a sliding scale. A book with a big publisher doesn't have to have too many errors before I label it as sloppy. I actually like catching a few errors. I find it fun - like catching the author with her hand in the cookie jar.

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    1. I'm really not very picky about it but when they're numerous enough that I start to keep track of them it effects my reading.

      Also, I've been noticing more continuity errors lately and that just pulls me right out of everything.

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  2. I read a lot of ARCs these days, and for those, I never mention editing problems because it stands to reason that those will get fixed before the final product is released. But if it's a finished copy? I will always point out editing errors. I feel like, as a reviewer, it's my job to review the entire product - and with a book, that product includes everything from world-building, to characters, to writing. And if it's not written well, I feel an obligation to say so. To me, it feels dishonest to ignore massive editing errors - but that's just me, and I totally see why others don't think the way I do.

    Since I don't read self-published books, and basically only read YA so not too many pulled-to-publish books come up, this isn't really a big deal for me. But it happens.

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    1. I never comment on that for an ARC.

      It wasn't anything that I was that picky about before until I see how well these books are doing. Book after book is NYT bestseller. I would think after a certain amount of success an author would be embarrassed of those mistakes and want to hire an editor.

      I haven't really noticed it much with YA. It tends to be NA and adult romance/erotica.

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  3. I tend to be a bit of a grammar nazi so editing/grammar errors bug the crap out of me. It's one of the reasons I don't generally read indies (sorry, indie/self-pub people!). And, yes, I definitely think that issues like that, even if the story is great, should be mentioned. You can write a good review while still talking about issues.

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    1. I used to give a certain amount of leeway to indie/self pub but it aggravates me when they do so well and 4+ books later there are still problems. As I said in a comment above - I would think after being successful you just would want to improve and put out a quality product.

      If no one mentions it is there an incentive to do so though? If you're hitting the best seller list anyway, why bother?

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  4. I do mention the errors, but only if they are really glaring and silly. Most of them unfortunately happen in erotica. :(

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    1. Yeah - I find it mostly in erotica/romance/NA.

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  5. if its a book that is already published and in hard back with errors, and I had a tough time with the story then yes I would mention it in the review. Most copies I have seen have been edited really good by the big six . I understand that the rush to get the product out , but I would hope that it gets edited.

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    1. I don't find too many issues in the big 6 in general. I do find that they are buying self pubs then putting them out without a whole lot of editing though. That frustrates me.

      I think it's reaching a tipping point with me because it is starting to interfere with my reading. I notice more continuity issues (Wearing a blue dress in one scene - but it's red int he next for example) and the wrong pronouns so that I actually have to go back and work my way through the real meaning.

      It bums me out when otherwise the story is good.

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  6. Yes, I mention it in my reviews, especially if it's more than one, and I know that it's a book that was edited already. It's more because it makes me pause in my reading, and I hate it when that happens because I'm reading to float away from the present, not be brought back to reality with a your beautiful instead of you're. And yes, as a reader, I'd like to be warned about errors in grammar and spelling and punctuation because it seriously affects my enjoyment of the book.

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    1. Yes! That's what's happening to me lately. They are so numerous that I'm pull doug of an otherwise interesting story.

      I don't always mention it my own reviews unless the problems are glaring but I'm finding that as a reader I wish someone had warned me. If I read a 5 star review - I don't expect that level of mistakes.

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  7. I mention it in my reviews either as - editing needs to be done but doesn't take away from story or editing errors that make you reread sentences at times, this is a problem.

    If there are many errors in an ARC I write the publisher and say thanks but no thanks. I am not an editor and shouldn't have to read something that needs many changes. And I say this because grammar is not my fortay, so to catch it, really is a problem.

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    1. I don't mention any errors in ARC's. They warn you and most finished copies fix everything. If there are so many that it would ruin the reading experience I would probably pass on reviewing that one.

      "I mention it in my reviews either as - editing needs to be done but doesn't take away from story or editing errors that make you reread sentences at times, this is a problem."

      That's a great way to handle it. I've done that a few times myself.

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  8. I mostly read ARCs, so no, I don't mention editing/formatting unless it is extremely distracting. I remember one book that the "fl" I think was taken out EVERYWHERE in the book and it annoyed me.
    But I would probably mention in finished copy if I notice, but I tend to get carried away by the story and not notice much in the editing realm

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    1. I treat ARC's differently. They tell you up front that it's not finished and there will be errors.

      I used to get carried away and not care but I find it's bugging me more now lol

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  9. I'm having this problem RIGHT NOW. I'm reading (and really enjoying) this self published book (got it from the author...) and can't help but notice the editing/grammar issues (and I'm very, very far from a grammar nazi...) Sigh...I think I'll mention it in the review. (since it's not 'just' one or two typos) Great post!

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    1. A few errors aren't a problem for me but when it's something that you keep stopping to notice - it's a problem. I always feel bad if it's a good story but then I feel like no one bother to fix these things if you don't say something.

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  10. The odd typo or two I can cope with but it does put me off if there are a lot of them and especially when the book is written by a well known author.

    I often contact an author privately on reviewing their book if there are a lot of errors but after a recent spate of run-ins with various authors am consider no longer doing so unless its an author I have a history with.

    What gets me is when an author/publisher doesn't seem concerned with typos on the back cover blurb. Surely the first thing many readers read, it does concern me if they seemingly can't be bothered to get this right.

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    1. There have been a few authors that I'm semi friendly with and I wanted to tell them but who knows how that will go over these days. I don't' want to get int he middle of some big internet fight.

      The publisher angle is what is upsetting to me too. It's unfortunate but it is somewhat expected in the self pub realm - but now it's trickling into main stream publishing as well.

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  11. This is a very interesting topic! I don't mind seeing some errors in books. It happens. Nobody is perfect, not even editors. However, if there are a lot or it's something you feel you should mention, then go ahead! Reviewers are meant to be as honest as they can...though I know sometimes it's hard to mention the negatives of a book, especially if the author gave it to you personally to read.

    That's really bad that big publishers are releasing books with so many mistakes though. Yeah, I know that some people want books from various authors QUICK, but they have to be quality work. Otherwise, why pay so much?

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    1. I guess there should be good editing at any price point but when I'm paying full price it does bother me more.

      Almost all of the cases I found were of a bigger publisher snapping up a self pub book. Why can't they give it a quick once over like they would do with any other author they contracted from the start?

      I always used to ignore it because I'm not all that picky but it's so much more prevalent now and no one seems to comment on it.
      It's one thing if I knew ahead of time and still chose to purchase it but I feel ripped off if I spend a lot of money on a book that has numerous editing issues that no one mentioned.

      I also know of MANY self pub authors that put a lot of work into publishing a quality book so it can be done. Sure they won't catch everything but at least try.

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  12. If it bothers me enough to impact my enjoyment I'll mention them. I do however tend to mention them more when I know the Author has come from a large publisher yet despite all the fancy editors employed under them let the book slide through with significant errors. That in my eyes is way worse than the self pubbed little guy having grammatical errors slip through the cracks.

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    1. " I know the Author has come from a large publisher yet despite all the fancy editors employed under them let the book slide through with significant errors. That in my eyes is way worse than the self pubbed little guy having grammatical errors slip through the cracks."

      THIS is what is bothering me. There are several authors that I gave a pass to when they were self pub. I understand that they may not be able to afford an editor. But then they hit it big and get picked up by a publisher and the books are still filled with errors! I can't even understand how that doesn't bother them? But the books sell like crazy and they get another contract.

      I wonder what that even says about the future of publishing. One group has to meet rigorous standards -the other can just crank out a book? It doesn't seem fair and they certainly shouldn't be asking full price for it.

      I know that writers don't write a perfect manuscript but that why you have crit partners, beta readers and editors to catch as much as you can before publishing.

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  13. I'm pretty lenient with errors but I hear ya. Do you see it more in self published books? Do you ever want to email the author and let them know? I know I'm tempted too sometimes.

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    1. I have wanted to email a few that I was on friendly (online) terms with. I thought I would be helping them out but I don't know. That's a slippery slope if they don't want your advice lol

      That's why I think that maybe we should make sure we address in our reviews more. If they think we don't care they won't fix it.

      I'm not even that picky about it but it's becoming more prevalent and with issues that actually impair the reading experience - not just a few typos.

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  14. I have never mentioned editing issues in my review but I do mention when things distract me (aka I couldn't get into the writing--which could be because of editing issues). Though, I think I miss a bulk of editing issues when I listen to audiobooks because I am not seeing the words on the screen. I am not overly nice though. I do think we have gotten way to connected to the idea of author seeing our reviews and we hold back a little. I try very hard not to do that because it is important to me that I am "real" with how I felt about a book!

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    1. That's a good point. Another reason to switch to audio books lol

      It never really bothered me much and for a few typos I don't say anything but the stuff I'm seeing now are things that definitely should have been caught but wouldn't necessarily be with a computer program like Word.

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  15. I've been lucky and not had too many big name publishers with editing problems. Or at least VERY few of them. I have run across a few indie ones and I have mentioned it if it is pretty bad. I'm light on the criticism of grammatical errors because I'm terrible at grammar (hey, I love to read, not write! LOL). Still, when it is something that draws me out and bugs ME then I have to mention it. There is no way someone else wouldn't notice. I would appreciate knowing that their are bad errors. Then I can decide to buy or wait until it goes on sale at least if otherwise the book is captivating. I'm with you though on the big name publishers not correcting them before publication. Really bad practice IMO.

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    1. That's how I used to feel. I'm sure people notice tons of mistakes in my posts.

      I guess it's starting to bother me when an author "makes it big" 10+ books later and still publishes something that would never make it past a normal editing process. And I wonder why some authors do have to go through it and some don't. They all seem to be previously self pub. But that's just my experience - maybe it's a wider issue or not a big deal at all in other genres?

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  16. If I came across them I would mention them, some I let go, I do read ARCs, I can't complain then

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    1. Yeah - you can't complain about ARC's - they clearly state that it's not the finished product and may contain errors.

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  17. I don't mind them in ARCs, since it is clearly stated it's not the finished book and that editing and proofreading are still in development. But I do notice misspellings, use of the wrong word, awkward sentences, and although it might not stop me from enjoying the book, it can pull me out for a few seconds to get snarky about it. I want to be pre-warned by a reviewer. You can still give it 5 stars if the story was great enough to overlook those problems, but at least mention it. if you don't, and I find them, I will discount future reviews from that person, as perhaps we judge differently. And I too have noticed more inaccuracies in books published by NYT authors and others already established. Sad trend. I guess money is tighter than ever. But if a hard cover is $30 or more even, I want a perfect book, with no mistakes.

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  18. Great observation and I totally agree! I’ve worked in the publishing industry and even though I’ve witnessed first-hand the repetitive, overburdened and at times damn near occluded editorial process, I am still shocked at the paltry standard found in books allowed to be pumped out of “the big houses” today. When reviewing manuscripts, I’ve been known to comment and potentially decrease my review by a star for what I consider “editorial” issues: e.g., plots that are too convoluted, allowing too many characters, obvious flaws in the flow of the story, overtly attempting to make the story more than what it is in order to appeal to a greater market, etc. But grammatical and spelling errors? There is simply no excuse in a professionally published book! At its most basic, publishing is the passing on of information to others. The books we print and publish are a reflection of the education and value system of a society. Others may disagree, but I feel that even books that are written purely for entertainment purposes need to rise to a basic standard or it begins to erode away at the confidence of the printed page. To publish books that compromise standards for the almighty dollar is not only shortsighted but can in the long run undercut the industry. In this rapidly changing trade, where so many are taking the leap into self-publishing, I feel that the traditional publishing houses have an obligation to hold the standard. While I applaud the publishing industry (a.k.a. “the dinosaur”) for trying to seek new ways to cut costs and streamline processes, compromising on quality of the final product is never the answer. For these reasons, if I find major grammatical or spelling errors, I will reduce my review by 2 stars and cite the reason for it. If reviewers do not hold the editorial standard in the publishing industry accountable, who will?

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  19. "If reviewers do not hold the editorial standard in the publishing industry accountable, who will?"

    This is one of the points I was trying to make. You did it much better lol

    If we keep ignoring it and give these books 5 stars (because we were busy swooning over the guy & romance) they won't even bother. I see it happening already.

    I'm not even someone who usually notices those things but it's so prevalent in some books that I actually start counting the mistakes.

    At first I thought - ahh the book was a freebie or only .99 but now they are charging $9.99! And that's not even the issue. I would think publishing should be an industry that embraces proper English and grammar.

    You can quibble about the actual story or writing style but basic editing shouldn't be optional.

    Thanks for sharing it from your prospective. Very interesting.

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  20. So everybody has mentioned arcs, so I won't say the same thing. lol
    I will say that there's an author I used to read a lot. All her books I reviewed were arcs. I didn't ever say anything about the errors bc I assumed they were corrected. Back in the Summer, one of my book club friends went on a rant bc she always reads the finished version, and they are still filled with errors. I had no idea! And felt like I owed an apology for never mentioning. You just assume, but I ended up feeling like an ass.

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    1. That would be a problem - because how would you know what the finished product will be? You're assuming the ARC errors will be fixed.

      I was discussing this with an author on twitter and she thinks the cause may be everyone using Word Track Changes to edit. With so many different people editing the same book the changes kind of get overlooked at times. It wouldn't' show up as a mistake either.

      That makes a lot of sense to me. Still a problem but at least it's not a matter of NO editing at all like I was thinking.

      Maybe there needs to be one final editor to read with a fresh perspective before hitting the publishing button??

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  21. Firstly, YAY! I'm reading one of your new discussion posts too. I can't say much as I've never read ones with that many issues. I've read ones with a handful, if its in a proof with a pub I know well or is self-pubbed I make a point to tell the author & if I can refresh the book (whispersync) before review & if not, just assume. I mention it as a passing thing cos as I've said, it's a few. If it's loads, it shouldn't be as passing... right? I guess I don't mind being outspoken as they know I didn't expect perfection. Ebooks can, normally, be edited at any time (like on Amazon) so many authors are grateful for that. It helps their product. Just highlight it & add note so when you've finished you know where, when & how much they've occured. So yeah, I tell them what needs editing. I automatically edit, it's just my thing.
    BTW, responded to your comment on my blog here!
    Happy reading! :)

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    1. And what has the author's response been?

      I've thought of contacting a few authors that I feel comfortable talking to but then I feel like that's not my job and with the way social media can get these days - I certainly don't want it to be interpreted wrong and become the subject of a public bashing lol

      I also wonder if authors want a barrage of "fix this" emails. But like I've said - I definitely thought of doing it a few times.

      I only tend to give input if asked.

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    2. They've been grateful. But as I said, it's only if they kinda know me. I wouldn't if we hadn't talked outside of them giving me a novel to review. But it's not that strange for me to talk to them & promote them in some ways so we have a relationship, it's both professional & friendly so they understand I'm meaning well :) I also forgot to point out I DM authors a lot. If its a mutual following, I'm more comfortable & likely to just shoot them that quick tweet. Easier than email, but I am on Twitter A LOT.
      If you're comfortable talking to them, I'd risk it. I really doubt it would affect anything. It's only pointing out a few mistakes & lots of them have experienced that before. Probably from betas or editors but I don't care XD If you think of doing it, act then? :L But at the end of the day, it's up to you & what you think is right for you.

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  22. Editing issues: I only mention it when the book I've read isn't an ARC. But even with ARCs I can't stand it when there are a LOT of errors. It makes me question the competence of the author. But if it's already out on the market I expect it to be flawless. I've come across a book or two with a few errors and I would go back to the author and let them know of the errors I found (these were review requests). I had grateful responses so far but there was one where the author got defensive.

    But I feel you, it is disappointing to purchase a "raw" book, it is a waste of our hard earned pennies.

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    1. I've beta read a few books so I've learned just how much a book changes from first draft until finished product. I am always a little surprised how many errors slip through to ARC's too but I would never mention it in a review.

      If it was that bad - like unreadable - I would tell the author or ask if they were planning on making changes before publishing.

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  23. I agree with you. If the spelling and grammatical errors affect my enjoyment of a book, then it becomes a problem. And I feel it should be mentioned. That's what a review is about...sharing your honest opinion of a book. Five star books should be PERFECT, and if a book isn't perfect (including grammar/spelling) I can't give it a 5.

    I'm doing beta reading right now for a series and author that I love. I always point out errors that I catch. Writing is hard work, and a rough draft is that--rough. Through beta readers and editors, errors should be minimized.

    If I wanted to read books with major spelling and grammatical errors, I would read *only* ARCs.

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    1. I could never give a book 5 stars with multiple grammar/spelling errors.

      I think that's what's bothering me. No one mentions it and they rate just based on *the feels* then I go spend money on a book and I feel ripped off. At least if it's mentioned, I can't decide if it's worth it or not. But 5 stars means 5 stars lol

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  24. Excellent post! I've mentioned editing mistakes in my reviews a few times, and once an author commented on my review to thank me and let me know that the mistake had been fixed. He was nice about it, but I still felt embarrassed! But unless it pulls me out of the story, I usually don't notice and won't mention it. As others have already said, I don't mention errors in ARCs as I assume they will be fixed.

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    1. I should have asked if anyone contacted authors or if authors commented not hat in reviews.

      A few people said they would contact he authors but I never seriously thought of doing that myself.

      It's not my job (because now I would have to highlight/take notes and email that all to an author) and it might be overstepping. But maybe they would like that information?? I honestly don't know.

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  25. I do comment when I think books needed further editing. I am less likely to point out typos because a large number of the books I am reading are proofs and won't be perfect. But the main editoral corrections of plot and inconsistencies, should have been fixed by that point. There are books I've still really enjoyed that have been a bit rambly, but I will say I think things needed fixing. Some people just don't care though.

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    1. That's a good point about ARC's. I do comment on plot inconsistancies but not typos. I feel like that's clearly stated on the cover - uncorrected proof - but I do comment on any actual story flaws.

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  26. I will admit that I'm a fast reader and often I think my brain self-corrects typos. That said, I notice at least one mistake in about a third of the books I read. I agree that to pay $10 -- or $20 -- for a book and then find typos in it is pretty annoying!
    Jen @ YA Romantics

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    1. I almost always catch one or two - even in the *big* publisher books. I'm ok with that. I'm even more lenient on self pubs.

      I'm talking more about mistakes to the point where my brain is focused more on errors and I actually start highlighting or counting them. Maybe 10-20+ errors. Or if I need to actually go back and figure out what they are really trying to say.

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  27. I always mention editing issues in my reviews if it detracts from my experience because as a reader I would want to know. Errors like this can be really annoying if they exist throughout the book. For me the writers style of writing, pacing, and the editing are all a big part of whether I'll enjoy a read!

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  28. I stumble upon them, but even though I read and re-read my posts mistakes slip through, so unless it is so cumbersome an issue I don't mention it. As for the American using British words..we are huge fans of British TV and as a result we use British slang all of the time and it feels natural, so I wouldn't bat and eye over it. Now you give me a historical regency romance and they are using modern day language I will note that in my review. Awesome topic!

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  29. I so rarely review self-published books that this doesn't become much of an issue, but YES reading poorly edited books definitely affects my enjoyment! I have also wondered with some books whether other readers just didn't notice grammatical or spelling errors, or whether they didn't think those were important, or whether they were being too nice.

    Wendy @ The Midnight Garden

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  30. I have only reviewed a single indie book, and I did mention the typos in my review (though they honestly didn't detract much from my enjoyment of the story, and I stated that much)...But the real problem is, there are so many would-be writers nowadays, and most of them actually can't write. I'm not talking about typos here, I'm addressing spelling and grammar errors. We have a right to judge clumsy writers from them, don't we? since they apparently need proofreaders in order to become fake-perfect...

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  31. I read quite a few indies and sometimes I don't notice things that others have pointed out (regarding editing) and so I know I'm not the best for noticing these things. If a book is horribly edited, I don't finish, so there's no review. This has happened quite a few times and I tell the author that the editing is not enough and I'm not finishing it because of that. It's been awhile since I've noticed editing in a book that I've reviewed. When I do accept indie books I make sure that they hired a professional editor. Not that it makes it clean, some editors aren't really that great, or they miss a lot. But it helps and it seems to have narrowed down the bad ones. If I were reviewing a book that had some editing mistakes I would probably mention them if they were enough for me to notice them, even if it didn't ruin the story. Usually for me, it's the dialogue that needs worked on. That's where I see poor editing and end up DNF'ing books. Dialogue is easy to have all over the place and it can get confusing.
    Wow, what a rambling comment!

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  32. This is a huge pet peeve of mine so YES, I like to be warned in reviews because if the grammatical errors are excessive, it totally distracts from the reading for me (not that I am perfect when it comes to getting grammar right either. But that's what editing is for!).

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  33. This is a great post and you've brought up several important points. Yes, I do mention if there are errors that interrupt my enjoyment. I think when a poorly edited book makes it out there, it sets a bad example, just as you said...is it more important to get the story out? If someone gives a speech, do they not practice and polish it? If they are up there stuttering, how is anything they say going to be taken seriously? Same thing for books, if you want your reader to become immersed in the story I think the book should, as you said, have a goal of 0 mistakes. Maybe some people don't mind mistakes, maybe they don't even notice them. But if I do and it bothers me I will say so. If I notice them and it doesn't bother me, I will say so also. I think it also says something about the publishing industry, but I guess that's a whole other post right there.

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