If you want to watch me shoot around the room backward with steam coming out my ears, then avail yourself of Amazon’s “quality assurance” tools, and report as wrong something in my books that is not an error. Tell Amazon that I used the incorrect word when I absolutely did not, or inform Amazon that my grammar is in error when it’s correct. (Rhetorical font!) Amazon kindly passes each and every ding on to the author and expects us to fix or explain them all, lest the book suffer the dreaded Quality Warning. (Not that Amazon pushes out the corrected files, of course…)
Folks, I honestly do not expect a 100,000-word book that’s sold for $4.99 to be perfect. The publishing industry rule of thumb (outside of Amazon) is about one typo or other error (homonyms, transpositions, miscellaneous fumbles) every 20,000 words. A handful of boo-boos per book is considered within normal limits by the big New York houses.
And yet, if I had three wishes, squeaky clean book files would be among them (as would world-peace-and-justice-with-great-chocolate-and-a-livable-planet-for-all). One study I saw claimed that the top reason readers cite for not finishing a book is too many bloopers. So here’s Jeff Bezos himself helping to clean up my books for free (well…), and I’m in an intergalactic swither because readers sometimes miss the mark when they try to assist.
“Grace Ann,” I ask myself, “aren’t you ever both wrong and passionately sure you’re right? Frequently in error and seldom in doubt, like our best old friend Percival, His Grace of Matchmaking?”
You will be astonished to learn that I am. I was a staunch advocate for term limits on political office, for example, but the research says term limits actually have an anti-democratic impact. Well, pooey. For a long time, I was wrong about the word “delope,” because my mother used it to mean “decamp.” I did not know that loath and loathe meant different things.
What it says about me, when I shoot around the room backward over a reader mistakenly taking issue with a single word, is that I would rather be right than learn something. I’d rather be right than open-minded. I’d rather be flawless than human. It says I should not have to take the time to double-check, when it’s my name–and nobody else’s–on those books.
I need to simmer my behonkis down and get some perspective on the fine art of acknowledging author errors. Amazon’s quality do-loop has problems (authors get trolled, and you can’t fix a file that died on your old computer five years ago), but the larger issue is my reaction to it. I do want to know when I’m wrong, I want my books to be squeaky clean. At least for new releases, I have the time (and files on hand) to do the double checking.
Have you ever been wrong even though you KNEW you were right? Has anybody ever presumed to correct you when they themselves were mistaken? How do you handle the whole business of feeling like you’ve screwed up? To one reader, I’ll send a $25 Amazon gift card.