I’ve joked about poorly edited books on Twitter, but in reality, I don’t think it’s a joke. It’s something that bothers me quite a bit.
I’m an editor, so I realize I’m biased, but I’m a reader first. I can grit my teeth and overlook one or two typos in a book, not one or two per page. It makes me very frustrated when I try to be supportive of indie authors, and I feel bad for the ones who know how important it is to clean up a book before setting it loose in the world. I don’t understand it. Not everyone is a great writer, but it you want to be recognized for your writing (and I assume a writer wants to be recognized for his writing if he’s published a book) you are shooting yourself in the foot if you produce something riddled with mistakes.
At least part of the reason I’m on GoodReads is to discover new books and writers. If someone sends me an invitation to an “event,” ie, the publication of his new book, I’ll look at it and consider it. If it’s free, I’ll download it only if there are no mistakes in the promotional copy. If it’s not free, I’ll check out the cover and title first, then the description, and then the reviews. If it seems like something I might like, I’ll buy it. I’m not saying I do this every time someone sends me such an invitation (I’d never be able to keep up) but I’ll do it often enough. It’s fairly random.
Recently, I was burned by a particularly bad indie science fiction book. I won’t go into the fact that the plot line, the dialogue and the characters all needed a lot of work, probably more than a basic copyedit could fix. What an editor would have caught was, among other things, a constant ping-ponging between tenses:. “He says,” in one paragraph, “She said,” in the next one. And that was just one of the more obvious errors. The image below is a screen shot from a completely random page; the first page I landed on happened to have this nugget:
I think this kind of carelessness makes a book unreadable. Sure, if you have a fantastic story and great characters, maybe you could get away with more mistakes, but then again, if you’ve got that great of a book, you owe it to yourself to ask a professional or a few highly skilled friends to read it and edit it.