There are two discussions going on DearAuthor, both relating to editing and typos. Both are equally interesting and I have more to say on the topics than can possibly ever fit in their comment section.

Jayne wrote about a particular e-publisher, namely that she was unhappy with the number of typos and errors she found in a book she’d purchased. Specifically, she said in her post:

I know that this author didn’t submit her MS with these errors in it and please note authors that I am in no way blaming her for any of this. I lay the blame squarely on [the publisher]**.

This statement quite puzzled me, because I couldn’t understand why Jayne was so sure the author hadn’t written the sentences like this and they merely got missed in the editing and copy editing process. So I asked her:

I’m not sure I understand, I guess. So you think the errors got in there because the editor and/or copy editor wrote the sentences that way?

Which, since I don’t know [the publishers]** procedures on edits or how they edit, is possible, if for instance, the editor makes changes in the manuscript and rewrites sentences herself. But it confuses me, why you’re so sure the author didn’t write it that way?

A question I had to ask because never have I heard anyone so adamant that the author didn’t write the book in that way. As an editor, I’ve seen manuscripts come in that are quite clean and require very little from me except a few comments on minor content issues and typographical errors (these kinds of manuscripts happen in about one of every ten). On the other hand there are the manuscripts that require major content edits, major line edits and have many typographical errors (these also happen in about one of every ten and I must have really loved something about the book to accept it like that).

But 80% of the time are the books that require a moderate amount of both content and typographical edits. Moderate being a book that needs to go through several rounds of editing, as well as several rounds of copy editing, some content edits, correction of typographical errors on often every page. That means the manuscript is far, far from clean when I get it so typos like Jayne described are quite common in the original manuscript.

Jayne asks: Angie, perhaps you can tell me where most mistakes that end up in the final product come from. Is there still a typesetter for ebooks? Or is everything handled electronically today? Can mistakes creep into ebooks as well as be edited out of them? I open myself to your expertise

and

Do publishing houses not have copyeditors who sit down and read the final product anymore? Is everything dependent upon an electronic spellchecker?

I don’t know of anyone who relies on electronic spellchecker, actually. And if they do, they’ll soon learn not to. Spellchecker makes some of the most bizarre recommendations I’ve ever seen. It also doesn’t catch when you’ve got a correctly spelled word in an incorrect spot. It only catches misspellings and in reality, it doesn’t recognize many legitimate words.

Okay, here’s how it works at my publisher:

In its production stages, a book is probably seen by anywhere from two to twenty people. The author writes it, she has her critique partners look at it, they note what they see. She polishes it and maybe has some test readers look at it. They note what they see. She polishes it some more and sends it to her editor. (note: everything prior to this point is at the author’s discretion, the publisher doesn’t dictate critique partners or test readers, we just strongly recommend them.)

Now the editor has the book. They do several or multiple rounds of edits (two to ten or more–yes it happens). Each time, each one of them catches new errors and corrects them. Once they feel they’ve caught what they can–because at a certain point, your eye sees what SHOULD be there not what is–it goes to the copy editor (otherwise known as the final line editor) who goes through it several times. She then passes it back to the editor who goes through it again, making more corrections, before passing it to the author, who goes through it one last time, making more corrections.

It then is passed back to the content editor, who looks over all of the changes, accepts everything, cleans it up, making sure all editing marks, etc are gone from the manuscript. She then passes it to the publisher, who formats it for release. While it’s being formatted for release, the publisher looks it over and makes sure there are no glaring errors to be found. The book is then released in e-format to the public. After the book has been out for approximately six weeks, a final copy is sent to the author. She is then asked to look it over one last time for final errors before that electronic copy is uploaded for print. We encourage authors to get an outside eye–maybe a test reader, family member or friend–to look over the book that final time. Someone with fresh eyes who doesn’t know what should be there–only what is.

Just to expand slightly more, at Samhain edits take place electronically. There is no typesetting. This is, I’m fairly sure, how all e-publishers work. Even are books are uploaded electronically for print. Now, to address this part of Jayne’s question:

Angie, perhaps you can tell me where most mistakes that end up in the final product come from… Can mistakes creep into ebooks as well as be edited out of them?

I think it can often happen that mistakes end up in the final product as a result of the editing process. There are many ways that could happen–maybe the editor suggested the author take out a part of her sentence or combine two sentences or so forth. In doing so, punctuation or words are deleted, but when going through and doing so, neither realized that a key word or punctuation was deleted. We try to avoid this by going over the book many times, but sadly, it does happen.

I’m not going to describe the Samhain editing process in depth (as far as how we do the technical edits) because I don’t think anyone really cares, but I will say that we try to avoid making any changes to the authors work in the manuscript. The majority of our editorial comments are done using the comment feature in Microsoft Word, not in the body of the manuscript itself. We leave it to the author to make the changes in the body of the manuscript and re-write the sentences or make appropriate word changes. Doing it this way allows “author voice” to remain at the forefront and it also allows the author to learn (for instance, learn not to write with those pesky dangling participles I’m going to be blogging about in the future). Not to say I don’t make changes in the mss itself, because I do, especially punctuation and misspelled words, extra words, etc–technical things.

Now, let me stress to you. This is how the process works at MY publisher. And I’m only speaking on e-publishing. NY is much different as the process goes. I know there are publishers out there who don’t do anything similar to this process. I know of several publishers who don’t give authors final say over the final product and edits (and FWIW, I would recommend authors never sign a contract like this, because you give up control of a product that ultimately has your name on it. But authors do and many get burned, though it turns out well for some.)

I also know there are publishers who use only one editor, no copyeditor, and do only one or two rounds of edits. And there are publishers who have editors who have only a basic grasp of what they should look for. Yet still there are publishers who hold the author responsible for making sure the book is ready to be seen by the public (meaning the author is responsible for cleaning up all editing marks, etc.)

I can’t speak about the process of final product for these publishers, only my own, though I can say that I don’t agree with any of those practices because it’s my belief that the publisher and editor are ultimately responsible for making sure the book is as clean and reader-ready as possible, though I know, with every book I edit, there will be a small percentage of typos that will still go through because a completely error-free book would require the sort of infallibility that I don’t claim to have.

**I removed the name of the publisher in question because I didn’t want to seem as though I was spreading sour grapes about another e-pub. My intention was to discuss the spirit of the post, not that particular publisher.

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