I have just had my fifth review of “The Man in the Canary Waistcoat” on Amazon, and it’s a lovely five-star one – you can read it here. And one bit of it that made my grammar-loving, spelling-obsessed heart soar was this: “This is the first Kindle book I have read which had virtually no spelling or grammatical errors of any kind.” (I choose not to focus on the word “virtually”, as I have read even best-selling paperbacks where the occasional typo has slipped through.) But recently I have been reading quite a few Kindle books myself, and I have to say that the standard of proofreading is generally very poor.
Those who disagree with the whole concept of self-publishing often cite this as one of their main objections – that self-published books have not been subjected to quality control (of plot and form, or indeed of spelling and grammar). The former is a different problem, but when it comes to checking your manuscript for errors of spelling and grammar, what can you be thinking? I have just given up on one novel which – although very exciting and gripping – distracted me on almost every page with the misuse of “it’s” and “its”, “your” and “you’re”, and the use of the comma where a semi-colon or full-stop was needed. I know that some people missed grammar classes at school, that some people have English as a second language, that some people are dyslexic. But if you’re going to ask people to pay good money to buy your words, and invest good time in reading them, you need to take the trouble to check those words.
I have a degree in English, so my grammar and spelling are pretty good. But when you have written your own book and then read it several times (I read “Fatal Forgery” about twelve times, and “Canary” about ten), you stop seeing it properly. So I asked my lovely beta reader Roy to have a go, and he spotted dozens of things that I had missed (as well as raising some excellent plotting points – thank you again, Roy). Once the books were published, I asked friends who read them to PLEASE let me know if they spotted anything, as the beauty of print-on-demand is that you can update the file whenever you like – so errors can be corrected immediately, and any copies ordered from then on are the corrected one (there are no piles of old, uncorrected stock).