The Write Factor

Filed in The Latin Lover , The Smutty Lover Posted on April 8, 2011 @ 10:00 am 10 comments
Breaking News: The Around the Bookish World News Week-in-Review post has been postponed to tomorrow (Saturday) due to some spontaneous happenings on Twitter (ie. hence the topic of this post).

Yesterday morning a post about grammar errors and typos diminishing the experience of reading had Twitter aflutter. This post made us think about whether ARCs are a different species than finished books, or whether they should be treated the same.

For those of you who don’t know what ARCs are, they are Advance Reader Copies, which are review copies printed from galleys/proofs during the copy edit stage, meaning that both the author and the editor are still going through some proofreading and last minute changes/polishing. Meaning that ARCs are far from being finalised and that is why each and every ARC has two notes/warnings on the cover:
1) that the book we are about to read is an UNCORRECTED proof copy, and
2) that if the reviewer wishes to include quotes of the book in their review, they should absolutely CHECK WITH THE FINISHED COPY, since it might have changed.
Has: Now as reviewers, we know that the ARCs we receive will have errors, it is stated so on the cover on print editions and the e-arcs we get from authors and publishers. However, to judge a book due to its grammatical errors (which are there because it is an ARC) is unfair.
Yet the main gripe is that the blogger asks publishers and publicists to ensure ARCs shouldn’t have these errors yet each book and the process it goes through can vary widely and it also depends on the stage of the proofs/galleys which ARCs are produced from. Errors are expected because this is the stage where they are being rectified and corrected. ARCs are also labeled and warn the reviewers that there will be errors especially when a reviewer quotes from a book they are asked to check via the publisher with the finished copy. Grammar and editorial issues are important, no one would like to read a book filled with those errors but an ARC is expected to have a few – some more than others which depends on a variety of factors.
Stella: English is not my mother tongue. Though I use it daily and all the time (I work mostly in English, watch movies in English and also read only in English), it is still a language I learnt. Due to this I think I can be sympathetic to those who make a few mistakes. BUT grammar is important to me. Very much indeed. I admit that mix ups of their, there and they’re, your vs. you’re and its vs. it’s are pet peeves of mine. (and don’t even get me started on then vs than!) And if I encounter them in a book even if just once, my feathers are ruffled. But I think it is completely understandable. The difference between these seemingly similar words is HUGE. And sure writers are people too who can make mistakes, but that is what the editor and publisher are there for, to polish the manuscript. So when I buy a book, I expect it to be a finished work. It would be unrealistic to expect it to be perfect, typos and some punctuation errors may occur, and I surely wouldn’t think it is the author’s fault.
That said, I think ARCs should be treated differently than finished, bought books. Larissa Ione said this wonderfully, so I won’t try to say it more eloquently:
The thing is, ARCs state clearly that they are uncorrected page proofs and that some of the material won’t appear in the final version.
So why would publishers, authors, and publicists send out these ARCs?
Because if they waited for the final versions, reviewers wouldn’t get copies until very close to release day. There simply isn’t enough time to do that.
ARCs are based off copyedits. When an author gets copyedits, they mark changes on the pages. The pages are sent back to the publisher, where they are manually inputted into whatever program will turn them into galleys (also called page proofs.) A LOT of errors get inputted, often including copyedit remarks.
The resulting galleys (page proofs) are then bound as ARCs, but at the same time, those exact pages are sent to the author and several proofreaders, who correct all the errors that were put into them. Those pages go back, and the final version is printed. The problem is that the final version doesn’t get printed until VERY close to release, so again, if reviewers didn’t get ARCs…they likely wouldn’t get anything.
This really isn’t a matter of proofreading – the ARC IS what gets proofread. And this is exactly why authors get so upset when they see their ARCs on Ebay. ARCs are generally full of errors, and we don’t want anyone paying good money for that, let alone taking it as an indication of our writing ability or our publisher’s proofreading and judging us.
I know that during the ARC stage I make a LOT of changes. The ARC read will reveal inconsistencies, spelling errors, etc. Generally, there won’t be any story/plot changes, but I do catch the errors made during the inputting stage, I’ll delete repetition in my own text and phrasing, etc.
Anyway, I hope that helps explain why ARCs can be ridden with errors!
ARCs are sent out by publishers to reviewers for the book to receive early reviews for the big release day. As Larissa pointed out, if the author/editor/publisher finalised the book and made sure there were no more mistakes in it, there would absolutely be no more time to send out these books, leave a reasonable timeframe for the reviewers to read and review them, and for the publishers to read through all the reviews and choose which ones to use. So I understand that for the early reviews to be used in time, the ARCs have to be sent out without being finalized and proofread.
ARCs are a marketing tool between reviewers and publishers, and should be treated as such. They serve a purpose: to enable the reviewers to get an early glance of the story and for the publishers to receive some early feedback on the book. That is why many bloggers and reviewers buy a finished copy of the ARC they read if they liked the story.
So tell us, do you find grammar important when reading a book?
(We are not talking about major errors which render the text incomprehensible like it was written by a translating program, but smaller ones which could be due to some oversight.)
Do you think ARCs should be treated and judged the same way finished books are, or to the contrary due to their nature some errors are to be expected and overlooked?
And finally, do you think it is fair to post a negative early review of a book and not be critical in the review because of the story and the content but because of some typos and errors present in the ARC copy?

About Stella


Stella is a proud bookaholic and a self-taught multilinguist in training. Besides reading, her other great passions are travelling and baking. When she is not globetrotting she lives in sunny Budapest, where she loves to spend her free time preparing (and feasting on) delicious cookies or devouring equally yummy books. Her favourite genres are urban fantasy and romance and she couldn't live without her daily dose of sunshine. Besides being the Latin Lover on BLI Stella also blogs about books and a bookish life on Ex Libris.

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10 Comments

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  • Lea April 8, 2011 at 11:18 am

    Great post ladies!

    Reviewers have to expect errors in the ARC copies they receive. As noted in the disclaimer in the front of the book, "This is an uncorrected proof".
    Ergo – there will be errors and as Larissa noted the book is still undergoing edits and changes.

    Crafting a novel is a process and what an author initially creates in when penning their work is most often quite different from the finished manuscript. Now granted, the ARC copies offered to reviewers are in the final stages of being corrected but they are still unfinished. IMHO it is absolutely ludicrious for a reviewer to accept an ARC and expect it to be grammatically perfect.

    Further, ironing out the grammatical, spelling and typos to my understanding happens in the final stages of editing – after the ARC's go out.

    On a personal I write medical legal documents for a living and it's damn difficult to isolate every grammatical and spelling error when you are working under and ever looming deadline. So, I'm grateful when an ARC comes my way and try to review it on the merits of the story, the grammatical, spelling and typos are not considered.

    Now, if I buy a brand shiny new book off the shelf and it's riddled with errors, that is a different story. However, considering the numbers of books that are published these days an occasional typo doesn't bother me.

    Lastly, if you set the bar at perfection – I'm sorry you will likely be sorely disappointed because it doesn't happen.

  • MinnChica April 8, 2011 at 11:29 am

    With an ARC especially, it drives me nuts when people complain for a few reasons.

    1. It specifically says uncorrected. Humans are not perfect, never have been and we never will be. Shit happens, grammar mistakes happen.

    2. THE ARC WAS FREE. It annoys me so much when people bitch and moan about something that was FREE. You didn't have to pay for it, you didn't have to shell out your hard earned money. So stop bitching. It's annoying and petty IMO.

    3. I'm still new enough to book blogging that when I get an ARC, I'm super excited. It's a chance to read a new book that I'm excited about BEFORE everyone else. I can help hype it, drive sales, tease fellow readers with aweosme one-liners! What's to complain about there? And if the book isn't my cuppa, well… at least I didn't have to pay for it.

    I can understand (and have been) upset about multiple errors in a finished book I paid for. I get that, it frusterates me too. But honestly, I've come to expect one or two mistakes, even from the big name publishers. They do A LOT of editing, they can't catch everything. Does it bother me sometimes, sure. Do I let a one or two its vrs it's ruin an entire story for me? NO

    For me the plot, the story, the journey is what matters.

  • Blodeuedd April 8, 2011 at 1:27 pm

    Of course I do not care about mistakes in ARCs, I mean there is a warning on the cover! Sure it annoys me sometimes when there is something like she6578ppard. But do I complain, nope, it's an ARC.

    When it comes to "real" books, I most often just read so fast so my mind correct the errors in my mind. But if they are too many then I do mind, though I still do not complain. I think I have been lucky so far

  • Has April 8, 2011 at 1:44 pm

    I totally agree with you all about that – I had the occassional typo which didn't affect the enjoyment of the book and when I have read an ARC – I do expect there will be errors and I can't judge the book on that due to the editing process. However I did encounter a book where the formatting was really bad for an ebook and this was a final copy but it wasn't the fault of the story or the author.

    This is why I don't think as readers if we should judge an ARC on that basis alone. If it was a finished copy then there would be a good reason but for me an occasional typo will not harm the story especially if its a good one.

  • LSUReader April 8, 2011 at 4:10 pm

    Errors in books I purchase bother me—whether they are grammatical, typographical or factual. With as much time and effort that goes into publication, someone should have done his or her job better and corrected the book.

    But an ARC is not a finished book. I expect ARCs to contain errors; the ones I’ve read usually have a disclaimer to that effect. Reviews should take that into account. No author should be negatively evaluated based on publication steps that were skipped in order to provide timely ARCs. What a great way that is to encourage authors and publishers to stop providing ARCs for review.

    Thanks for a good column.

  • Sheree April 8, 2011 at 4:19 pm

    I don't mind errors in ARCs as long as the finished versions don't have them. When finished books have errors, that's when I do mind a bit (unless it's one of those errors that makes me spit nails, then I mind it a lot). Also, errors in children's and YA books bother me way more than in adult fiction as reading is one way by which kids can learn proper English (since no one speaks that way anymore).

    Have I exclaimed "WTH?!" during reading a book due to the typo or grammatical error? Yes. Have I stopped reading a book because of it? No. I do mention the typo sometimes though in a review but only as a side note.

  • draconismoi April 8, 2011 at 7:41 pm

    People get a FREE copy of a book BEFORE it was released and COMPLAIN?!

    RAH! Morons! All of you! Feel my disgust and wrath!

    If I were to get an ARC of Mira Grant's Deadline, or Gail Carriger's Heartless, or ….(okay any sequel I am salivating for)…I would be jumping with joy – not whining about misspelled words. That whining is reserved for typos in finished works I've paid full-price for.

  • JenM April 8, 2011 at 10:29 pm

    I'm one of those people who can immediately spot grammatical errors on a page, therefore I always notice them. However, just about every finished book I read these days has at least a few errors so I've gotten used to them and don't complain until the number of errors reaches a certain threshold.

    With ARCs though, of course there are going to be errors, sheesh, it says so right on the front of the book. How rude of a reader who has gotten the book for free anyway, AND has been warned about them to have the nerve to complain.

  • Jen B. April 9, 2011 at 8:45 am

    I HATE errors in books. I have found some that actually stop my reading because they are so jarring. Example, the character name changes midscene or past tense switches to present tense. However, in ACRs I understand these sorts of things. It's not quite a finished product. I will say, I received one digital ARC that was missing one scene entirely (let me tell you, that was hard to read) and then there are a scene that I'm willing to bet got cut from the final product because it read like something from a whole different story.

  • Stella (Ex Libris) April 14, 2011 at 9:53 am

    @Lea: my thoughts exactly Lea! In an ARC errors are to be expected, however in a final print book it frustrates me if there is more than the occasional typo.

    @MinnChica: Great point Nicole about ARcs being free and GIVEN! (we forgot to think of that). It's kinda the "don't look a gift horse in the mouth".

    @blodeuedd: Yep, and the warning is in plain sight written in big!

    @LSUReader: "No author should be negatively evaluated based on publication steps that were skipped in order to provide timely ARCs."

    I couldn't have said it better!! And I agree, what the blogger doesn't realise is that she is hurting the bloggers by this.

    @draconismoi: Haha, ditto! :-D

    But as we all agree: ARC are a different species than finished print books and should be treated differently too. There is a warning in big fonts saying that errors are to be expected!

    Thank you all for sharing with us your opinion on the matter, glad to see Has and me aren't the ones having 'weird' notions about being more forgiving with ARCs :-)

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