You’re probably tired of this subject. I know I am. It’s a daily (and hugely frustrating) part of my life. Every day, I have to log into my Amazon account to see if someone, who is likely trying to be helpful and is completely unaware of how harmful they’re being, has made use of their typo report tool.
Amazon is the only vendor that does this, and it’s hugely detrimental to authors.
Let me explain why.
First, Amazon tries to remove creative control of an author’s book from the author. If a reader submits an error, Amazon demands that the author corrects the error–to the exact specification of the reader.
The author must petition to refuse an error correction in the fashion the reader requested.
This is not okay.
This will never be okay.
Second, should a high enough number be reported, Amazon will issue a flag on the book and/or remove it from sale.
A: I had a book that was 120,000 words be flagged with a removal warning with four reported typos. That is one typo per 30,000 words. Industry standard is to attempt to get one typo per 10,000 words.
B: I had a volume removed from sale for having an error rate of one word per 7,500 words. A little higher than I want (I aim for an error per 10,000 words per the industry standard) but still an acceptable rate.
Yes, removed from sale.
That was the Beginnings collection (Susan Copperfield), and the readers’ decision to have the book removed from sale through error reporting is why I no longer offer collections for readers.
Back when I had a more active representative over at Amazon, I did my best to get them to curtail the tool.
It’s hugely damaging to the emotional/mental health of authors. There are literally zero benefits for authors.
All books have typos and mistakes. This is because a human wrote them. If you don’t want a human writing a book, go type in prompts in AI software and be happy with what you’re reading. It won’t be a book by an actual person, but at least it’ll have the grammar and spelling you seek… probably.
Here is the reality of the situation. When I go on vacation, my first action every morning will be to get up and check to see if some helpful reader has submitted errors to Amazon. If they have, I have to be prepared to submit appeals for the inevitable incorrect corrections they have submitted.
This means I have to make sure my entire writing work collection goes with me so I can implement corrections should a reader decide to make use of that retched tool.
On a good day, the reader’s correction rate is 50%. That means they got it right half the time. On a bad one, it’s closer to 10-20%. I’ve had one session where the reader got ONE thing right out of well over 30 reports.
I had to submit an appeal for each one of those incorrect corrections and provide supporting evidence on how this reader was just wrong.
It isn’t a good time.
In reality, with each passing publication, it becomes less of a good time. Even WRITING the books is becoming harder, because I know just how upset people get over typos.
It feels, day by day, that readers do not want good books. They want lifeless, grammatically perfect books.
They don’t want books written by humans.
That’s where the AI discussion comes into play.
I’m exhausted. I want to write books people love. I get up, and I stress through most of my work day, understanding that every typo I create during the creation process WILL come back to haunt me. I don’t want to lose the “life” of the book, so I only do some editing as I go. (Read: there’s a lot of editing as I write, but I try to split my day between “creation” and “making it professionally acceptable for readers.”)
AI now exists that can write in the style of people (through theft of the author’s books, alas), so it’s going to end up being that a computer will be able to write a better book than me. I’m human with imperfections.
It’s a computer, and it will not make many of the basic mistakes humans make due to them being human.
If you cannot tolerate typos, AI written books are here, and they’re probably here to stay. They’re already being sold on the market, without disclosure the book wasn’t actually written by a human.
I guess those are the books most are going to like best because they “have no mistakes.”
Every time I phrase something weirdly compared to what you prefer… that is evidence of a human being writing the book.
Mistakes happen. I’m human.
But the reality is, the prevalence of so many people who need “perfect” books will result in the loss of many authors from the market.
At some stage, I’ll be one of them, especially with how it’s continuing. My typo correction form? I force myself to look at it once a year because the last time I checked, the actual correction rate was closer to 20%.
Some people aren’t aware of some words having multiple definitions. Some people aren’t aware there are words out there, and they just assume it is a typo. (My proofreading team just ran into this. They all assumed I meant autoimmune disease because that is what they are familiar with. I meant alloimmune disease. Alloimmunity disease, sometimes known as isoimmunity disease, is when the body fails to graft certain elements appropriately or the body decides to attack things of the same species but not of the same body. (note: this is very much layman’s terms.)
You actually are probably aware of the disease even though you aren’t aware of its name. It’s most commonly known by a baby or mother attacking the other due to an incompatibility. Rh moms with Rh- babies are a common example. Mom and baby conflict with each other, and mom or baby must be vaccinated to prevent their immune systems from killing each other. This is technically a blood-based disorder. (Thus the inclusion in Vampire of Montana.)
This is an Alloimmunity disease. Not autoimmune. Alloimmune.
I am expecting a great number of typo reports over the use of alloimmunity in the Vampire of Montana. Here is a basic breakdown of alloimmunity as found on Wikipedia.
Australia’s famous “man with the golden arm” is an excellent example of real-life alloimmunity combating. His arm has saved millions of babies from death along with their mothers. Men like him (it is usually men who are the donors) produce a special antibody that allows mom and baby to survive each other during the pregnancy.
Moms with the issue must be treated at every pregnancy with a vaccination made from a donor’s blood or plasma. (The antibodies do not ‘stick’ between pregnancies.)
I have had plenty of people report typos when they were only aware of one definition of a word. I will use the word ‘set’ as an example.
I set my plate down.
The game is set to be played on Monday.
I set my last fuck free.
Three sentences, one word… three different meanings.
AFAIK, set has the most definitions in the English language, with over 40 different uses.
Most people know nine of them, roughly.
Then there is the existence of regionalisms, expressions, and idioms. These things vary based on where you’re from and when you are from that location. Language changes. Just because you dislike how something is phrased does not mean it is phrased incorrectly.
Mistakes happen, but sometimes, the ‘mistake’ is a lack of knowledge of the reader and an unawareness of a regionalism.
Rather than go educate and search to see if something is an expression or idiom from a place they are not familiar with, readers report it as errors.
Dropping ‘to be’ is an excellent example of this.
And yes, I have had a not-so-helpful reader flag in one of my books EVERY instance they felt “to be” belonged.
They were incorrect.
to be is not used everywhere in the English language. (Get over it.)
To be is typically a white affluent education inclusion. It’s a “more formal” form of writing that is taught, often, in religious schools and “higher education” frou-frou places. Places with lower socio-economic populations (read: we be poor white trash over here) do not teach the inclusion of to be in sentences. It is dropped, starting in elementary school. It’s given a “In formal writing, you may wish to include to be” notation.
How do I know this?
That’s how I was taught.
The removal of to be was expected, and it would even be flagged as “overly formal” in most writing assignments.
Food for thought for the rich and affluent; your grammar is not the same grammar as other Americans from other social demographics.
I do not change my usage of to be based on reader reports. Ever. I include or exclude depending on the characters, the situations, and the book itself.
(So, please stop asking me to add your affluent grammar to my books. If you don’t like the inclusion of ‘lower’ society in my books, my books very probably aren’t for you, sorry.)
I battle commas daily, because commas are the Devil’s favorite tool.
I write as I want to write, and I do my best to provide fun, entertaining books.
But the reality of this situation is this: I’m exhausted, and day-by-day, I’m questioning if this is really the job I want to be doing.
I love writing books.
I do not love the anxiety, the heart ache, and so on that is triggered from the relentless need of readers to have perfection.
To obtain that perfection, I would have to start writing and releasing maybe one book a year. That’s how much extra work and effort it would take to achieve this level of perfection. The stress levels are incredible.
My mental health is a daily battle. I do my best, but I’m constantly aware of how this book has to be PERFECT, or Amazon will come calling. If I’m not lucky, Amazon will unexpectedly remove my book from sale… all because a reader decided they didn’t like my book and wanted to report typos.
I have a typo form, but with how low the accurate correction rate is, it’s hard to check it all the time.
I don’t respond to typos / contact people about it. But when it comes time to quietly inquire with someone if they’d like to join the proofreading team, I DO remember who talks big but submits a bunch of incorrect errors.
And those who use the Amazon tool are generally immediately removed from the list of potential proofreaders.
Sorry, but the tool causes that much heartache and problems for me, and I very much try to keep my proofreading group a close-knit crowd. I will reconsider if the person no longer uses the tool, but… the damage done to my mental and emotional health from that tool is sufficient that I cannot help but resent those who use it–even if they meant well.
Amazon doesn’t disclose to readers how they punish authors, and readers may very well believe that they are helping when they are hurting.
I do understand this.
But it doesn’t mean I want to surround myself with those who have inadvertently damaged my mental health.
And yeah, it’s gotten to trauma levels for me. I have to check daily, and I know I have roughly 48 hours to resolve any warnings in order to prevent additional flags against my account.
I cannot afford to continue writing if Amazon is excluded from my pay. I simply can’t. So I have to deal with them.
I cannot afford to continue writing if I drop to one book a year with the goal of perfection. Money DOES matter, and one new release a year will not pay for my bills plus the amount required for retirement.
I also don’t want to drop down to one book a year. I’d become terribly, horribly bored. (3 months to write the book… 9 months of re-reading the book over and over and over in search of typos. Then publication. This is not my idea of a good time.)
I want to write enjoyable books. But the reality is? I’m held to higher than traditional publication standards, and more and more, I hear about how my books have fewer typos than traditionally published books… but I feel like I can’t get a break.
The reader drive for perfection is relentless.
I won’t be using AI to write my books. Period. I don’t use ghostwriters, I won’t use AI… I won’t do anything like that, because I had always assumed people wanted a book written by a human. (I certainly want books written by humans… specifically the human they claim to be. I become hugely disheartened as a reader when I find out an author lied about who actually wrote the book.)
But I’m also losing on the other fronts. On one hand, there are the wonderful readers who just want more books. (Your support is hugely appreciated.) That’s pressure, but at least it’s the good kind of pressure. On the other hands, the comments about whether or not there are typos, how people feel they MUST report if they spotted even one or two in reviews (it has gotten to the point I don’t read my reviews anymore, nor do I ask my PA to send me the good ones now), the inquiries on if they can join the proofreading team because they spotted typos, and how they’re just so good at typo hunting… I’m a little tired of that one, because just ask my proofreading team.
I’m a demon. I absolutely will give grammar lessons, citing from various sources, when they make an incorrect correction. (I teach about why something is done, with sources and cites, so people understand and learn.) I’m a demon. Lately, I haven’t bothered, truth be told. I’m too tired.
But that sums it up: I’m too tired.
It’s the bone-deep exhaustion of having run a multi-year marathon. I’ve been publishing for 11 years now, thereabouts. It hasn’t gotten easier. If anything, it’s gotten harder.
The burden of expectations is real. It’s also quite heavy.
I have had people come into my messages and yell at me because how dare I have a character say “you can have children of your own, too” in addition to adopting. (Because it’s hurtful for those adopted.)
That is what the character would say and has nothing to do with me.
(Seriously, stop trying to erase people from books, even when they say shit you don’t like. Real people say shit you don’t like. Stop trying to erase racism from characters. Stop trying to erase prejudices from characters. Stop trying to erase racism plot arcs. Stop trying to turn books into utopias. That’s how you get a shit book with zero depth. If you don’t want books that include these things… just don’t read. Seriously. Just stop reading. Life includes these things. Erasing it from fiction does not help any of your causes.)
Stop erasing life from fiction.
And while we’re here… an author who writes a racist character isn’t necessarily racist. Their character is. But it is fiction, and while I’m sure there are racists writing books, the inclusion of a racist character means nothing beyond “this character is a racist.”
Please stop erasing life from fiction.
A few years back, I had a mob from within the LGBTQIA+ (Please forgive me if I got the letters wrong, I am not a member of the community, I do not pretend to be a member of the community, and after this incident, I honestly keep my distance from the community) rail on my because I did not have a LGBT+ lead character. They were literally angry because how DARE me have secondary LGBT+ characters and not primary ones. (They apparently missed Jesse Alexander completely, but then again… with the amount of in-fighting in the LGBT+ community, a transgender character may have been a sin or didn’t count to them.)
Am I bitter? Yes. Nobody wants a herd of angry lesbian chicks storming their messages with threats, poor general behavior, and rage because I didn’t write a LGBT+ lead character.
And yes… that is a huge part of why I’ve been digging in my heels on Jesse #3. I just haven’t wanted to write the series after that. I don’t want to reopen the doors on that sort of commentary on my form, etc. I don’t like this sort of conflict.
I just want to write a fun book. I don’t appreciate when I’m attacked for not writing the book people wanted me to write.
This incident was one of many reasons why I barred access to messaging on facebook and started distancing myself a great deal.
In some ways, I regret having decided to start publishing books. Being able to pay the bills doing an art is glorious. But nobody had warned me how bitter the pills could get and how damaging this career can be on emotional, mental, and physical health.
And the choices I’m going to have to make next year are painful ones.
Do I try to hold the course and continue to run myself into the ground seeking the perfection that is being demanded? Do I drop down to one release a year to secure the perfection being demanded?
I can’t afford to write books if I drop to one release a year.
I need roughly six, at a minimum, to keep the backlist alive and earn fresh money on new releases. And that’s still a book every two months, which cannot achieve perfection.
Like I have a bunch of books up for preorder right now, mainly because a huge number of them were partially finished or mostly finished. But the gap between releases?
My wallet feels that. A book every other month may or may not pay the bills / secure my retirement.
I’m not particularly employable, although right now, I do wish I were. I would end up going down to a book every 2-3 years if I had to seek out traditional employment, but there are a lot of days recently I feel this might be the wiser choice.
All because of typos, ultimately.
I am disheartened, I won’t lie about that. Readers are hugely focused on typos and the quest for perfection. I am, as I mentioned before, exhausted.
I pour everything I have into the cup that is a book, only to be told “she obviously didn’t put much effort into this one” because they happened to dislike the book.
(Surprise/spoiler alert: I’m not going to write a great book (for you, as an individual) each and every time. It’s simply impossible.)
I invest a huge amount of time, effort, and heartache to every book–even the ones I’m discouraged or disheartened about, like the Booked series, that is my largest flop and most hated series (in the eyes of readers). Even when knowing there are so many that hate the series, I’m still putting in the plotting and outlining hours, doing my best to make sure I’m following all the plot threads properly, and so on.
It’s one of my favorite series, personally, because I let myself do things I don’t usually get to do. It was hated, and while I’ve come to terms with it, it’s still painful to work on the series. I’m finishing because I gave my word, but some days, I just wish I could be happy with how I know it’ll end.
There are people who want to read it, so I write it.
If you need perfect books, mine aren’t it, because there are only real humans working with the book. But with AI on the rise and ‘authors’ already pumping out AI-written titles, well… you can have your perfection that way. I hope you find those books, and that you enjoy them.
Mine are just never going to be it.
I’m exhausted, and yes, on days like today, I do wish I could quit. Instead, I’m going to go write.
Here is a picture of a sleepy t-rex with his oversized turtle buddy. (Reality: this photo was taken at Pinnacles National Park.)