I took my proof copy of Murder at the Maples on holiday with me and read it. You know, I’ve not had time to do this with my previous two books, but I’m really glad I did with this one and I’ll schedule in time to do one final paperback reading in future for sure. Because guess what? Even after all the editing, and all the proofreading – professional proofreading, mind – I spotted 3 mistakes.

I spotted 3 mistakes, but how many more lurk between the pages waiting to pounce on the reader who just loves to give 1 star reviews for books with typos? I’ll never know, until someone tells me. And that’s quite scary. I was talking to a fellow author the other day who told me about a trad-published author friend of hers whose book had been through 10 rounds of proofreading, only to still have errors. I tell you, something’s going wrong here …

Well, I have my theory, which I’ll come to in a minute. But first I have to say this: I’m not complaining about the quality of proofreading for Murder at the Maples. Jude has done a sterling job, as she always does – and let’s not forget the mistakes were mine and mine alone! Here are the three that were missed, for anyone who’s interested:

  • By the time Flora returned she’d make a tray … Should have been ‘made’.
  • … at the foot of stairs. Should have a ‘the’ before stairs.
  • Also, hadn’t Ida had left her entire … ‘Had’ should have been deleted.

Fascinating: three classic typing and editing errors here. A missing word; an extra word that hung around from an earlier draft; a tense error, which could either be a typo or also left over from an earlier version. Of course, hundreds of other errors or typos were picked up in the proofreading stage – hopefully this is all that was missed – and you have to keep reminding yourself that proofreaders are only human. They’re bound to miss a couple of things. The responsibility – always – is with the author/publisher who signs off the final version.

So, on to my theory about more mistakes in books these days – traditionally published as well as self. It’s simple: proofreading on screen.

I know exactly how this works because of indexing. Times past, editors would send me – through the post – a stack of A3 sheets to work from. I’d read through them and make notes, then transfer the terms and locations to the computer. Now they send me pdfs. It’s quicker, it saves trees, it saves money. When I download the proofs from the publishers’ FTP sites I can see the other jobs that are going out to other freelancers, proofreaders amongst them. I’d be willing to bet that the days of proofreaders, or editors, working from printed proofs – especially from printed and bound copies of the actual book – are long gone. I imagine it’s rare, at best. My proofreader works on my Word document, and gives me her comments and corrections in Track Changes. This is, I believe, fairly standard. Of course, professionals are trained to spot errors even in this format, and pick up almost all of the errors they most certainly do.

But not 100% of them. There really is nothing like the printed page to focus the eye on typos and omissions. And in the good old days, all proofing was done this way. E-format only traditional publishers are getting the same reputation as early self-publishing authors for failing to have their books properly proofread – but the sad thing is, they are having them proofed! But maybe because no paper copy exists, mistakes are getting through.

Well, this isn’t a rant by any means – at the end of the day, does it matter? I feel embarrassed – mortified – if a reader finds a mistake in one of my books, but that’s because I’m that kind of gal, and it’s all down to me as author/publisher and I want to be seen to be doing my absolute best for the reader. And I am. So if the odd typo gets through, so be it. I’m not going to lose any sleep over it. And I’m certainly not going to blame the proofreader, because she is also doing her very best. And hey, as I said before, all these mistake are mine and mine alone 🙂