Yesterday, I did some research on DAW and found a lot of interesting stuff. So, I feel not too mean about using one of their pubs as an example for the subject of this post. Ok, that’s not true. I feel bad. But I’m really angry that they let this book slip.
This weekend, we’ve talked about NaNo, about publishing your own material, about editing services and beta-reading services, about e-books and audio-books. My turn.
The single fastest way to piss me off is bad copy-editing. I don’t mean the occasional “staypos” (as Saladin Ahmed named them) that still remain in a text no matter how many eyes go over the work. I’m talking about the glaring errors that are just cheap and lame. Not just books: advertisements, those banners that hang from the ceiling over the aisle in the Kroger, this blog, my water bill…
What it says to me, the reader, is that you care so little about your publication that you won’t go to the extra work to have it copy-edited. I mean, there are dumb schmucks out there who have done this for free (*ahem*). If you don’t believe in your own product, why should I?
Copy-editing is not content-editing, or style-editing, or “chop out this bit and add a scene about an elephant”-editing. Copy-editing is the very last bit to check again for spelling errors, punctuation errors and formatting errors before it goes to print. It’s the final polish.
This book had a couple of different problems. I found it at the local used book store up the road, and I WANTED to LOVE this BOOK so BAD!
The Warriors of Spider by W. Michael Gear. 20th Anniversary Edition.
It’s got an Arapaho-derived world-view goin’ on, it ends with a horse (you don’t look at the last page first? Really? Ok, weirdo.), it’s a space opera–what’s not to get excited about, here? Plus, W. Michael Gear is this guy, who, with his wife Kathleen O’Neal Gear, writes the bestseller series North America’s Forgotten Past with more than 20 bestselling titles. The Gears are publishing and practicing archaeologists. An SF written by a Native American archaeologist? Hot Shit! I found a real treasure here.
Ok, first problem. Why was this marketed so badly? It’s not hard to market this book. I just did in the paragraph above. 20th anniversary edition, the Gears have become very successful authors in those 20 years, you’d think DAW woulda put out a …poster…or somethin’. It says in little tiny print on the bottom of the cover “Bestselling author of People of the Weeping Eye”. Sigh. I’m a pretty book-savvy person, especially about SF and genre in general. I’ve never heard of or seen this book before, published in 2008 by a major national publishing house.
Now the copy editing dumbness. Please note that I’m not even going to get to page three. Dedication is to his dog. It’s a cool poem, causing me to tear up, and the dog lived from June 1995 to Oct 1990.
(I see you looking at those dates again)…yeah, I did that too.
First page, second sentence: “…the fully-automated GCI cargo ship.”
First page, second paragraph from the bottom: “…powered the shields as the CGI slipped beyond…”
Other instances in the book use GCI. This book had the opportunity to be copy-edited twice over. Once for the first edition and again for the 20th anniversary. Gear talks about the typos in the first edition right here, so it’s evidently well-known for its typos. So why didn’t DAW correct those for the 20th anniversary edition? And don’t tell me about it still being in an old and difficult to modify format, etc. The dedication to the dog wasn’t in the 1988 edition. (Well, it is a typo. Who knows what dates the dog was supposed to have lived.) DAW did a serious disservice to Mr. Gear with this publication, I think.
This is not a mistake that small-presses or indie-pubs can afford to make, you know? With the small number of books that a small press usually publishes each year, if one of them is this badly copy-edited, I can guarantee I’m not going to bother with that publishing house again. The small publishers and independently publishing authors that I know know this and work very hard to make sure these kinds of dummy errors don’t happen. It’s like they have to work extra-super hard to make sure they don’t ever make an error, because even one can kill them.
With that comparison in mind, I just wish that DAW had been a little more loving of this book. It wouldn’t have been a big stretch. I could have forgiven the crap marketing job, chalked that up to my not paying attention; but it was the crap copy-edit job on a celebratory 20th anniversary reprint that did me in.
For me, it’s a real betrayal. I don’t know if I can trust you anymore. Do you mean GCI or do you mean CGI and I missed some vital thing in the plot?