Friday, July 31, 2015

Why Typos Lose You the Most Sales

Hemingway once had a manuscript his editor sent back to him. It asked that he put in commas and periods before the editor would even look at it. Hemingway sent back a letter with

“…………………………………………………………………. …………………………………………………………………..…………………………………………………………………..…………………………………………………………………..…………………………………………………………………..…………………………………………………………………..………………………………………………………………….…………………………………………………………………..,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????.

“I think that will be all the punctuation you need. Please feel free to put them in where you see fit.”

Or so the story goes.

Many artists—and rightfully so—believe that the punctuation, grammar, and spelling, do not state their ability to create ambiance, pacing, and characterization. Sure, it is important to the flow of a story to get these things right, but isn’t that the job of your editor?

Especially when submitting to a traditional publisher (versus self-publishing), many writers will not focus on the typos. Artistically, big picture-wise, they’re easy to fix and it’s not the hardest part of creating a good story. So, it makes sense why people don’t always prioritize fixing them.

But you should.

-It directly affects the enjoyment of reading it.

Let’s work with the most valid reason readers don’t want to purchase a book filled with typos—typos are jarring.

Everything else aside, they immediately ripped the reader out of the story to pay attention to this trivial issue that is actually easy to fix. I mean, typos happen, and it’s reasonable not to catch everyone especially in the first few drafts, but when an author is trying to sell his manuscript based on the merits of immersion and entertainment—whether that be directly to a reader or agent—he is shooting  himself in the foot by not prioritizing having a clean manuscript.

And sometimes spelling errors, misplaced words, and the like can obviously confuse what the author is trying to say. In many cases people will know what you really mean—you meant “their” not “there”—but it’s just as common for typos to change the entire meaning of the sentence.

An author who cares about his reader will take care of them, realizing that even if they should forgive a typo here and there, it makes the reading experience less.

-It’s a sign of inexperience.

The more you write, the more you learn grammar rules, the more you teach your hands to type in the correct form of “your,” and the more you precise and experimental you get. You can’t start toying with the effects of punctuation if you don’t understand punctuation.

The more experienced a writer is, often the less grammatical mistakes they make. There are those authors who never bother to learn and yet have written thousands and thousands of pages, but it still makes sense to determine a writer’s experience level by their ability to write correct sentences.

When readers pick up a book or agents pick up a manuscript and they see it typo ridden, it says, “I am a beginning author.”

And it really doesn’t matter if you are or aren’t.

While a lack of understanding or interest in grammar doesn’t actually mean that you don’t know how to satisfy a reader, people think, when seeing these mistakes, that if you can’t fix the obvious black and white rules of writing, how can you have the skills and knowledge to keep up the continuity, character arcs, or a great ending?

It’s not unreasonable for people to assume that a book filled with typos is going to be terrible. They are, in many, many cases. Not only because typos hurt the experience, but if the author doesn’t understand how important they are to a reader, if he didn’t edit for grammar, he probably didn’t edit at all.

While it might not be true, it probably is, and readers would be stupid to ignore it when there’s so many books out there that are just as likely to be well written and are easier to read.

-It suggests you don’t care.

More accurately, when books or manuscripts have obvious mistakes, it has to be either the author didn’t know the rules or just didn’t care to enforce them. So, if it’s not inexperience, it’s apathy.

When hiring artists, the first thing I recommend you look for is how excited they are to do their job. If they’re specifically excited for your project, even better. You want people who want to be there, those who love doing their work. Even if a person is a master at their skillset, if they don’t enjoy doing it, or consider your commission beneath them, they will be difficult to work with, and will often do a half-assed job.

Imagine you’re an agent with hundreds of manuscript submissions on your email. You have all these potential clients to work with and someone sends you a work that needs… a lot of work. There’s bound to be another few stories on there that interest you, and this person not only will require a great deal more of your time as you try to fix all of them, but in all honesty, they’re likely to be a pain in the ass to work with.

When someone sends an agent or publisher a typo-ridden manuscript, it could mean the inexperience thing—which means the professional will have to take the time to teach them—it could mean that they don’t care about the reader’s experience, they don’t care about looking good, or they don’t believe it’s their job to fix grammar errors. It’s possible they think their story is so great that it doesn’t need that extra polishing push to get picked up.

Why would they pick up someone who is going to be more work, who doesn’t care about making themselves presentable, and probably has a pretty big ego? The story would have to be killer.

And it’s even worse for those going into self-publishing. At least with an agent it’s somewhat understandable for a writer to believe the problem will be fixed before it hits readers, but when a book actually goes live and is still filled with easy mistakes, it screams apathy for the readers’ experience.

If the author didn’t care enough about the book to make sure it was a clean, legible draft, why should the reader invest their emotions or time in it either?

-It’s an easy means to judge an author by.

This is the unfortunate truth all authors have to accept: People cannot judge your book until after they’ve read it, so they have no appropriate means to judge if they should read your book.

Basically, they’ll only know for sure they’ll enjoy it after they’ve read it, so they have to use somewhat superficial means to determine if they should choose this book versus thousands of others. We have the cover, the summary, the first few pages, and some reviews. But the cover isn’t really an example of quality of story, the summary can tell you plot and a little characterization, but it doesn’t give you voice, pacing, or the depth of the people you’ll be reading about. The first page gives you a decent idea of the writer’s style or ability, but most of us will always be bored with a book until we get invested—I’ve hated every single one of my favorite books, T.V. shows, and movies until I got a decent way in—so determining the writer’s ability from just a few words isn’t always successful. As for reviews… well, they tend to suck, ranging from, “I loved it! I would recommend more books from this author!” to “There were swear words!” Rarely do reviews give you a good look into what your experience will actually be.

The only valid place to determine if you’ll like the book is from the sample chapters. Yet, it’s hard to assess the quality of story and writer with that little amount. I am rarely, rarely hooked by a first page, most readers say they have to give a story about 30 pages before they can determine that they don’t want to read it. In many cases, I see can argue merit or flaws in any piece of work; it’s unlikely that I’ll have a clear understanding of the writer’s ability unless there are some obvious mistakes.

And typos are obvious.

Because they could symbolize inexperience and/or apathy, because they can directly screw your reading experience, because they stand right out, are black and white and have no artistic merit or controversy, typos are the easiest and most accurate method of determining whether or not this book will be enjoyable—other than actually reading it.


People rarely buy books with obvious typos. And for good reason.