An American Editor

February 8, 2010

Hall of Shame: An Introduction

A major complaint readers have is the declining quality of books. As publishers of all stripes hope to maintain or increase pricing, especially with ebooks, there is the constant friction between pricing and quality — they are in disequilibrium.

To help both readers and publishers, I have decided to start the Hall of Shame, a place where readers and publishers can both come to see what books have quality problems and readers are complaining about. Let me say upfront that this is not a place to

  • review a book,
  • say that the author is a great or poor storyteller,
  • complain about availability, or
  • argue the merits of pricing by dissing a book because you do not like the price.

Rather, it is a place to point out where editorial and production quality has fallen down, creating a disequilibrium between price and quality.

The format will be as follows:

Book title, book author, edition (that is, print or ebook), publisher of the edition.
          Problem: e.g., poor editing, poor formatting, or both
          Samples of error(s): (if appropriate)
          Frequency of error(s): e.g., occasional, often, very often
         Overall Quality: e.g., very poor, poor, neutral, good, very
                                              good

Here is the first nominee for the Hall of Shame to illustrate the process.

Look to the Sky, Margaret D. Van Tine, ebook, Live Oak House
          Problem: poor editing
          Sample of error(s): (1) wrong word use, e.g.: “You don’t call Paw ‘Reverend,’…”; (2) improper and inconsistent use of double and single quote marks; (3) failure to capitalize sentence beginning, e.g.: “I was shouted down! on a vital issue.”; (4) misuse of punctuation marks, including random punctuation marks in the midst of sentences.
           Frequency of error(s): often
            Overall Quality: poor

By spreading the word about poor editing and formatting, readers will become knowledgable consumers and speak with their wallets, declining to purchase inferior quality books, thereby shaming publishers into fixing them. Should a publisher undertake to fix a book’s problems, that, too, will be noted, assuming the publisher lets us know.

To participate in the Hall of Shame, please send the requested information via e-mail to: hallofshame[at]anamericaneditor.com.

If you have suggestions regarding information that should be included (or excluded) let me know. Remember that this is a part-time blog so Hall of Shame entries won’t necessarily go up immediately.

33 Comments »

  1. This is a great idea! It will validate my obsessive tendency to mark errors in the books I buy. (That tendency is why I can’t trust myself with library books.)
    Perhaps an accompanying “Hall of Fame” could be established for books with next-to-no errors; I don’t expect to find many with none. I think its membership would be far smaller than that of the Hall of Shame.

    Comment by Ruth E. Thaler-Carter — February 8, 2010 @ 3:25 pm | Reply

  2. Yes, a very good idea. Well done, Rich.

    Comment by Clélie Rich — February 8, 2010 @ 5:29 pm | Reply

  3. Yes, finally a place to air out the disgraceful copy-editing on the Ian Fleming James Bond books found on Sony’s ebook site !

    Comment by borax99 (Alain C.) — February 8, 2010 @ 6:09 pm | Reply

  4. I like the idea, but a warning: We must be careful to understand the difference between grammatical errors and a writer’s style. Grammatical and syntactical aberrations that are intentional are not errors. e.g., All the Pretty Horses, Ulysses.

    It may be the case that the author failed in the attempt to do something different (e.g., ‘Wittgenstein’s Daughter’, which contained no paragraph breaks), and that certainly can be noted here, I would think.

    I just worry that editors will be blamed for ‘mistakes’ for maintaining the author’s style, which is what they (the editors) are supposed to do.

    Comment by 4ndyman — February 8, 2010 @ 6:27 pm | Reply

    • I don’t think it is possible to blame an editor because no one knows whether there was an editor and if there was one, who was the editor. It is the rare book that lists the the copyeditor in the credits. Of course, publishers, authors, and editors are welcome to come here and dispute any nomination. I do not intend this to be a one-way dialogue, although it may well be one.

      Comment by americaneditor — February 9, 2010 @ 11:27 pm | Reply

  5. Where’s the error in “You don’t call Paw ‘Reverend,’…”? If it’s “Paw”, then I don’t think that’s an error. “Paw” is a perfectly acceptable spelling of one way “Pa” is sometimes pronounced.

    Comment by Simon Cauchi — February 8, 2010 @ 6:28 pm | Reply

  6. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Kristen King, K. O'Moore-Klopf, sell ebooks, Venkatesh K, Retroklahoma and others. Retroklahoma said: RT @KOKEdit: Want to complain about sloppily edited or produced books? Submit book details to http://is.gd/7XxUY, via hallofshame[at]anamericaneditor.com [...]

    Pingback by Tweets that mention Hall of Shame: An Introduction « An American Editor -- Topsy.com — February 8, 2010 @ 8:33 pm | Reply

  7. Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by sell_ebooks: Hall of Shame: An Introduction: A major complaint readers have is the declining quality of books. As publishers of… http://bit.ly/b04rul

    Trackback by uberVU - social comments — February 8, 2010 @ 8:37 pm | Reply

  8. This is a good idea. Be tough, be vigilant, be persnickety. But also be fair. Don’t lambaste a book or editor for small and inconsequential errors, but for egregious and, if you tell, systematic faults.

    Comment by michael Brady — February 9, 2010 @ 12:47 am | Reply

  9. Superb idea, Rich. I’m another compulsive corrector. I will be submitting hall of shame candidates.

    Comment by Kathleen Much, The Book Doctor — February 9, 2010 @ 1:06 am | Reply

  10. What about recycled plots? A 2008 e-release that copies – down to the subplot – a best-selling 1972 book?

    Comment by kristualla — February 9, 2010 @ 8:34 pm | Reply

    • I’m sorry but that doesn’t qualify. I consider that to be like a book I buy and discover that the author is a poor storyteller. The issues are lack of editing and poor formatting, at least for this Hall of Shame.

      Comment by americaneditor — February 9, 2010 @ 9:05 pm | Reply

  11. I think this is a great idea! If it is used as you have portrayed here, I am all for it. Will you be checking out these reports that are turned in to you? I am just concerned that the author and editor will be penalized for the author’s style in some cases, as 4ndyman pointed out.

    Comment by Jean Watkins — February 9, 2010 @ 10:36 pm | Reply

    • No, I will not be checking it out. It isn’t possible for me to do that. No one knows who the editor of a book is, so I’m not sure how the editor can be penalized. As for an author being penalized for the author’s style, that’s part of the publishing business. No one can prevent that. It happens all the time in book reviews. However, i don’t think much of that will occur here in the Hall of Shame because of the focus and limitations.

      Comment by americaneditor — February 9, 2010 @ 11:24 pm | Reply

      • I can understand that it would be a monumental task to try to research all of them, I just meant checking the occassional book. I am glad to hear that this will be an open forum so that the authors and editors can come and defend their position on things that were intentionally done. But I’m excited as well that they will be held accountable. While I know it’s impossible to catch 100% of the problems all the time, a lot of companies have been getting very lax about it over the last several years. Thank you for doing this.

        Comment by Jean Watkins — February 10, 2010 @ 2:19 pm | Reply

  12. Bravo! I’ve run across dozens of errors in books published by top-tier publishers, not to mention the august New York Times and Wall Street Journal. Exactly when did copyediting go out of style?

    Comment by Paul Ruschmann — February 10, 2010 @ 6:47 pm | Reply

  13. [...] An American Editor is also starting an Ebook Quality Hall of Shame – check out the post for details on how to submit examples from poor quality ebooks. [...]

    Pingback by Stumbling Over Chaos :: Supercalifragilinkalicious — February 11, 2010 @ 8:03 am | Reply

  14. Rich, I’m puzzled about the “Paw” sentence too. It looks to me as though you left out or misplaced a couple of examples in your list — the last quotation looks as though it’s illustrating the random punctuation marks in the middle of sentences, not the failure to capitalize, and the Paw sentence looks as though it’s illustrating the quotation mark problem (though I can’t see a problem there, either, to be honest), with *nothing* illustrating the poor word choice or failure to cap the beginning of the sentence.

    Comment by Helen — February 13, 2010 @ 1:27 am | Reply

  15. [...] and useful initiative by An American Editor. Since I have started reading my current book I can’t count the number [...]

    Pingback by Rag’n’Râle: About ebooks quality — February 14, 2010 @ 10:44 am | Reply

  16. [...] is the introduction to the Hall of Shame. He lists several things it’s not and then describes what it is: Rather, it is a place to [...]

    Pingback by Book Hall of Shame Nominees 1 « Jack Of All Trades — February 14, 2010 @ 1:55 pm | Reply

  17. [...] about the poor quality of many e-books. It is a serious enough problem to inspire the launch of a “Hall of Shame” to highlight the issue. It may make for an amusing, “FUnfortunate” conference presentation to [...]

    Pingback by The Perils of E-book Creation « AppFoundry Blog — March 2, 2010 @ 2:14 am | Reply

  18. Tis is why I like writersandeditors.com. Surprising posts.

    Comment by Lilia — March 9, 2010 @ 4:51 am | Reply

  19. Great post and great idea. Any book which has bad spelling or grammar (not to mention lots of typos) should definitely be entered into the hall of shame. And the end result should be published too!

    Comment by Simon — March 27, 2010 @ 5:28 pm | Reply

  20. As an independent publisher, I applaud and embrace this type of scrutiny. A consumer watchdog (and, consequently, a Razzie-like award) can only help maintain, if not raise, the integrity of the publishing profession. Regardless of industry, it’s always a fine idea to hold the maker’s feet to the fire and brandish them accountable for poor business practices.

    Authors should be alerted to frauds that pass themselves off as publishing experts, and we all should take pause concerning the poor quality of books hitting the market. As we often see with track houses being constructed by residential builders, cutting corners to save a buck is a common occurrence. Who always suffers in the end? The consumer. In addition to profit-driven business practices, a weak work ethic and/or a matter of unpreparedness or unawareness also spell disaster to a finished product.

    What must distinguish a small press from the inexperienced self publisher is the significant amount of due diligence and best practices that flow through every step of the editorial, design and production process. Without having specialists on the project and without a proper quality control mechanism in place, the incompetent editing and typos will only increase with time, and the printed word, alas, will begin to decay as surely as poorly written e-mails and grammar-resistant instant messaging have become societally OK forms of communication.

    According to my 13-year-old daughter, “it’s uncool” to spell completely and correctly when texting. Perhaps it soon will become uncool to print books that are error-free, too. But stylistic phrasing or not, let’s at least know why and where we’re placing the errors.

    Dan Cafaro
    Founder and Publisher
    Atticus Books

    Comment by Dan Cafaro — May 21, 2010 @ 2:03 pm | Reply

    • It’s “tract” houses, Dan. But I agree with your comment.

      Comment by Kathleen Much, The Book Doctor — May 21, 2010 @ 6:30 pm | Reply

  21. Kathleen,
    I believe your edit/correction proves our collective point better than any comment you could have made!
    Thanks,
    Dan

    Comment by Dan Cafaro — May 21, 2010 @ 6:46 pm | Reply

  22. What’s the URL for the Hall of Shame? I can’t seem to find the page with submissions.

    Comment by Kathleen Much, The Book Doctor — June 28, 2010 @ 6:02 pm | Reply

  23. [...] the first Hall of Shame nominees received from readers. Remember that if you want to participate, send your nominations to [...]

    Pingback by Hall of Shame Nominees 1 | The Digital Reader — June 29, 2010 @ 7:22 am | Reply

  24. I purchased a book called “So Not Happening” by Jenny B. Jones from the Reader Store the other day and it’s riddled with typos, spacing between letters, and missing letters. The publisher is Thomas Nelson Incorporated. How can I contact them about the typos?

    Comment by Geanna — September 4, 2010 @ 12:17 pm | Reply

  25. I know there must be some publishers who do a better job than others at editing their ebooks. I am currently reading a Trollope ebook published by Classics-Unbound that seems to be without errors. I happen to have a and Oxford hardcover edition of the same book. On the occasions when i think I might have found a typo, I go to the hardcover book and find that the ebook is correct…just as Trollope wrote it.

    What have others found? Do you have publishers you trust more than others?

    Comment by Gerald Martin — April 2, 2011 @ 10:05 pm | Reply


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