I had some short stories, poems and photographs to share ... and so here I am

Macmillan New Righting

I would like to make a formal offer to Macmillan New Writing: pay me 200 pounds to proofread each of your books before they are sent off to the printers, before they are set in stone!

I say this because there seems to be a problem with the editing that goes on there - at least with one of the six novels that launched the imprint back in April. I have already read three MNW titles - The Manuscript, Taking Comfort and North - and the number of typos and mistakes didn't seem to be a big problem, although there were the odd one or two to be found. The stories
were of a very high standard and I thoroughly enjoyed them. MNW and I had a bond.

That was until I started reading Across the Mystic Shore by Suroopa Mukherjee. The novel itself was OK - although for me there were basic problems, which I will talk about in a separate review - but what made this book a disappointment was the high number of mistakes.

I know that MNW tries to keep its costs down to give new writers a chance to get published, and this probably means that they rely on individual authors to do the lion's share of proofreading and editing. This is all very well when the system works and the author, without supervision, comes up with the goods; it becomes, in my opinion, MNW's problem when a book is sent off to the printers with lots of mistakes.

What kind of quality control is there? Regardless of the philosophy behind the imprint, the public is paying good money for a professional book, and they don't expect to be sent something that has an unfinished feel to it. MNW cannot place the blame on the author. In the end, the final book - mistakes and all - is the product of a professional publisher. Did anyone at MNW read the manuscript all the way through? Does no one have a red pen to circle typos? It's a shame that the reader is left to spot them and get annoyed!

I don't think I am exaggerating about the number of mistakes in Across the Mystic Shore. We can all live with one or two typos. This book contained at least 25 errors, and many of them were more than simple typos. I'm also not even talking about other problems with sentence construction.

My heart sank when I read on the second page: "She had been lucky today morning." It doesn't make you feel confident when you come across something like that on page two. It makes you feel you are reading a draft. You ask yourself: If they haven't paid attention to the typos, what about the structure and plot? You tend to read with your guard up! (The MNW book North also had an error on page one: a misplaced hyphen, which would've been the result of sloppy editing.)

I will give you some other random examples of glaring mistakes in Across the Mystic Shore.

Page 8: Myra's favourite past time was to check on the people who walked in.
Page 75: It made her forehead stretch out just below the hairline, where fell tiny curls like delicate tendrils ... she had never been consious of her looks.
Page 84: Abha was wearing thin-soled sandals, which she removed dextrously ...
Page 96: Her eyes were instantly flooded with tears, but she brushed then aside ...
Page 107: Sameer felt sorry for him, and decided on an instant to give him a handsome tip.
Page 161: I could see the bare body of the the pujari ...
Page 218: I knew the boys name ...
Page 225: Its funny how imaginative we were ...

As I say, we all accept that we may find one or two typos in any novel - it happens even with top authors from major imprints - but it's the exception rather than the rule. I think it is such a shame that Across the Mystic Shore wasn't proofread by a few more people.

I would strongly recommend that MNW takes another look at its editing and proofreading policies. Too many books like this, and reviews like this, and word will start getting around about the quality of the books. That would be a shame as I like the whole idea of the imprint and the doors that it's managing to open up for writers.

This is also a warning to other MNW authors who have books in the pipeline there. It seems you can't rely on MNW - for now at least - to do the proofreading for you. Don't forget, however, that I am offering to read your novels for 200 pounds and give you a list of the typos and errors before they are sent off into the world!

11 comments:

Lynne W. Scanlon said...

Those errors make me cringe for the editor!

Lynne AKA The Wicked Witch of Publishing

skint writer said...

Gawd - shocking - could have done with you on The Three Bears - I'm sure there are a few similar typos in there

Shameless said...

I would give you reduced rates, of course, Skint. But I'm sure you would've had at least two or three proofreading sessions? A man of your professionalism!

Minx said...

Oh dear, reading, reading, reading again!!

Great to have you back Shameless, although we appear to have hit a dry spell in the blogging department!

Great photos btw

Shameless said...

We shall make up for the dry spell, Minx. It won't be long before we're all back with new and explosive ideas and scribblings. I must get around to your new short story as well!

Bhaswati said...

That is simply unacceptable. Readers deserve better. Shocking, as skint writer says.

Carla said...

Macmillan New Writing aren't alone in this. I've noticed and been annoyed by similar errors in books published recently by Random House and Robert Hale. Maybe copy-editing is considered an easy economy?

Shameless said...

I think it would be a real shame if this becomes more widespread. I hate not being able to relax with a book, when there's a constant fear that something will trip me up. I'm currently reading an André Brink novel (Vintage, Random House), and at page 197 I'm happy to say there has been only one small typo!

Matt Curran said...

Hi Shameless

Thought I’d throw in a Macmillan New Writer’s perspective. Of the criticisms levelled at MNW, I think this one appears to be sticking the most. However, my single experience of reading a MNW title has been a positive one. I don’t recall any typos in Conor Cordoroy’s Dark Rain, but as I have yet to read Roger’s Taking Comfort, or Michael Fuch’s The Manuscript (on my to-do list) my knowledge is limited compared to yours.

Being new to this game, I can only tell you of my own experience with the whole MNW process. After sending my final draft to MNW, I was sent proof copies of The Secret War 4 months later to check. Having read the proofs I can dispel the myth that MNW do not edit the final manuscripts. The proof-copy was different to my final draft, with a number of paragraphs being tightened up (essential when writing an action-adventure story), and a few unnecessary paragraphs were removed completely.

However, in terms of proofing, I’m not so sure about the process. I identified over 50 typos during my own proofing of the type-set copy, and while I’m reasonably methodical about these things, you must bare in mind that it is quite different when you are checking your own work, especially a 148,000 word book in a timescale of 2-3 weeks (to be squeezed in around the day-job). I guess my only concern is not having longer to proof-read the typeset copy, and perhaps being able to get a second pair of eyes to look over the text. When I talk to my editor it will be a suggestion I’ll make.

But my final point is that this isn’t an issue appropriate just to MNW titles but like bhaswati said, other publishers as well. I recently read a hardback book by one of the top ten bestsellers in the world, and found a couple of typos there too. If some like Mr X’s proof-reader lets a few through the net then I think the odd typo is a widespread problem, but I take your point Shameless, that multiple typos spoil a book just as scratches on a disc spoil a CD or DVD.

Shameless said...

Hi Matt, thanks for leaving your comments. You will have few problems when you read Taking Comfort and The Manuscript. Across the Mystic Shore stood out for its typos. I will soon read Dark Rain and I have my fingers crossed. I trust that you are a man who would catch typos in your own work, but it may be handy to demand that four extra pairs of eyes glance over the work too. Surely this wouldn't cost much. And it doesn't take days if the person is dedicated. Surely MNW won't say no to extra checking. However, don't forget my 200 pounds offer!

Tomid said...

It astonishes me that authors don't re-read their books for errors. I've been writing mine since 1997 (and I'm almost halfway to completion). Slow-going, but 95-98% of the work I do on my book is editting what I have already written. Even if I finish it, I will always endeavour to improve it.

If I have typos, they are most likely intentional.