30 May 2017

Typo molehills deliberately made into mountains?

Remember Those Troublesome Typos I mentioned?
first posted 30.5.2017.... re-edited 26.1.2019

A couple of weeks back I posted an article about those troublesome typos that appear – as if by some mischievous act of magic – into our hard-worked work. We (authors that is) all have them, even the Top Big Writers at the Top Big Publishers; those pesky little slip-ups that sit there, hiding in the shadows then leap out, totally unnoticed, when the button is pressed to do the final print-run.

You may recall that I (one among many authors) was targeted by a troll-type spammer who advertises his proof reading business by sending out spam mail, mentioning his services and the typos he has found in XX book. These emails usually fall direct into the spam box, or even if they don’t their very nature screams ‘spam’ so are sent there forthwith via the delete or block button. Then, a short while later – hey presto, a derogatory comment, of 1 or 2 stars appears on Amazon as in:

“Out of courtesy, the author and the publisher were both contacted before this review was posted, but neither responded.”

No, of course not. INo one in their right mind responds to spam mail, especially when the theme and flavour is outright rude bullying.

This spam-person has targeted dozens of authors, to the extent that the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi) issued an official Watchdog Warning against his unsavoury bullying tactics.

John Doppler wrote:

“During the first quarter of 2017, ALLi’s Watchdog Desk received several complaints about a company known as Proof Professor. The complaints were not about the proofreading services offered by the company. Rather, they described a troubling and consistent pattern of behaviour by Proof Professor’s founder, Matt Rance. In each case, Mr. Rance approached an author or publisher to offer their services, including a list of corrections Proof Professor could make to the prospect’s book. When the prospect politely declined or did not reply, Mr. Rance persisted, becoming increasingly hostile, even when the prospects made it explicitly clear that they wished no further contact…”


“The threat implicit in these reviews felt clear to their victims: pay me to fix your editing, or I will hurt your reputation. The actions we observed in the course of our investigation and the overall pattern of Proof Professor’s reviews seem to confirm this interpretation.”

Prior to the attack on myself I had been immensely proud of Pirates Truth and Tales, commissioned to write a non-fiction book about a subject I thoroughly enjoy, a recognition that I am a writer of worth, and actually being paid to write it – well, I was thrilled!

Then this Proof person trashed my book. (OK I won't be coy, seeing as John, above has named him) He calls himself Proof Professor ... what is his real title I wonder? Professor Troll PHD (Pesky Habitual Dosspot)

I made light of it, put on a brave face etc - the book does (did) have a few major bloopers, some were my fault (why on earth did I put 'Marie' Celeste not 'Mary' Celeste? Still, Conan Doyle made the same error…) but I have, since first posting this, established (beyond doubt) that the publishing assistant in charge of production (no longer with the company - he left during the production process of my book) had either failed to do a final proof read to pick up those sly typos that wormed their way in - or hadn't done it at all and sent the uncorrected file to the printer. (I suspect the second, as this was the file that was, indeed, sent.) 

I did not get a final proof copy, the first time I saw the book in its final format was when it was printed and ready to go on sale, so yes, I am (was) appalled, embarrassed and cross. However, there was  nothing I could do about it until the paperback was to be printed. Which it now has been - undoubtedly there are still a few missed minor typos, but I haven't spotted them. I'm waiting for Proof Prof PHD to do the job for me. So far, he has only left snarky tweets for me. Unread and deleted, I might add. So I assume he hasn't found anything major, ergo, can't do his usual trash act. I did spot a silly tweet from him several months after I did a local library talk. He (inanely) tweeted 'I'll be there'. What was his objection? To bully me? Frighten me? Worry me? Well a) it wouldn't have worked as I'd have only too willingly taken him on face to face b) I never saw the tweet until about 3 months later. c) he didn't turn up. Pity. I'd have enjoyed drashing him. (by the by Proof Prof, that isn't a typo its a Devonshire word.)

Incidentally all the authors who do fall for his spiel get a 5 star review - even if the book is dreadful. Which several of them are. OK they are relatively typo free, just a pity some of the authors haven't a clue how to write a decent novel...

But, let's put things into perspective here: are the errors that were highlighted in my book really all that seriously appalling?

I re-read the hardback edition, searching for the 249 errors that this Pea Pod PhD claimed to have found. I undertook the task with a heavy heart and a feeling of dread: how would I be able to continue marketing the book, hoping people would buy and read it when it was (apparently) littered with dozens and dozens of errors? But face the inevitable I had to do, at least I would know to write the book off and wait for a second edition to be proud of instead... 


hang on a minute....

I got as far as page 250 (another 50 or so to go). I am the first to admit that it is not easy to spot your own errors (hence the essential element of using a professional editor) but by p 250 I had found only 22 – that’s TWENTY TWO errors.

The remaining 227 that were claimed to be there must be contained in the last 50 or so pages… or … are totally unimportant and irrelevant or not even there!

Even assuming I’d missed a similar amount of typos, that still only made 44 errors out of 110,000 words. No, I’m not saying that is good, it would be nice to be typo free, but are minor things like a missing ‘ or, ‘off’ instead of ‘of’, or obvious editing slip-ups REALLY going to ruin the reader’s enjoyment as P.P. PHD claimed? No, of course not.

Add to this, he, apparently, uses a software programme to do his editing (so he's not a pro. Pros use the 'Natural' method - their eyes, brain and intelligence.) Computer software is highly pedantic. It does not allow for an author's style, quirks, turn of phrase etc - which we all have and which make us individual writers.  I've never forgotten a headmaster friend telling me, after the publication of my first novel: 'I never realised that a novel didn't have to be grammatically correct to be so thoroughly enjoyable.' (I think that was a compliment *laugh*.) 

PPPHD highlights many of these (pedantic) errors on Amazon, making the book seem to be a heap of unintelligible do-do: e.g.

- in the Timeline (p10) 1685 comes before 1684. [Yes a blooper that was missed]

- there are straightforward spelling mistakes: hansome (> handsome, p32); yeilded (> yielded, p34); rum and coke (> rum and Coke, p83); acolade (> accolade, p147).
- many proper names are incorrect: Isle of White (p268), You Tube (p283), Kings Lynn (p250), Kiera Knightly (p244). [Again, missed bloopers]
- verbs don’t agree with their subjects in terms of singular and plural: ‘the ship were in northern waters’ (p233); ‘The delight of this adventure story are…’ (p194); ‘Anne’s name and gender was widely known’ (p105). [Again, missed bloopers on the publisher's part]
- plurals follow an indefinite article: ‘an East Indiamen’ (p144), and follow a singular demonstrative pronoun: ‘at the back of this books’ (p259).  [missed bloopers on the publisher's part]
- there is consistent misunderstanding of how the hyphen is used to clarify meaning. [eh? Really?]
- ‘off’ and ‘of’ are confused (p164),  as well as homonyms such as ‘principle’/‘principal’.  [Again, missed bloopers on the publisher's part]
- apostrophes are misplaced and incorrectly reversed. [ditto]
- perfectly spelled words are nevertheless wrongly used to create an error: ‘as the ship goers down’ (p43), ‘[a] solution was set in placer’ (p177). [ditto]
- sometimes there is no spacing between words: ‘July1726’ (p284). [is this really a big deal? Worth trashing a book for?]
- the author twice misquotes the title of the book as ‘Pirates: Truth and Tale’ (p202, p319: the actual title on the cover and title page is '...Tales'), as well as styling one of her publishers, SilverWood as ‘Silverwood’ (p318). [publisher's error, not mine - but again is this really worth trashing a good book for? Do these really ruin the reading experience - assuming the reader even noticed in the first place?]

 Yes, the errors were there; they should have been picked up in the final proof read that obviously hadn’t been done, but is the reader really going to throw the book away in disgust because there is no space between the words July and 1726?... Printed as July1726 ... oh no ... dear reader stop reading now, faint, ask for the smelling salts, burn the book... horror horror there is no space!

I'm pleased to say that the paperback edition has been out a good while now, and selling well, with mostly very good comments. There's one other troll comment ... apparently the writing style in my Sea Witch novels is nothing like Patrick O'Brian's. Well thank goodness for that! I've achieved my aim... I intentionally set out to be nothing whatsoever like Mr O'Brian, I fully intended Sea Witch to be lighthearted sailor's yarn fun and very, very different. Oh and incidentally, a note for this silly person: it is entirely possible to sink a small ship of the early 1700s with one well-aimed broadside. I grant it wouldn't be possible later in the century (Mr O'Brian's period) but I don't write about the 1790s-1800s.

Anyway, this PHD must have nothing better to do with his time other than to trash good book after good book. Obviously he doesn't have many clients, because if he did he'd not waste time, or his (dubious) reputation on authors who he doesn't even know by upsetting them and rubbishing their reputation - even their career - out of miffed spite because his original email was ignored. Add to this he has harassed publishers, the Society Of Authors and the Alliance of Independent Authors, all of whom have investigated him and warned authors of his very dubious nature. The only place he is allowed to continue his outright bullying and harassment is Amazon. But then we all know that Amazon's admin can bee absolute pants. 

(And by the way, ‘The author’ (me), as he claims, didn’t get the title wrong twice – the publisher only decided on Pirates: Truth and Tales a few days before going to press, I therefore had to leave it to their editor to fill in the gap in the text. Unfortunately, as I have stated, he left the company and obviously failed to do so...)

I have no quibble with a review or comment mentioning the missed typos – they ARE there, they are fact, but to do so in a snide, nasty, harassing manner? Well, that is 100% proof that this guy is nothing more than a cyber bully, and to quote Captain Hook, is 'not good form'. 

John Doppler from ALLI, said in his article: “While it’s evident that some of the books in question did have errors, that’s irrelevant to the manner in which Proof Professor solicited business. Harassment has no place in the business model of a reputable service, especially when it escalates to invading someone’s home and personal life.”
(Read his full report: http://selfpublishingadvice.org/proofprofessor-watchdog-advisory-complaints-reviews/  )

I wrote Pirates: Truth and Tales as a light and entertaining read. It is a dip-in-and-out-of book, ideal for those passionate about pirates or those who have a mild interest. I thoroughly enjoyed writing it and, damn it, no jumped-up snide little egotistical snib-waller bully is going to spoil my enjoyment of something I am, despite the very few bloopers, proud of!

All the same, I really would appreciate a few nice comments on Amazon if you have a moment or two to add one… Feel free to mention the missed typos, but maybe also mention how enjoyable and entertaining the book is?

And just as a comparison: I ran this article through an entire grammar and style check for Word.Doc using ALL the available features.

Apparently there are over 100 errors in the above text. Did you spot them? 
No, thought not.... that's because the check included very minor, picky issues that are, frankly, completely irrelevant.
(but if you did spot them, I apologise for ruining your reading experience and quite understand that you’ve now smashed your computer in sheer frustration at my appalling writing….)

The sad thing is, and this is why I have come back to re-read and re-edit this article (and re-post it) this snide little bum-fluff confidence-destroying author-trasher, here in January 2019 is STILL playing his shitty little childish games. Obviously, as I said above he hasn't enough genuine work to be getting on with.

My advice to authors? Ignore the fetid little pathetic toad.

Note: typos in this article are there by accidental design... 


  1. Dear Helen. I feel your pain. I feel for you. You are obviously hurting, still.
    I think the publisher should take the book off all sites, and republish it without the typos/errors or anything else not to your liking. We all want the perfect book. The Royal we being authors and readers. For your own peace of mind, I say this.

    1. Caz I'm not hurting at all, just disappointed and embarrassed - but mainly vbery angry with this awful person who IS hurting many authors, especially new authors who do not, yet, have a reputation to fall back on.

      The cost of remaindering several thousand books and then reprinting is just not a choice - even for the big publishers, let alone small ones like Amberley. Aside, as I have now established the typos really are NOT much of an issue (I think they're even quite amusing! LOL)

  2. Or, another way to look at it is that he targeted you, meaning you and your book were worth the time and effort. Sort of a feather in your cap, I would say. "I've been trolled by PP!" should be a marketing tool, a symbol of success.

  3. Don't feed the trolls, Helen!

    I'm looking forward to reading your book!

    1. Thanks Diana - no I don't feed trolls, but in this case this guy needs to be exposed and stopped from harassing new/debut authors. He can't really do much damage to me because I have a large(ish!) following therefore I'm in a position to shout back at him.
      Having said that, now I've satisfied myself that he is nothing more than a self-opinionated arrogant Pedantic Pest I think treating him with contempt is now the order of the day. He shall go hungry...

  4. I do agree with Diane, above. I wouldn't even give him space on my blog!

  5. For some reason there are always those who relish tearing down those who have accomplished things. As so many have said you must consider the source and carry on. Love that you exposed this troll and especially like the comment that he chose your books because they are well-liked and have a market. Looking at the positive here is what you must do and so must we all. Keep writing, keep smiling, and keep selling this latest book, Helen.

    1. I so agree, Elaine! This particular person is a menace though (read the report by ALLI - link above) What worries me is that he usually picks on vulnerable new authors - and despite him denying it - attempts to destroy them, and if they complain he says they are whining and moaning! There again he DOES post good reviews, funny though, these are for the books he has been paid to proof read....

  6. Strictly from a readers point of view here... let that ass and his issues go. I normally do not let things like that bother me while I'm reading. I know that no one is going to put a perfect book out, even when you have several eyes looking through it before it goes to print. The ONLY time I have ever mentioned anything like this was when an author sent me an ARC and ASKED for me to let them know if I run upon any misspelled words, etc. I also do not read reviews before I purchase a book. You know the old saying about people's opinions. I leave reviews but I don't read them until after I've left mine. What I enjoy, others may dislike so I cannot go on what others say. I hate this man has done what he's done. There are people in this world that are miserable souls and feel a need to push that negativity onto others. Karma will bite him... just believe in that. Maybe you'll get lucky and be able to watch it happen. :)

    1. I said ARC... the ones I've been asked to read and reply on were ones that have been indie published (from a published author of many years) and either a day or two before they go on sale or the day of. I think they can go in and make edits to those after they go on sale.

    2. Thanks Leah, I also think it depends on the frequency and nature of the typos - page after page littered with obvious errors indicates the book hasn't had a final edit, but the 'spot the occasional typo' is a different matter entirely.
      If this guy was GENUINE (as he claims to be - doing it for the good of publishing etc (yeah right) he would QUIETLY contact authors/publishers, yes OK also offer his services in so doing, but leave it at that, not then go on to trash those who decide not to use his input.
      I run Discovering Diamonds an Historical Fiction review blog. Yes we occasionally mention the typos and suggest a quick re-edit, but that is constructive criticism along with a positive good review. If a book doesn't warrant a good review we simply don't review it!


Thank you for leaving a comment - it should appear soon, but Blogger sometimes chucks its teddies out of the cot and has a tantrum. My apologies if you leave a comment and I do not respond - blame it on Blogger Bloopers. If you are having problems, contact me on author AT helenhollick DOT net and I will post it for you. Sometimes a post will appear as anonymous instead of your name or avatar - I draw attention to this being another Blogger Blooper and NOT of MY doing... That said ...SPAMMERS or distasteful rudeness will be stamped on, squashed, composted and very possibly cursed - if you spam my blog, next time something nasty happens to you just remember that I DID warn you...