30 May 2017

Typo molehills deliberately made into mountains?

Remember Those Troublesome Typos I mentioned?

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 recently 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 I did not respond. I never respond to spam mail, especially when the theme and flavour is outright bullying.

This spam-person has targeted dozens of authors, to the extent that the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi) recently 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 roof person trashed my book.

I have attempted to make light of it, put on a brave face etc - the book does have a few major bloopers, some my fault (why on earth did I put Marie Celeste not Mary Celeste? Still, Conan Doyle made the same error…) and it does look like the publisher failed to do a final proof read to pick up those sly typos that wormed their way in. 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 appalled, embarrassed and a bit cross that a proof read by the publisher was not undertaken – or maybe it was but the wrong file was printed? Either way there is nothing I can do about it until a new batch or the paperback is to be printed. 

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

I am re-reading my book, searching for the 249 errors that this Proof Prof claimed to have found. I undertook this 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 appalling 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 am on 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 so far I have found only 22 – that’s TWENTY TWO errors.

The remaining 227 must be contained in the forthcoming 50 or so pages… or … are totally unimportant and irrelevant!

Even assuming I’ve missed a similar amount of typos, that still only makes 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. claims?

He highlights these errors on Amazon, making the book seem to be a heap of do-do:

- 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, P.P. is right, these errors are there; they should have been picked up in a final proof read that obviously hadn’t been done by the publisher, but is the reader really going to throw the book away in disgust because there is no space between July and 1726?

Has this guy really got nothing better to do than trash good books, upset good authors and rubbish their reputation - even their career - out of miffed spite because his original email was ignored? 

(And by the way, ‘The author’ (me) 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. Unfortunate4ly he left the company and obviously failed to do so...)

This Proof Prof, from what I gather, uses a software programme to pick up the errors. I assume he scans the book and runs it through his computer. To my mind, that is NOT editing, nor is it proper, professional proof reading because it is mechanical-based not human-based. (See my note at the end of this article.)

He mentions grammar errors, syntax errors etc, again all picked up by a soul-less pedantically picky machine. I have my own writing style, which does not conform to an English literary PhD level. I write in a chatty, informal style: I am happy to ‘Boldly Go’, not ‘Go Boldly’ because, even if it is, technically, incorrect, the former sounds more ‘human’ and friendly. I write to entertain, not to gain a literary degree. For the record, I went to Secondary School, I did not pass the 11-plus, I did not get ‘A’ levels, I have not been to college or university. I have got half a history degree – and a few bl**dy good novels under my belt – with or without pedantic typos.

Yes Picky Prof did upset me. In a nutshell he deliberately set out to trash my book and  p*ss on my parade with the intention of causing harm and distress – as he does with every other author he targets.

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 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/  )

Has this horrid little man, 'P*ss Parader', damaged me? My reputation as an author, no. I think I have enough of an established readership for his pedantics to be of no consequence, but this particular book? Maybe he has because it has just been released in the US and with only two comments on Amazon.com, one positive and one his out-of-proportion sniping, readers who do not know my fiction might be put-off. Which is a shame because, although I say so myself, on reading it through again I have thoroughly enjoyed it! It is a good, entertaining book!

I wrote Pirates: Truth and Tales to inform in a light and entertaining way. 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 bully is going to spoil my enjoyment of something I am, overall, 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. 
According to the software programme they are there, but no sensible human reader would notice, let alone care… 

(but if you do, well, I apologise for ruining your reading experience and quite understand that you’ve now smashed your computer in sheer frustration at my appalling writing….)

(Point proven, re Pirates T & T  though, I hope!)

Note: all 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!


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