What the BLEEP is Wrong With You, Harper-Collins?


Get your BLEEPING substandard BLEEP off my BLEEPING Kindle!

You know what I think about shitty ebooks? It makes me want to start channeling Chef Gordon Ramsay. “Come on! What the BLEEP is wrong with you?”

What set me off? What transformed me from laid-back, easy going, tolerant and generally all ’round good ol’ gal and unleashed my inner-Mad Chef with a potty mouth?


halfheadBefore I go totally off my nut, let me state, categorically, Stuart MacBride is one of my favorite authors. He’s on my recommended reads list, he’s made my two of my top ten lists, (here and here), and I’ve blogged about his books and characters. AND because I know how publishing houses work, the majority of my wrath is directed at


Yeah, that Harper-Collins. You know, the big publisher who curates fine fiction and offers so much value to authors and readers with their editing and covers and marketing and brand name? Yeah, that one.


When I bought my first Kindle the very first book I purchased was Shatter the Bones by Stuart MacBride. Paid a premium for it, too. Despite how little I knew then about ebook formatting, I knew that book was an utter embarrassment. I could make a better looking ebook by running a Word file through MobiPocket. Along with setting me on a journey of learning how to produce a fine-looking ebook, it also taught me the value of downloading samples. Thusly I learned how much contempt Harper-Collins has for its authors and readers. They put out some of the shittiest looking ebooks around.

So why I did buy Halfhead? It looked good and I’m an optimist. I thought, well, finally! HC realizes ebook readers deserve decently formatted ebooks. It wasn’t until I settled in for an enjoyable read that I realized


So to channel my inner-Gordon: “What the BLEEP is BLEEPING wrong with you? Get the BLEEP out of my BLEEPING Kindle! You should be BLEEPING embarrassed! Come on!

Split words, joined words, backward quote marks, mixed up homonyms, and no consistency in hyphenation. That’s proofreading 101. Halfhead is filled with mistakes a sixth grader could have spotted and fixed. It’s embarrassing.

My goal as a self-publisher is to produce a book with fewer than five typos/gaffes per 100,000 words. That’s a freakin’ high standard and damned near impossible to achieve, but it’s a standard borne of respect for authors, literature and readers. The only way to even get close to meeting that standard is to proofread the ebook until my eyeballs bleed. It means loading a PROOF COPY onto my Kindle and going through the book line by line, word by word, and punctuation mark by punctuation mark.


Having not seen a HC contract, I have no idea what kind of royalties they are paying authors. I imagine it’s around 25% net (with publisher accounting that can mean only pennies per unit sold). So figure roughly that authors–for the privilege of being published by HC with all its supposed services and benefits–are giving up anywhere from 82.5% to 94% of the cover price. My question for Mr. MacBride (and any other HC author) is WHY? Why do you let them treat your work like this? Why do you let them abuse your readers with sub-par production? Proofreading is so elemental, so necessary, and to let a book go out the door without it is completely, utterly inexcusable.


No proofreading… Are you BLEEPING kidding me?


25 thoughts on “What the BLEEP is Wrong With You, Harper-Collins?

  1. Sad bleeping world when the bleeping arbiters of culture can’t hire a bleeping proofreader for their books. They’re not only disrespecting authors, but readers. I’ wouldn’t be at all surprised to see them a small part of an even larger publishing conglomerate in the not-distant future.

    • This kind of thing just drives me nuts. I can sort of understand why some formatting is less than stellar coming out of the big houses. They had to make the shift from print-think to e-think and that’s a learning curve. But to NOT proofread? That’s inexcusable. Whoever was responsible for producing that book should be fired.

  2. Amen, Jaye!

    Any idea if the printed version of the same book looks as excremental? And is there any way to contact the author to let him know the twaddle that Harper-Collins is foisting off on the public with his name associated with it?

    • The print version is probably fine, Jon. I have most of MacBride’s books in paperback. It’s ebooks they have contempt for.

      As for the contacting the author, it would no doubt distress him (if it hasn’t already) but I bet not even he has to pull to insist HC pull the book and proofread it before reissuing it. I really don’t think HC cares about ebooks. Or ebook readers.

    • I would have to say that they are one and the same–certainly the same level of respect for their authors and artists and readers and the book industry as a whole.

      Bleepin’ losers…

  3. Combine this with the fact that big publishers view the profitability of ebooks as their new cash cow, and these shameful errors become brain-bleed-inducingly frustrating.

    Hey, big publishers, just about the only thing that makes (some) readers prefer your books over self-published ones is that you’re supposed to provide better editing and proofreading and formatting and covers. Do the math.

  4. What a bleeping sorry excuse for a bleeping company they are and if one of their poorly bleeping edited or indeed not bleeping edited books end up in my kindle they will get more than a few bleeping words from me and I won’t be as bleeping nice as you; well said

    • Hi Tom, how the bleep are you?
      Give ’em hell. The first rush is over, ebook should know what they’re doing now. Truly, if it’s not cost effective for publishers to proofread the book, then don’t put out the ebook. (You should see what my former publishers did with my backlist. The ebooks are appalling. Makes me furious to even think about it.)

  5. Hi gorgeous, I think our trip to Inverness last weekend for our niece’s wedding was just what the Dr. ordered took 5 days off and feeling much better did plenty of dancing, had a wee dram, but just a wee one and I’ve been back in the office two days now and all seems well

    I think I have still been lucky in the crap formatting stakes though but I shall certainly point any out that I do come across although I did DM an author recently commenting I had found a number of spelling errors (he has no email link an any of his pages!!!!) and asked him to contact me so that I could send them to him, no response so maybe some authors don’t care either!?

    • So glad to hear, Tom.

      re Authors not caring. Erm, no, i doubt that. Your comment does point out one of the biggest hurdles self-publishers need to get over–themselves. This isn’t a criticism, it’s just an acknowledgement. Writers (all creative types actually) are seething little stews of massive ego constantly at war with major insecurities. Criticism feels like someone ripping off the mask and revealing the fraud. Sometimes, I believe, writers hide behind publishers and agents, not because the writers are incompetent business people, but because of the insulation it offers.

      I imagine your DM gave the writer in question a screaming case of the “OH MY GODS!” Then a few days or weeks afterward, when reality had time to creep back in, the writer quietly fixed those errors and prayed to his gods (maybe with a sacrificed goat or two to make sure it took) that no one else noticed the gaffes.

    • I’ll be investing in proper publisher software next year, and then immersing myself in the wilds of typography and layout. Maybe by the time you’re ready, I’ll be ready to put out a good-looking print book. Wouldn’t that be nice?

  6. Jaye, thank you! A voice of reason in an insane world. I’ve ranted here before about this subject, but it bears repeating. And repeating. I don’t read anymore. I proofread. (I also proofread for money, but that’s not what I’m talking about here. Though I bet I could find those 5 typos/100,000 at least once before my eyes gave out!) Yes, I blame the publishers for rushing to get “product” out. There’s no excuse! I can see the publishing ancestors of these fools turning in their graves. But here are a couple of questions: does the author get galley proofs of his/her ebook? Can an author make corrections at some point before publication?

    • Hi, Chris,
      Judging from the ebooks I’ve read from the trad publishers, I’d have to say no, the authors are not given an opportunity to go over their ebooks before they are released. What I’ve seen have been raw files, barely cleaned up scans and galley proofs run through a pub program like InDesign (which is NOT magical despite what some seem to think). I downloaded samples from my own backlist which my former publisher had shoved through production. The samples are full of formatting errors and mis-translations and typos. It’s embarrassing.

      Making a good ebook takes some skill and a whole lot of attention to detail. The utter lack of respect I see from publishers who now run around crowing about how much VALUE they give authors is just galling.

  7. Hi Jaye:

    As I was looking over some shoddy e-books, I was suddenly yanked out of 2012 and found myself standing in a small computer store in 1989, staring at row upon row of shareware diskettes… the really old, 5 1/4″, 360K diskettes!

    As I reached for one diskette, the store owner shook his head and said, “Don’t bother with that one — it’s just shovelware.”

    Ah, shovelware! The bane of the whole shareware/freeware movement of the late ’80s/early ’90s. It refers to a diskette that’s packed to the gills with (usually) functional software that was actually useless — someone just “shoveled” the junk onto a diskette to try and make a quick buck.

    With a jolt, I was back here in good ol’ 2012, staring at the same craptacular e-book. But now, I had a term for these “works” — shovelware e-books. Shovel-books? I dunno. But it’s certainly the same concept, and, sadly, as you’ve pointed out, the big players in the publishing game are guilty of this slap-dash treatment of e-books.

    What I’d love to see is a publishing house that provides a free e-book version of any printed book that one purchases. (Actually, I think at least one company — O’Reilly Media — does this [or did], but the file was either a PDF or a CHM.)

    • Shovel-ware, I like that. most appropriate since the worst examples make me want to give them to the dogs to bury in the backyard.

      I believe most individual ebook producers have good intentions. I’m seeing MASSIVE leaps in quality in self-published ebooks. The ones really dropping the ball are the publishers, big AND small. They aren’t proofreading their products–they aren’t letting the authors proofread their own ebooks.

      For instance, I’m currently reading a book from a small publisher. It’s well written and edited, well put together, attractive–BUT, they used straight quotes instead of curly quotes. Many people might say, stop being a fuss budget, Jaye, except, straight quotes do things to text in an ebook. In this one it is causing inexplicable line jumps and joined words. It’s also screwing up my ability to change font sizes on my Kindle. When I open the menu and change the font size, it shifts on the screen, but as soon as I close the menu window, the font reverts back to what it was. If the WRITER had been given the opportunity to proofread the book on HIS reading device, I bet he’d have found those hiccups and questioned them.

      Publishers might think they are saving money by NOT proofreading ebooks, They might think it doesn’t matter, that readers don’t notice, or if they do, they don’t care. I beg to differ. I keep learning, usually the hard way, that readers DO notice and readers DO care and (despite popular opinion in NY circles) it is not the reader’s responsibility to suck it up.

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