I was reading some online reviews of a book I was considering d/loading and was interested in the 1-3-star reviews (it’s where they expose the warts). Of note was the consistent complaint that the author (and ultimately, the editor) messed up a lot of facts that had to do with using computers before they were part of every household. Other complaints were over using vernacular that wasn’t a glint in anyone’s eye back in the book’s timeframe. A few took issue with calling the MC as “old,” yet he’s in his mid-50s. As someone who’s stepping over the halfway line of her 50s next month, I can assure the author that mid-50s is not old. Then there were the complaints about how the MC uses the same voice and thought processes when he was a child as he does as an adult, which shows a lack of continuity.
This all leads to one thing: Research.
In this author’s case, it didn’t matter since the book is a NY Times bestseller. That said, it’s inexcusable not to properly research everything in your book. If you have a character participating in a religious ceremony, you’d better make sure that you have your facts right. It might not be a big deal to you, the writer, but the reader is a lot like my mom, who could tell if I was even thinking about sneaking out of the house wearing my sister’s makeup…meaning you’ll be narced out before you can ask, “Where’s my royalty check?”
It’s just plain lazy not to go the extra mile to make your story bullet-proof. And not all editors will catch the mistakes. I remember handing over an edited manuscript to our final reader, and was gobsmacked at what he found. Saved all of us from serious binge drinking. And that’s why we have final readers – to catch that stuff. And publishers have final readers, but that doesn’t mean they’ll catch everything. The buck stops with the writers and, as writers, you should be sensitive to everything you put into your book.
The minute readers find an inconsistency, they’ll look for more. And what’s worse is they won’t trust you. Instead, they’ll expose this stuff in reviews, which could impact sales and your reputation. And don’t believe these authors (and their editors) don’t read bad reviews and make the changes to the e-book. I’ve seen this done numerous times.
In the end, don’t tempt Fate. Do the research and get it write.