Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Guilty until proven innocent - Nicola McDonagh

Recently, Amazon put a warning on my book Whisper Gatherers. A Dystopian/sci-fi novel set some 350 years in the future.

They emailed me to say that they have received complaints that the book has an excessive amount of typos. Now, I use a slang-based language that often combines words to make one long one, much the same as George Orwell does in 1984 - Newspeak, crimestop, thoughtcrime, goodthink, oldspeak, pornosec, unperson, and so on.

Don't get me wrong, I think it is a good thing to have quality checks on books, but it needs to be managed correctly so that the author can make necessary changes before their book is published, not after.

I emailed Amazon to tell them that the 'Errors' they cited are not typos but are in fact intentional, and add to the futuristic tone of the book. They told me that I must make the changes they specify or they would keep the warning sign up. What gives Amazon the right to edit, and, re-write my work? If they think the book is substandard, they should not allow it to be published on their platform, yet they are happy to let me use their site to sell my book regardless of the quality.

Here is an example from the email Amazon sent me:

Error Category: Typo; Kindle Location: 1580; Errored text: nanorope,; Context: It was as light as a bub’s eyelash, as strong as nanorope, and as see-through as a raindrop when it came into contact with its owners heartbeat. ; Comments:  "strong as nanorope" should be  "strong as nano rope"

So, using their logic regarding grammar, my ‘nanorope’ is incorrect, yet words such as ‘raindrop’ and ‘heartbeat’ clearly two different words stuck together to make one, are acceptable?

Error Category: Typo; Kindle Location: 1632; Errored text: comtext; Context: A whole load of comtext appeared. ; Comments: "A whole load of comtext appeared." should be"A whole load of context appeared."
This change does not even make sense, especially since the character is talking about some text written on a computer screen, hence the word 'comtext'.

This book, Whisper Gatherers has been for sale on Amazon since 2015 without any complaints. In fact, I have received many 4 and 5 star reviews that enjoyed and recognised the quirky use of language. Here is a snippet from one such review:

5.0 out of 5 stars What a great language!
ByKata Mlekon December 6, 2016
Format: Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase

Dystopian is one of my favorite genres and I try to stay up-to-date with the latest novels. How come I missed this one so late? I don't know!

The author created a very complex and appealing world I traveled with Adara with great pleasure. I must say the experimental English was at first hard to understand (English is my second language) but as I got used to it, I found it stunning. It helped develop the feeling of being there with the main character who narrates the story.

You can see more here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00YMSP1UA

Anyway, after a week of correspondence explaining my deliberate use of language to Amazon, they emailed me to say that they have taken down the warning sign.

Maybe if they had consulted me before condemning my book, this issue would never have arisen. But it seems Amazon’s policy is to find authors guilty until proven innocent.

For more information on my books, please go to: www.thesongofforgetfulness.com