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Discussion Starter #1
I just found a tiny factual error in a book I'm reading. A self-published book, for what it's worth.
If it was a typo, or even a continuity error I would let the author know without worrying about it much. So why do I feel that pointing out a factual error is pedantic?

It's something really small, not central to the plot or anything. The equivalent of a casual reference that vodka is made from peaches. And it's about a topic that I happen to know about but most people would not, so it's not like it's likely to be a source of embarrassment. (So not an obvious error like my example  :p).

Would you find it annoying, to have something like that pointed out?
 

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I would want to know, and it actually happened to me. In one of my books, I accidentally referred to a shotgun as a rifle, and a reader took the time to email and let me know my mistake. I went straight to my manuscript, corrected it, and uploaded the new version. Diplomacy doesn't even matter to me...they could call me a moron, if they want. I just want the best product out there.
 

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If you're going to let an author know about a factual error, I'd double check your own knowledge first. Both of my mentors are historical writers who do TONS of research and people are constantly emailing them about "errors" -- only, they aren't. They are little known facts, exceptions, and misconstrued things.

One has actually created replies she can cut and paste with her research and sources in it.

But, yes, if you're sure I would want to know also. Obviously the mentors aren't infallible... don't tell them I said that  :p
 

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DH's series is full of military references.  He got almost all of it right.  But the couple of very nit-picky details he got wrong at first...let's just say he was more than a little grateful to the readers who took the few minutes out of their busy lives to contact him and give him a head's-up.  I can't imagine any good author NOT wanting every last detail in their book to be as perfect and authentic as possible.  I say, go for it!  :)
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Caitie Quinn said:
If you're going to let an author know about a factual error, I'd double check your own knowledge first. Both of my mentors are historical writers who do TONS of research and people are constantly emailing them about "errors" -- only, they aren't. They are little known facts, exceptions, and misconstrued things.

One has actually created replies she can cut and paste with her research and sources in it.

But, yes, if you're sure I would want to know also. Obviously the mentors aren't infallible... don't tell them I said that :p
Oh absolutely. I know it's easy to be sure about something, and actually...it's not always that straightforward. Especially about history. But this is something I'm very sure about, and it's a pretty straightforward fact. Don't want to post it here as it may be embarrassing for the writer :-\
 

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I would want to know.  That being said, I once wrote a well known author about a factual error in one of her books because I LOVED the book so much, but the error was glaring.  She referenced a character going to visit the St. Louis Arch in 1948.  Problematic in that the arch wasn't started until 1963.

The response?  "I am sure my people went through my book with a fine tooth comb."  Ok.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Judi Coltman said:
I would want to know. That being said, I once wrote a well known author about a factual error in one of her books because I LOVED the book so much, but the error was glaring. She referenced a character going to visit the St. Louis Arch in 1948. Problematic in that the arch wasn't started until 1963.

The response? "I am sure my people went through my book with a fine tooth comb." Ok.
Urg. :p Not very gracious!
 

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Judi Coltman said:
The response? "I am sure my people went through my book with a fine tooth comb." Ok.
You know the thing about combs, not matter how fine toothed? They still have slots in them.
 

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Masha, the older you get, the more EVERYTHING seems to be annoying! Ha, ha (I'm a documented geezer). But I include an email address in all my books (and on my web site) for reader feedback. And being alerted to factual errors is actually one of my most preferred kinds of feedback (though admittedly some errors could turn out to be quite distressing and costly).

As you say, if it's minor enough, the author might decide it's not worth the trouble to correct. But some will definitely fix it. If not immediately, then later, along with a raft of other improvements they've collected for that particular book.

However, keep in mind that some errors might be intentional on the part of the author. Because stories are usually a reflection of real life, and in real life people often make mistakes in grammar, speech, and action. That's what makes TV game shows like Jeopardy long running hits: for the winner's usually the one who makes the fewest mistakes in his responses.

So anyway, if you think it's worth YOUR time and trouble to write the author about it, do it. For one thing, that correspondence might lead to a new friend or pen pal you never expected to have in months and years to come. I've got several readers with whom I've carried on an email relationship for years now. One of them died a while back, and I'm hoping to make a place for him in a future novel (a book I discussed with him in his last months). A role I believe he would have relished.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
J.R.Mooneyham said:
One of them died a while back, and I'm hoping to make a place for him in a future novel (a book I discussed with him in his last months). A role I believe he would have relished.
Wow. That's really special. A writer's gift :)
 

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I'm always really, really grateful for things like this. I'm also grateful for corrections on other errors, like when I had la Main de Morte in one of my books, and another friendly author (and fluent French speaker) told me it should be la Main de la Morte. Think of all the people who saw my bad French before I fixed it. And think of all the people who will only see the good French going forward!

So yeah, tell me that vodka doesn't come from peaches, please.
 

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Masha du Toit said:
I just found a tiny factual error in a book I'm reading.

It's something really small, not central to the plot or anything. The equivalent of a casual reference that vodka is made from peaches.

Would you find it annoying, to have something like that pointed out?
Not at all. I can't help but nitpick myself, and I'd definitely want something pointed out so I could correct it as inhumanely fast as possible.
 
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Masha du Toit said:
The equivalent of a casual reference that vodka is made from peaches.
There is actually something of a war going on in Europe over "true" vodka and vodka made from fruits. I remember reading something years ago about a big dust up in the European bloc over this. There are actually vodkas on the market made from various fruits, much to the dismay of purists.

My point, of course, is that we need to be careful as to what we consider a "factual" error and not merely a statement that strays from tradition or irks purists. Further, something that is a "fact" in the U.S. might not be considered such in Australia or France. I've gotten emails from readers outside the U.S. telling me I got "facts" wrong when the facts were correct but not how things are done in that reader's country. So it is important to make sure you are on the side of angels before taking someone to task on a perceived error.
 
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