About ‘errors’ in ‘Indie’ novels.


First, before we talk about typos, let’s talk about “Five Nines“.

The so-called Five-Nines standard originated in telecom from AT&T, to describe the amount of required up-time in a phone system.

By Jonathan Mauer - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=50534668
Image By Jonathan Mauer – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

That is, the ‘acceptable quality of service‘ is 99.999% no errors / problems. That means, by definition, there are inherently 0.001% acceptable errors / problems.

There are about 8766 hours in a year. So, that is about 5 minutes of any phone service being out in a year.

Follow me?

Now, with the written word, you can make 3 kinds of mistakes every time you write a single word. Those are broadly described as “Spelling“, “Grammar“, “Coherence“.

That means that in a 40k word document, you have 120k potential errors that have to be checked for.

Using the Telecom Gold Standard of 0.001% acceptable problems that means:

  • 40k words => ~1 unavoidable problems
  • 60k words => ~2 unavoidable problems
  • 100k words => 3 unavoidable problems
  • 120k words => ~4 unavoidable problems

Let’s be real here. If you think that any first edition of a creative work has to be better than 99.999% perfect, all I can tell you is please only read third editions.

Even the OG Big Five have had typos in first edition published works.

Now, if you say that “Four Nines” is okay, then the numbers are 10, 20, 30 & 40 unavoidable problems, respectively. Like, I don’t think I’ve ever read any indie pub work with 10 – 20 problems in it. That’s still 99.99% perfect.

I see people saying things like “hundreds” of problems.

Okay, let’s say 333 problems in a 40,000 word novella. 333/40000 = 99.8325% perfect. Say you spent five bucks on that novella. You aren’t even out a nickel in direct cost value. Seriously.

Maybe ease back on anything as good as US telephone service, and focus on stuff like if the story is fun to read. Are you not entertained? Are the characters memorable? The stuff that makes up the other $4.96 you got from the experience.

Give it a think. Then tell me about it in the comments section below.