Errors in a published book? Don’t these people have editors?

sad face

Line edits. Okay, full confession. Not my favorite things. Recently I got one of those angry reviews where the reader caught some sort of an error. “Don’t these authors have editors?” he wanted to know. Yep, we sure do.  My editor in New York will usually pass the full manuscript (once it’s approved) to another editor who will go through that thing with a fine tooth comb and point out helpful tidbits like, “Why on earth would Biff the hero bash his way through a burning door when there’s a perfectly good open window right there?” Sigh again. I hate it when that happens. A change made on page ten of the document causes a ripple effect which requires alterations to be done throughout. A seemingly tiny adjustment can require many hours of fiddling. This is where plots get tweaked, motivations are reexamined and tiny details must be explained. Keep in mind this document has already been read a zillion times by yours truly, my critique group, my California editor (Sister Bear) and my long-suffering husband. I may have farmed parts of it out to various experts (a whole raft of outdoorsy folks commented on a kayaking scene and I consulted a pilot about how to crash a plane.) Even after all those eyeballs have been clapped on the thing, there are still plenty of errors to be dealt with. I’ll leave you with this quote from Truman Capote on the importance of editing. “I believe more in the scissors than I do the pencil.” In spite of those scissors, sometimes a blooper gets through. Such is life.

Here’s a link to Huffington Post with some grammar mistakes on public signs. I assume the signmaker’s editing process broke down somewhere also.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/04/26/grammar-mistakes_n_853599.html#s269193&title=Smile

Question for the avid readers out there: how forgiving are you if you spot an error in a published book? Do you feel more accepting of print errors or those in ebooks? Comments get you entered in the January drawing for a $25.oo Amazon gift card.

10 responses to this post.

  1. I don’t mind a few typos or such, though my family generally hears about it if I find more than a couple or if the typo is particularly funny.
    One thing that drives me crazy (which I came across recently in a book I was reading) is when a character’s name is different in different parts of the book. Example: In one book, a character’s name was Jason. Then, for an entire chapter, they kept calling him Jonas. After that, it’s back to being Jason for the rest of the book. Can’t stand it when that happens!

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    • Aerykah, my mother doesn’t like it when multiple character names start with the same letter. I suppose making them very different creates less chance of that kind of error. I just realized I’m using Mouse, Mose and Muse in the same book! Must get to the keyboard and fix! 🙂

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  2. A couple of minor typos are fine. If it gets to be more than that, I get irritated.

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  3. Posted by Ellen on January 26, 2013 at 5:46 am

    How I react to an error depends on the severity of the error. Most of the time any errors I see are insugnificant and therefore I just ignore them. However major errors really irritate me. For instance I was reading a book (no I’m not going to mention the name) set in the state of Texas which is where I live. This particular error misplaced a small town ~ which was a real town ~ by nearly 100 miles and that irritated me but it did not make me put the book down and quit reading it.

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    • Good point, Ellen. I suppose it depends on the size of the error. I had an annoyed reader write to tell me the entire Chapter 15 was missing. I still don’t know what happened to her missing chapter! 🙂

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  4. Errors definitely throw me out of the story. For instance, in a book I finished up last week, I found about three or four simple typo errors that just weren’t caught. Did that make me stop reading and throw down the book? No, but it was distracting. I’m in the journalism business and stuff like that gets by editors all the time. Of course, publishng a daily is definitely different than a manuscript, but. I digress. In eBooks, I’d imagine it’s easier to go into the file and fix mistakes, but I’ve never caught any errors in the eBooks I’ve read.

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    • I’ve written for newspapers too, Katrina and you’ve got a good point there. The sheer pace at which the writing is completed and turned over doesn’t leave time for extensive editing, does it? Dana

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