There is a moment with every book where the author advance copy of your latest title arrives from the publisher. You open it, leaf through the pages, and find a mistake.
It’s happened just about every time I’ve had a book published, and it happens despite all the care, effort and due process that publishers put into the process. By the time a finished book reaches the shelf, the trad publisher has had it actively proofed at least five times – both for content (‘proof editing’) – which covers the ‘sense’ of the work, grammatical construction, consistencies with house style, usages and a pile of other stuff; and for any typographic errors (‘literals’). That’s apart from the work put in during the process by both author and the assigned production editor in the publishing house.
Independent (self-) publishing, ideally, needs to have at least as many checks in it – the problem here, of course, being that the typical indie publisher can’t afford to pay for that level of quality assurance.
So why do errors creep in when every effort is made by a lot of professional people to make sure they don’t? The main reason is ‘contempt by familiarity’ – after a while you read what you want to read, not what is there. That’s certainly true for authors (don’t proof your own work, OK?). That also happens to professional editors – along with the usual human issues of tiredness.
Editing is very, very hard work – it’s an intense process that really takes it out of you.
Add all this up and the outcome is that no matter how often a book is read, something will always slip through. It’s the nature of the beast. But there’s another way of looking at it: look at all the errors that were caught and fixed.
Copyright © Matthew Wright 2016