Monday, July 26, 2010

Is your book suffering from PPB (Post-Publication Blues)?

Book publishing is a many-layered business. A book begins with the author, passes to an agent (or several), then advances to an editor, who in turn hands it off to a host of other folks to get it ready for printing: copy editors, assistants, fact checkers, graphic designers, copywriters, marketing folks, etc. And that’s before the book even hits the shelves!

So it’s no surprise that mistakes get made occasionally. Last month, we sent back several copies of Justin Cronin’s fabulous new novel, The Passage, due to a misprinting – four lines on page 276 were missing. How many people would notice or care? Probably not that many. But Ballantine didn’t want to take that chance, so back the copies went.

Not all those little mistakes get caught by the publisher, though. I was paging through a recent arrival, The Bumper Book of Nature. This tome is a treehugger’s dream: a plethora of seasonally-based activities for kids and adults to do outdoors no matter the weather. But it’s a good thing the author didn’t call it the Bumper Book of Geography. When advising readers to go on a city safari, Moss notes:

“Chicago, Illinois: Its location on the southern shore of Lake Erie makes Chicago...”

Hold up! Lake Erie? It’s typos like this that get us Midwesterners all salty about Coasties’ grip on basic geography. I’m happy to report, however, that the book is lovely otherwise, and well worth a look for those outdoorwardly-inclined.

Sometimes, bad grammar just happens. I got no further than the inside flap of newly-minted Daily Show correspondent Olivia Munn’s Suck It, Wonder Woman! before I found my most hated typo, the errant apostrophe (Thought’s on my First Agent’s Girlfriend’s….”) Oh, Olivia.* Actually, it was probably not Munn who wrote it, but a hapless marketing department copywriter, whose has since been sacked and is now begging for scraps outside a Le Pain Quotidien on the mean streets of Manhattan. But it just goes to show how complicated the publishing process is.

When you think about it, it’s amazing that we don’t see more little mistakes in the books we read and love. Publishing is such a big, sprawling business that frequently seems like a juggernaut about to come off at the wheels, especially if we listen too closely to the critics pronouncing the imminent death of the book. Publishing is alive and well, as the steady output of new titles demonstrates. The many, many good people behind the scenes deserve a shout-out for the work they do getting these books to print and then into the hands of readers. Typo-catching is an activity I’m happy to do – it means there are more books to read!

*Yeah, I know. I’m not really taking issue with Olivia Munn for a typo on the inside cover of her book. I will, however, take issue with her answer to question 14 on page 256. The correct answer is Firefly, dear. That’s just science.

No comments:

Post a Comment