The Errata Mailbox

Gaiman’s First Law

“Picking up your first copy of a book you wrote, if there’s one typo, it will be on the page that your new book falls open to the first time you pick it up.” – Neil Gaiman

No matter how many times you’ve re-read your text, no matter how many other editors have proofread it — there are still errors to mess you up. It’s especially annoying to find these after the book is printed.

I have a few regular readers who’ll take the time to write me a nice list of them and where I can find them. In a perfect world, I’d make the corrections the same day and republish the book. With the paperback editions, that’s not really possible, not without spending a lot of money I haven’t budgeted. I’ll do it for a popular book, but not one that isn’t selling well.

Even the ebook versions have their problems. Sending an update to Amazon will take the book off the market for awhile. Barnes & Noble forces me to make a whole second edition.

Not to mention my time. It’s not like changing a typo is just a few seconds on the word-processor. I work through the list, find all the mistakes and change them in my Textmaster file for that book. I then have to export the ePub version and after that, go through a list a quality checks. If there are any corrections longer than a couple of words, I have to be very sure my paperback formatting isn’t messed up.

Want to know a worst case? I insert a word, causing the line to wrap at a different place, potentially causing the paragraph to be one line longer. In that case, my page might wrap, messing all my carefully crafted widows-and-orphan adjustments, and potentially causing a chapter to spill over into an additional page. If I try to update the paperback content with an additional page, alarms will go off and I might have to make this a second edition with a whole new ISBN number.

I’m especially careful to avoid that situation.

Now, you might think I’m venting and that I never want to see those emailed corrections. Not at all. It’s work, and I admit sometimes I don’t get the errata mailbox cleared out promptly, but I hate the mistakes as well. I will get those books corrected, but I can’t promise promptness.

So, what triggered this blog?

Well, I have a rather massive to-do list. I use OmniFocus, FYI. And just this morning, I finally cleared out all the errata emails. I checked off the task with a great sense of satisfaction. Not all the books are republished yet, I still have to finish the ePub quality checks.

And then, one of my favorite readers sent me a couple of emails. The errata mailbox was empty for four hours. Sigh.