During my second year as a book editor, I made the unsettling discovery that I was not perfect. The very first book that I edited and managed in Spring 2006 was being prepared for its second printing in Winter 2007, and right before the reprinting, the authors noted that one of the figures in the book was incorrect. When my boss came to my desk to tell me about the error, I almost shit my pants. She calmly asked me to review the final proof and figure out where the error was so we could fix it. As the youngest and most junior editor on our team at the time, I was TERRIFIED. I thought that I was going to get fired. I remember walking to the nearest restroom so that I could breathe and collect myself.
When I returned to my desk, I poured over EVERY, SINGLE piece of paper related to that book. After about 30 minutes, I discovered that the error slipped in because the authors and I made a last-minute change on the next-to-last proof that we did not relay to the designer. I told my boss where the error was, and she simply said, “Thanks, Leah. We will make sure that this gets fixed before the next printing.” I emailed my authors to let them know how we were going to resolve the error and they replied, “Leah, you’re great. Thanks for fixing this for us.”
The world didn’t fall off its axis because I made a mistake on Figure 2.1 on page 62? (Judge your mama and not my OCD!)
No, it didn’t.
In retrospect, I am ETERNALLY grateful for a boss who was also a veteran editor who knew and anticipated that mistakes in print WILL happen. I’m equally glad that I was working with a great author duo who was simply overjoyed to have their first book published. Working with more than 40 authors over the last 10 years, TRUST ME that small error could have went in an entirely different direction. But I am grateful that I had the opportunity to LEARN and most importantly DISCOVER that I will not dot every I and cross every T.
Listen up, folks—mistakes in print happen ALL. THE. TIME. I was reading an interpreted version of the Bible a few years ago and I found an error right in The New Testament. As a kid who grew up reading Bible stories, I knew that Jesus understood the difference between “its” versus “it’s,” but apparently the editor for this Bible did not.
AND THAT’S OK.
The beauty of modern-day publishing is that once an error is spotted, the fix can be made on a master file in a matter of minutes, re-uploaded to your print and e-book distributor, and available to your audience again in no time. If I can save you some of my horror and stress from my first book mistake, once the error was fixed, the readers were none the wiser.
So if you are self-editing or self-publishing your book, give yourself some grace around your errors. You can ALWAYS reprint and fix your text. If you have a tight budget, ask an editor if he or she can do a proofread instead of a copyedit before you go to print. If you can’t, you can set up a system to do multiple passes on your proof. (Check back next week for my blog on proofing your work in multiple stages).
Undotted I’s and uncrossed T’s, both on the page and in life, give us the opportunity to LEARN, GROW, and APPRECIATE our HUMANITY.