Friday, January 21, 2011

Why finding seven mistakes in a book is better than finding just one

(OOPS -- not ready for prime time.)


Yesterday I received a fifth-generation proof of my newest book, Independent Self-Publishing: the complete Guide.

I've already gone through it dozens of times, and was reasonably sure that the latest proof would be good enough to approve for printing and selling. It's already a few weeeks late -- which is normal.

As soon as Bill, our UPS driver, delivered the box from Lightning Source, my printer, I gave it to Dave. He's my youngest employee and has better vision than I have. He also has good artistic judgment and his mother owned a bookstore. Hawkeyed Dave studied each page, and spotted one line of text that was not indented properly in a paragraph with a "hanging indent."


The error (above) was annoying, but not terrible, and one error in 520 pages was not sufficient for me to "stop the presses."

When Dave finished his page flipping, it was my turn.

I was horrified to find a page with ghastly word spacing:


In the book, I point out that it's difficult to achieve good word spacing in a narrow piece of justified text, and I offer some suggestions for solving the problem. I was amazed to see that I had missed this ugly page (which is actually no worse than is printed in most newspapers and in some books I've seen -- but is unacceptable in a book that preaches the importance of producing good-looking books).

I quickly decided that I could not let the book reach the public in its present form, and read on.

I ultimately found seven pages that could be improved. Other than the page with the bad word spacing, none of the seven would have been bad enough for me to delay publication by a week, but taken together, I had good reasons not to approve the book.

And... as long as I was fixing up the interior of the book, I asked my artist to make some little fixes on the cover. There were three little bits that had bugged me. I doubt that anyone else would have noticed them. But as long as I was going to delay publication to fix the inside of the book, I may as well use the opportunity to fix the outside, too.

No book is perfect -- not even books produced by the big guys in Manhattan -- but it's important for my books (and all books) to be as close to perfect as possible.

Self-publishers have an extra burden to turn out good work, because each sloppy self-published book reflects badly on the others.
_ _ _ _

OK, it's time for an old but appropriate joke:

Q: What's worse than biting into an apple and seeing a worm?

A: Biting into an apple and seeing half a worm.

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