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harple's avatar

Is it worth recalling a novel with typos?

Asked by harple (10441points) October 2nd, 2010

This article talks of the newly released Jonathan Franzen novel being recalled in the UK because of “typesetting errors”... I understand the publishing company not wanting an incorrectly printed book in circulation as it makes them look bad, and I understand the sentence about the author having worked on the book for so long and wanting the correct final version out (though if it’s typesetting, then surely his words are still the same?)... but I usually equate recalls with items that have been found potentially dangerously defective…

What do you think?

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17 Answers

mrentropy's avatar

A) I can kind of understand the author wanting a book of his/hers out without typos.
B) If the book becomes big, like classic big, then anyone who bought a 1st edition with typos might be set up for big money in the future, depending on how many were sold before the recall went into affect.

marymaryquitecontrary's avatar

The reputation of the publishing company is at stake, so yes, a recall is in order.

Frenchfry's avatar

I would think YES it should be done. Like @mrentropy said the typo version would be worth more if he became famous. Keep it. LOL

CyanoticWasp's avatar

He helped his Uncle Jack off the elephant.
He helped his uncle jack off the elephant.

Potentially dangerous typesetting error.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

The publishing company should be thoroughly embarrassed. A poorly proofread book is a blot on their reputation. The recall is quite in order.

Vortico's avatar

Typesetting errors does not directly mean typos. Some paragraphs could not be separated, margins could be set incorrectly, or typefaces could be less readable than intended.

anartist's avatar

Almost every book published contains typos, missed spelling and grammar corrections, no matter how many times it goes through the editing process. This would have to be a huge mistake to recall a print run since that is a lot of money down the drain. By a huge mistake I mean printing an earlier draft, leaving out chapters, printing part of it upside down, having a bunch of blank pages in the middle. The first two are more likely as the last two would be very hard to miss.

From the article, it looks like they printed an earlier draft. Without having both copies it would be impossible to tell how heavy the edits were, whether they were substantive or were minor copy edits, as the publisher claims. However, it was unacceptable to the author. Egg on that publisher’s face for sure.

AlaskaTundrea's avatar

I don’t quite understand the question. Are you saying the printer messed up, the publisher, or the author? As an author, when I submit a book to a publisher and it is accepted, one of the final steps before publication is for them to send me a proof copy of the book. It will have gone through several edits before this step, but this is my last chance as an author to catch any glaring errors and have them fixed before the book goes to print. It is then the publisher’s responsibility to make sure the corrected file is the one that goes to the printer. Which of these steps is where the book in question went astray? Did the author not do an adequate job with the final proof or did the publisher send the wrong file in to be printed? If the author messed up and didn’t do the proof or simply skimmed through and missed things…. which should have been caught in one of the many previous edits, I’d think…. they’ve got no gripes. The messed up and will have to pay for any future changes. If the publisher messed up, they will normally be willing to make it right, tho’ only if the typos are glaring errors that jump out and disrupt the reading of the novel. And, most likely, that will be in future printings, not the current one. Are the errors that bad? Book printing is an expensive process, so otherwise, I doubt it’d be worth the cost. If the printer messed up the file sent, they would be the ones targeted to make changes and will usually do so, tho’ I’m inclined to think any recall would have to come from the publisher. As an author, I guess I might push for it if I felt it necessary, but rather doubt the feasibility of a book recall unless it’s, say, a medical book with potentially dangerous misstatements?

AlaskaTundrea's avatar

I should also probably add that the term typesetting indicates to me that there were issues with how the book was put together, ie fonts, margins, perhaps missing/misplaced text, not so much minor typos. I can’t get the link to work, cranky Internet on my end, I think, not the link, but that might be the logic behind this. Typesetting can even refer to the amount of space at the bottom of a page, where the page numbers are placed, maybe missing or extra pages. I’ll try the link again later and perhaps comment again then.

Jeruba's avatar

I heard an author speak a month or so ago at a writers’ club meeting. She said her book not only was not proofread by a real person working for the publisher but was put through a software spellchecker and grammar checker and had seemingly arbitrary changes made. One result of many was that the word “brake” was changed to “break.” She didn’t know this until she saw comments in reviews that scoffed at her for her ignorance and carelessness. This hurt her as she was promoting her book and also looking for representation for her next one.

Her advice was always to check your proof copies carefully and take nothing for granted.

If the book were mine, and the publisher had introduced errors, and I had the clout to demand a recall, I most certainly would. The publishing business ain’t what it used to be; authors have to be their own editors, watchdogs, and promoters now.

harple's avatar

Thank you all for your thoughts on this :-)

Seek's avatar

Let’s go ahead and think back to the King James Bible of 1631 and the typesetting error that put “Thou shalt commit adultery” into the Ten Commandments.

Yes, the recall is important. ^_^

YARNLADY's avatar

I’ve seen books with one or more pages glued over with new pages because of typos. They don’t have to recall the entire book.

Mom2BDec2010's avatar

I think it should be.

anartist's avatar

See the Guardian article quoteed below

Franzen told the Guardian that the book, the follow-up to 2001’s Pulitzer Prize-nominated The Corrections, contained “a couple of hundred differences at the level of word and sentence and fact” as well as “small but significant changes to the characterisations of Jessica and Lalitha” – the daughter and the assistant of one of the novel’s central characters.

HarperCollins, which runs the 4th Estate imprint, said the crucial mistake happened when a small Scottish typesetter, Palimpsest, sent “the last but one version” of the book file to the printers. Palimpsest was not available for comment.

harple's avatar

Thank you @anartist that’s a great follow up! So turns out there were MORE than just typesetting errors – rediculous!

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