The Editing of a Book

  • By: Jessica Faust | Date: Feb 24 2016

It’s common for authors and publishers to receive feedback from readers on editing mistakes that are found in a book. Most very kindly let the editor know of a misspelled word or missing pages (that sometimes happens when a book is printed at the end of a print run), but others can be a little harsher.

Recently I got one such email, which is a rare thing for an agent. In talking about one of my client’s books, the reader made the statement, “I should think that any writer who makes bestseller lists should be able to hire an editor or proofreader who would catch these things. And you as her literary agent should be able to arrange that.”

It continued with the reader offering her services at “minimal compensation” to fix these problems.

There’s nothing I like better than a job application that first insults the product you want to work on and the person you want to work with. Okay, that’s not really what happened, but sort of.

Book editing is not typically handled by the author. It’s handled by the publisher and despite all of the people who read, edit and review a book, mistakes are made, because every one of those editors is human. In fact, a number of authors (bestselling authors included) go to the effort of hiring an additional editor outside of those already hired by the publisher to ensure that things are done right. Still, mistakes are made.

I never mind when a reader gets in touch with an author (although they might mind) or a publisher about mistakes. Usually we’ll forward the information to the publisher so corrections can be made in future editions. When these sorts of emails are sent though I hope readers will be respectful to the author who wants more than anything for her book to be perfect.

6 responses to “The Editing of a Book”

  1. Avatar Catherine says:

    I find errors in books, but I never say anything. Everyone needs an editor, even teachers and even editors. Mistakes happen.

  2. Avatar Claudie says:

    I agree that editors are human and mistakes are made, but I still cringe to think my book might hit the shelves with errors. That’s my perfectionist voice talking.

  3. Avatar Anna Katmore says:

    I always let fellow authors know about their mistakes. I also take the time to take notes of them all and send them to the authors (after asking politely, whether they want my notes), because that’s what I would want for my books, too.
    The worst thing a reader could do – and yes, even worse than what you described here – is to posts a terrible review saying that there are tons of mistakes or rant about a bad editing job, but not being kind enough and helping the author out by telling him or her which errors they found exactly.
    Politeness seems to have become a rare commodity. 🙁

  4. Avatar Kevin Earp says:

    I have occasionally mentioned typos in a review, especially when a book is so badly edited that I question whether it was proofread at all. I feel badly for the author, but cast all the blame on the publisher. Can an author proofread (or hire someone to proofread) the publishing proofs before it goes to print, or becomes available as an e-book? E-books seem to be the worst offenders, which upsets me as I prefer to collect my books in that format. Thank you

  5. Avatar Hollie says:

    If I’m on even a mild passing assoisation with someone connected to a book and find an error. I’ll contact that person, usually politely and by email.
    Last time my husband found a problem, he tweeted the author. He did then help research a cover story for the mistake.
    I must say the author in question is friend and he has a way of doing things that don’t offend. But it’s not an approach I could take.

  6. Avatar Makkeys says:

    Mistakes happen always but I really think that most people tend to overlook it as it has already been published.well,contacting the author ,I think is the best option here