When I came back from L.A., the first pass proofs of the Art of the Public Grovel were waiting for me. (Those of who’ve been reading this blog for a while may remember the arrival of the first pass galleys for the History of the Ancient World.) So I’ve spent this week reading carefully through the typeset pages and comparing them with the copyedited manuscript pages, trying to catch typos and errors.

The first pass galleys are the pages that will eventually be bound into the book; the typesetters create them from the electronic file of the manuscript that I sent, and they’re supposed to incorporate into the galleys all of the copyeditor changes made in pencil on the hard copy of the manuscript pages. This creates plenty of opportunity for new errors to creep in. Like this one (you’ll need to click on the picture and look at the large version to get the full effect):

(What do you think the copyeditor’s blue insertion says? Now, have a look at what the typesetter THOUGHT it said…)

Yes, that’s right. The copyeditor wrote “penetrating.” The typesetter–trying, I guess, to read the handwritten letters–typed “revetrating.” Which is not, so far as I know, a word.

Due to the struggle I had with the copyedited pages and the tight production schedule that the book is on, I didn’t get to approve all the copyedits before they went to the typesetter, and this is one of the changes I hadn’t seen before. So I changed it back to the original wording anyway. I had written “infiltrating,” which is different from “penetrating,” and I guess I’ve taught too many freshmen classes to ever pick that particular word (they all giggle when you use anything that might possibly be interpreted as a double entendre).

The typesetter on this particular job seems to have been very literal-minded: he (or she) incorporated changes into the text whether or not they made sense. Here, for example, is a copyedit I accepted:

(The copyeditor changed “work” to “strove”…)

(…and the typesetter saw “store,” which turns the sentence into gibberish.)

Here’s a word reversal that the copyeditor didn’t mark clearly enough…

and that the typesetter reproduced faithfully.

And here’s a copyeditor notation that I don’t quite understand.

Neither did the typesetter.

Yeah, that’s right, it now reads, “The Father of Lies. Hair.” I don’t know why.

These are the kinds of mistakes that make me scared to open the book, once it comes out. If I miss something like this, I will sound like an IDIOT.

And then there are lots of smaller changes, like this one: the copyeditor deleted the first comma but forgot to take out the second, which makes the sentence incorrect…

and there are changes that I can live with, but wouldn’t be my choice, like this one…

Webster says that “appendix” can be made plural as either “appendices” or “appendixes.” The copyeditor chose the second. My five years of Latin are shouting NO, NO, NO! but I’m not listening.

Princeton has graciously agreed to let me have a look at the second pass galleys to check on whether corrections have been made, so I’ll be waiting for those to arrive.

In the meantime, I’m getting ready to head to Seattle at the end of the week for the WHO conference. I’m taking Dan and Emily with me so that they can meet their baby cousin for the first time. Will report on that shortly (if I survive the coast-to-coast flight…)

Showing 12 comments
  • Elizabeth in Canada

    Wow. I really had no idea how much was involved in getting a book into print ‘correctly’. This glimpse will probably make me a bit more forgiving of the dumb errors I find in books.


  • Colleen in NS

    Thanks for the inside look at part of your writing job. Very interesting!

  • Heather Quintero

    “The Father of Lies. Hair.” – This one will probably live in infamy… It sounds like part of a Church Lady skit!

  • dangermom

    “Appendixes” makes me unhappy, and I’ve only made it to about chapter 4 of Henle. Those are great errors though, love ’em!

  • e

    Your freshmen, and I, would giggle at any possible double entendre.

    Have fun in Washington!

  • Gwen

    Too right; I haven’t been a freshman for many years, and when I saw “penetrating” in that context, I sniggered out loud. I’m sorry.

    The “appendixes” is giving me the heebie-jeebies; can’t you get them to change it?

  • Trish

    Your post is an example of how publishing is broken (one of the many reasons). The art of producing a book has been shoved to the very end of the process and there is just no time. I know exactly why the copyeditor missed (or changed) things (PUP struggles with its production schedules) and the typesetter may not live in the U.S., or was given a couple hours to “input these minor changes.” The stress of producing books on a too short timeline hurts everyone.

    But what can you do? Except become your own volunteer copyeditor/proofreader/typesetter. I tell authors to add that to their mix of writing duties when they consider a book deal.

    Exciting that we’re getting closer to pub day! Woohoo!
    Hoping to make it to WHO to catch one of your talks.

  • Evelyn

    I do not understand why, as the author, you cannot use the words you would like. Appendices vs. appendixes? If they are both correct, then why can’t you choose the one you want?

  • Sylvia

    It makes you wonder if the typesetter works in English as a second language. Or is a novice typesetter working cheap for a book packager. The marking that is circled and says “hair#” is requesting a hairspace. Basic rule of copyediting/ proofreading/ typesetting: if it is circled, it is an operational sign, never text to be inserted. The nice thing about the edit function on the computer is they can’t say they can’t read your writing.

    I hope you won’t mind if I respond to Evelyn’s question, the lack of choice on spelling and such has to do with house style. Most publishers have a set style they use in their products. they have house style guides that the editors must follow, in addition to industry style guides. For example, Princeton probably uses the “Appendixes” spelling in all its books, not just Susan’s. Likewise, if the publisher has a dictionary they prefer, then that’s the one the copy editor uses. They want consistency in their products. The author may have a choice to the extent that she insists on having a choice, depending on the amount of money budgeted for the project.

    I have wondered about Susan’s dictionary. The History of the Ancient World uses a lot of spellings that are listed second in Merriam Webster’s collegiate dictionary, the dictionary that I have to use in my work for several publishers. Merriam Webster’s lists appendixes first, appendices second. I look it up all the time, because appendices is my instinctive choice too. Norton (or Susan, if she took a stand on this) must prefer a different dictionary. The publishers I work for just don’t allow the “British” spellings unless the book is on a very small budget.

  • Emmy

    This is so fascinating! Honestly I’d be terrified too – looking at how this works makes me feel like it’s a miracle any book gets published correctly.

    Good luck!!!!

  • cm

    I had not heard of a hairspace, but can see adding one would improve the look of the sentance, as would removing the one-word sentence, “Hair.”

    If there is a vote, put me down for “Appendices.”

  • JS

    Revetrating, doesn’t that mean the process of making up words because one is too lazy to verify in a dictionary that the word one is using is actually a word.

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