Pub Rants

A Very Nice Literary Agent Indulges in Polite Rants About Queries, Writers, and the Publishing Industry

Power Of The Proof

STATUS: I’ve been working on a contract for most of the day—speaking of diligence.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? DON’T FEAR THE REAPER by Blue Oyster Cult

Which, let’s face it, I don’t tend to do much of on this blog. Sheesh, I always find the error the next day and I do appreciate when blog readers point it out in the comments section. It never offends me. Sometimes I write and post because I’m in a hurry, it’s too late at night, or I simply “read” it incorrectly in a quick skim.

But if you are an author facing your page proofs for the final read-through before submitting the final manuscript for the printer, well, let’s just say you don’t want to hurry or skimp on this proofread.

Two interesting dilemmas that just came up this week:

1. One author found two errors in the very first sentence of her acknowledgements page. Granted, she had actually corrected the errors in the pass but somehow the copy editor missed it. That is the worst feeling. We’ll correct it now but who knows how many books are out there with the missed corrections…

2. Just like scary movie… Just recently an author of mine caught an editor comment and question that was embedded in the narrative of the novel on page 110 of the work. She found the error in the ARC so we had plenty of time to correct that one but it still strikes me as terrifyingly funny that an editor remark could have found its way into a late-stage version and even though it didn’t happen, it could have slipped into a final copy.


In other news, two fun things going on in the blogosphere.

Chuck Sambuchino at Guide to Literary Agents is looking for the worst logline ever for his The “Worst Storyline Ever” Contest. This is going on now until the end of August. A glory of sorts…

Lucienne Diver, client and fellow literary agent, is hosting Mystery Week over on her blog so if you write in this genre, you might want to pop by and check it out. Some great advice going on over there.

15 Responses

  1. Kim Stagliano said:

    I caught the name of the protag’s favorite deli in a series spelled incorrectly in a book just last night! And the next book in the series was missing about 60 pages – the pages were there, but they repeated. All of a sudden I was reading a deja vue like passage and when I looked at the page numbers I realize the book had been misprinted. However, I will buy this authors books whether they are written in broken pig latin or printed on cheap TP. She can do no wrong in my eyes!

  2. Margaret Yang said:

    The editor’s comment in the narrative is my worst nightmare! I’m always afraid that something like that will happen. Or, worse, I’ll accidentally submit the copy of my work to the editor with all of my own notes in it.

  3. Corked Wine and Cigarettes said:

    Hi Kristin,

    This would be better suited in an email, but I know what agents think about getting those extra emails in their day. Minutes are like diamonds, I’m sure you’d agree.

    Anyway, I’m newly (and happily) repped by Endeavor, so this is in no way a solicitation, but I was compelled to give you a virtual high-five for your Agenting 101 series.

    Being an attorney with no experience in the publishing trade, I found these blog entries to be unbelievably helpful in addressing my expectations and ignorance of the publishing biz. They were very user-friendly.

    Seriously, you should write a book. Maybe you know a good agent? 😉


    S.L. Duncan

  4. Julie Weathers said:

    Kristin, Lucienne’s blogs have been terrific even if you don’t write mystery.

    I agree on the proofing. Advice I received a long time ago that is still sound:

    1. Print it out and read it aloud. It forces your eye to slow down and see what is there, not what you think is there. Preferably record it so you can hear the cadence of the work.

    2. Print it out in a different font or color than you are accustomed to.

    Always black and standard fonts to agents, of course.

  5. Joseph L. Selby said:

    If you’re amazed that embedded comments could have made it that far along in the process, you’d be equally amazed at the frequency in which that happens. Word tends to suppress comments when the file is emailed multiple times. If you don’t search for them in the reviewing pane, there is no other clue to tell you that they’re in the document. One little bit of miscommunication and bam, there you go. I discovered this the hard way on my second every project in the industry as a publishing project manager. My boss implied she had taken care of the comments. I got page proofs back from the comp with comment bubbles galore.

  6. ajb said:

    The worst logline contest reminds me of the Summary Executions over on livejournal back in the day. McTabby would collect the worst summaries she could find (from actual stories, albeit in Harry Potter fanfiction catagory) and post them. No one writes a summary like a 13-year-old fanfic-er.

  7. ORION said:

    And even if you re read and re read your first pass pages your eye fills in those missing words lol!
    You know who really finds the mistakes are the foreign translators! My Japanese one found several continuity booboos – that no one has ever found- They were pretty obscure but still…
    It was satisfying to know I could fix those in the paperback edition and then stunned to realize that new errors could be added. Rats!

  8. Dave F. said:

    I once worked on a chapter in what you guys would call an anthology (a scientific book). It had 12 chapters by something like 40 authors. Two authors had their names misspelled on the index page in the final copy. That didn’t say much for the editor (compiler).

    My Mother tells a story of sending out a fund raising letter to 4000 people with the Chief Judge’s name misspelled.

    Proofreading is hard, be oh so necessary.

  9. Anonymous said:


    I’m an avid pubrants reader – ever since it began. Call me a lurker because I never comment.

    However, just ran across something interesting on Craigslist that I thought you’d have an opinion about: a listing for “Become a Literary Agent (your home/our office).” Here’s the link:

    Can’t wait to hear what you have to say.


  10. production editor said:

    I’m confused about what’s called “final” page proofs that are sent to the author. I’ve seen this on a few industry blogs.

    I’m a production editor and at the house where I work the first pass of pages is what’s sent to the author — after it’s been copy edited but before it’s been proofread, and before all the typesetting changes have been confirmed. This means that the author and proofreader are reading the pages simultaneously, so the errors in the first sentence of the acknowledgments that upset the author you mentioned may well have been caught by the freelance proofreader and/or production editor working on the book. Most novels I’ve worked on go through at least three sets of page proofs, usually four. Then we see bluelines from the printer. The author doesn’t see pages past the un-proofread 1st pass. Is this not how other houses work?

    The process described above is a lot of pressure on a production editor, the person at the publisher trying to make sure no mistakes make it through, especially when you have ten or more novels in various stages all needing to be checked. That’s a lot of pages and a lot of typos that can be missed! There’s no time to read every set of pages each time they cross your desk. It’s usually only a matter of checking corrections as best you can. I work as hard as I can for authors, and I am horrified when mistakes are found in published books, it’s an awful feeling. The book is an author’s baby, and I know that; that’s why I’m here. I just wish that the amount of work all of this entails was better understood.

    Great and useful blog, thank you!

  11. Arovell said:

    I checked out the “Worst Storyline Ever” Contest and laughed so hard I choked on my gum. I’m going to be mulling over ridiculous story elements until I come up with something to enter. Thanks for the laugh!

  12. J.R.Poulter/J.R.McRae said:

    This can be totally freak out – especially when you have proofed and corrected and sent and yet somehow an earlier version gets mangled into your final copy …AAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRKKKKKK!
    A friend of mine once recommended having at least 4 ‘new’ pairs of eyes scan any given work to be sure all oopses were picked up – ideal but time is seldom that user friendly!

Denver Skyline Photo © Nathan Forget [Creative Commons] | Site built by Todd Jackson