Pub Rants

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

Straight From An Editor’s Mouth

STATUS: Slowly working through emails, negotiations, contracts and whatnot. I’m particularly fond of the whatnots (aka the chocolate jar).

What’s playing on the iPod right now? ROCKY MOUNTAIN WAY by Joe Walsh

The week before last, I posted a blog entry on a crisis averted in the publishing world when the ARC of my author’s book (instead of the corrected final proof) was submitted to the printer for the actual publication.

And how wonderful the editor was in terms of getting right on that, trashing the initial print run, and getting the book done right (Kudos J! You know who you are!)

Well, as I mentioned then, it’s rare occurrence but it can happen. An editor friend couldn’t help but share her story. She asked to remain anonymous so I’ve respected that request but otherwise, here is her story in full. She works at one of the major houses in New York.

Hi Kristin–Was just reading your blog. Hope you’re enjoying Maui. I’ve attended and they always do throw a good party. And it’s Maui…

I got a laugh out of your story about your author’s finished book being the ARC version. Well, not a funny ha-ha laugh, because that really sucks for her and her publisher but more a knowing laugh. When I was a 23-year old assistant editor, my executive editor boss got fired and I wound up taking over a bunch of her books. One was a book by a medium-size celebrity who was nonetheless a major-sized headache. After I’d been on the case for a couple months, the celebrity’s paperback comes out. I get the usual three hot-off-the presses copies from the bindery, send one to the author, one to her extremely powerful agent, and stick the third on my shelf. I think nothing of it for a couple hours until I’m taking a phone call, my eyes wander over to my shelf, and I realize that–holy f**king shit!–the printer HAD MISSPELLED THE AUTHOR’S NAME ON THE SPINE! I leap out of my chair, seize the book in my trembling hands, and run down the hall to the managing editor’s office, whereupon I thrust the book at her, point to the spine and burst into tears.

God bless her, she kept her cool, but it was a MAJOR error. We wound up having to pulp something like 40,000 paperbacks at 65 cents apiece. We were lucky that I’d noticed early and the books had only shipped to the warehouse, not to the stores, or we would have had to recall those and lose the shipping money on them. I then had to call the high-maintenance author and her extremely powerful agent and explain the situation, but since none of the copies had gone out, they weren’t too perturbed; and interestingly, neither of them had noticed the error on the spine when they received their copies. Still, it was probably the most freaked out I’ve ever been in my entire career, and that was 10 years ago!

Feel free to share the story, just to show that publishers do screw up sometimes, but we always try to make it right in the end! Would be great to see you if you’re back in NYC sometime soon. Really do want us to have a book together!

9 Responses

  1. leesmiley said:

    Boy, I thought my job had stressful moments. I’ve never, so far as I know, been party to a mistake that cost anyone over $20,000. Then again, it’s only Tuesday.

  2. Dave F. said:

    When I had to play clerk and follow printing orders for work, a boss came to me and said that one of the big reports had to be withdrawn because it wasn’t cleared through the company it was written about. The engineer who wrote the 30 page brochure never sent it to the company he wrote about and he had factual errors in it, he even got the company name wrong and had the wrong division heads.

    Now how do you do something that stupid? More important, how fast do you correct it?

    Luckily, the printer decided to print something else ahead of it and I could withdraw the print job. This would have been 6000 high impact glossy brochures with color on every page headed right into the trash bin.

  3. Julia said:

    There are several books that got to the shelves with the titles or subtitles or authors’ names misspelled.

    The hardcover US edition of Satisfaction by Gillian Greenwood, for instance, renders the title as Satisfation on the back jacket.

    The spine of the 2005 biography of Rupert Hart-Davis refers to him as a “literary impressario.”

  4. Anonymous said:

    I’ve had the wrong version of a ms typeset on me, too. I thought that was bad, but the other day 50 books landed on my doorstep in Portuguese. Slowly, but surely, I worked out it was someone else’s book with my name on the cover. Oops.

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