A potentially costly typo. Seeking guidance.

(Update: Decision made. See end of post)

A careful reader has caught a typo in The Whole Clove Diet (print version), in Chapter 15. It’s important because it’s a date (the new year is 1999 but I made a mistake and said 1998) but the mistake isn’t part of the title: it’s buried in a paragraph.

The title of Chapter One shows that the novel starts in Sept. 1998. Later in the book, I flash forward to Dec. 31, 1999 for one chapter, but the book actually ends in Oct 1999.

There may be some other typos in the book — not many I hope, as it has been through several editors and proofreaders — but this one is unusual. It’s important to me that no one get confused about the flash-forward year. But maybe no one cares, or will ever notice.

I hate mistakes. If I don’t change it, it’s going to bug me forever. I’ll be grabbing books out of people’s hands and correcting the mistake with a pen before they come across it on their own.

Do I spend $50 now and fix it — I haven’t actually started promotion on TWCD yet, and only a few copies are in print — or leave it? What would you do? (I guess I’d have to sell about 20 copies of the book to cover this cost. Then there’s all the rest of the money I’ve put into it. Which is both an argument against spending another $50 and an argument for spending it.)

(And before anyone else says it: Yes, I know this is a first-world problem. But it’s my first-world problem, and it matters to me. Among many other reasons, I want to show that self-published books CAN be really well edited.)

(P.S. And isn’t it great that with Print on Demand, you CAN edit after the book has been released? I think so.)

Update: Thank you all for your feedback. I am going to invest the $50 and make that change, plus a couple of other minor changes that have also been identified by my FINAL proof reader. :) You were all correct: I could not have lived with that particular error.

Coming soon to this space: A review of a straight-to-DVD film from Pinder & Martin in the UK, called The Agent, which will agonize any literary writer who either has or has longed to have a top-quality literary agent.

20 responses

  1. Mary

    You are so generous. I started reading The Woman Upstairs last night and love it. If you send me your address, I will send you $20 for this book you gave for free. It is the least I can do for a fellow writer. Then you only need to sell a few to make up the cost of a typo correction, which I believe you should do, because, as you say, it will “bug” you forever.
    Your new friend and fellow writer.
    P.S. I know we will exchange other helps in the future.

  2. I had a bad typo appear in a book of mine published in 1995. It was nominated for the 1996 Pulitzer Prize. Now I knew I wouldn’t win it, but I’m quite certain that that damn typo probably came up at one time or another. Additionally, at least one reviewer caught it in a review, although the review was generally positive. I would definitely make the change. I think you’d regret it if you didn’t….

  3. Mary. Like you, I can’t stand errors in what I publish. For me, it’s a question of pride; so much so that my soon to be released novel it back to the copy-editor for a second go around. Costly — no question about it. Having read (or at least attempted to read) a self-published novel over the Christmas holidays that was so bad (spelling, grammar, etc.), I decided right then and there that mine would be as good I could make it. My sense of pride is obviously costing me money, but that’s okay, at least I can sleep at night knowing that I gave it (novel) my best shot..

    • True enough: but this is MY typo. :) And it seems significant to me. I’m sure there will be others that I’ve missed, but I hope I never hear about them.

  4. I’m currently looking at a minor typo on the back of ‘Swallow the Moon’ and wondering if I can live with it – but I know I can’t. I’m going to need two days to go over the book again, to make sure there aren’t any more.

  5. This is a very interesting post. I’ve caught typos in several of the indie books I’ve read recently (not to the point that it ruined the books, though), and I’ve debated whether to contact the authors to let them know. I decided against it. I had someone contact me about two minor typos they found in a legal brief I filed, and quite frankly, I wish they had never told me about it. The difference there, however, was that it was too late to fix it. I guess that’s not true for books if they’re print-on-demand. I hadn’t thought about that fact before.

    • The fact that you can go on endlessly correcting is a positive and a negative, for sure. Since I fixed the typo I wrote about here, another reader has told me that I made an error later in the book when I referred to Charlie Brown but should have said Pigpen. Enough is enough — I could fix it, but it costs money and I’ve got to move on. I’m just glad I was not responsible for the carving of sacred text on tablets.

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