be careful

Yesterday morning before I was fully awake I thought I could lull myself back to sleep by remembering goofs and errors other publishers had made. This would comfort me and reassure me that I had encountered mistakes in the past and survived. That would an easy blog to write.

Big mistake.

I remembered more and more and got more and more upset. We don’t survive, not really. We just go on, and on. But the glitches and goofs remain like permanent blots on my escutcheon.

I have never used that image applied to something important to me. I had to look it up to be sure I was using it correctly:

escutcheon noun, 1 a shield or emblem bearing a coat of arms. 2 (also escutcheon plate)a flat piece of metal for protection and often ornamentation, around a keyhole, door handle, or light switch.


a blot on one's escutcheon a stain on one's reputation or character. THIS IS WHAT I MEANT.

Yes, a blot, indeed.

Where do I begin?

One publisher made mistakes with all but one of my books they published, and one so bad they didn’t release it. My first book with them misspelled the name of the principal on the cover of the book. Advance, rush copies of the book were brought to a significant reading I was doing at a launch. Fortunately or not, there were very few and the cover was corrected for mass (?) release. The publisher blithely said that the mistaken copies wold be a collectors’ item. A book of poetry got the explanatory sub-title wrong. The publisher said it didn’t matter; it was right on the inside title page, so nothing was done. A children’s book got two pages reversed and since it was a small book with a small release they took it back to correct it—not so easily—and reversed four pages so that it was incoherent. So they didn’t bother releasing it. I have warned friends to be careful with that publisher.

One of my best (favourite) books slipped past the eyes of copy editor, proof readers—and me—with one complete paragraph repeated in two places in the book. No reviewer ever caught the error which I saw after the book was published. That confirmed my suspicion that reviewers do not in fact, read the entire book, or not very carefully. You do have to be careful if you’re reviewing. That same book was dismissed by another reviewer as a how-to book. (It was not.) I had been type-cast in his mind because I had written a couple of helpful books about money and retirement. I guess the reviewer thought he didn’t have to read a book about the diaries of women (Reading between the LInes). It really wasn’t “how to write a diary”.

I hadn’t studied Icelandic when I wrote Letters to Icelanders but my cousin had and spoke it fluently. I don’t know whether he offered or the publisher asked, but he did all the accents on the Icelandic words I used in the book. One reviewer who was Icelandic from Iceland said they were all wrong. If I can ever get a new edition of the book, which sold out and would sell more if re-issued, I’ll ask for corrections.

I have fired a couple of copy editors. One made an egregious grammatical error. (She corrected my who to whom when my nominative pronoun was in apposition with its antecedent.) And another corrected an attribution of a quotation to the wrong person. She thought Joe Louis the prizefighter had said it when it was Joe E. Lewis, the comedian and actor (1902-1971). When I corrected her correction she said she had checked and I was wrong. So the American Heritage Dictionary was/is also wrong. The quote, by the way, is this

“Money may not be important, but it quiets the nerves.”

Joe Louis would never have said that.

BTW, I looked it up again, and according to the Google source, the correct line is “I don’t like money, actually, but it quiets the nerves.” (I have used it in my new book with the correct wording.) I got the inaccurate one from an insurance brochure. You can see why it’s appropriate. I read a variation on the theme attributed to Denzel Washington,the actor, but I suppose I’ll have to check it, too. He said, “Money may not quiet the nerves but it helps”.

Well, I can’t find it. I know I read it somewhere but I have to go back to bed now. Two mornings in a row now, too early, too much.