Perspective and Potatoes

One of the challenges in formatting books for digital release and also for print-on-demand is getting everything perfect. Actually, it’s a challenge with all books, whether they’re traditionally published or indie-pubbed – but in traditional publishing, there are more sets of eyes reviewing the work first. These are tasks for those of us who are detail-oriented, a little bit obsessive (or a LOT obsessive) and perfectionists. There’s always one more thing to tweak, it seems. With the POD books, I’m routinely uploading a new file with a corrected apostrophe or one that adds a missing line space.

So, this discovery made me laugh – and reassured me. I have a knitting book of fair isle designs, which is truly beautiful. I bought it used, because this particular author’s books have been out of print for a long time – in fact, I was very excited to find a copy at all. I’ve looked at the pictures before, but not read the instructions because I didn’t think my fair isle technique was good enough for these sweaters. Recently, I sat down and had a good look at the book. That’s when I realized that this gorgeous professionally published hard cover book has a mistake.

I have the original edition, btw, and this error has evidently been corrected in the republished edition. The book is Celtic Collection by Alice Starmore, and my copy is the Anaya edition from 1992. I’ll use the Ravelry links to show you these beautiful sweaters in a moment.

First in the book is the Alba sweater. In my book, it’s a pullover with a floral design down the centre front. Very pretty.

The next sweater is the Alba cardigan. In my book, the design doesn’t look at all similar to the first Alba. The notes actually say that it’s the same sweater, but worked in a different colourway and as a cardigan.  There’s no floral design on the front. The charts, though, look identical. Hmm. How could this be?

Further on, there’s a sweater called Lismore that looks exactly like the Alba cardi in design but is a pullover in a different colourway. Wait a minute! Sure enough, the chart for Lismore has a floral design down the centre front, a floral design that is not in the photographed sweater.

Aha! Pictures in the wrong places!

The pictures – and there are several of them – for the first Alba and Lismore have been transposed in the edition that I have. The wrong pictures are printed alongside the directions for each sweater. The patterns are complete, the charts appear to be correct, and the photography is beautiful – just in the wrong place.

Here are the right images, from Ravelry:

Alba sweater

Alba jacket

Lismore sweater

And this discovery puts a great deal into perspective for me. I don’t feel that I was deceived by the mistake in this book or that I’m put out in any way. I figured it out and the patterns for all of the sweaters are complete – if not where I might look for them first! I doubt that I would knit far on either sweater before I realized that something didn’t add up.

The thing is that there are always typos and errors that creep into printed books, no matter how many people review the proofs and the work in process. In my medieval, THE COUNTESS, for example, there were potatoes in the initial printed edition of the book. This was a mistake on my part, an insertion made in reply to a copy editor’s query, which I didn’t realize was anachronistic because I was alternating between writing contemporaries and medievals at the time. When the proofs came, I was smack in the present day, where there are potatoes. Sadly, there should not have been any in medieval Scotland. Even worse, I didn’t realize my error until the book had gone to press. Every subsequent edition and reprinting from Dell had potatoes in it, and many readers wrote to me about those spuds.

So, I was delighted to remove the potatoes when I re-published that book last December. (They became dumplings, btw.) Did the potatoes ruin the book for many readers? Well, a few were troubled by them or they wouldn’t have written, but overall, I’m not sure that many people noticed the mistake. Either way, it was fixed in the end and all is now good.

I don’t think I’ll manage to stop being obsessive about checking details on my books – but maybe I’ll worry a little less about irate readers calling me on the carpet over a missing line space – or chucking a potato at me. It’s good to see that other people’s books have mistakes too.

How about you? Do mistakes drive you crazy? Will they stop you from reading a book? Do you ever return a book because of typographical errors or anachronisms?