KOK Edit: Your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM)
KOK Edit: your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM) KOK Edit: your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM) Katharine O'Moore Klopf

Friday, May 02, 2008

You Get What You're Too Cheap to Pay For

Holy river of red pencil—or holy track changes, as the case may be!*

From the Chronicle of Higher Education comes this news, shocking in the publishing industry:
Princeton University Press has recalled all copies of one of its spring titles after discovering more than 90 spelling and grammar errors in the 245-page work. The book, Cop in the Hood: My Year Policing Baltimore’s Eastern District, by Peter Moskos, was published on Thursday in an initial press run of 4,000 copies.

In what appears to be a first, the press plans to reprint the book and have it back in stores later this month, after the errors have been corrected. ...

"I was flabbergasted and embarrassed," said Peter Dougherty, the press's director. "This is a terribly embarrassing matter for Princeton University Press." ...

He said that Mr. Moskos's manuscript had been given to an inexperienced copy editor who failed to do the job properly. "We take a lot of pride in the quality of our copy editing," he said, citing the publisher's 103-year track record. "In this case, we messed up very, very badly." ...
University presses have a reputation for paying freelancers, both copyeditors and proofreaders, very little, and back when I was closer to being a greenhorn, a few university presses proved that reputation correct by balking at the amounts on invoices I sent them for my editing services. I quickly dropped such presses from my clientele because strangely, I'm fond of being able to afford shelter, food, and living and business expenses.

The thought that comes to mind with the Princeton debacle is that you get what you pay for. But did the author, who has blogged about the mess, not review the copyedited manuscript or page proofs—or was the last time he saw his manuscript the day he handed it, unedited, over to the press at the beginning of the production process? He doesn't say. Did the press's in-house production editors not do any kind of review at any stage? Did the press not bother with a proofreader after page makeup? Is the press's budget so small that it can pay for only one set of editorial eyes per manuscript?

Princeton just can't blame this whole embarrassing spectacle solely on the copyeditor. Publishing a high-quality book takes a whole chain of professionals in various subspecialties.

*If the manuscript for the soon-to-be redone book was edited on hard copy (paper), the copyeditor would likely have used some kind of colored pencil. It if was edited onscreen, the copyeditor would probably have used Microsoft Word's "track changes" function to show edits.

publishing Princeton University Press


Anonymous said...

Yikes. I remember my copy-editing and fact-checking days. The powers that were didn't want to pay well for quality work but they were happy to raise hell if a mistake went into print or online. Don't know if they ever picked up on the get-what-you-pay-for concept.

MJ said...

The author's blog has very few spelling and grammar errors, which makes me wonder how many were introduced in the editing process.

In my first job after college, I did data entry and proofreading for a trade publisher. Once we got an irate call from a company whose listing in one of our industry directories said they specialized in "heavy petting" instead of "heavy equipment." Fortunately, when we went back and checked the proofs (which we initialed after each round of data entry and proofing), it turned out that our boss was actually the one who had not only introduced the error, but had also missed it in proofing. All of the rest of us were temps and could have been fired for something like that. :-)

Katharine O'Moore-Klopf said...

And we all know that bosses are given more leeway than their underlings.

I'll bet that any company selling heavy petting would see a huge jump in profits. ;-)

Anonymous said...

You're right, Katharine. Shaping a manuscript into a book is a team effort, regardless of whether the result is a triumph or an embarrassment. But, oh, how I feel for that poor, (surely) underpaid copy editor!

Katharine O'Moore-Klopf said...

Yes, I do too, Editrix. I just hope that the appropriate staff and management members at the press openly take responsibility for their part in this mess and don't try to blame it all on the freelancer.

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