What’s Wrong With My Book


Someday I'm going to have a T-shirt printed up that says, "Uncorrected.  Please Do Not Quote Without Comparison With Finished Book." Because that so perfectly describes how everything in my life goes. 

This is the standard language that appears on galleys, also called advanced reading copies, those early paper-bound version of a book that are printed up and sent out to reviewers before the finished hardcover edition hits the shelves.  The book has not been through its final proofreading at this point, so it inevitably goes out with typos, errors, and odd half-fragments of sentences that are left over from an earlier round of proofreading gone wrong. 

Many of the typos are mine and I take full credit for them; some of them are typesetting or copyediting errors that happen after the book leaves my hands.  Others are a complete, unholy mystery.  For instance, after one grim passage in the book about plants poisoning innocent children or kittens or some such thing, someone wrote "Cool!" in the margin of the manuscript,  and the copyeditor thought that was an actual addition to the text.  Fortunately, we caught that one before the galleys were printed.

Usually I cringe at the typos in my galleys but don't think much more of them. The reporters and book critics who read them know that they are looking at galleys, and I just have to hope it doesn't bother them too much.  But in this marvelous technicolor age we live in, when it's so easy to just pop an e-mail off to the author, I'm hearing from friends and complete strangers every day about the many cringe-worthy errors in my galleys. 

So I would like to say for the record:

1.  I did not dedicate my book to PBS, the Public Broadcasting Service. As much as I appreciate their fine programming, I dedicate all my books to PSB, my husband, P. Scott Brown.  I actually call him PSB or PS, so this is sort of a term of affection between us.  It is, for some reason, an easy typo for the typesetter to make, as it cropped up in an early proof of one of my previous books, too. Fortunately, Scott is good-natured about the whole thing and of course we'll get it fixed.  (A funny sidenote:  in The Earth Moved, I refer to 'my husband Scott' a few times but never mention his last name.  Check the index–you'll see that he's listed there as Stewart, Scott, not Brown, Scott, because the indexer didn't know we had different last names and simply assumed.  Scott was good-natured about that, too.  He's a good-natured guy.)

2.  I know that LSD was invented by Swiss scientist Albert Hofmann, not sixties activist and LSD enthusiast Abbie Hoffman.  I have no explanation for this error.  It must be all that LSD I did in the sixties.

3.  It is not my fault that you plant taxonomists keep changing the names of the damn plants.  I mean, really!  Isn't it enough that I stumble through Latin to please you people, and then you go changing your minds about which unpronouncable Latin name a plant should have?  You realize that if plant taxonomists were manufacturing cars we'd all be driving Transmissionari automaticus x powersteeringii and we still wouldn't be able to find our car keys, but now we also wouldn't be able to pronounce the name of the thing we needed the keys for, either.

I jest.  I love plant taxonomists, and I take great pride in the twelve or so Latin names I can pronounce correctly.

And I mostly spell them correctly, too. Just don't quote me without comparison to the finished book.