Thursday, February 24, 2011

Have you ever seen the rein?

I'm reading a crime novel now that has someone "reign(ing) back" her behavior when the correct word would have been rein(ing). The book also spells a character's name two different ways in its opening chapters and goes on to alternate between the two spellings.

This is a book I like from a largish house that publishes an excellent crime-fiction list. When even high-quality publishers get this sloppy, I believe we are seeing proof of what has long been evident to those of us in the publishing industries: Cut back on quality control, and you cut back on quality.
***
N.B. Though I received this book from the publisher, it is between hard covers, and there is no indication that it is an uncopyedited proof or advance readers' copy (ARC), and therefore not to be quoted from. Still, I'll check a copy on a store's shelf before I get any more specific.

© Peter Rozovsky 2011

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30 Comments:

Anonymous I.J.Parker said...

I have a dim memory of having "reigned" back myself once. No matter how careful I am, something awful slips by in every novel. As for editors (or copy editors in this case), the only good one I've had was with Severn House. British, you know. American copy editors are just as likely to change a correct form into an incorrect one. You've got to watch them like a hawk. At SMP, I finally had a "stet" stamp made, because I kept breaking the points on my colored pencils. Part of that was irritation.

February 24, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I don't know the editing process for book publishing, but the accept/reject changes feature on any decent editing program ought to save wear on colored pencils and copy editors' and authors' psyches.

I've copy-edited and proofread a few novels. My practice when I find a questionable usage that the author may nonetheless have intended, especially if the usage occurs frequently, is to change it to what I regard as correct, but to call the author's (or publisher's) attention to the changes when I send a post-job cover letter. If the author or publisher disagrees, it's a simple matter of doing a search and hitting "reject change."

SMP=St. Martin's Press?

February 24, 2011  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

"Reign" vs "rein"? At least that's one mistake this equestrienne will never make!

February 24, 2011  
Anonymous kathy d. said...

WHAT? That's so annoying.

I hate finding mistakes in books that would have been so easy to fix anywhere along the pre-publishing process.

I'm awful in that I fix the corrections in the books if they're blatant.

Things happen. I just found a piece by a friend--who is a copy editor!--who wrote one word with two different spellings in a two-paragraph blurb. I fixed it; the editor didn't want to change it. So it looks weird to me; no one else cared about it. Even consulted AP.

February 24, 2011  
Blogger Yvette said...

I am guilty of this over and over and over again. Don't like when I do it, like it less when it's a professional writer using the same word several times in the same paragraph (without obvious intent of some kind indicated) or even in two or three separate paragaphs one after the other. Most especially if the word is a quirky one. Those leap out at you.

Also sometimes writers have 'pet' words or pet phrases which (God help them, they probably don't even realize it), they use all the time even if it's different characters speaking. This means, to me anyway, that it's the writer speaking - sneaking his way into the character's speech.

I am overly fond of the word 'some' and have been known to overdose on it. It drives me nuts, but it's hard for me to catch it immediately. It may be hours later and I spot in in the post and go crazy editing after everyone's already read the damn thing. There are other words I plead guilty to loving too much. But you know, after a while these words become almost invisible.

I think that's what happens to certain novelists too.

One of my very favorite writers as you all know is Robert Crais. If you read his earlier books you will find that Elvis Cole is overly fond of saying 'do you see?' More than likely you will not catch this immediately untless like me you tend to bunch up RC's books and do a read-a-thon now and then. As much as I love RC, and I do. Even he is not perfect. :)

A good copy editor would/should have caught this by the way.

Funny thing is, you don't find much of this in the older books by, say, Rex Stout or Chandler or Christie or Marsh. I suppose they had good copy editors then.

RC seems to have self-corrected himself along the way.

February 24, 2011  
Blogger seana said...

I really do think the burden of blame lies with the publisher. Every writer is bound to make mistakes or slips sometimes. The publisher apparently likes their work well enough, or thinks they'll profit enough, to publish it. So they think they can do it without putting in any work, or really, money, themselves? Appalling.

February 24, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Elisabeth, I'm torn between adopting an attitude of understanding, and instituting a rain of terror.

February 24, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Kathy, I'll hold off further posts on this subject until I finish the book. The novel is a copy from the publisher, though it does not bear the customary warning that it is an un-copyedited proof and that reviewers should check a finished copy before quoting from the book. Such advance readers' copies. or ARCs, sent to reviewers before publication, are generally bound in soft covers, and my copy is in hard covers.

Just to be safe, though, I'll check a finished copy in a store before I continue in this vein.

February 24, 2011  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

While we're on the topic of "things that drive you nuts"... I just received the most recent newsletter of the Library Foundation of Los Angeles. One page is devoted to items available for sale in the Central Library's "Library Store." In addition to the fabulous "Nancy Pearl Librarian Action Figure, with amazing shushing action!" is the "Personalized Classic Novel Kit."

Blurb: "Star in your favorite novel! [PCNKs] come with all you need to receive a new first-edition paperback book of your classic novel written just for you! Simply substitute the names of the six leading characters with your own cast list, write your own personalized dedication, and register it online or through the mail. Within 28 days, you'll receive your personalized paperback! $30.00"

The first 5 offerings include: Dracula, Pride and Prejudice, Alice in Wonderland, Treasure Island, and A Christmas Carol.

I find it very sad that this is offered for sale in a public library, of all places!

Over the decades I have often felt like, and identified with, Alice but I have never wanted to see my name replace hers (or any other book character). Why would anybody (doting grandparents?) want to encourage the self-absorbed narcissistic behavior of such a project? Surely the manufacturers can't think this will promote and encourage reading? For more (if you care) look here.

February 24, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Yvette, I am guilty of this sort of thing for any number of reasons: The ideas come tumbling off my fingertips too quickly. I am distracted momentarily. Probably most often, the sound or spelling of a word to which I am thinking ahead influences the way I type a word.

Do you mean you're too fond of "some," meaning "about," as in "Some 30,000 protesters crammed the square"? My newspaper's stylebook (yes, that's my paper's style: stylebook on word) discourages this -- wisely, I think -- but some reporters still seem to think that the word lends their writing a higher tone.

I have noticed a pet phrase in the book under discussion here. I'm not sure I'd have noticed it if the reign thing had not got me reading more vigilantly than usual.

"Funny thing is, you don't find much of this in the older books by, say, Rex Stout or Chandler or Christie or Marsh. I suppose they had good copy editors then."

To suggest that books or newspapers contain more mistakes today is heretical. That's funny because everyone recognizes that papers and publishers have cut back on staffing and editing, but no one seems to acknowledge the inevitable effects of such moves.

February 24, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Seana, the blame always rests with the publisher because the publisher makes the final decision.

February 24, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

"Simply substitute the names of the six leading characters with your own cast list"

I look rather pleasantly like a blond Satan, you're Effie Perrine ...

February 25, 2011  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

Well, I guess that's better than the glamorous Brigid, on her way to the slammer, and maybe even the hot squat, at the end of the novel, while Effie will be back at her desk the next day. Now if she can just get rid of that pesky Iva Archer...for keeps...

February 25, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Geez, is Iva even one of the six main characters?

Spade, Brigid, Miles, Gutman, Cairo, Wilmer, Effie.

I guess Iva is more important thematically than some of those, but she's more a motivating force or a demon than a real character. But go ahead and bump her off. That's an angel.

February 25, 2011  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

What the...? Now you've got poor Effie in 7th place and I'm out of the story entirely! Remember, you only have to pick 6 of your nearest and dearest to replace those nobodies Hammett chose (what did he know?!). Iva gets to remain Iva, and that clinging vine was still entwined around Spade at novel's end.

But now I'm getting worried that you won't play the sap for me if I do bump her off! Crikey! I was only trying to help!

February 25, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

You come barging into my house at 1:40 in the morning asking a lot of damn fool questions. Well, I've taken all the riding I'm going to take.
...
OK, Effie stays.

February 25, 2011  
Anonymous kathy d. said...

Discussion on copyediting or lack thereof to continue later.

Want to say that the esteemed New York Times ran an editorial a few weeks ago, which contained "protestors" and "protesters"--within a few paragraphs of each other. I was appalled!

I'm sure many readers noticed it.

I would definitely agree that publishers have ultimate responsibility for book contents and editing, copyediting and proofreading.

Editor friends of mine read everything for which they are responsible several times over.

February 25, 2011  
Blogger seana said...

I doubt it.

February 25, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Of course, such inconsistencies were around in Alfred Hitchcock's time, too.

February 25, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Seana, have osme faith!

February 25, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Seana, have some faith!

February 25, 2011  
Blogger seana said...

Osme faith I have in abundance.

February 25, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Ha! I may be sloppy, but I'm fast.

February 25, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

All I want is for America's newspapers to admit that the reading public will just have to tighten its literary belts and accept more mistakes and sloppier, less literate writing than it used to -- that editing is now a luxury -- and I will be happy.

February 25, 2011  
Anonymous I.J.Parker said...

Hmm. By and large, the reading public doesn't notice.

Peter, my books from SMP came out at a time when we still did hard copy revisions. Thank God that's over. Electronic versions are so much better and faster.

I blame mistakes in books and newspapers (and by copy editors) on the decline in English education.

As for who is responsible in the case of books: I hold the author responsible. They do have the final right to object to copy editors' changes and frequently do, simply to protest interference in their artistic expression. The publisher accepts the author's version.

Of course, it may be that there was no copy editor and no proofs or galleys either. And most likely there was no editor. Few publishers edit books any longer. My first two were not edited. (Editors recommend content changes; copy editors fool around with words, spellings, and grammar).

February 25, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I.J., I suspect the problem in books is a combination of the factors you cite, with perhaps heavier blame on reductions in staff and, hence, attention paid to editing.

I had heard from authors that publishers had cut back on editing -- part, to my mind, of a shift of the burden from capital to labor.

February 25, 2011  
Blogger The Celtic Kagemusha said...

Peter, I stopped counting after I spotted numerous similar type errors in 'The Irish Times', which, up until at least 10 years ago, would have probably considered it infallible, on that front.
And with not inconsiderable justification.
I take it you consider your newspaper's standards to be at very least that of the late 20th Century 'Irish Times' standard?

February 25, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

It's hard for me to say what my paper's standards are in any area. One frequent rejoinder to complaints, a reply I hear from my colleagues as well as from management, is that things are worse elsewhere. My reply is that that's not good enough for me.

Besides, the problem is not easy to analyze. Are the writers getting worse? Is editing being stretched so thin that bad writing that would not have made it to the copy desk years ago is getting through now? I imagine that the problems are somewhat similar in book publishing, though there I'd tend to blame the publishers and (lack of) editing more, because book publishers don't measure their deadlines in hour and minutes the way daily newspapers do. They have time to give books careful attention, in other words, but some apparently choose not to do so.

February 25, 2011  
Anonymous I.J.Parker said...

Not all writers are getting worse, but there are a lot more books, and some of those are bad.

February 26, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I was thinking of newspaper writing when I made that remark. I don't know if books are worse-wrtten (as opposed to worse-edited) than they were, because I don't read bad books. Since almost all my reading is for fun, if a book is badly written, I'll put it aside.

I have read that there are more books than ever, and I always wonder that this can be the case even as the publishing industry is in such trouble, publishers cut back on editing and promotion, and midlist authors fret (with reason, I think. I'm astounded by the degree to which chain bookstores' large mystery section exclude authors I like to read.)

February 26, 2011  

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