A fellow writer's book just came out and when I heard, it sparked memories of those fabulous days past when a book of mine had just been published. Seeing the hard copy for the first time -- even after having seen countless drafts and the advance review copy -- is always a rush. I emailed my friend to congratulate her. I then had to ask: "Found any typos yet?"
Let's face it: assemble 100,000 words on any topic and there are bound to be a few typographical errors by the time the product is printed. In my book Death's Door: The Truth Behind Michigan's Largest Mass Murder, there were a few we found right away. A dropped period here, a missing comma there, but nothing major. Luckily, the book sold enough copies to where we had the opportunity to correct the typos in another press run. After the second printing, an astute reader wrote to me and pointed out how I had reversed the north-south orientation of two towns in the story. No one else had caught it. When I had first written the text, I had placed the towns correctly, but while editing, I had moved a couple partial sentences around to make it more readable. I missed how the two sentences were dependent on each other. Again, a subsequent printing was corrected. If nothing else, I can now identify which printing of "Death's Door" you are reading by looking for the typos.
Most writers I've spoken with relate similar stories of reading a freshly printed book with trepidation. It is almost a relief to find a small typo here and there. At least you can tell yourself, "That's all there is!"
Chrysler's Turbine Car: The Rise and Fall of Detroit's Coolest Creation, came out in October and was my first book to be published in hardcover. Of course, the robustness of the cover has little to do with how I juggle the words before my editors see them. Did I manage to get any typos into print in that book? Of course I did.
My publisher's team of editors did their best to clean up my writing but I still snuck a couple by them. In one passage I wrote about a couple of cars and accidentally described a "1973" Aspen automobile. There is no such thing, but there was a 1976 Aspen and elsewhere in the text I had been speaking of a 1973 Satellite. Rest assured that mistakes like that will be pointed out to you by astute readers. I heard about that one within a week of the book coming out. I also accidentally referred to a DC-7 as a "jet." What can I tell you? Maybe I was thinking of the DC-8. Again, errors like these are easy to fix in later printings.
Despite spell-checking programs, typographical errors will always be with us. I will continue trying to write error-free, but I've made peace with the notion that typos are a part of writing life. I like to view them as little scars on my work. The book will survive. And so will I.