Author or Publisher Screw-Ups

A while back there was a discussion on FB about whether or not readers should tell authors when they notice an issue in a book. And what’s interesting is that it really comes down to how that particular author is published.

For example, today someone reached out to me and said, “Hey, the back cover copy of X book looks like it’s actually from Y book.”

Sure enough, it was. I updated two covers at once, moved them over to a new cover software at the same time, copied and pasted the wrong back cover copy for one of them, and didn’t catch it.

Because I do the majority of my own covers I was able to fix the issue immediately. I’ve already uploaded the new cover and hopefully that change will go through in the next 24 hours or so.

I can do that because of the way I’m published.

A few weeks ago I was reading a book by an author who is both traditionally published and self-published and realized that the book I was reading was missing a chapter in the print format.

I was able to buy the ebook and read the missing chapter, but I reached out to let them know about the issue because that particular book was print on demand so could be fixed.

If the book in question had been one of their trade-published books, which generally involve a print run, it’s not certain that the error could have been fixed.

Books published by the larger trade publishers are printed before they’re sold. You generally get what you get. Unless there’s another print run. And then maybe they’ll fix any identified issue. But it would have to be a big enough issue to warrant edits and new type setting and most minor typos would not fall under that heading.

On the self-publishing side it can come down to how much the author does themselves and how much the fix would cost.

I had a typo in a website address in one of my other books, for example. Fixing it in the ebook was free and something I could do myself so I did it. Fixing it in print on Amazon, same thing.

Both fixes were done within 24 hours of my becoming aware of the issue.

Fixing it in print on other stores, however, would’ve cost $25 at the time. And taken the book off sale for an unspecified period of time.

(I once had my best-selling books stay off sale for a full month before I realized that could happen. I’d always figured the printer would fulfill all orders that had already been placed using the current files while allowing me to submit and approve the updated files for new orders, but that’s not what they do. They pull the book while they’re handling old orders and only let you approve the updates after those old orders have all been filled. At which point the book becomes available for sale once more. So if they’re backed up on filling orders, which they were when that happened, the book remains unavailable that whole time.)

Other self-published authors pay someone else to format their books. In that case those authors are faced with getting on the schedule of their formatter and then paying the cost for the edits and then uploading when that’s all done. That could be $100 maybe and a month or three to get the edits back.

We all want perfect books, but if you have a book that’s made you $50 and the typo is minor and will take three months to make…It’s easy to see why that doesn’t make sense to do.

I also know an author who didn’t want to face an old book that had disappointed them so didn’t fix a typo they knew about in that book for five years because they didn’t want to revisit that book. They literally could not bring themselves to open the file and find the typo.

It happens.

So we all try, but sometimes there are going to be mistakes that slip through and that don’t get fixed.

I definitely make mistakes with my books. Not a lot, I hope, but there’s a dropped period here or there for sure. And more significant issues like this cover one sometimes do slip through. It’s a lot to juggle.

For me personally I will say that if you ever see an error in one of my books, please do email me about it. Often I can fix it easily and will do so.

If it gets reported to Amazon, they don’t always tell me. I had two errors I noticed in my books during a reread that I fixed and THEN Amazon told me about them. They registered as fixed issues on the quality dashboard I had never seen before that day.

Most trade published authors I know don’t want to be contacted on the other hand, because there’s nothing they can do and it’s kind of like rubbing salt in the wound.


There can be style differences that readers point out that aren’t really errors.

I remember someone commenting once that they didn’t like reading X Author because that author’s main character used a sentence construction they thought was grammatically incorrect.

But it’s important to understand that the way people speak is regional and that what someone might consider grammatically incorrect is actually regionally appropriate or character appropriate phrasing.

Especially for books written in first person “grammatical” fixes may not be legitimate.

I know, for example, that I speak with certain sentence constructions that are not considered appropriate according to Word. But that’s how a character like me would structure their sentences, so if I’m writing a character like that the one-size-fits-all grammar rules in Word don’t apply.

Which is all to say that if you reach out to someone and say, “you should’ve phrased this differently” they are within their rights to say, “nope, that’s how I meant it to be, thanks.” They probably won’t say that to you, but they’ll think it.

So anyway. We’re all human. None of us are perfect. Sometimes we can fix what we mess up, sometimes it’s out of our control. And sometimes it’s not really an error, just a difference of opinion.

But glad that friend reached out because it may have been years before I noticed that error otherwise.

Author: M.L. Humphrey

M.L. Humphrey is a former securities regulator, registered stockbroker (although only briefly), and consultant on regulatory and risk-related matters for large financial institutions with expertise in the areas of anti-money laundering regulation, mutual funds, and credit rating agencies. Since 2013 M.L. has also been a published author under a variety of pen names and across a variety of subjects and genres. You can contact M.L. at mlhumphreywriter [at]

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