It was not without some trepidation I greeted my friend. He teaches high school English and was ready to give me my book’s typo total.
It’s probably been to my reputational detriment that I focus on typos in “The Last Baby Boomer,” over raves about its content.
This from one recent 5-star Amazon review: “What a fantastic premise! It’s a satiric, Kurt Vonnegut-ish kind of novel that had me laughing out loud. This satiric-futuristic fun read pokes fun at everything from greed to consumerism to, of course, Baby Boomers. Chris Rodell has a gift for the absurd as well as great turns of phrases. He also shows, through humor, some raw truths about us boomers.”
Such praise. All I can say is . . .
But we live in a nit-picky society and typos make an easy target. I’ve tried to add some perspective to the discussion by pointing out, c’mon, they’re just typos.
It’s not like I stitched up some surgical sponges next to somebody’s kidney transplant.
I shared that pithy analogy with another friend, a distinguished retired U.S. Navy captain, and he said BFD. “People who gripe about typos have no clue what a real mistake is. I know guys who’ve shot down the wrong airplane. Now, THAT’S a mistake.”
Still, we strive for for perfection so I trembled as my friend gave me his tally.
How many typos did this English teacher who read with a discerning eye toward finding them find?
“Yep, just 26. There may be more, but I read pretty carefully.”
Amid all all the praise in the widely read Brian O’Neill column about the book, (link below) there’s a four-word mention that colors some perceptions.
The exact quote: “The first 50 pages are as funny as anything I’ve read in a long time, the middle should be shorter, there are too many typos, but the tale revs up again its final third.”
My buddy read that and said he thought it would be riven with sloppiness.
“They’re in there, sure, but it’s not bad,” he said. “They don’t distract at all.”
Is 26 is too many? Yes, it is.
But that’s 26 out of 65,981 words, a fail rate of 0.0395 percent. That breaks down to about 1 pesky typo every 10.5 pages.
Let’s say my eagle-eyed friend vastly under-counted. Let’s round up to 100. That bumps the error percentage up to 0.0154 percent.
Can you imagine how much more smoothly everything would run if the world was as near perfect as “The Last Baby Boomer?”
I paid $1,500 to have it published. The “publisher” offers an editing/proofreading service that would have mostly sanitized the whole thing for $1,400. That’s a considerable sum to me. So I said a two-word phrase that rhymes with “bucket.”
Some have wondered why I didn’t ask friends to read it. Over the book’s 15 years, I did just that maybe three or four times.
But I didn’t want to ask anyone — even qualified friends — to do so without engaging them professionally. I know what it’s like to be asked to do something for free or eventual glory. It blows.
And I was sick of the whole discouraging process. After 15 years it was time to open the cage and set the damn thing free.
Plus, the tactic allowed me to put the page one disclaimer boasting about how it’s just me. No agent. No editor. No marketing. It warns of eventual flaws and asks readers to notify me at firstname.lastname@example.org of the location of typos so I can correct future versions.
The idea has also led to what is for me a very enjoyable procedure, one that’s starting to charm readers.
Because I’m correcting as I go along.
It’s true. Buy a book from me and it comes with hand-written corrections right on the page (another advantage traditional readers enjoy over e-readers).
John Grisham doesn’t do that.
I use old-fashioned copy editing symbols I learned back in college and correct each of the 10 typos I found on my own and will soon layer in all the ones my buddy’s found.
I think it shows readers it’s okay to acknowledge our imperfections.
We all make mistakes. Forgive yourself.
Make amends when you can and then move on with a gently improved version.
And any day is a very good day when you can make it home safe and sound and without having shot down the wrong airplane.
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