Living Every Writer’s Nightmare

Johann_Heinrich_Füssli_-_The_Nightmare_-_WGA08333Earlier in the week, a Facebook friend linked to an article about the trial of a man who had forgotten to drop his infant at daycare and then had driven home, leaving the sleeping child in the car on a day that became sweltering. The child passed away,and so his father now sits in a courtroom, facing manslaughter charges and listening to testimony about the excruciating death his baby suffered. It was painful to read and, I’m sure, unimaginable for the parents to endure. How could this man live with himself, knowing what his moment of human stupidity cost his child, his family, himself? We all know better than to leave a child in a hot car. This father knew better. And yet it happened. It happens. And I don’t know about you, but there is a secret part of me that understands that, there but by the grace of God, go I. I’ve done some pretty dumb things in my life, things I knew better than to do, but things I mindlessly did anyway, always to my shock.

Right now, I am living every writer and publisher’s nightmare–and all because of one very human, very stupid error I made, an error I sure as heck know better than to make and one I’ve never made before and can’t imagine ever doing again. I picked this moment in time to misname a Word file. I picked this moment in time to send this misnamed file to a publisher, a man who trusted in my reputation as a writer and editor. When I told him I’d finished a final proofing/editing of my formatted-for-publication manuscript of Island of the Stone Boy, he had zero reason to think I was sending him a bad file. But that is what I did. What I have done. The file I sent him is riddled with goofs and editing flubs and is tormentingly unprofessional because of them. I discovered this problem weeks after publication when I picked up a copy to read to my 11 year old. I got to page nine before I understood the potential calamity I held in my hands. Imagine. You are fifty years old and you finally get a book in print and, God forgive you, the pages contain what amounts to a draft, not the final product. How in the world do you approach the publisher to tell him you did this? How do you tell people who have already bought the book? How do you make this right?

The publisher has been kind to me, though I’m sure he’d like to strangle me, maybe stick me in an attic alone with the ghost of Marty McGraw. He tells me, because he uses a print-on-demand service, changes can be made so that bad copies of Island of the Stone Boy will no longer be distributed. I am in the process of sending a corrected file to him. But he is an honorable man as well as a kind one, and we agree that any bad versions should be destroyed and replaced. I’m not sure how we will go about this. I’ve contacted those I know who have the book and assured them I will personally replace it, though it may be a little while before we have them coming off the presses again. So if you have purchased the book, please let me know so I can get you a copy that won’t embarrass the Hades out of me to have you read.

Do not be fooled into thinking correcting the errors will resolve all. A book recall is unheard of and has the potential to be very damaging, not only to the writer but to the publisher, and perhaps by association, to the other writers the publisher accepts. I realize most of the earliest sales of this book will be to people who know me either personally or professionally. These people may shake their heads and wonder how I could have done something so inane. I have no answer for that except to say I’m an idiot. Or had an idiotic moment. I’m hoping those of you who know me and have purchased this book will take this opportunity to practice the forgiveness and kindness skills you’ve been developing over your life span. Help me find copies of this bad version so that I can make right my error. Please help me take the bad books out of circulation.  Michael Perry at Leicester Bay Books is an Indie guy who set out to give talented writers that have been over-looked by the big publishing houses a way to reach their target audience. What he is doing is needful and a service to both reader and writer. Quite frankly, his only error was his confidence in me. He deserves our support and I hope that you will continue to provide that to him by liberally purchasing his products. Please visit his site. His catalog is broad in its spectrum.

And, of course, I’d appreciate your purchase of Island of the Stone Boy now more than ever. I’ll let it be known when the New and Improved Island of the Stone Boy is ready. In the meantime, I’m going to finish the corrections and then find a hole to crawl into, or maybe just a dark room in which to cry. It is impossible for me to express how sorry I am. But, alas, I will try to maintain perspective. Its a book, not a baby. Sometimes we writers forget that.

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “Living Every Writer’s Nightmare

  1. Georganne Baker

    Pls don’t beat yourself up over this…yes, it’s too bad it happened, now you’re in the process of correcting it. To err is human, to forgive divine….thx to your kind publisher, you’ll get it taken care of….SMILE young lady, it’ll all work out….HUGS

  2. Pingback: This Summer in Mormon Literature, June-July 2013 | Dawning of a Brighter Day

  3. Thanks so much for sharing this with us. As a Type-A perfectionist personality, I suffered the torments of the damned with the discovery of every formatting glitch and punctuation problem that surfaced in each of the Beta-reader versions of my first novel. Then I figured out that those errata were probably due to my having shuttled the editing and typesetting between two different computers, in two different hardware configurations, with two different operating systems and two different versions of the same word-processing software–except for one obscure spelling mistake, which had eluded me throughout the writing and revising process until I got to the very last version. I got that fixed, approved the proof, and ordered a few more copies … and when they came, I discovered there were two missing periods, apparently due to an itchy trigger finger. But thankfully, they were in unimportant locations, so I decided, “What the heck. Collectors pay thousands for postage stamps that were printed upside down.” I might as well just autograph all the extra copies of the defective early versions, sell them, and let future book collectors enjoy having them appraised on Antiques Roadshow in a hundred years. (P.S.: I fixed the missing full stops in time to publish it in e-book, and I’m planning to put out a hardcover edition, so I still have one more chance to get it “right.”)

    • ltdowning

      I’m very late in replying to this, but I’ve been a) in denial and then b) busy repairing the damage and prepping for the next two books to go to press. I laughed about you signing them for future generations of bibliophiles to cash in on Antique Roadshow. I’ve had a few people beg for the bad copies, just in case I ever “become someone.” But I’ve kept all my editions here. Someone wants a bad copy? The price is doubled for them. The publisher had some printed and he tells me he donated them to a charity. I thought we are supposed to donate our best to charity, but hey. As you say, maybe someday some poor kid will be able to cash in as an adult. Thanks for replying. And please, watch those commas! Makes me crazy as a reader (says the woman whose book came out with double indents and repeated paragraphs. Augh)

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