In these times of e-publishing, the old saw, “You can’t judge a book by its cover,” might no longer be valid. Oftentimes if you see an e-book with a nondescript cover, it’s a pretty good indicator of what lies within its “pages.”
More traditionally, reviewers receive galleys or ARCs — advance reading copies — sent out by print publishers to get some early buzz from the media. A fair portion of the books I receive are in that format. They usually coming with a caveat to the effect, don’t quote from the galley, since these are most often uncorrected proofs. I must admit, I usually ignore the warnings about checking against the final copy since I never run excerpts and the copy is usually a pretty fair indicator of quality.
This changed, however, when I received an ARC for They Called Me God, a memoir by Hall of Fame umpire Doug Harvey written with veteran writer Pete Golenbock (warning: it appears this site hasn’t been updated for several years).
In reading the ARC, I found an inordinate amount of factual errors, narrative inconsistencies, and other editing gaffes. As an example, a passage on one page was repeated verbatim about 100 pages later. Harvey uses the same phrasing in several cases (at the risk of sounding unsympathetic, it’s like listening to an older relative tell the same story, forgetting what he said just a few minutes earlier).
Who bear the ultimate responsible for this? Harvery? Golenbock? The publisher’s copyeditor? I was so riled, I e-mailed the publisher to warn them of the book’s problems. They informed me many of those issues were addressed and corrected in the final version. Sure enough, upon receipt of the finished book a few days later and cross-checking the passages in question, most — but not all — had been fixed.
Yesterday, I was taping an interview with Kostya Kennedy, author of the new title Pete Rose: An American Dilemma. I based my questions and comments on what I had read in that ARC. He politely told me after we had finished recording that a one key question was, in fact, flawed because since a single word I had used — “fair” — in regard to Rose’s chances of being elected to the Hall of Fame — did not appear in the final version (so if the podcast sounds a bit off in spots, you’ll know I did my best to edit that section). It’s amazing the difference one word can make.
Henceforth, I will not be in such a rush to post when it comes to reviews and interviews and take warning labels more seriously.
Thus endeth the lesson.