Why Books Are Published With Errors

Have you ever looked forward to reading a book only to feel annoyed when you discover it’s full of typos and errors? I mean, reading a book is sacred, and how dare anything ruin the experience, right?

Aren’t publishers supposed to make sure that books are perfect? So what’s the deal, then, when a book is full of flaws?

In this post I discuss six reasons why books are published with errors, whether they’re published traditionally through a publishing house or self-published by the author.#

Reason #1 – The Manuscript Was On A Tight Deadline

This reason applies to books that are acquired by publishing houses, not self-published writers.

When a writer signs a publishing contract, there’s a set deadline for delivery of the completed manuscript. This has been carefully chosen and determines the operating deadlines for editing, proofreading, marketing, printing, etc.

To give you an idea of how far ahead a book is planned, did you know that Christmas books usually enter the production process in the spring and early summer? Yep. When it’s warm and sunny out, I’m deep into proofreading a Christmas story.

Sometimes, for whatever reason, the author is running late on completing and handing in their book. This creates a domino effect and every person down the line who works in some capacity with the book now has less time to do their job.

At this point, late books enter a rush period in order to meet their various deadlines.

Usually a manuscript will go through several drafts before it’s considered ready to move on to mechanical edits. If line editors, copy editors, and proofreaders are under the gun to do a rush job, then sometimes things are missed.

Reason #2 – Self-Published Writers Don’t Have A Large Budget

Publishing houses invest a lot of time, resources, and money into publishing a book. A book will pass through many levels of editing in order to ensure a cohesive and error-free book.

Self-published writers don’t have the same resources or budgets, so often it’s self-published books that are the ones with a significant amount of errors.

I want to stress that there are many excellent self-published books that are high quality and have been proofread.

Some writers don’t have the funds or see the value in hiring a professional proofreader, and as a result they release a book that’s poor quality.

This has become a huge problem with self-published print books and ebooks. Some books sold on platforms like Amazon’s Kindle have been known to be practically incomprehensible due to numerous mistakes.

To combat that, Amazon’s screeners, who are real humans, look out for issues that go beyond a simple typo such as the use of “two” instead of “to.” To force the author to improve the quality of the book, Amazon now places a warning on the book’s page to let potential buyers know the book is “under review.”


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Reason #3 – Quick To Market

Unlike at a publishing house, self-published writers don’t need an editor’s go-ahead to take a book past draft stage.

I’ve known writers who’ve written a book, proofread, designed, and put it up for sale in less than one month. It can be done, but under such a tight timeline usually the editorial quality suffers.

Reason #4 – Proofreaders Are Only Human

It’s true. We are human and we make mistakes. Even the most diligent of us.

I always tell people that you don’t need a degree to work as a proofreader, but you do need an excellent command of English and an eye for detail. That’s why it’s totally embarrassing when our hawk eyes miss something.

Obviously, some readers feel offended or even cheated, but I hope that people are able to move beyond a few typos to still enjoy the story.

However, it’s still unacceptable for any proofreader to allow numerous errors to remain unchecked. A few sprinkled here and there is one thing, but for the entire book to be riddled with them is sinful!

Reason #5 – The Writer Has Specific Preferences

Sometimes writers can be difficult, and will reject suggestions and corrections made by their proofreader. This makes our jobs as proofreaders hard because how do you argue with someone who insists on not fixing incorrect punctuation?

Why do some writers act like this? Well, one reason is they fear they’re putting the integrity of their story at risk. They also worry that a proofreader will hack their book to unrecognizable bits (not true, btw!).

Reason #6 – The Value Of Proofreading Isn’t Recognized

I don’t want to come across as picking on self-published writers at all. In fact, I’m a huge fan of self-published books and read them in every genre regularly. I’ve even written and published an ebook myself!  

But…a lot of these reasons are applicable to them because they have full control over their editorial process.

Publishing houses don’t give writers a choice about having their books proofread, whereas self-published writers do have a choice.

Unfortunately, some writers feel they can forgo the proofreading process in order to save money and time.

They’ll do a spell check in their word processing program, but spell check and even a program like Grammarly aren’t 100% reliable. They can’t take into account context and message.

Sometimes friends or family members oversee proofreading, but they aren’t experienced professionals who’ve been trained to proofread books, which have their own editorial considerations. Many people enjoy proofreading, but it’s important to learn the necessary skills.


A writer once explained to me that he didn’t want to lose his authentic voice by polishing up his text. True, readers want an authentic voice, but they don’t want a flawed one, either.

It’s crucial for writers and proofreaders to work together as a team so readers will have the best experience possible.

Now the next time you sit down with a cup of tea and a good book, and come across a spelling mistake or missing punctuation, think about the reasons I’ve shared with you.

What do you think? Do errors in books drive you crazy? Tell us in the comments!


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8 thoughts on “Why Books Are Published With Errors”

  1. A couple mistakes don’t bother me, but when I read a book that’s full of them I get so annoyed! Nice to know why it happens, though.

    1. I know it can be really annoying. There are so many reasons, and whenever I come across mistakes here and there it doesn’t really bother me because I know that so many things go on behind the scenes for book publishing. And proofreaders and editors aren’t perfect, either. But if there are SO MANY errors, then that’s just wrong and kind of inconsiderate of the reader.

  2. Something that irritates me even more than the occasional typo or incorrect word, are inconsistencies in the story line. Something I have noticed in several published novels is a seeming misunderstanding of how time works. A writer will want to move time along (like it will be months or years later sometimes), but the story itself is picking up in exactly the same spot. This makes no sense to me, as a lot would have happened in that time. It always throws me off.

  3. What about the use of flashbacks? I can’t stand those. I’m reading a book now that involves a story taking place in two time periods and it clearly states who is talking and when at the beginning of each chapter but there is Latin, French, and English involved. I took the first two languages in high school back in the 1990s and remember a fair amount…but my geography skills are basically nonexistent so that hurts me as there is walking to retrace the footsteps of an ancient group of people in towns that no longer carry those place names. Heaven help me!

  4. I actually believed there was another reason for errors. Ones that are carefully placed, make the book different and therefore by pass publishing ownership rules. This is what I was told.

    1. Publishers try to catch as many errors as possible before putting a book out into the world. The only time errors would be intentionally left in the text is for training purposed, and even then that purpose would be very clear.

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