Princeton Learns the High Cost of Cheap Copyediting

Oh, dear.
Princeton University Press is recalling all copies of one of its spring titles after discovering more than 90 spelling and grammar errors in the 245-page work. The book, Cop in the Hood: My Year Policing Baltimore’s Eastern District, by Peter Moskos, was published May 1 in an initial press run of 4,000 copies.
Believe it or not, the press is pulling all copies of the book, correcting and reprinting it, and redistributing it to stores. Any ideas on what that’s going to cost?
According the Peter Dougherty, the press’s director, the manuscript “had been given to an inexperienced copy editor who failed to do the job properly.” He claims to be “flabbergasted and embarrassed.”
For years, the world’s most prestigious publishers have been getting away with paying peanuts to their freelance copyeditors and proofreaders, with pay rates languishing in the teens or low twenties at best. Is it any surprise, then, that the “inexperienced copy editor” who took this job missed a host of errors? Most senior editors — who have the experience needed to do this type of work — just won’t work anymore for what the publishers are paying.
Furthermore, this scandal suggests another, equally serious gap in Princeton U’s editorial process.
Most manuscripts go through at least three passes before going to press — a developmental edit, a copyedit, and a proofread. It’s not unreasonable for a few errors to be missed during copyediting, especially on a complex or error-ridden manuscript. But those mistakes are customarily found and fixed during proofreading.
Is Princeton U also trying to save money buy cutting proofreading out of the process? If so, the results of the cost-cutting speak for themselves.


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