Ack! I found a typo in my book! Now what?  

I first connected with book designer Andrea Schmidt on LinkedIn, but now we’re always chatting in a Facebook group for authors, too. Andrea is an award-winning nonfiction book designer and author of the upcoming Almost Done Writing: Now What? A Guided Workbook for Self-Publishers (Nonfiction), which launches July 13, 2021. Learn more at bookdesigner.ca.

Ack! I found a typo in my book! Now what?

By Andrea Schmidt

Almost two decades ago when I was a communications designer at a large public institution, my job was to design books with huge print runs.

Although our team had a comprehensive review process in place, one day we discovered an unfortunate typo in one of the printed books. One of the web links was wrong! A link that led to . . . nowhere. Each and every one of the tens of thousands of printed books had to be destroyed. Ack!

typo in my book

No matter what niche or industry you’re writing in, writers everywhere want to present final published work at the highest standard possible.

Especially when the final responsibility for your book’s quality rests on your shoulders (as it does for independent authors), it’s natural that the thought of typos in your book can lead to nail-biting.

But worrying about typos is completely unnecessary as long as you a) put steps in place to minimize typos, and b) learn what a typo really is (it’s not what you think!).

4 guaranteed typo-busting strategies

Before I address how to prevent typos and barring that, fix them after publication, you might sleep better knowing that there will be typos, because there always are! Even in the first editions of traditionally published books!

To get your work as typo-free as possible before publishing, here are four steps you can build into your self-publishing workflow.

Step 1: Learn how to self-edit. 

Self-editing is a hugely valuable skill for writers. Learning this skill will serve you for the rest of your writer life.

Step 2: Hire a professional copyeditor before the book is formatted. 

If you do nothing else, please do this.   

Step 3: Recruit multiple pairs of eyeballs. 

Get as many eyeballs on your writing as possible before making it public.

Send out PDF advance review copies to as many people as you can think of who might be interested in your book. I promise, you will be amazed by how many typos your reviewers find, even when you think the manuscript is perfect!

Step 4: Proofread the book again after formatting.

New typos always show themselves after formatting.

And finally, here are a few more unusual ways you can minimize typos in your manuscript.

Now that you’ve taken extreme action to ensure your book is polished, here are a few more tips to help as you move forward.

What to do about typos after publishing

Now that books can be printed on demand with really low minimum quantities, the stakes are much lower for typos in self-publishing.

Simply put, print-on-demand makes it really easy to upload replacement files with corrections — so keep track of them. Publishing coach Debbie Horovitch recommends keeping a list of necessary changes and planning to republish with a new edition in six to 12 months.

[novashare_tweet tweet=”Simply put, print-on-demand makes it really easy to upload replacement files with corrections — so keep track of them.” hide_hashtags=”true”]Self-publishing platforms allow you to upload new versions of your book when you need to.

With Amazon’s KDP, that process is free.

With IngramSpark, each time you replace a file, it costs you $25 (unless you can find one of the codes that are sometimes floating around, or join ALLI which offers an IngramSpark code with your membership).

What is a typo, really?

Still . . . it helps to keep typos in perspective. I believe they are tiny reminders to be kind to ourselves.

We are humans and we make little mistakes sometimes.

It’s not a reflection on our worth.

Recognize the ways that perfectionism hurts

Accepting that there will always be at least one typo helps perfectionists in particular. After all, perfectionism is a form of fear: fear of not being good enough.

The very idea of typos can feel especially painful if you mistakenly believe your work is you. It’s not.

When you are publishing a book, you’re making yourself vulnerable. Be kind to yourself!

Move ahead with your dreams with courage and confidence. I’m proud of you!

What’s your typo philosophy? Do you believe “good is good enough,” or do you strive for perfection? Please tell us in a comment!

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  1. Lovely post. I feel that it’s mostly about avoiding typos in the first place, and how to fix them if you’re self-published. What about typos found in books that are not self-published? What’s the process to get them corrected? Thank you.

    1. YES! Prevention is definitely best. Traditionally-published books contain typos too – all the time (especially first edition). I feel confident that in most cases, if you were take the time out of your day to share a typo you find with a book publisher, they will love you…

  2. Oh man – this happened with my first book, The Great Penguin Rescue, which is a true story about the rescue of 40,000 penguins from an oil spill in South Africa. Near the end of the book, I talk about a chick rearing program that was established after this rescue, and how it has an incredible 80% success rate. And, even though I KNOW this was written correctly in the very final copyedits, the typesetter messed up, and the hardcover version of my book says the program has an 8% success rate – GHAA!!! Of ALL the things to mess up!! And this was with a major house! (Simon & Schuster’s Free Press.) I had them correct this for the paperback, but whenever I sell a hardcover copy at author appearances, I add a zero to that 8% on page 232!!

    1. Oh my gosh I know that feeling so well! If you google “famous book typos” you’ll get a good laugh and maybe feel slightly better!!!

  3. There are many ways to catch errors. I tell writers to read their manuscripts one word at a time and out loud. If it sounds wroing, it is wrong (probably). I just finished writing my first novel and I had to read it over 7 times. I am now satisfied that it is nearly error-free.

  4. When I was in journalism school, every typo cost me a letter grade, so I was obsessed about typos. As an author, I’ve come to accept them as a fact of life. Like problems, you must avoid them, fix them, learn from them and let them go.

    1. Wow, that’s an intense punishment! That reminds me of a proofreader job I once had where they paid us $5 for every typo we found (which made finding them enjoyable). I like your reasonable approach, Sonia!

  5. I completely agree with your saying about perfectionism being a form of fear. I’m not a perfectionist but I try to do my writing as best as I can. Thank you for this write-up.

  6. I just self-published my first children’s book “A Valentine’s Day Letter For Fred” and realized that the last page says “Happy Valentin’e day.” At twenty copies sold a friend pointed out the typo and I was mortified. Luckily with KDP, I was able to revise and upload my manuscript once more. I also took it as a positive and told myself, “What’s a first edition without a typo?” Hopefully, I can join the great list of classic books with typos. Those who purchased the book with a typo are now the lucky ones with the special copy.

    1. Tanya, I love your attitude! And I’m so glad your friend alerted you to the typo. Valentine’s Day is just around the corner…I hope you’ve got lots planned to promote it and that you have fun with it.


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