The $20,000 typo – Spellchecker isn’t always your friend

Oboy, fears of suffering stuff like this makes me awaken in a cold sweat, screaming like a banshee. Penguin Group Australia has to eat and reprint 7,000 units of a cookbook that has a very regrettable typo; a recipe that calls for “salt and freshly ground black people” – instead of pepper – to be added to the tagliatelle with sardines and prosciutto.

Oh. Dear. God. Good thing they can afford it.

But what surprises me is head of publishing Bob Sessions’ attitude. Not only is he not recalling the bad books, but he’s scratching his head over why some people are offended by the slip-up. Um. Hello?

Were that me, and I thank The Cosmic Muffin that it’s not, I couldn’t recall those books fast enough. And any normal thinking publisher would feel the same way. So not only has Spellcheck sabotaged his editor’s best efforts, forcing him to spend oodles of money, but he’s created a nice PR nightmare.

Dude. Way to go.


Penguin has issued an apology. Finally. Given Bob Sessions’ earlier remarks, I have a sneaky feeling he was wrestled to the ground by his PR folks. Or his wife. Either way, they have explained the situation and have pulped the remaining books in their warehouse. Still, it would have been nice if they’d grabbed the ones still out on the marketplace. Yes, it’s achingly hard to do and a royal PITA, but it’s also the right thing to do.

The article does explain something that plagues all publishers, and that is the invariable typo(s) that sneak through the editing process. I’ve seen many people rip publishers apart for their lack of catching them before going to print. I cringe just like everyone else if I catch a missed typo in any of our books as well. But the facts are this: we’re human. Even though we read through the finished product numerous times, shit happens. And it happens to every single publisher on the planet.

How one handles that HUGE typo is, to me, a show of character. Or lack thereof.

12 Responses to The $20,000 typo – Spellchecker isn’t always your friend

  1. Scott says:

    So, how in the heck did someone spell pepper wrong in the first place so that, when given the option to correct, they (yes, giving lots of leeway here)accidently hit ‘people’ instead of ‘pepper’?

    And, it seems the trend lately (VA governor anyone?)to not seem to care when making offensive statements.

  2. I guess the idea of simply saying, “Holy shit, I made a terrible mistake. I’m so sorry,” is just too hard for those with tank-sized egos.

    I’ve always found that heart-felt apologies go a long way toward soothing the savage beast.

    As for the typo, it could be that Word’s auto text filled it in and no one caught it. Or it was a giant-sized brain fart. We’ll never know, that’s for sure!

  3. Irene says:

    I probably misunderstand the situation, but being Russian, I remember only too well how entire publishing houses from their editor-in-chief to janitor were put up against the wall for misspelling Stalin’s name. I mean, what’s wrong with the good old “errata” thing? To me, this whole thing is political correctness gone paranoid.

  4. Irene, you could very well be right, but nonetheless, given our current PC climate, this wasn’t a wise PR move.

  5. Irene says:

    Yes, I have to agree you’re right…

  6. NinjaFingers says:

    I hear that the Australians can be somewhat racist, but this is…

    …sorry, couldn’t resist.

  7. Lauren says:

    I wouldn’t want to be that copy editor, though maybe they were trying to save money and actually did use Spell Check. *shudder* Worst thing Microsoft ever added to Word. Okay, second worst. Grammar check is the worst.

  8. Ohgad! Can you imagine being the editor for that book? I daresay, she’s standing in the unemployment line wearing a bootprint in her rumpus.

  9. Cat says:

    Er, I live Downunder…and I cannot help wondering whether this was a deiberate mistake rather than a mistake. It is just a little too obvious.
    I came across another book some time back where there were a number of errors e.g.’egg yoke’. The book is controversial. The first publisher pulled out of the deal (under threat from pharmaceutical companies) and it is a fair bet the second publisher was sabotaged. It happens.

  10. Geez, Cat, the implications are rather alarming.

  11. catwoods says:


    Maybe it’s a terrorist attack plan disguised as a cook book…henceforth the lack of a recall.

  12. HarryMarkov says:

    We actually joke with a dark skinned friend of mine that this book maybe good for the cannibal demographics, who have long survived without a cook book written for them only.

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