How Important Is Fact Checking?

I got a submission not too long ago–a non-fiction manuscript. In the list of Suggested Readings at the end of the MS was a title I published–with the author’s name wrong. (I didn’t publish it with the name wrong; the name was wrong in the list.)

This was a pink flag–not fully red–because the title had originally been published under one name, but then the author married and all subsequent printings carried her new married name. So I could almost overlook that, even though the new name has been on the book for 10 years or so, and you’d think that in checking to make sure the list of Suggested Readings were still in print and available to the reader, the author of this MS would have stumbled upon this fact and updated it. But okay, whatever.

Upon a second look, however, I realize that the author’s last name is also misspelled. Hmmmm…so I start looking more closely. I find several other similar mistakes.

How much confidence do you think I have that all the other books and authors in this list are correct? And what about other facts and figures listed in the book? Now that this new author’s fact checking and proofreading skills are suspect, I cannot even think about publishing the book without double checking everything. And I can’t assign the author to do his/her own fact checking because obviously they either don’t care or they do not have the skill to do it. Either way, the cost of publishing this book just went up because I have to hire an independent fact checker to check every single thing in the book.

Uh-uh. I just sent the form rejection letter.

As a publisher, I will not check every single fact and name spelling in your book. That is YOUR job. I will do a spot check and assume the rest of your book is as carefully (or carelessly) researched and written as my random sampling. One mistake like this might not rule you out (or maybe it will, depending on how big it is), but two or three and your MS is toast! Not only will I reject this one, but I will also most likely reject anything else you send me in the future.

3 thoughts on “How Important Is Fact Checking?”

  1. Interesting comments. I’m especially intrigued by the final sentence, “Not only will I reject this one, but I will also most likely reject anything else you send me in the future.”

    I know publishers keep a list of titles submitted, but do those lists include reasons why they were rejected?

  2. My list does. It includes comments like “Too many incorrect ‘facts’–proceed with great caution!!!” or “Extremely difficult to work with” or “Sent me a nasty note after I rejected” or “Hasn’t got a clue about the business side of things. Will need a lot of hand-holding.”

    It also has things like “Great writer; but topic done to death. If they submit something else, JUMP ON IT!”

  3. Thank you so much for this post, LDS Publisher. (You need a nickname, by the way. Can I call you LDSP for short? 🙂 An insight like this is tremendously important to a person like myself who writes from fact and reminds me that I need to make sure that I’m as accurate as I can be. Sometimes the search for accuracy gives me a stomach ache, but I’d rather have the stomach ache beforehand and not after receiving a rejection or (yikes!) seeing the mistake in print.

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