There are few things worse in publishing than receiving a newly printed hardback book - nice paper, cover illustration has worked out well, numbers looking good for launch events, talk of reviews in the air - then someone notices a horrible mistake on the cover. The cover that has been checked 47 times. The title is wrong on the spine. And look, is that really how you spell Alan Ginsberg on the back ? (No is the answer.) Will anyone notice the latter? Maybe the odd reader. Will anyone notice the former? Everyone. And have the advance mail order copies gone, and has the printer dispatched the trade copies to the warehouse? Of course. So, John Lucas's Next Year Will Be Better (or Next Year Will Better if you believe the current spine): a memoir of England in the 1950s has a rocky start. No problem though, the printer will reprint the cover at once, the distributor will rejacket their copies, the mail orderers will be sent new covers, the office stock will be rejacketed. All for the sake of two missing letters. John is fine about it. A publisher himself, he once printed a book with nothing on the spine at all, not noticing until a bookseller pointed it out. Or there was Arc, which printed one of their Ivor Cutler books with a seven digit ISBN on the back so no bookshops knew how to re-order it ("We wondered why that one always sold less than the others"). Oh how we laugh about these things.
Next posting, something about the book itself, and details of launch events.