After writing hundreds of published articles and almost 40 books, booklets and manuals I have had only three real disappointments.

The first was when Face to Face, my first solo book was published in 1976.  The publishers, The Institute of Personnel Management, had promised to consult me about the design for the cover.  I had even volunteered to submit some designs myself but, since they had a longstanding contract with a graphic designer, this was declined.  As the publication date grew closer, I asked when I could expect to see the cover designs.  No answer.  Eventually a parcel arrived with my six author’s copies.  Unable to conceal my excitement, I ripped open the packaging and had my first glimpse of the book.  My emotions went into freefall.  Whilst the mood of the book was positive and upbeat, the cover was dark and depressing; quite the ugliest book cover I have ever seen!  My disappointment was such that I used to visit bookshops and surreptitiously remove the dustcovers. It was either that or buy up the whole print run and have a big bonfire in the garden.  I remonstrated with the publishers and grudgingly they commissioned a new design for subsequent editions.  I still didn’t like it, but it was a vast improvement on the first effort.

The second disappointment occurred many years later, in 1994.  This time the printer, not the publisher, was at fault. I had written a paperback called 101 ways to develop your people, without really trying!  The book encouraged managers to use every day events, things that happened at work in the normal course of events, as learning opportunities and gave, as the title promised, 101 practical examples.  The idea was simple and the book had been a joy to write.  It even had amusing illustrations drawn by a professional cartoonist.  Confident it would sell well, I ordered 2,000 copies from a printer we had used many times before and trusted to do a good job.

The first batch of books was duly delivered.  The cardboard boxes, lots of them, arrived as I was about to depart for Essex to run a coaching workshop for Ford.  In a rush, I opened a box at random, took out two books, stuffed them in my briefcase and left.  Later that night, in my hotel room, I flicked through the pages of one of the books feeling very pleased with the look and feel.  I’d had a few drinks and, as the pages flashed past, I thought I saw a page that was upside down. In disbelief, I turned back and it was upside down! Then I found another, then another.  Not only were lots of pages the wrong way up, many were also out of sequence.  Horrified, I picked up the second copy I’d brought with me and found that too was randomly higgledy-piggledy.  An awful discovery!  It was midnight and there was absolutely nothing I could do until the morning.

The next day my secretary checked the other books in the box I’d ripped open before leaving for Essex.  They were all faulty.  However, the books in the second box were fine.  The next box too.  The publisher was at a loss to explain how all 50 books in the first box could be in such a topsy-turvy state and undertook to get his staff physically to check every book. This laborious exercise eventually revealed three other boxes containing faulty books; a total of 200 books, just 10 per cent of the print run.  But how this had come about remained a puzzle, until the printer’s van driver admitted that, whilst delivering the printed pages to the book binders, he’d dropped one of the pallets.  The packaging had burst open and the pages had scattered.  Not wishing to admit the mishap, he’d hurriedly scooped up the loose pages, put them back on the pallet and pretended nothing had happened. Mystery solved.

And now, 28 years later, another disappointment.  Having proudly dispatched over 200 copies of my latest paperback, Twenty-five Short Stories, to friends and acquaintances, with the simple message ‘enjoy’, one of them telephoned to thank me and said she’d seen some errors: did I want to know?  (I was sorely tempted to say no!).  She took me through the book, page by page, pointing out lots of silly errors, mostly missing words and typos.  I thanked her through gritted teeth.  The discovery was particularly irksome since I’d paid for a professional proof-reader/editor and, even more foolishly, had trusted her.  In the ensuing days, other friends alerted me to other errors: more missing words, more typos, incorrect punctuation, even two different types of inverted commas — over 50 careless errors in the space of 195 pages.

The book has now been corrected and reprinted so, if you have a faulty copy and you’d like it replaced with a corrected one, please let me know.  On the other hand, you could have fun rereading your faulty copy to see how many errors you can spot.  50 is the target, but  please don’t tell me if you see more.


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