Sunday, August 1, 2010

Misprints—Potential Gold Mines.

We've all heard about the value of misprints in postage stamps. Errors on our money, whether bills or coins, can be worth a small fortune. But they're not the only misprints that could fill your pockets with extra cash.

When typos occur in printing, they're usually caught and corrected immediately…sometimes during the printing process before any of the books are distributed and the publisher needs to go through the very expensive process of recalling them. Of course, printing errors normally make a book more valuable when that book was already rare to begin with.

I read an article recently about nine misprints that are potentially worth a lot of money if you happen to own one of those books.

The year was 1631 and about one thousand copies of the King James Bible were printed. Number seven of the ten commandments was printed as, "Thou shalt commit adultery." One theory says that the typesetter was trying to get back at the printer for some misdeed. If that was the reason for an intentional misprint, it worked. The printer's license was revoked. That edition became known as the Wicked Bible. It's estimated that only eleven copies survived the bonfire King Charles I ordered, putting its value in the area of $100,00.

The year was 1968. Western writer Larry McMurtry's In A Narrow Grave was so full of uncorrected errors ("skyscraper" became "skycraper") that the publisher had to pulp most of the copies. Only about a dozen of the "Skycraper Edition" escaped and can now go for as much as $17,500. It's probably logical to assume that the copy editor lost his/her job over that.

The year was 1885 and a first edition of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is rare enough on its own but it also contains a minor typo of "saw" and "was" that was corrected in subsequent editions. A copy in terrific condition could set you back as much as $18,600.

The first editions of the British Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban had the name "Joanne Rowling" on the copyright page rather than her pen name of J.K. Rowling. It was corrected on the second printing. An as new copy complete with dust jacket could go for as much as $10,000.

The year was 1926 and the first edition of Ernest Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises had the word "stopped" printed as "stoppped." A first edition in excellent condition with the dust jacket could be $40,000 to $60,000.

One copy of Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code was so riddled with misprints that the man who purchased it was convinced that the errors had been inserted intentionally as clues. He's trying to sell his copy for half a million dollars. So far he hasn't had any takers.

Comic book misprints usually don't do much for the value. Except on rare occasions, they are more likely to hurt the value.

I had a cover error on one of my Silhouette Desire books. I had ordered a copy of the cover art so I could do mailers a couple of weeks before its release date. As soon as it came off the computer the art department emailed me a copy of the cover. I was on the phone to my editor immediately. They had put my title, my name, and my blurb on someone else's cover art. They corrected it before the book was distributed and all was well.

And, of course, the bottomm line caveat with errors is that a book with a misprint is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it. Hmmm…that misprint of bottom was a legitimate typo, but if I leave it does that make this blog more valuable. :)


Nightingale said...

Very interesting and entertaining post. I loved the Wicked Bible info as I am an avid fan of the English Civil War and the Stuarts of that period.

Jim Hartley said...

I wonder what modern printing like POD does to this. I contributed to an anthology, then bought a copy. The story was OK but the table of contents had a misspelling in the title ("Oggog" instead of "Offog" - don't ask!). When I told the publisher she got it fixed so there were probably only a few that went out that way. Does that mean my copy is rare and valuable? Naaaah!

Samantha Gentry said...

Nightingale: I thought the Wicked Bible was interesting, too. The typesetter had ten commandments to choose from, yet he chose to leave the "not" out of the adultry one. :)

Thanks for stopping by, Bianca.

Samantha Gentry said...

Jim: Interesting question about what impact POD printing will have on the misprint situation. It definitely makes any error very easy to correct so the cost to the publisher of fixing a misprint is minimal. But on the other hand it means that the number of books with the misprint could literally be only one or two total rather than a complete print run.

Stephanie said...

Interesting post!! That is exactly what happened to my book. My published is small and primarily digital. But they do publisher select titles POD. I ordered a few copies of it...found a typo and emailed my published immediately to fix it. I was more embarrassing than was fixed after reviewing my print galley, but somehow it reverted before it went to the printer. but I didn't want anyone to have those copies!! I'm thinking they won't be worth anything!!

Samantha Gentry said...

Stephanie: It's definitely annoying when that happens, especially when the final galley you approved is correct then something gets messed up after the fact.

Thanks for stopping by.