I got to wondering the other day, what with fact-checking becoming a partisan sport and Coulter-correction being practically a cottage industry, what do publishers do about errors in published books? I would figure that egregious errors of fact would be corrected in future editions, but is any effort made regarding the first runs as far as getting the word out that corrections have been made? In the case of someone like Coulter, who from several accounts views any challenge to her research as literally a communist plot, do publishers have the authority to issue corrections against the will of the author?
Does Coulter’s publisher indeed have any interest in fact-checking or correcting anything in her books?
(1) It could have been easily done before publication.
(2) It would defeat the purpose of Coulter’s writing.
It’s usually too expensive to make changes to a book once it’s in print. In rare cases, the publisher will send out errata slips – a sheet of paper that lists errors that can be inserted into the book – but that’s unusual and there’s no way to make sure they get inserted.
A publisher is also unlikely to change subsequent editions unless it’s a matter of libel.
Remember – “nonfiction” is a publication category; it is not a guarantee that anything in the book is factual.
Reality Chuck is mostly right, but I guess the experience differs depending on the type of publishing. I have worked in medical publishing for about 11 years, the first 6 or 7 in medical books. If the book is still in the warehouse (ie, not yet sold) when the error is noted, the errata are sent to the warehouse and slipped in the front cover. If somebody makes a big enough stink, the offending page can be “ripped and tipped” – the page with the error is razored out and a corrected page is glued in. A publisher is unlikely to change subsequent printings of the same edition unless it’s important. In medical publishing, incorrect information or life-threatening mistakes such as wrong dosages given count as important; misspellings and typos less so. A publisher is most likely to change subsequent editions if someone remembers the error when the new edition is being edited.