Those pesky typos. You've tried proofing your work, and spell-checking it. And yet, typographical errors pepper your book's pages like a stubborn heat rash that won’t go away.

Why does this happen? First, the eyes have a propensity to see what they want to see. Just as we overlook a few blemishes (be they skin-deep or deeply rooted) when we first become smitten by a new love interest, so do our eyes play tricks on us when we proofread our beloved manuscript. We simply don’t see flaws readily enough, and must therefore repeatedly read and re-read, allowing enough time between sittings to catch most—if not all—of them. A prospective partner’s imperfections will only reveal themselves over time and under varying circumstances; likewise, the blotches on our work remain well-hidden until we can examine it with fresh, objective eyes and in different print formats. That is why previously unnoticed errors can crop up in our newly-published book, seemingly for the first time.

Secondly, our brains have an uncanny ability to “fill in the blanks.” You’ve all seen those trick sentences where your mind automatically inserts a missing letter or word. Despite our most vigilant efforts, our brains are programmed to overlook misspelled, misused, or missing text. And while most readers' brains work the same way (fortunately!), there will always be those who pick up on these errors and omissions.

Finally, typographical errors are like amoeba. They reproduce themselves while you are not looking. Each time you think you’ve gotten 'em all, you haven’t. In fact, whenever you fix, move, or change anything in one place, you create the potential for new errors to pop up—there and elsewhere. It's not unlike playing a rigged game of whack-a-mole.

When you consider these sobering facts, you may want to abandon the effort altogether. Please don't! The quest for literary perfection is a noble crusade, even if, despite our best efforts, a few stray typos will inevitably infect our finished product. We can all take some comfort in knowing that this phenomenon is true even for traditionally published books; however, we shouldn't construe that as a license to allow an excessive number of glaring errors to gain permanent residency in our self-published ones.

So how many typos are acceptable in a self-published book? At what point must we pull our baby from circulation and purge those little buggers? Obviously, this is a highly personal choice, but there seem to be two schools of thought on the matter. The first posits that even one mistake is one too many (an unattainably high standard for even the finest publishing houses). The second supposes that a dozen or more typos in a manuscript containing 450,000-some-odd characters represents a miniscule error rate that ought to be forgiven, if not completely overlooked. And when you consider that a typical self-published author cannot afford the cost of professional editing and proofreading (and even if we can afford it, we'll never recoup that investment from the few hundred sales we can expect our titles to garner—if we're lucky!), a measure of clemency certainly seems warranted.

Personally, I fall somewhere between these two extremes, but I do believe that perfection—while elusive—is a goal worth striving for. As writers, we are supposed to be experts at communicating and entertaining via the written word. And like any other type of professional, an occasional, minor mistake is pardonable, because we are human and humans are imperfect creatures. But at a certain point, too many blunders render our work shoddy and unprofessional. Face it, people lay out good money to read what they expect to be nearly pristine prose—it’s what separates the pros from the schlocks. I hate to say that, but it's true. Errors detract from both content and craft. Would you continue to bring your legal work to an attorney who turned out sloppy documents over and over again? Would you patronize an auto mechanic who repeatedly failed to tune your car properly, or a doctor who misdiagnosed your symptoms one time too many? Readers expect us writers to get it just right, and rightfully so.

To my eye, three or four negligible mistakes in a book should be overlooked; anything more than half-a-dozen is too many. I realize I am perhaps in the neurotic minority, but I notice typos; they distract me. And while I can pass over the first few bloopers if I’m enjoying the story and the writer's unique style, if the errors keep on coming, you will start to lose me, no matter how engaging or artfully-worded the tale might otherwise be. Seeing as how a self-published volume can usually be pulled and fixed within 48 hours, I personally feel that we self-publishing authors owe it to the reading public—and to ourselves—to clean up the boo-boos as soon as we are made aware of them. I know it sucks to take down a "live" product page—I’ve done it myself, more than once. And, yes, I realize this might cost us some sales, especially if the "pull" is ill-timed. But for me, losing out on a few royalty dollars and causing a teensy, temporary loss of goodwill is preferable to knowingly permitting more flawed copies of my book to enter the marketplace, thereby causing an even greater, permanent loss of goodwill when readers are disappointed with their purchases.

Though we all know mistakes happen, too many of them can mean the difference between being taken seriously as a writer, and being written off as a pretender. And while each writer must decide when not to cross that invisible line, in literature as in life, errors are almost always worth correcting. At lease thats this righters opinon. (Smile.)