Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Why am I snarling?

Why am I snarling? Because after four years of working on The Last Hero two weeks ago in final fact-checking mode, I was alerted to an error that won't be able to be corrected until the second printing of the book.

A section of Chapter 17 reads:


“He had worked for Colgate-Palmolive for eleven years before working with MNBA, striking upon an idea he believed was a winner: team logos on credit cards. A credit card with the San Francisco 49ers helmet on it? Here was a way for the fan to feel connected to his favorite team, Henneberry argued. The team could offer small discounts or points to be accumulated like frequent flier miles each time the card was used, double points if used at Candlestick Park or when purchasing tickets. Henneberry was twenty years ahead of his time. It was a moment of genius – the kind that can make a career – but the idea never got off the ground. MNBA soon folded. Henneberry was out, smoldering mad that life wasn’t fair (you can’t copyright ideas, after all) when a bigger credit card company, Visa, resurrected his idea and made a fortune.”

It should read:


“He worked for Colgate-Palmolive for eleven years before consulting for First Fidelity Bank and the NFL. His idea was a winner: team logos on credit cards. A credit card with a New York Giants helmet on it? Fans could feel connected to their teams, Henneberry argued, receiving discounts or bonus points to be accumulated like frequent flier miles on each purchase, double points if used at The Meadowlands or when purchasing tickets. Henneberry was twenty years ahead of his time. It was a moment of genius – the kind that can make a career – but Henneberry never got to expand the program to the other 29 teams. The league licensed the idea to Citibank. Henneberry was out (inches from a lucrative seven-percent commission), smoldering mad that life wasn’t fair (you can’t copyright ideas, after all). The Citibank later sold the portfolio to MBNA, which made a fortune."

 
"He" is Bill Henneberry, who was gracious enough to talk with me for about three hours over two or three occasions. Clearly, after our sprawling conversations, I did not transcribe properly. The failsafe - the uncorrected galley proof - was too late. Bill caught the error, alerted me, but it was too late. The finished books were already being printed. No changes could be made. That ship had sailed.  

How do these things happen? On a 210,000-word book quite easily - if you don't double and triple-check every word, phrase, anecdote. The correction will be made, but it was my mistake, and it will eat at me for longer than I care to count.

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