Monday, May 11, 2015

Why you want to check your proof

When I finished the ninth draft of my mystery, Death in a Family Business, and an editor had gone through the manuscript with me I formatted the pages to look as they would appear in the finished book—single-spaced, 11-point type, white space on chapter beginnings—and printed a copy. I took those pages to a Staples store and had the staff print four double-sided, comb-bound copies, which I sent to my beta readers.
Every tab is a query to address.

I wanted my beta-readers to experience a book rather than a manuscript. They found typos, missing words, at least one anachronism (the book is set in 1986 by which time avocado kitchen appliances were passe), redundancies, and a couple continuity problems. (Another reason to format the pages: you need to know how many pages the book will have to allow enough space for the spine.)

I made the changes, uploaded the corrected, formatted file to CreateSpace, and ordered a proof copy. Although CreateSpace recommends authors check the proof online and with a hard copy, I didn't think it was really necessary. My book might have one or two typographical flaws, but after nine drafts and the eyes of four exceptionally assiduous readers what could be left?

A lot. Reading a printed book is a different experience from reading a manuscript or formatted pages in an 8x10 binder. My in-house editor, reading the proof copy, pasted a yellow tab for every correction, question, or suggestion. Missing little words, doubled words, and inconsistencies between the spelling of a name in the beginning of the book and the end. All tiny flaws that many readers will miss, but flaws nonetheless.

I will make the changes, upload the revised (and improved!) pages, and order another proof.

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