Before the presses roll on your physical book, you’ll receive from your printer a “proof,” a copy of what the finished book will look like.
You’ll be wise to look it over very carefully.
Things to Look for in a Proof Copy
Getting your proof copy, especially of a printed book, is an exciting moment: This is the first point when your book concept actually becomes for you a physical book. It’s also an important part of the process.
Some weeks ago, I examined a proof copy of a new book I was working on a little hastily. One of the cover images had a flaw—some pixelation—which I thought (or rationalized?) gave the cover a little more character. When copies of the book got to the author, a photographer, he had a very different opinion, and the book was held up in production while the image was adjusted.
The proof copy of the next book I worked on had a problem with the interior (body type showed up in grayscale rather than plain black). This time I got back to the printer and had the problem, which occurred on the printer’s side rather than mine, adjusted before it was released for distribution. It might have been a mess otherwise.
Proofs—galley proofs, or galleys—traditionally have been unbound printed pages that printers or publishers would show their clients before making their print run. The idea is to provide a final check before the big commitment of starting the presses is made. Printers will advise you to look over the proof carefully so that either changes can be made (and sometimes this can cost additional time or money) or, if your feeling is that the book is fine or that flaws are minor enough not to matter, you can proceed with eyes open.
Print on Demand Proofs
Print on demand printers use proofs too. CreateSpace, for example, will examine the electronic cover and interior files you send for your book to see if they meet their printing standards, and then offer to send you a printed proof copy of the book. For most services, assume you pay for that single copy. You should order it and then spend a couple of days with it. You’ll know it’s a proof because they’re usually marked as such. CreateSpace puts a big “Proof” mark on the last page.
CreateSpace advises reviewing the book three times, once for formatting (including page numbers, index if you have one, and paragraph formats), once to double-check the images to make sure they look as they should, and finally a last check of your text for general editing problems, from facts to grammar to typos of whatever sort. They also suggest showing the book to an otherwise uninvolved person for a fresh outside view. From my experience, I’d look closely to make sure the fonts are all correct—you can get strange fonts if you failed to embed one you used in a pdf —and spacing of margins; those problems often snare newcomers.
Proofing Your eBook
Proofing your eBook is a little different.
Once your book has been converted into an eBook format, look at it in a variety of ways. Your EPUB book can be reviewed in iBooks, Sigil and Calibre. Your Kindle book can be reviewed on a Kindle, of course, but also on the free Kindle Preview app, which shows you what the book looks like on various Kindle devices.
You’ll still want to check for text issues, picture quality and so on, but there are some additional things to watch for. Look at how your lines break—your text may be broken badly if you use line breaks where you shouldn’t. You can’t control page breaks, but do make sure your chapters begin on new pages.
Blogger Linda Kythe Nix notes that, “Unlike print where you are checking that nothing has changed, because eBooks display differently in different devices your proofing process involves a different set of checks. Once you get over the idea that your eBook needs to look the same in all e-reading devices, you can check for specific things.”
Review your proof copy earlier in the process rather than later. Earlier fixes are always faster and generally less costly than waiting until you’re deeper into the process.
Readers & Writers: I look forward to your feedback, comments and critiques, and please use BookWorks as your resource to learn more about preparing, publishing and promoting self-published books. My blogs appear every other week.
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