Sojourns in Publishing

Writing. Editing. Designing. Producing. Printing. Reading.

Month: April, 2014

Proofreading for Self-Publishing

Proofreading is something that happens after thorough editing; proofreading and editing are not the same thing. Furthermore, there are different modes of editing. For the purpose of this post, let’s assume your manuscript has already been fully written, rewritten, and has had solid editing. If you want to aim for an error-free book after it’s been printed, you should perform three post-edit proofreads.

When it comes to proofreading for self-publishing, have the copy as clean as possible before layout; for the sake of efficiency, you want the designer to make as few changes as possible after it’s laid out. I aim for as much perfection as possible before then by following these steps:

  1. When the manuscript is written in full, have it thoroughly, professionally, and objectively copyedited. It’s up to you how many times you want that to happen. Once? Twice? It depends on how many people are involved and how many changes happen as a result of feedback. Once is probably not going to be enough. Ideally, I’d say at least twice. It’s worth the financial investment to have a working relationship with an editor, not just a one-time transaction.
  2. After all editing rounds are complete, have everyone involved in the project agree that it’s been edited and tweaked as much as it’s ever going to be.
  3. Give it a first proofread while it’s still in a Word document.
  4. Make corrections to that Word document as found in the proofreading round.
  5. Have the book designed.
  6. Once it’s designed, look at the PDF and give it a second proofread. Remember—one round of proofreading will catch at least 95% of existing errors, as is industry standard); 100% is not realistic at this point. Mark up any stray errors on the PDF proof with the Adobe tools.
  7. Give the marked-up proof back to the designer; they will refer to the PDF to make any revisions in the native file where the book block was designed.
  8. After those corrections have been made, look at the PDF proof again; perform a third proofread. It should be as close to perfect now as it is ever going to be, providing no new additions or significant changes have happened (beyond correcting those errors found while doing that second proofread).
  9. If you’re satisfied that all errors have been remedied, and if everything else looks good (cover, back of book bio and synopsis, design elements, etc.), get everyone to sign off in agreement that this is the version you all want printed.
  10. Authorize the designer to prepare the book design files for delivery to channels (printer, distribution channels, wherever you’re getting it printed up).

At this point, you can certainly feel free to proofread a hard copy. Let’s be real: you’re likely going to scrutinize your first hard copy and sweat bullets over errors. Your editor likely will, too. It’s just part of the whole deal—the human factor that we can’t edit away. There comes a time when you just have to let go and be human. After all those editing and proofreading rounds, you deserve to relax.

If you do find errors in the hard copy, decide how important it is; if there are a few minor ones, I’d be inclined to just let it go. I try to avoid making any changes after it’s become a hard-copy book; printers charge fees for post-publication revisions. Before you submit files to printers and distribution channels, talk to your printer about what’s involved in having a preview hard copy; that’s also a good time to find out if there are any post-publication revision fees, and what it would mean for your title’s availability while undergoing said revisions.

More than anything, edit and proofread the h-e-double-hockeysticks out of your book before it gets printed—and then trust that all is well in the universe.

Matthew Carter, Designer of Verdana and Georgia

Matthew Carter, designer of Verdana and Georgia

I love both Verdana and Georgia. It’s fascinating to see the individual behind typeface design.

Before You Start Writing, Do You Know Where the Story’s Going?

So, you have a fantastic idea for a story, but you’re feeling overwhelmed about where to start. An easy and simple first step is for you to define the story arc. A definable arc is needed to capture the audience’s interest; in the creation stage, it will help you write with direction. Generally, strong story arcs include the following elements:

  • Setting

  • Characters

  • The main character’s driving desire (what does the main character want?)

  • Developing problem (what prevents the main character from getting what they want?)

  • Conflict (the action of the character’s driving desire being challenged)

  • Escalation

  • Crisis

  • Resolution

  • Dénouement (final details that wrap up the loose ends of the story)

For example, in the modern version of the story of Cinderella, the arc could be defined as follows:

Setting

Family mansion

Characters

Cinderella, stepsisters, mice, cat, fairy godmother, Prince Charming

Characters’ driving desire

Wants to go to the ball

Developing problem

The stepsisters are jealous of Cinderella’s beauty and won’t let her go to the ball.

Conflict

The stepsisters tear apart the dress that Cinderella made for herself out of scraps.

Escalation

Cinderella despairs, but is helped by the fairy godmother and gets to the ball. The prince is enchanted by her and dances the night away with her until she must flee at midnight.

Crisis

Cinderella has fallen for the prince, but is restrained from being with him as she is a prisoner in her home, and is ashamed of her rags and lowly appearance.

Resolution

The prince sets out to find her, and by using the glass slipper she left behind, he confirms Cinderella’s true identity.

Dénouement

Cinderella goes to live in the castle with the prince and lives happily ever after, while the evil stepsisters are excluded from the grandeur of Cinderella’s new life.

Get back to basics—don’t browse Facebook or Twitter or even Google for inspiration. Walk away from the computer. Take a blank piece of paper, write out the story elements as listed in the left-hand column, and simply fill it in with the most basic details for now; it’ll help you break down your vision into smaller steps instead of overwhelming you with the big picture.

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