In previous weeks I’ve explained the editorial tracks offered by She Writes Press. We’ve covered developmental editing (Track 3) and copyediting (Track 2). Today, we'll cover Track 1--the proofreading track.
Proofreading, as I described in my last post, is a spot check. It’s the final pass, and any given manuscript could and probably be should be proofread either more than once, or by more than a couple of people.
Most publishers have a reprint file specifically because errors get through. Any avid reader knows that books get printed with errors. It’s shocking sometimes. I’ve worked on books that have been through multiple editors, a copyeditor, and a proofreader, and still they have errors. I’ve seen back covers circulate in-house to a list of six or seven people, and errors still slip through sometimes. As much as SWP or any press will strive for a perfect book, the proofread really should be the last pass, the final opportunity to catch errors that might have slipped by previous readers.
Another aspect of a final manuscript check happens post-layout. At SWP, we perform a cursory “bluelines check” of all manuscripts, and we encourage our authors to do the same. Bluelines is a term left over from the days when you would get printed pages from the printing press that were literally blue from the ink. Today you just get a pdf file that you then print out and check for errors.
Post layout we’re looking to make sure there are no major formatting errors; that running heads are accurate; that the table of contents numbers match up with the actual numbers chapters start on; that all the elements are in place and that nothing egregious has been left out. I once was the primary editor on a book that went to print without an author bio, so I know the importance of a check list! We provide a SWP check list to authors to ensure that nothing is being left out. We’re looking for widows and orphans and generally trying to make a beautiful book.
I’ve said it before and I know a lot of you will agree: a book is a work of art. Cover art and interior design are important, and though those are production concerns, proofreading plays a role at this point. A beautiful book can be blown to hell if there are formatting errors and egregious misspellings or mistakes. And, at the same time, a few minor errors in a book is not the end of the world. With POD, you can make these changes at any point; with a print run, you have to wait for the next printing. Mistakes will happen, but the more sets of eyes you have on your final pages and the more ready-for-print your book is before it goes to production, the better the chances of sending to print a “perfect” book. And that’s what we’re striving for!