Saturday, May 8, 2010

Countdown to Publication: Proofreading the Galleys

I don't think that the job of proofreading the galleys can be called "fun," but it's a job that has to be taken very seriously. The mistakes you miss in the galleys will become part of your book, there for everyone to see, especially you! So this is a job that needs to be done painstakingly and repeatedly. It can't be rushed and it can't be done when you're tired.

I recently finished this job for my coming-forth-very-soon new book, Temptation by Water. The galleys for my first book, in 2003, came in hard copy through snail mail. Likewise for the second, in 2006. But this time it was all done online. So one morning the galleys popped into my inbox, one long pdf file. In the pdf the font looked really big, but when I printed, the font looked really small. My heart sunk a bit. I like a good-sized readable font. Fortunately, my publisher agreed that it needed to be larger. Since making the font larger would alter page breaks and pagination, I did the first reading just for typos and previous mistakes that had escaped me. I read the print-out and then I read again on the screen. Made of list of edits and sent it back.

Within a week I received the next set of galleys. The font was larger and more readable. I read for page breaks and line breaks. I found a few unwanted line breaks that resulted in orphans. I again printed out and re-read for other mistakes I might have missed the first time around. I noticed that for some unknown reason all the colons appearing after journal names on the Acknowledgments page had changed from italicized to non-italicized. Since the journal names are italicized, I wanted the colons to be italicized also. I very carefully matched up page numbers with the Table of Contents. Found one mistake there. Made another page of edits and sent it all back again.

The next morning I received the corrected galleys. First thing I checked was those pesky colons. I found two that had been missed and had not been italicized. Everything else had been fixed. Unless, of course, I missed something. I quickly scanned through the whole thing again. And fired it back one more time. From there it went to the printer. Now I'm just hoping those two colons have been italicized. I know that if they're not no one but me will notice. But I will notice!

I have a theory that every book has at least one mistake and that we need to love our mistakes. I believe that's true, but I'm still hoping for no mistakes. And if there is a mistake, I hope I don't find it immediately—or ever.

Next comes the proof copy in book form.

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  1. Hi Diane,
    Many cultures and religions have the idea that there should be at least one mistake in the design of a rug, the pattern of bead work, the print of a book ... So far I have found one mistake in my book: the word "the" was left off the title of a source I used. I feel pretty good about that one!

  2. I am going through this process now and it is unnerving me..I am such a perfectionist! Do you read your work out loud? Somebody told me that was a good way to search out mistakes..

  3. I read my work out loud when I'm revising. I also record and then listen. It's a good way to catch where the music falls off. But I don't read out loud while I'm proofing. I think that would distract me from finding those backwards single quotation marks!


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