What Stace had to say on Wednesday, February 9th, 2011
Edits 2: Proofs Suck

You’d think I’d like proofs, since I love copyedits so much. You’d be wrong. I hate proofs.

I’m not sure why, really. They’re just…lame. And rather dull. And I don’t like ’em.

Proofs are standard sheets of paper, on which the pages of the book are laid out side-by-side, full-size (that is, mmp [mass market paperback] size, or trade size, or hardover size if you have a hardcover, or whatever). So really, when you very first see your very first proof, it’s exciting. I was all kinds of thrilled when I got my UNHOLY GHOSTS proofs and saw the awesome font Del Rey used for my chapter heads (Chapter One, etc.) and the brackets around the epigrams. It was exciting to see the book as a real book, real book pages and all.

But after that initial excitement…sigh.

This is a page proof from UNHOLY MAGIC. (Again, you have to click it, then click again to view it full-size, sorry. It’s too big for the blog.)

And here’s a close-up of some proof edits from that same set of proofs:

The photocopy sent to me for UM was cut off just a bit at the top, so here’s the upper left corner of the CITY OF GHOSTS proofs:

So. Copyedits were originally done on the printed manuscript. I go through them, and two editors–the CE and my own–go through them.

Then the ms is laid out as a book–I believe those Keebler-elf-type folks in the Production Dept. handle that, presumably sneaking out of their hidey-holes under cover of darkness, dancing and waving around little elf-sized flagons of mead, singing happy little work songs as they sprinkle Magic Book Dust on the ms, and leaving the finished product there on a spotlessly clean table for the other employees to discover in the morning. I believe two copies are printed, and one goes to me and another to another copyeditor. But it may be that the proof goes to another CE, his or her changes are implemented, and another proof is made which comes to me. But I’m pretty sure we get proofs at the same time.

Now. Many of you probably already know this, but just in case you don’t, I’ll mention it. Major changes are not supposed to be made in proofs. The deletion of a sentence here and there, removing or adding punctuation, fixing typos or other errors, fine. Deciding you want to add a new section of dialogue? Not so fine.

It’s not happened to me, but it’s my understanding that if an author makes over a certain amount of changes to their page proofs–major changes–they have to pay for the additional typesetting/conversion/whatever it is (those elves require a LOT of mead to keep them happy and productive). I don’t believe that’s a canard along the lines of “If you don’t earn out your advance you have to give part of it back,” which people who have no idea what they’re talking about like to trot out and parade in front of aspiring writers, usually in order to sell them on a vanity press. I believe that making major changes at this stage is actually something we have to pay for.

So we need to be damn sure everything is the way we want it before we mail those copyedits back.

Changes are made much like in CEs, though:

or:

and here’s one where the editor who went over the proofs or the data entry/whatever made an error (or we all missed it in CEs, which does happen. It’s harder than you think to catch every single mistake, because you tend to see what it’s supposed to say rather than what it does):

So. I make my changes, and send the proofs back. I have now “signed off” on the book, which means no further text changes should be made at all.

There is at least one additional proof, however, which is done in-house. I believe another CE goes over it, and I know my editor goes over it, but I don’t see it. That’s the proof during which they make sure that all of the necessary changes have been implemented, that the book is ready to be printed, because that final proof is exactly how it will be printed.

Why do I hate page proofs so much? I don’t really know, honestly. After that initial excitement fades, really, they’re just…tedious. Which sounds bad, because it is after all my own book(s), which I love and worked hard on and believe in and am so proud of. But actually physically reading them in book form enthralls me (at least once; I don’t read them repeatedly, no, but going through and reading them as actual books is pretty exciting), so I don’t believe that’s the problem.

I think the issue is what I said above: you have to make sure you see what’s there, now what you think should be there. So you’re not just reading for pleasure, enjoying the story and the sense of accomplishment and all of that. You’re inspecting every word and every line. You’re paying very close attention. You’re seeing a bit here and there you should have worded differently, now that it’s too late to change it (this is always a problem in reading my own finished books). And you’re–at least I am–afraid you’re going to miss something, and your book will have–gasp!–a typo.

Seriously. I mock, but I loathe typos. I hate them. Just like I make it a point of pride to turn in my mss as typo/error-free as possible, so I am with the finished product; even more so, for obvious reasons. I seriously live in fear of getting one of those “There’s a mistake in your book” emails a certain type of person apparently likes to send out. I get annoyed when I see them in other books, and would have a fit to find one in mine.

Because the book is it, you know? It’s all people have to judge me by. And I hate the idea that it’s going out into the world as one of those “But I see typos in books from the Big 5 all the time” type of novels that some people seem to think justifies their own lack of care and attention to spelling/grammar etc.

A typo in my finished book is a big piece of literary spinach between my front teeth. It’s embarrassing.

So I really go over those proofs; I mean, I read them slowly and focus hard on every word to make sure it really is spelled right and punctuated correctly and reads correctly and all of that. This is the last chance I’ll have to correct any errors, at least unless and until the book goes into a second printing. Errors can be fixed for the new print run, but generally only if they’re deemed important enough (which a single typo is not) or, I guess, if the error was with an editor or data person or whatever who made changes after I signed off on the book. And the books with the mistake are still out there, of course; they can’t be recalled or something. (Books do get pulled and pulped, but generally only if a significant error was made, it’s plagiarized, or somebody sues/someone important threatens to sue.) So my typo is obviously not cause to do such a thing.

So I find proofs tedious, and unnerving, because I’m always worried that I might have missed something, I probably did miss something, damn it what if I miss something? It’s just me, some paper, and a pencil; I could very well miss something. And then the typos or other errors would be my fault.

It’s possible not everyone gets this many proofs, and a lot of people get digital proofs, which I hate. My PERSONAL DEMONS proofs were digital. PDFs, actually, which meant I had to make a separate list of errors (I did that for DEMON INSIDE, too, but that’s because the paper proofs came during RT and I didn’t have time to get them back, so just emailed the document).

So. Those are page proofs, and they’re the last I see of my book until I get ARCs in the mail–if I get them–and my author copies, which come around release time.

Once again, any questions? And does anyone have something else about the editing process they’d like to know?

5 comments to “Edits 2: Proofs Suck”

  1. Rachel
    Comment
    1
    · February 9th, 2011 at 5:30 pm · Link

    I’m still in the “struggling to get my book published” phase – and I can’t decide if your post has made me feel better (knowing that even after I GET published, I’ll still be struggling with self-doubt and the “wait did I word that right?” is something everyone deals with) or worse. Because, apparently I’ve been laboring under the delusion that it gets easier.

    So um thanks for the information and the perspective…I think 😛

    And on another note, No matter how many typos you could have, your characters, world, and plot are so great I’d never notice <3



  2. Katie
    Comment
    2
    · February 10th, 2011 at 9:09 pm · Link

    Stacia, thank you so much for opening all this up to those of us who haven’t made it down the road this far yet. It felt like a cloud of uncertainty and caused a lot of fear when I tried to learn more about words like copyedits and the over-all process. Seeing it in real life and hearing someone explain their own experience has been so great!
    Katie



  3. BernardL
    Comment
    3
    · February 11th, 2011 at 8:29 am · Link

    “It’s harder than you think to catch every single mistake, because you tend to see what it’s supposed to say rather than what it does”. Amen to that.

    Very entertaining look (especially the Keebler Elves) at the publishing process… and a scary one. It takes a lot of perseverance to go through all that after you’ve finally sold it. I bet the ‘Downside’ series because of your special dialogue was a nightmare for everyone along the way and it had to be done just right. Great series, Stace.



  4. Betsy Dornbusch
    Comment
    4
    · February 11th, 2011 at 9:01 am · Link

    I’m relieved to know I’m not the only one less than thrilled with proofs. (or galleys, as my pub calls them). We do copyedits on galleys as well, which actually helps me find mistakes and edits, seeing it in a different format. But then when they send it back to me again, I’m over it.



  5. Savannah J. Foley
    Comment
    5
    · February 11th, 2011 at 10:07 am · Link

    I understand why you hate them; it sounds nervewracking! Even more inspiration to absolutely make sure everything is the way you want it before you turn something in before getting to this point. I can’t imagine the agony of realizing last minute that something does not work, and then you can’t change it.



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