Blog Highlights: Page Proofs: What They Are and What to Do When You Get Them

For the grand opening of this blog, I’m spotlighting some of my favorite blog posts and moments from over the years throughout the month of June.


Week Two: The Writer’s Life





First posted on June 13, 2011

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This weekend was spent poring over CINDER page proofs and I’m preparing to have a phone meeting with my editor this morning to discuss my changes. The page proof stage is really, really exciting because it’s the first time that it looks like a real book – no more manuscript pages in boring double-spaced Times New Roman. Now it has an elegant font and justified type, folios and chapter heads and (gasp!) a real title page! With, with…the title! And a publisher! And my name on it!

Yeah. It’s pretty stinking cool.

What are page proofs?
Page proofs (also referred to as typeset pages and, rarely, galleys) are the interior pages of the book, designed and typeset and laid out just as it will appear when it prints. Though they’re still printed on basic office paper, you can nevertheless get a feel for what it will look like in final form.

Page proofs are sent not only to the author but also a proofreader. The proofreader’s job is to compare the typeset pages to the copyedited pages and A) make sure that all the copyeditor’s and author’s most recent changes were correctly entered, B) check that no wonky typesetting issues were introduced into the text (i.e., extra spaces, a paragraph set in the wrong font, an incorrect break in a paragraph, etc.), and C) read through the text again looking for any errors the copyeditor may have missed.

My proofreader caught some really great stuff that I’m sure I never would have noticed. Although it’s incredibly rare for an author to have direct contact with the copyeditor or proofreader, I’d just like to shout out a big THANK YOU! to them in case they ever happen to stumble across this blog post.

What am I supposed to do with these?
When you receive your page proofs, you’ll first want to take some time to ogle the gorgeous design and appreciate all the hard work your designer and typesetter have put into it. Hug and squeeze and love it. Yes, I maybe got a little teary-eyed. ;;_;;

If you have any problems with the design, such as a font you feel isn’t very readable, feel free to contact your editor and voice your concerns. Chances are, your contract stipulates that your publisher isn’t obligated to take your suggestions on the book’s design, but it doesn’t hurt to voice your ideas nonetheless, so long as you’re polite and reasonable about them. (For the record, I couldn’t be more pleased with my design, so my designer got two big thumbs up from me.)

Also read through and check your proofreader’s marks, in case they’ve made any changes you disagree with, and see if there are any lingering queries that you need to address.

To Read or Not to Read?
Undoubtedly by this stage of the process, you’re feeling a little sick of your book. You’ve read it a couple dozen times. You’ve edited and polished and tweaked until your eyes went blurry and your fingers ached. It’s been through your agent, your editor, your copyeditor, your proofreader, and any number of editorial assistants. Surely any potential errors have been caught by this point. Surely you don’t need to read it again, right?

I confess: I was really tempted to just skim through the pages and not do a complete read-through, but in the end I sucked it up and decided to give it one more thorough pass. Although changes can continue to be made up until the book prints, after page proofs it becomes more timely and costly for your publisher to make them, so if you have changes it’s best to make them now. And I figured that if I caught even one small error, it would be worthwhile.

And I was right! I am so glad that I decided to read through it again. Just like your eyes catch more things on paper than on a computer screen, your eyes are bound to notice things in page proofs that they didn’t notice in copyedits. I found plenty of word repetition and (argh!) those blasted crutch phrases that I hadn’t realized I was using up until now. I found one sentence that went against a plot twist I use later in the series that I’d forgotten I mentioned in Book One. I found one missing quotation mark, one misspelled word, one word that should have been plural, one “king” that should have been “emperor,” my list goes on. Although 95% of my findings were very small, I am so, so glad that I caught them, and I feel much more confident having been over the text one… more… time.

So, moral of the story: this is not the time to get lax. I know you’re sick and tired of the book. I know it’s not really fun to read something that holds absolutely zero surprises anymore. I know it’s easy to get lazy here and assume all the brilliant people who have been over your book already caught everything that needed catching.

But in the end, it’s your book with your name on the cover, and nobody—nobody—cares about it as much as you do, so take the time to get it right. Remember the wise words of Mad-Eye Moody: Constant vigilance!

Questions on page proofs, proofreading, or typesetting? Ask away!