Friday, February 20, 2009

Definitions for the Perplexed: Proofs

So once the galleys have been around and around enough to have worked out all the kinks, the designer will create a version of galleys that incorporates the guidelines the printer (which is usually in China) will need in order to know where to cut the pages (etc). This last set of galleys are called mechs, short for mechanicals. These are sent to the printer, and the next thing the publisher will see is proofs.

Proofs are an example of the book, printed on the big professional printing presses (but not bound), and this is our chance to make sure the alignment of the printing, the page trimming, and the color is correct. It is not the time to decide you like the word "harassed" better than "irritated" on page 42. Changes to the text will require your publisher to send a whole new digital file to the printer, add another round to the proofs, and the printer will charge the publisher more money. Like, hundreds of dollars, potentially.

When To Suggest Changes in the Bookmaking Process:

One sincerely hopes that you've made any big, plot-type changes in the draft/revision process with your editor. Which comes before galleys.

Once you're in galleys, the important thing to remember is that every change to entire blocks of text has to be made, checked, and finessed by design and CE (copyedit) to be sure there are no widows (a lonely line at the top of a page), orphans (a lonely line at the bottom of a page), lines that are too loose or tight (ie, in the spacing between words), and no text accidentally left out or duplicated. It's a lot of work, and for people who already have a lot of work to do. The designer and copyeditor will feel like killing someone, and since the author is not nearby, they'll focus on the editor.

1st galleys:
Fixes to the spelling/punctuation? Lay it on! Let's get everything right.
Stuff accidentally left out, etc? Great, that's what first galleys are for.
Fiddling with word choice? Sure thing. Just not too much of that, ok?

2nd galleys:
Fixes to spelling/punctuation? Oops, we missed that. Thanks for noticing.
Other issues? Try to minimize this, huh? That's what 1sts were for.

3rd galleys/Final Corrections:
See the term "final corrections"? Yeah, this had better be the last little bits.
Ideally, this is not a chance to make changes, but simply to be sure the changes from 2nd galleys were made as intended.

Mechs
Leave it alone! (Though text changes in mechs are still better than text changes we have to make in proofs.)

1st proofs
Color corrections? Great! That's what proofs are for.
Text changes? These had better just be correctness changes (in the event we missed a typo in galleys), not stylistic ones.

2nd proofs
Color corrections? This had better be important.
Text changes? No.

3rd proofs
Changes of any kind: What are you, fucking nuts?

6 comments:

Kimberly Lynn said...

How do you keep a fresh perspective after so many rounds of reading one manuscript?

Argh. Sounds exhausting!

Amity said...

Wow, if I ever make it to this stage (hope, hope!) this post will be extremely useful in keeping me from being an ignorant pest.

Thanks a bunch for taking the time to write this series--I've found it very informative, and I'll be less inquisitive and impatient since I know what's happening on the publisher's side. We authors always hear that it takes TIME to get a book from contract to press, but I think a lot of authors don't know WHY. These posts are great.

Heidi C. Vlach said...

I'll be bookmarking this for future reference!

Anonymous said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you! I'm just about to enter this phase for the first time, and really appreciate having the details about what to expect.

Steve Brezenoff said...

I wish you'd posted this about seven years ago, before I became a production editor and frequently, yes, took my anger out on the editors!

Still, thanks for posting it now. Well done.

graywave said...

So that's what widows and orphans are! I've seen these terms in word processors for decades without actually knowing what they meant.

You know, this is a great thing you're doing. I'm bookmarking the entire series.