12 September 2018

Book Publishing: A Simple Guide to Reviewing Your Proof Copy


When publishing a book, the moment of truth is simply inevitable. After all, it is the moment that you have anxiously awaited and probably even dreamed about. The printed proof copy of your book has finally arrived on your doorstep! That just happened to me…my newest historical fiction novel A LIFE IN THE SHADOW OF THE CROWN and my recipe book 'TIS THE SEASON FOR CHRISTMAS COOKIES showed up on my door step just a couple of weeks ago. I'm just giddy with excitement.

Up until then, my books had only existed in computer files, hard-copy printouts I’ve used for editing purposes, and as an online digital proof on my computer screen. But now I can see my books with my own eyes, and hold physical copies of them in my hands. Moments like these definitely have the power to move people, and rightly so. When you are almost ready to publish, and you are anything like me or so many other writers, you now feel both excited and maybe even a little frightened at the same time. But don’t hit that “Publish” button just yet!

But why would you even want to bother reviewing a physical copy of your book, when digital review copies are readily available? Putting a book together is a complicated process. It involves writing a manuscript, adding photos, lots of editing, page design, cover creation, and many other things just to get to this point. The purpose of the proof copy is to ensure that you’ve done everything correctly. Errors that were invisible on your computer screen or even in printouts suddenly seem to jump out at you. All sorts of errors can creep into our files…misalignments, extra spaces where there were none before, typographical errors, etc. And this is when a hard copy of your book can make a huge difference.

How to Check Your Book:

This is the last stage in the publishing process before your book goes public, so spend some time on this step and to do it right. Books can last a very long time, and so do the errors contained within them. Take this your opportunity to make your book as error-free as possible. I like to apply the following three step process:

1. Read your book

- Read the entire book, and while doing so I like to check for inconsistencies and typographical errors.

- Is the text complete? Did a paragraph get left out somewhere?

- Or did part of a sentence get cut off at the bottom of a page?

- Are the fonts consistent throughout the book?

- Do you have paragraphs where the word spacing is much looser or much tighter than others?

- If possible, have someone else who also read through it. Two sets of eyes usually see more than just one set. It is quite surprising how many errors can be uncovered this way.

2. Take a close look at the book

I try to ignore the text and instead concentrate on everything else. I have a hard time with this step because I am automatically drawn to the writing. Here are the things I like to look for:

- Those pesky orphans/widows; the single lines at the bottom of a page or parts of lines at the top of a page. If I can get rid of them, I will do so.

- Running headers should be consistent and should show the proper information, such as the book title or chapter titles. Those sorts of mistakes can easily sneak up on you, so it pays to check for them thoroughly.

- Does each chapter start in the same spot on the page and contain the same elements in the same order?

- Blank pages should have nothing at all on them, not even a header.

- Page references can be another problem. If you referred to something “on page 213″ or “in Chapter 4″ is said reference still there or has it shifted somehow? Or perhaps it has disappeared altogether.

- Paragraph indents ought to be consistent throughout the book, no matter what style you used.

3. Double-check the cover

The front and the back of your book cover play a significant role when marketing your writing. People do judge a book by its cover, so make it the best you can. Here are elements I like to check on:

- Does the overall design meet your expectations?

- Are the book title and the name of the author clearly visible?

- Make sure that the ISBN on your copyright page matches the one on the back cover.

- Is the price reflected correctly?

- Proofread the text on the back cover!

Don’t be too surprised if you need to upload revised versions of your book interior and/or cover several times. That’s actually part of the normal process. Of course even after proofing your book mistakes can still sneak by (it can happen to the best of us), but there will definitely be a lot less of them. It pays to check your proof, and correcting your files before uploading the revised version. When it’s time to publish your book, you can be confident that you have done everything to bring the best product you can on the market.

Now I’m just keeping my fingers crossed that I won’t find too many errors in my proof copy!  =)

Do you review a printed copy of your book, before it is published? What do you like to double-check? Add your tips and tricks in the comments section below!


Piper is the author of several non-fiction books, and recently added two historical fiction novels to her ever-expanding collection of published writings, In the Shadow of Her Majesty and The Country Girl Empress. When she isn't busy typing away on her computer, she can be found chasing after her furry children or holding on tightly to a good cup of coffee. Follow her on LinkedInFacebookGoodreads and Google+.

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