Friday, 17 April 2015

The Importance of Proofing

Last post I talked a lot about formatting. Formatting is laying out your work on the page so it is easily readable on an e-reader and looks attractive to the eye. Formatting is about font choices and margins and layout.

This week I'm talking about proofing. Proofing is, basically, about typographical correctness.

The reason I'm talking about it (again) is because I absolutely suck at it. Every time I think I've done an okay job, the next time I look - oops! there's another mistake. Mistakes are BAD. They turn readers off the book and they make your work look amateurish.

I find proofing really really hard. It's incredibly difficult to check for errors in a script that you I've read hundreds of times and that, to be honest, I'm well and truly over.

Tips to Prevent Proofing Errors

1.  Relax. A manuscript can be easily changed - it's not as though manuscripts are physically laid out with little metal letters any more.

2.  No-one's perfect. Most books contain at least one error. It's unrealistic to expect a 100,000 word manuscript to be without fault. Some errors have made their printers famous (or infamous). Take the Wicked Bible. It contained a typographical error advising readers to commit adultery. Copies of the Wicked Bible are now extremely rare; the authorities, perhaps concerned about the popularity of this edition, ordered it burned.

The Wicked Bible. Image from Wikimedia

3. Decide on US or UK spelling. New Zealand uses UK conventions but most of my sales are in the US. So I've decided on US spelling. I find this quite tricky as some these aren't immediately evident. Everyone knows about colour/color but skilful/skillful was a new one.

4. Do a final spellcheck. Sounds obvious, but I've had a real problem with spellcheck on a Mac, particularly because I have a character named Will. The spellcheck kept telling me I was using a verb incorrectly, so in the end I turned it off, and missed a whole lot of duplicate words.

5. Read in hard copy. Proofing a manuscript on a screen is quite difficult. I print out the final pdf and read it with a pen in hand. Sometimes I run a ruler under the lines as I read, to make me slow down. I also order a paper proof from Createspace. This has been invaluable, as reading as a book format changed my attention and for some reason it's a lot easier to concentrate.  It's a little expensive, but it's definitely been worth it.

6. Some writers use the text-to-speech function on a computer (this is particularly good if you write using a voice-activation software). Hearing the words read aloud makes it easier to spot things like word duplicates. I haven't tried this myself but it seems a good idea.

7. Use a professional eye. I engaged a copy-editor for Inner Fire. This was relatively expensive, although very useful. I haven't used Jean for Necklace, as it had been through a thorough edit by harperCollins. After getting the proof from CreateSpace I wished I had, as there were a lot of spacing errors.

8. Use a second, or third, pair of eyes. I often ask my husband to do a final proof. He edits a scientific journal and is a very slow reader, so he picks up spelling errors. I also request advance readers - that's those readers who have kindly offered to read an early copy in exchange for a review - to let me know if they find any mistakes.

9. Do your own formatting. If you know how to construct a good epub and mobi file, you'll be able to make the changes to ensure mistakes are removed.

10. Use print-on-demand. If, like me, you are prone to proofing errors, print on demand seems a lot more sensible than paying for large print runs!

And finally - See Point One. Remember, even if one or two or three errors have crept through, at least you haven't altered the Word of God.

No comments:

Post a Comment