Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Proofread your books in multiple media. Even ebooks should be checked on paper.

While you'll spot many errors in a book manuscript when it's displayed on a computer screen, you'll probably detect even more when it's printed on paper -- like a real book.

In  2008, when I started in self-publishing, POD printer Lightning Source charged $30 for each generation of a proof that I submitted. The fee included next-day shipping (after about three days of their working and waiting), and seemed fair. The Lightning Source website mentioned that a $40 fee could be applied for each file revision, but I was never charged the $40 in those days.

My books typically required about six revisions, and I was glad to be paying $30 each, not $70.

In 2009 one my books went through THIRTEEN generations of proofs, and I was shocked to be charged $30 for the first plus $70 for the next 12. I'd have to sell a lot of books to make up the additional $480 in revision fees. That's equal to the profit on about 60 books!

(I think that Lightning has lowered the price for printed proofs since the last time I used the service.)

I got smarter for my Get the Most out of a Self-Publishing Company. The book has 366 six-by-nine pages, and I paid Lulu.com just $11.82 for printing (much too high for normal books but OK for a proof) and $16.99 for "expedited" shipping. (Other shipping options range in price from $3.99 to $36.99, so if I was not in a hurry, I could've gotten a proof printed and delivered for just $15.81.)

CreateSpace will provide proofs for about $20, delivered. If you are planning to have CS print your books, you may as well let them provide proofs.

One day, after three brain-numbing read-throughs of a second-generation Lulu proof, I figured I was ready to upload my PDF files to Lightning so could start selling books.

I realized that it was destined to have as-yet-undiscovered errors, but I had not yet seen a proof with my "real" cover (l let Lulu print the proofs with a quick-and-dirty temporary cover) and was willing to make the investment to see a more-finished book.

Then I had a thought.

If I could get a printout on paper, I could give it one more read-through and make corrections over the weekend, and then upload the PDFs on Monday or Tuesday and still get a pretty proof from Lightning Source by the end of the week.

I was vaguely aware that some of the copy-and-ship franchised stores could print from a thumb drive. I did some checking online and was both surprised and thrilled to learn that UPS Stores (formerly Mailboxes Etc.)  could accept files as online uploads, and that there was a UPS store just seven  minutes from me.

I quickly established a UPS account online and uploaded the file. This was around noon, and I was informed that my print job would be ready by 4 p.m. The price was just $27.31, including three-hole punching and sales tax and file storage. At a little after 2 p.m. I received an email notifying me that the work was ready for me to pick up. $27.31 was more than the minimum $15.81 that I could have paid Lulu, but I received the "book" in hours--not ten days. It was less expensive--and faster--than the proof from Lightning.

Unlike a Lightning, Lulu or CreateSpace proof, the UPS proof didn't include a coated and colorful bound-on book cover. However, I quickly discovered that the three-hole-punched format is MUCH BETTER for proofing.

When put into a binder, the pages stay flat for reading and marking. And since my pages are formatted for 6 x 9 but UPS used 8.5 x 11-inch paper, there was plenty of extra space for my proofreader's marks and even for copy revisions. I really liked being able to insert tabbed dividers, and quickly started to use the pocket in the front cover to hold my red Sarasa editing pen, Post-Its, bookmarks and a small pad.

I had to go out of town the next day and knew I'd spend some time in my car waiting for my wife to shop. I took the binder with my proof, propped it up on the steering wheel, and got to work. It would have been much more difficult to do this with a normal bound book.

By page 173 I found at least 200 things to fix which I had not noticed on my monitor or in the Lulu proofs. 

It's very important to check your books in multiple media: on-screen as a word-processing file and as a PDF, printed on plain paper, and as a bound volume. Each medium will reveal different errors. Even if you plan to publish only ebooks, paper proofs will help you get a bit closer to perfection.

No matter how many time you check your manuscript, there WILL be errors in your final pbook or ebook.

  • One problem that's almost invisible on PC monitors but can be seen in a printed book are sentences or paragraphs that are gray instead of black. Look closely.
  • And watch out for straight apostrophes and quote marks that really should be curly. This is a common problem when you copy and paste from text that was intended for Web use, where curlies are seldom used. The difference may be hard to spot on a PC screen, so ZOOOOOM up to 120 - 180% of normal size to make the errors stand out.
  • It's easy to accidentally copy-and-paste wrong typefaces from the web or other documents. Look very closely.
  • Also watch out for unintentional hyphens that may move from the end of a line to the middle of a line. This generally won't happen with automatic hyphenating. But if you manually insert a hyphen, and then shift text around, possibly by changing the size or position of a graphic element, hyphens can wander around the page.

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