Monday, February 7, 2011

What can go wrong with a book?
A little bit of everything.

On Friday I received what I honestly thought would be the last proof of my Independent Self-Publishing: the complete guide.

Theoretically, the book was published on December 15th, and has been shown on Amazon and received advance orders.

The book has been gone through dozens (hundreds?) of times by yours truly and my editor and a picky nitpicker.

I've carefully examined the MS Word doc, multiple generations of PDFs, and paper proofs printed by my local UPS store and by Lightning Source, which prints the "real books."

I know that no book can be perfect, but each time I read it I find things that need to be fixed, that somehow had previously eluded the eagle eyes.

Here are some of the bloopers that plagued this book, and may be in yours. Many won't be noticed by readers, and one error per hundred pages seems to be an acceptable standard for major "trade" publishers. However, those of us who self-publish have an extra burden to make our books as good as possible because one bad book reflects badly on all self-pubbed books. I, of course have an extra extra burden, because I frequently criticize other books.

So, here's some of the stuff to watch out for, in no particular order:
  1. Sections of text that print in gray -- not black. This is generally invisible on a computer screen, but is noticeable on paper.
  2. Repeated words. Microsoft conveniently flags the repeats in red, but maybe the red should flash to attract my attention.
  3. Right edges of text blocks that are ragged instead of flush.
  4. Words that are in my head but not printed on the page.
  5. Wrong fonts -- a particular problem when text is copied from the web or another document.
  6. Inconsistent style, such as 8PM on one page and 9:15 p.m. on another page. (I'm usually not guilty of this sin.)
  7. Oversize word spacing -- especially in justified narrow columns.
  8. Headers that should be bold or normal black, but are gray.
  9. Repetition of a phrase or thought a few pages after it first appears.
  10. Widows and orphans (generally not a problem for me).
  11. Drop caps in the wrong typeface, wrong size, or wrong position. (I caught these earlier, I think.)
  12. Inaccurate referrals, such as saying that something is on page 324 but it was moved to 326 -- or even deleted. (I caught these earlier, I think.)
  13. Inaccurate index or table of contents, caused by moving or removing. (I did this in a previous book, but I hope not in this one).
  14. Flopped photos -- It's common to do a left-right reversal for aesthetic reasons, but now a clock or  license plate or name necklace reads backwards. Also watch out for unconventional product appearances, such as a phone with a handset on the right side, or an old TV with knobs on the left. (I've never done this, but I've seen this).
I could go on, but the list could turn into a book. Actually, some of this is in an upcoming book:

I hope it doesn't have too many misteaks. Or mistakes.

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