It is important to do a thorough review of the proof or first copy of the book from the printer. The printer’s proof is the final check before placing an order for the initial print quantity for sale.
Most printers require the author to sign off on the proof copy to certify that the copy is acceptable before printing many additional copies for sale.
Proofreading a Manuscript
A manuscript should be proofread two to three times in the process of publication. Proofreading is a process of looking at every page, every word and every graphic to make sure they are all exactly as the author meant them to be.
The first time proofreading may occur is as the author finishes the manuscript, after it is edited and before it goes to the designer. Sometimes the editing and proofreading processes are combined, if the editor is trained as a proofreader and the editing was light. It is expensive to correct typos after the book is designed and typeset so it is important to make sure it is as perfect as possible before going to the designer. This is the time for a real proofreading, done by a professional proofreader who will look for typos, formatting errors, inconsistency in spelling out numbers or words, capitalization mistakes, missing words and more.
The second proofreading occurs after the book is designed and typeset, meaning it is formatted on the page exactly as the author wants it to look after it is printed. This proofreading is not intended to look for capitalization, typos and all the rest. This is a specialized type of proofreading intended to look only for errors that might have been introduced during the typesetting process, such as mistakes in the headers and footers, mistakes in headings, missing images or pages and incorrect labeling of charts or images. These are things that don’t require a professional proofreader, but can be done by the author’s assistant. You can be a critical eye in finding this easy-to-miss problems.
The third and final time proofreading occurs is when the printer has set up the designed book to be printed and it asks for that copy to be reviewed before the printer prints a large quantity of copies. The types of errors that can be introduced in the printing set up include poor quality images, missing pages, missing reverses (which are when there is what looks like lighter or white type on a black or dark background) or problems with the binding after printing including the spine size not fitting the number of pages in the book (which is called poor registration) and poor gluing so that pages fall out of the binding.
If the printing process used is digital, as with LightningSource, then the printer’s proof copy will be a real copy of the book and will look exactly like the finished book. If an offset printing process is used, then you will not receive a bound copy of the book, but instead what is called a galley copy, which are just the interior pages of the book. You will look at the cover separately, but will not be able to check the binding until the first actual copies are printed.
If the author is working with an established commercial publisher, the author will be responsible for checking the galley proof for errors before printing. Most publishers will send the author a list of things to check for or this list may be available on the publisher web site.
What to Look for in the Printer’s Proof
It is expensive to make changes in a book at this stage, so make sure the book has been thoroughly proofread before this time. In this proof, you will be looking for errors that would have entered through the printer, including:
• Look at the quality of images printed and color, tones on front, back and spine
• Check that the registration is appropriate spine size is correct which makes front and back covers line up correctly
• Make sure all the pages are there and fronts/backs are done correctly as intended
• Make sure the image quality is good
• Look for missing labels for graphics and charts and tables
• Look for missing reverses
• Look for missing symbols
Watch a Slidecast
Download material for your notebook
Example of a Printer’s Proof in PDF (you will need this if you do the practice exercises)