Wandering farm animals are familiar in the historic village of Arroyo Grande along California’s Central Coast. The turn-of-the-century town is filled with buildings from the late 1800s and boasts the last swinging bridge of its kind in the state. (Image © Jain Lemos, Arroyo Grande, CA; 2014.)

Proofing everything is the next step to tackle in your project’s workflow as I continue with my blog series, The Ultimate Guide to Producing Documentary Books. What’s that saying? “I never met a typo I didn’t see.” Slip-ups happen to the best of us. Looking deep enough, a proofreader can find a mistake in every book published. Keeping that in mind, there are some good practices to follow so you can move to press in confidence.

After the writer has finished the manuscript, and well before the designer brings it into the layout, the text is sent to an editor for substantive or developmental editing. For my projects, I typically perform this role because I have vast experience writing and editing, plus as the producer, I am the most familiar with the structure of the book and how I want the manuscript to flow with the images. The writer is still involved, especially if there are sections that need serious reworking. Then, a copy editor makes a pass to clean up the style of the text. Finally, the text needs a proofreading pass. Sometimes the copy editor and proofreading functions are performed by the same person. The goal is to give the designer the cleanest possible text file.

Once the layout is ready for proofing, a different type of review, or proofing, takes place. First, I have the designer send me a low-res file of the layout as a PDF for monitor proofing. In this pass, I’m looking for glaring mistakes and any problems with text flow, style applications, graphic elements and photo placement. I check the captions to make sure they are with the right images and confirm the TOC reference pages. I send back a detailed memo listing the changes to be made by page number. Once this round of changes is completed, the designer will submit another low-res PDF, which I check against the memo to make sure all the requested changes have been made. Rinse and repeat as necessary.

When these change rounds are done, I ask for a full resolution PDF to be transferred or provided on a flash drive. I take the file to a local copy shop and make a grayscale, two-sided printout in spreads on the largest paper size. For example, a book with a trim size of 10w x 12h will have a spread 20w x 12h which can be printed on an 11w x 17h sheet (landscape) at about 82 percent.

Back at the office or out drinking coffee, I’ll go through these pages several times, using a red pen and post-it notes to make corrections. When finished, I package up the pages with my notes and send them to the proofreader. They’ll use a different color to make their corrections. If anyone else needs to be included in this round, they will work on the same set of pages. Finally, I reconcile the changes and make decisions in cases where options have been suggested or questions need answering. I compile a new list of changes, again by page number, and wait for the designer to update the file and send me back a low-res file to verify all changes have been made.

Following this process means I am the point person for all changes. This helps funnel changes to the designer while maintaining one master version of the book on the designer’s system. The turnaround times are very short and getting through all of these rounds on schedule is always challenging so plan accordingly. Note that a project can have several supplemental design files, such as the dust jacket, tipped-in pages, softcover version and so on. These require a similar proofing process.

Because I am familiar with using the software, I like to review the InDesign files at this point. I’ll have the designer send me a package file so I can make sure the elements on every page are perfectly set for the final mechanical submission. I also like having a near-final copy of the book on my local system as a safety measure. For some projects, I take over the files completely if the designer’s scope of work ends here.

After this, I’ll make a clean grayscale printout at 100%. (I’m going to cover color proofing in Parts 27 and 28.) With the latest PDF, I print out the pages again on tabloid-sized paper, but for this version they can’t be in spreads. I figure out how to copy double sided and still have the spreads come together right after trimming the pages. I like to have the mock-up spiral bound for better handling. The book actually looks like a book for the first time!

Now we’ll be Getting Approvals, which I’ll cover in the next post. Do you want to know what level of editing your manuscript needs? Head over to the Write One Blog for some tips.