Monday, October 15, 2012

Proof myths debunked

With the publishing of my first full-length novel, "19 Years 10 Months 24 Days," I learned a lot about publishing that had up to that point been much theorizing and philosophy. One of the most interesting discoveries was the function of a proof in the publishing process. Here are a few misconceptions that I had. I shall call them myths, and debunk them accordingly.

I used createspace in a DIY fashion, formatting the ebook and directing the cover with my own photo and online tools. When I got the proof in the mail, it was very groovy and pretty much "that" experience that an author has. However, I had to run off to work, so I left the proof to look at later. I closed that night, and I got home an hour and a half later than usual, so I was dead tired. I ate some food and went to bed with my flashlight to read under the covers (so as not to wake the spouse unit) and wind down, as usual. For the fun of it, I decided to go ahead and read my proof, not expecting to edit, just to read. I got five sentences in and realized that reading in bed was a much, much different experience than going over my manuscript poised at my desk with a cup full of something caffeinated. Which brings me to…

Myth #1 − A digital proof is just as good as a physical one.

Now this is only a partial myth as the online and digital proofs generated on createspace were, in my opinion, very good. There was nothing in the physical proof that was not shown in the digital/PDF proofs. If you understand the PDF and digital layouts, you can make all the changes needed to have a well-formatted proof. I would have no problem approving a book for distribution after only seeing the digital proofs, if I had to.

The reading experience, however, was very different in print. I was amazed at how many things I caught that I had not found in my digital editing. I had even read the manuscript backward, five pages at a time to try to isolate emotional ties and dissect the passages from the holistic view that made me skip over words. Even more, things that I had left in intentionally trying to be artsy and descriptive did not work in my brain at midnight in bed with my flashlight. It took seeing a print version to realize many changes to make the book more reader friendly. It's very psychological. It soon became clear that there would be more than one proof to be ordered. Which debunks…

Myth #2 − Your proof is so close to done that it’s just kind of a formality/fun thing for an author to have.

I thought that I would order my proof, fix a few things here and there, and be ready to distribute in a week.

Three months later…

The first proof ended up having edits on almost every page. Having the physical proof gave me a whole new perspective, and one I really needed. I think some authors are so excited to be at the final stages of publishing that they get their proof looking to not find things to change instead of seeing the proof as a stage in the editing process. From this experience I will be ordering a physical proof earlier in the process to use specifically for editing, just because it helped me so much. I know all authors are different and with the rise of ebooks, some authors may have a better eye for screen-editing, but it's good for me to know that the print proof makes a big difference. But if you want my advice, print or screen, don't ever say "Oh, it's okay, I'll leave it" when going over your proof. Your proof is the chance to make changes before there's a copy in the library or people have bought it and you are confessing that there were too many mistakes and you will be uploading a newer version. And yeah, if I order a proof earlier, it will mean ordering more proofs. At CS, to print my book was $3.68 and another $4.00 or so to ship. To me, $7.00 a proof is worth what it allows me to do, editing-wise. And with the DIY capabilities with CS, the only costs I had directly with publishing the book were proofs. Around $21.00 when it was done. Another bit of advice: it will take more than one proof, but, don't fall prey to…

Myth #3 − It doesn’t matter how many times you go over it, you will always want to keep changing things in an endless spiral of doom.

As a writer, I've heard a million times, "Oh, I could never write a book, I'd never be happy with it and just need to keep changing it!" That's great, but my personal experience was, it did shape up the way I wanted it. The first proof was a disaster, but the second proof was much better. The third was even better and I was happy with where it was at. At that point, I took advantage of the digital proofs and formatting the ebooks for my final edits and then approved the proof for distribution. Changes and edits are good, but don't let some artistic cliché like that statement interfere with the process, because if you believe you will never be happy with it, you'll be more likely to skip over changes that do need to be made.

I'm gearing into the editing phase on Matilda's first print book, and I'm eager to put my new knowledge to the test and learn some more. Any other experiences out there with the wonderful, beguiling proof? Share in the comments!

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