Back in the old days—the old days being 2010—the only way to check that your CreateSpace paperback was a-okay was to order a proof copy.
This wasn’t a bad thing. It was exciting. So exciting that the postman began to wonder why you were waiting at the door for him every morning, your eyes peeled for the cardboard package that was the very first copy of your (very first?) book. Finally when it did arrive, there came the hours of gazing at it adoringly (taking pictures of it on its own, taking pictures of it amidst the other books on your shelves, carefully polishing away the fingerprints visible on the glossy cover card with that neat little cloth that came with your iPhone…) and then going through the pages one by one, marveling at it all (“Is technology great, eh?”) while simultaneously checking for wayward paragraph indents.
But then, a stomach drop: an if that was supposed to be an it. And then a missing word. And then an extra space that seemed to create a hole of white space in the middle of the page.
So you ordered another proof copy, and that wasn’t quite as exciting.
The third one was just an expense you regretted having to add to your “Expenditures” list.
The fourth you grabbed off the postman with disdain.
The fifth you couldn’t bear to look at, which kind of defeated the purpose.
And so on and so on.
(If anyone is thinking, five proof copies? How hard are typos to find? I can only deduce that you have yet to experience the joys of trying to make tens of thousands of words you are so familiar with you can finish the sentences with your eyes closed absolutely perfect.)
But these days, proofing your book is a little bit easier. CreateSpace, who I use for all my printed books, now has three proofing options:
Option 1: The Digital Proofer
After you have submitted your files for review and CreateSpace has okayed them, they’ll offer you a link to their Digital Proofer: a fancy display that will enable you to virtually flip through your book—as close an approximation to flipping through a physical copy as possible.
Click for a larger image.
What I like about it: you can see the whole book, including the cover, and those dotted lines help you visualize what the finished pages will look like. It’s always helpful to see your text in as many different ways as possible.
What I don’t like about it: in my experience it crashes Safari all the damn time. Also, it’s not a printed proof. You can see what will appear on what page, yes, but what about how the pages will feel? What about the thickness of the paper? The colors on the cover? The glue of the spine?
What it’s useful for: I think if you order a printed proof and find typos, next time round you can rely on the Digital Proofer instead of yet another physical copy which will cost $$$ and take a week to arrive.
Option 2: Download a PDF
If your browser doesn’t take too kindly to the fancy digital proofer above, you can download a PDF instead. I find this a tad pointless because you uploaded a PDF, so what’s different about this?
What I like about it: As I said above, it’s always helpful to look at your book in as many different ways as possible. And unlike the PDF you uploaded, this will show you your book on a two-page spread, with page 4 opposite page 5, page 6 opposite page 7, and so on.
What I don’t like about it: This isn’t strictly how the pages will appear, because you’ll lose some of the margins to binding in the physical book. In the image above, for example, the “Praise for” text looks like it shifted too far to the right, but it’s not—when that page is one of hundreds glued to the spine of the book, that text will appear dead centre. It doesn’t show you the cover but then that would be pointless as it’ll look exactly like the cover PDF you uploaded. Also, it’s not a printed proof.
When to use it: Only to give your book another typo-hunt run through, I’d say.
Option 3: Order a Proof Copy
I can’t understand how anybody could skip this step. Not only is it exciting to finally hold your book in your hands, but how could you honestly put something out there that you hope people will buy without ever having seen it yourself? It just doesn’t make sense to me. I’d be awake at night in a cold sweat of terror wondering when the refund demands were going to start coming in…
What I like about it: Everything. What’s not to like? Besides the romance/excitement factor, this is the ONLY way to check that your book has come out the way you intended. No other option will even give you a clue as to what the pages or cover is like, and we all know proofing from paper is far more effective than proofing from screen.
What I don’t like about it: After a couple of rounds, the waiting and the expense can start to grate. That’s why I’d recommend that you order one proof copy and check your corrections using one of the methods above after that.
When to use it: Always.
Tip: you can order up to 5 proof copies of any book. In the past I’ve given reviewers these proof copies, as I want them to (i) receive the book before it’s on sale and (ii) know it’s a proof, and all CS proof copies have “Proof” printed on the back page. So I order my full five. If I need more, I re-submit the interior file—even though it’s the same one—and go through the “submit files” bit again, and then even though it’s the same book, I can order up to another five proof copies. Simples!
Join me on Thursday for proofing your Kindle book.