Monday, July 14, 2014

How Do I Edit Thee? Let Me Count the Ways—

Having just completed my first self-published (or in the vernacular—“Indie”) print book, I’ve learned a few things. A few. But there are so many more things for me to learn that at times I feel like curling up in the corner of my office and chewing on my sweater cuffs. After publishing eighteen novels with regular publishing houses, Indie publishing is all new to me. I never had to worry much about whether that sentence really needed a second comma. I didn't even know what an em-dash was. There was always someone in the publishing house whose job description included “Knowledge of commas and em-dashes.”
Now all of that is mine to worry about, and suddenly I find myself Googling the ins and outs of the em-dash. Ask my husband. The em-dash is my current obsession. Em-Dash. I even like the sound of the word. 

I digress. Back to my print book, Strange Faces. 

With this one I chose to go with Create Space. They have a good reputation and the interface was fairly easy for us to follow. We input the document and the PFM Box translated it into what what would become a printed copy of my book. 
Oh? You don’t know what a PFM Box is? Um. There are just some things about the interwebs and computers that are Pure Magic. Actually, it’s an acronym from the 80s back when the Apple IIe and the Commodore 64 were hot, screaming machines. 
I digress. I must stop doing that. 
The bulk and purpose of this post is to tell you about A STEP YOU DON’T WANT TO LEAVE OUT. And yes, the capital letters are there on purpose. 
We downloaded the document onto Create Space’s Magic Box and then were prompted—did we want to review it digitally, or did we want a physical proof copy? Actually, with a sigh of “I’m tired of this,” I would have opted for— “I’ll just scan it digitally and be done with it.” 

Earlier however, my cover artist made a point of sending me an email suggesting that I not bypass the print proof. So, I didn’t. I ordered a print proof. 

Yes, it adds another 2-3 weeks to the process, but is it worth it? 

For me, a resounding yes. What’s 2-3 weeks for the Indie? that’s the beauty of what I do, I’m an Indie. I’m not on anyone’s time schedule but my own. 

So, armed with a highlighter pen and yellow stickies I went to town on my ARC (In the biz, that stands for Advanced Reader Copy.) I found several errors. Little things. Hardly noticeable things. A few extra commas, little dashes that should have been em-dashes. (Did I tell you I was obsessed?) 
It’s my opinion that somehow, you are able to “see” these things better on a printed piece of paper than a computer screen. I am quite sure you don’t get a feel or sense of the print book unless you are actually holding a print book in your hands. 

I know there are authors out there who write their things entirely on the computer. They edit entirely on the computer. They proof their manuscripts entirely on the computer screen. The thing never sees ink dry on paper until after its published. I sort of wish I was one of those people. I know I would save money on printer ink. (My printer ink perpetually reads “low”.) 

But there, you have it. So, if you are thinking of Create Space, I would say always, always opt for the proof copy. I’m glad I followed that advice. 


  1. Hi, Linda,

    I'm jumping up and down! Yes, you were so right to ask for the print ARC. I haven't self-published anything because I'm really tech challenged. But with Five Star/Gale/Cengage when I would get the print ARCs, I always found mistakes. And these books went through three editors as well as back and forth with me each time rereading. There's just something about a print copy! You find errors. Yes, they are usually small one, but it's still mighty embarrassing if you don't catch them.

  2. Hi Linda,

    Yes, I definitely recommend getting the proof copy. One one of mine, I discovered that the spine was off even though they said it was OK. So it was easy to fix, and I used that copy as a giveaway. FWIW, it only took me less than a week to get my proof, but you're farther away, and I hear that they're busier now. So there's that...

  3. I agree Jacqueline and Bobbi - it's so easy to miss stuff if you rely on a digital copy. During the last few years of my traditionally published books, the houses relied more and more on digital ARCs - and it's so easy to miss stuff. I am even thinking of getting a proof copy of my next novel BEFORE I put it up as an eBook. We shall see.

  4. Proofing's an in between thing for me: I don't hate it, but I sure don't relish it. In any case, I believe you can proofread forever, and I applaud your zeal for getting a proof copy. You can't proofread too much, especially considering the stigma attached to indies.