Tag Archives: proofreading

Heartland Book Design, HBD

This company is VERY good at book design and I really enjoy working with them. If you are considering self-publishing, you may want to contact them. The website focuses on textbooks, especially mathematics, as they are set up to develop formulaic material better than most design companies – but they really are versatile and can work with most topics as well as with indie authors of novels.

 

http://www.heartlandbookdesign.com/

 

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Why I Love My Job

I am not sure what I like most about my job as a copy editior – being able to help authors improve the quality of the final product they are writing, or getting to read the book before almost anyone else!

Admittedly, what I read for the edit is not usually what actually ends up on the stands. Since there are always changes suggested in the edit process I rarely get to see the book in its finished form unless I am given a copy or go buy it (which I have been known to do), but all the same it is great to get to follow a book through all the drafts and revisions. Seeing a book go from its beginning stages, and following it through with a final editorial read after the majority of edits have been finished – what an adventure it is!

Still, I think that being able to help an author provide a better book excites me more than anything else. I feel great pride in seeing an author improve – not pride in myself, but rather pride in the author who has worked to learn new skills or build on skills they already have; learned to ask the questions that need answered to get to the heart of the issues they recognize they have or have learned they need to explore; or embraced suggestions that help to improve and expand the writing they are doing.

Ever since I was tutoring writers while I was in high school, through college, and now – I have always enjoyed watching that little light bulb flash into existence in the eye of the student when they recognized something new that would improve their skills and writing. I think that because I know I will always be a student (learn something new every day – it will keep your mind young!), and I will always be a teacher (what better way to remember what you have learned?), I will always love my job!

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Steps to Book Publication

I can give you self-publishers and indie authors an idea of the order of how things get done on the industry side, because I do a lot of work for a book design company, although I know that I do not know everything. Since you are doing it all on your own I thought you might like an idea of some of what is involved behind the scenes.

The first parts are for the author to do, the rest is where support personnel come in: beta readers (usually other authors or writing groups), agents (if you are lucky), publication editors, structural editors, copy editors, keyboarders or formatters, interior designers, cover artists, proofreaders, and printers. Some of these don’t apply to everyone, some apply to anyone who wants to produce a quality product, some to only print books, some to eBooks, some to all books, and some may never apply to the indie author who is self-publishing but can give a little bit of insight into the book industry.

  1. Write the first draft.
  2. Re-write 3 or 5 times.
  3. Get some beta readers (you can join an author’s group online or see if there is a local writer’s group in your area; colleges usually have one and often will welcome non-student writers).
  4. Do another draft.
  5. Before you decide if you want to publish an eBook or send the manuscript to a publication company or agent, you need to ask yourself what is best for you. If you are going to self-publish there are a lot of steps to take before doing the self-publish, if you want to do it right. If you are going to submit to an agent, you might want to get an intro to that agent from another author (another good reason to join a writer’s group). If you are going to submit it to a publishing house, do some research and determine which publishers print the books in your genre, what their guidelines for submission are, what they require for print and format for submissions, and how many copies they expect you to send if it is going to be hard copy – this is usually available on their websites but you may need to enquire. If you are submitting to an agent or publication company, you might want to have a structural editor or copy editor look it over before you submit it. Ask yourself this: How many authors submit books to publishers every year? And will they even bother to read my submission if it is not structurally sound and ‘clean copy’ (meaning minimal typos and mechanical errors)?
  6. Send it to the structural editor for big picture info (unless you have a line or copy editor that can pull double duty and provide that service as well, or the agent is doing that for you).
  7. Do another draft.
  8. Now you need to get a copy editor to find the things that beta readers never notice, since they are usually authors and miss the same things you would. Structural editors focus on the big picture, and don’t really attend to punctuation and grammar unless it smacks them in the forehead. The copy editor will (hopefully, if you get a decent one) catch grammar, mechanics, and even some of the structural issues.
  9. Run through the corrections and decide what to keep and what to toss out. Notice things that are consistent issues so you can work on improving your writing.
  10. Do yet another draft – you are almost done doing drafts!
  11. Get an editorial read done, though this is not always needed. Usually a copy editor can double at this part, doing a follow up of things that have been changed from the original to the current, but it is not a substitute for the copy edit unless you are an exceptionally clean writer (i.e., great grasp of grammar, understand punctuation and other mechanics of writing, and don’t need to rely on spell check or grammar check, etc.). This step can and often does follow the next step.
  12. Now keying, formatting, and proofreading – in that order. Proofreaders are there to catch the things that aren’t keyed right, and if you are using a service to format they should include proofreaders unless you are providing a fully keyed product ready to format. Some authors use formatting programs from different sources and do it themselves. This means you need to compare the finished product to the manuscript you started with and either have a proofreader go through it, or PROOFREAD it yourself, for sections that went missing in the formatting or were added incorrectly; as well as correct word breaks, change things that are not well broken in the page, tweak and twist things into place so the page has improved continuity and flow and visual appeal. Meanwhile watching for the inevitable errors that everyone so far has missed – because they are there. Keep in mind that most professional proofreaders do NOT actually read the book – their job is to make sure that there were no changes made between the manuscript authorized for print and the keying and formatting of the manuscript. They are required to work at such a fast pace that they do not really pay attention to content, although they are stellar at noticing niggly little typographical or mechanical errors in the ‘final’ manuscript. This is why it is that nearly thirty years ago I failed at proofreading, which was my first position in the book industry – I kept reading the manuscript and it slowed me down.
  13. Next, cover design – even if it was really the first thing you conceptualized – but get the blurb checked by your beta readers, copy editor, and maybe even some random folks out there in the world, before doing the cover design. That way you know you can get at least a one-line blurb inset into the front, and the full blurb or else reviews onto the back. This is often done simultaneously with the format and design of the interior, in the event that art needs to be consistent throughout. BUT if you are paying for one thing at a time and working to self-publish, that sometimes is not financially possible. Sometimes a very simple cover is better than a really complicated one – as long as the artwork is original or intriguing.
  14. Publish it! This is assuming you know that you are indeed self-publishing. At this point, having paid for all the steps up until now yourself, you probably better know that you are self-publishing or you just wasted a lot of money, because publishing companies use their own software and will re-format and re-proofread, and maybe even go back and re-edit the whole thing. Then they will determine what cover art will be best able to attract the largest portion of the intended audience, and they will change your pre-conceived cover design to suit the demographics of the audience that THEY think your book is targeting.
  15. Don’t forget to add an insert promoting previous or upcoming books in the front or back, as well as a note that tells us something about you, the author (with links to websites for readers to visit to see about upcoming books or other books already published as well as information on you, how to contact you, and what things you are up to – like book signings or conventions you are going to attend). Knowing something about you makes you real to the reader and they will become fans because you respond to THEM.
  16. So – you next need to find that online publication promoter, or hire a printer to print your book and try to sell hard copy.
  17. NOW start looking for avenues of getting it out there into the internet as a viable piece of reading material if you haven’t been doing that all along. Have a website? Even if it is one of those freebie ones? Post the titles of your work and your upcoming work. Got a blog? Use it. Got Facebook? Start a business page as an author. Don’t know any beta readers? Start a group of your own on, and police it to keep your name out there and visible, even if all you do is post the list of rules once a month. Use your author name on all of these things. You want to interconnect everything as much as you possibly can so you increase the possibility of reaching more people!
  18. Remember – the fans and readers are the ones that pay for the books you slaved over, so make sure that you find a way to let them have a voice! The wide variety of available social networking tools out there will help you reach your target audience if you use good tags on your blog, occasionally promote your site, and you actually respond to the comments where appropriate! Having a running conversation on your page or blog with several fans at the same time keeps you in their email and therefore in their minds. Ideally you have been posting running commentary on how long before the book will hit the market and where it will be available, so you have folks already wanting to buy it before it is even on the shelf/website!

Hopefully that all made sense and will be helpful to someone. Long winded today, aren’t I? I re-did this thing four times before I was totally happy with it, then edited it three times once I posted it…

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What makes a book a salable book? And who should decide?

Second question first: How many people think that the writer is who decides what makes a book salable? The publisher? The editor?  The PR guy in sales? The stores?

I submit that, ultimately, who decides if a book is salable is the reader. WHAT! How can someone who hasn’t read the book yet know how to decide if they should buy it? And furthermore, how would they know what would make it a good purchase? Unfortunately for all of those in the publishing industry (from sales clerk to author) it really is the buyer who makes the decision whether to purchase or not.

This came up recently in discussion with an author (who shall remain nameless but who knows who he is), but it wasn’t the first time the subject had been broached with me.

Psychologically speaking – and having a degree in psychology I can go out on a limb and say that with some sense of confidence and a bit of aplomb – most readers are visual learners by nature (otherwise they would wait for the video to come out). Therefore, the first things they are drawn to are visual things – the cover art, the title, and the blurb (whether it is on the cover, an insert, the advertisement, or the website). Then they may check the first few pages, or maybe they are like me and check a few pages in the middle of the book, to see if the writing style appeals to them. BUT – if they aren’t attracted to the cover and title, you don’t even get them to the point where they will read the blurb; especially in this day and age, where you can flip through hundreds of books in a matter of minutes because they are ‘recommended’ as ‘similar to previous purchases’ on the website where you order your books or eBooks!

My advice to authors, especially indie authors who are trying to be independent and work without the benefit of a publishing company that can market your book in the back inserts of those ‘similar’ books by other authors, is to ask for advice! Ask people what they think of the cover art you choose, and the colors/font/wording of the title. Get a fairly large sample (at least 25 or so) and compare what the people you talk to have to say about it for common themes. Having it relate to the story is a bonus, but attracting interest is the purpose of a cover.

Don’t ask an artist – while art is also a visual format, that doesn’t mean the artist is a reader – and you need to know what a reader is looking for in a book. By all means, have an artist help you design the cover if you can – but get opinions about it from readers!

Have the blurb read by your beta readers, proofreaders, and copy editors AFTER they have read the book, so they can let you know if it is a good representation of the book itself, whether it creates interest without giving away too much about the plot or story line, and if it would be something they would think would be a good lead in to the story itself. THEN have at least a dozen people who are READERS, but have not read your drafts, go over the blurb and see if they would at least find it interesting enough to read. Consider having a one line blurb on the front cover, as well as a full blurb in the insert, on the back page, or in the website or ad for your book.

Until you have a readership and a following, you need to market your book to the buyer in the only way you can. First contact!

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