Monday, July 29, 2013

Editing a Galley Proof

By Beth Groundwater

 I just finished editing the galley proof for my November book release, A Basket of Trouble, the long-awaited third book in my Claire Hanover gift basket designer series. What is a galley proof, you might ask? It's a page-by-page layout of the print-ready manuscript, sent to the author and others to do a final edit before it goes to the printer. Where did the term come from? As Wikipedia explains, "Galley proofs are so named because in the days of hand-set type, the printer would set the page into galleys, the metal trays into which type was laid and tightened into place. These would be used to print a limited number of copies for editing mark-up."

My Midnight Ink copy editor sent me the galley proof two weeks ago along with a few questions and a request for two missing items, a dedication and the acknowledgements. I was given the choice of marking my changes on the paper manuscript itself and mailing it back or emailing detailed change instructions to the copy editor. I always choose the second option and send back a list of directions that say, "Page xxx, xxx lines from top: change xxx to xxx." and so on.

This time, the file of changes was 5 pages long. Why so long? Well, one page of that was the Dedication and Acknowledgements.  Another set of changes were suggestions of which reviews of prior books in the series should be quoted in the pages prior to the start of the novel.

A full page of changes was due to a reader winning a character name in a silent auction at the Left Coast Crime conference in Colorado Springs, CO, this spring. I not only changed the character name to match hers, I changed the character's hair color to match hers and the character's shirt color to match her favorite color. I try to weave in personal details like this for readers who "win" a character name in a silent or live auction at a mystery conference.

Another set of changes were to address a question asked by the copy editor, who pointed out that I was inconsistent in talking about a business trip taken by my sleuth's husband, Roger Hanover. I made sure all references to the trip were for the same length of time and that references to his return all used the same day of the week. I sent him on the trip to get him out of the way, so Claire could feel free to snoop as much as she wanted. The trip was unimportant, really. But this is just one example of all of the small details that have to be kept consistent in a novel. This is especially true for mystery novels, where inconsistency could be interpreted by readers to be a clue!

Am I sure that all the errors have been caught? Heck, no! The copy editor and I are human, after all, and humans make mistakes. But at least there will be fewer mistakes in the final book than there were in the galley proof. And, the proof is going out to other Midnight Ink staff and reviewers, too. They all may catch errors that I and my copy editor did not.

My main concern is that A Basket of Trouble be a fun and exciting read. Hopefully no readers will be pulled out of the story by stumbling across a typo, spelling or punctuation error. Have you been pulled out of a story recently by such an error? Share it with us here!


Mario Acevedo said...

Nice post. By the time it gets to proofing the galley, I've practically memorized the text and so it's hard to spot a mistake. I suggest sending the galley to a fan and offering five bucks for every typo found.

Beth Groundwater said...

Great idea, Mario, but since I found lots and lots of changes to make, I'm afraid I'd break the bank! Also, the fan wouldn't be able to make the character name or business trip changes.

Anonymous said...

Beth, I just finished galleys for one of my latest books, and found something that neither I nor the editor had caught on the first edits. I had to restructure an entire scene toward the end of the book and shuddered to think we might both have missed the error until some reader found it. Needless to say we were both red faced.

Helen Ginger said...

Small mistakes or errors don't usually bother me in a book (unless there are a lot of them). If it's something that throws me out of the book, though, that can make me stop reading.

I'm sort of like Mario. I tend to read and re-read until I glaze over goofs, so I try to set the manuscript or galley aside for a few days before I begin a read-through.

Beth Groundwater said...

Thanks for your comments, Velda and Helen. I'm glad you caught that scene-changing error, Velda! Helen, what I do is if I find my attention wandering while I'm proofing, I put aside the manuscript, too, for a few hours, at least. That's why I often can't proof more than 2-3 chapters/day.

Beth Groundwater said...

Comments from Facebook:

A fun post Beth--as a former editor I've found reading a piece backwards eliminates that over-familiarity we can sometimes get after the 50th reading of something. Doesn't work for big things like scene changes, but for small inconsistencies it's very helpful. And--not to lose sight of the ball here--congratulations on reaching the galley proof stage!

Dorothy M. Johnson, in an intro to her story "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance," tells how she moved the story back between 19th and 20th centuries over several drafts, and how (since the main part of the story is told in flashback) she slipped up and made a reference to an airport in a scene in 1910! When the story was reprinted in her collection "Indian Country" Johnson "hollered and stomped and warned them" after she read the galley proofs to take out the airport. Nobody listened. The airport in 1910 appears in the first edition. Thanks for the blog, Beth!

My reply:
Thanks for the comments, Sue & Jeff, and thanks for the congrats, Sue! Great story, Jeff, about that anachronistic error!

Terry Shames said...

I'm with Sue, reading backwards on the very last draft. Last time I did this I found 25 errors AFTER the copy editor had been over it. I actually have a blog coming out tomorrow about this very subject over at Cindy Carrol's blog.

And by the way I left a longer comment about editing on your website.

Deborah Sharp said...

Nice explanation of some of the editing steps taken to get to the final, published product. I can't think of any specific glaring errors that have pulled me out of recent stories. Sadly, though, I can often tell when a book has been self-published by an author who doesn't believe in proof-reading or editing. Yikes! Typo city . . . and very unprofessional.

Beth Groundwater said...

Thanks for your comments, Terry and Deb, and for your comment at my blog, Terry. And yes, Deb, I agree that if someone self-publishes a book, they shouldn't skip that vital step of having a professional editor scrub the text.

Unknown said...

Great post, Beth. I learned the hard way that you can never have too many eyes looking for those pesky typos and inconsistencies. Reading backward is recommended, but I don't think it would help catch continuity errors. I now blow my screen up to 200% which forces me to read more slowly.

Meg said...

Great post, great cover too! And yes, been there - done that with galleys. When my eyeballs fall out, I'm done. LOL

Susan said...

Interesting post, Beth. Thanks!

Beth Groundwater said...

Thanks for your comments, Diane, Meg and Susan, and thanks for your compliment on my cover art, Meg! Diane, the idea to blow up your manuscript text 200% on your screen is a simple and interesting one. Yes, it would force you to read it slower, and thus catch more.

Mark W. Danielson said...

The advantage of getting your book back from the type setter is so much time has passed since you last read your manuscript it is like reading a new book. As such, errors scream at you while you scream back. I found 15 pages of corrections in my fall release. Not fun, but definitely worth the effort. (By the way, most were rewording corrections, not typos.)