What’s The Difference Between?

Dandy and Coco Discuss

The other day I mentioned to a non-writer friend that this week’s work schedule would likely revolve around reviewing the page proofs for my forthcoming novel, Library of the Sapphire Wind

Here, for your amusement, is a more or less accurate dramatization of our conversation.

Me: “This week I’ll be doing page proofs for Library of the Sapphire Wind.”

Her: “But I thought you did that the other week, right before your internet crashed.  I remember your saying how happy you were that you’d turned them in right before that happened.”

Me: “No.  That was the copy edit.  These are the page proofs.”

Her: “What’s the difference?”

Me: “Copy edit is when someone goes through the manuscript and nitpicks it to death.  A good copy editor catches little inconsistencies, asks weird questions, and makes certain how you punctuate is consistent.  The copy editor also puts in notes for the people who will be formatting the book.”

Her: “Isn’t that what the editor does?  I remember you said you’d addressed your editor’s notes a few months ago.”

Me: “I did.  For this book, the editor­ made some suggestions as to how I might expand certain scenes, and add in some back history for characters.  The editor is more concerned with content.  The copy editor is more concerned with how that content is presented.”

Her: “Oh.  I think I get that, but go on…  What are page proofs?”

Me: “Page proofs are, more or less, what the book will look like when it’s in print­.  There’s no cover, just the interior.  Page proofs are my last chance to take a look at the text, make sure no oddities have crept in.”

Her: “Oddities?”

Me: “Like weird formatting glitches.  One of the major settings in Through Wolf’s Eyes is a town called Eagle’s Nest.  However, when the book was set in print, it was changed in some places to ‘eagle’s nest,’ and in others to “Eagle’s nest.” 

Her: “That is odd.  Doesn’t the publisher have someone who is supposed to check the manuscript for things like that?”

Me: “Absolutely.  However, for something like a town name that is also a phrase that would usually be in lower case, even an attentive proofreader might miss an error.  That’s why I like to go through the page proofs, so I’ll catch anything they might miss.”

Her: “Wait!  I know you’re really careful about going over your manuscripts before you turn them in.  Jim reads them, too, and you usually mention some other readers in your acknowledgements.   I’d think there wouldn’t be much to catch.”

Me: (laughing) “You’d be amazed.  I’ve had reader notes that, after reading them, you’d assume they’d read completely different books, the comments are that different.  And remember what I said about editor’s notes?  Places where material is added—and sometimes even more, when material has been removed—errors creep in.”

Her: “That’s amazing.  Putting a book together takes a lot more stages than I realized.”

Me: “And the terms edit, editing, editor, draft, drafting, proof, proofing, they do overlap, don’t they?  But they’re all crucial stages.  Which is why, this week, even though I’ve gone over Library of the Sapphire Wind before, I’m going over it again.”

Curtain falls…  And I pick up my red pencil and get back to work!


7 Responses to “What’s The Difference Between?”

  1. Dame Trouble Says:

    That’s a great description of the differences between the different editing stages that lead up to book. I have one author friend who goes through the manuscript backwards during copy-edits as that helps her be more likely to catch wrongness because she can’t get caught-up in the story again that way.

    • janelindskold Says:

      That’s a really interesting approach. One experience most authors have had is catching something an proofreader missed and realizing that the reason is this was a particularly exciting passage and they got caught up in the story!

      • Alan Robson Says:

        I proofread this and was immediately struck by the typo “an proofreader”. This reinforces my contention that the very worst person to proofread a piece of writing is the person who wrote it in the first place. They tend to see the words that they *thought* they’d written rather than the words that they actually wrote.

        The very best proofreader is a person who has never seen the piece before. That way there are no preconceptions.

        I’m terrible at proofing my own work. Time after time, my wife has caught errors in something I’d have sworn on a stack of thesaurii was absolutely perfect. So it goes…


      • janelindskold Says:

        I’ll leave it. I’m learning a new keyboard and the screwups are amazing…

      • janelindskold Says:

        PS I rarely proof replies in Comments.

  2. King Ben's Grandma Says:

    Excellent! We readers *should* know how much work goes into creating a book. Writing the story is just the first of many steps.

    I’ve pre-ordered both through my local independent book store, and am looking forward to their releases.

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