Proofs of The Mistress of Nothing

27 January 2009 in The Mistress of Nothing

Today the proofs of my new book arrived in the post!  This is the stage where the book has been typeset by the printers (totally out of date terminology, but you get my drift).  The writer receives a sheaf of loose A4 sheets, with the book laid out as it will be once it is bound - font, page numbers, etc.  You need to read through the book, looking for typographical errors.  The proofs are also read by one or two other people who are looking for the same kinds of mistakes.

Writers can make more substantial changes to the text at this stage, but this is expensive for the publisher; contracts tend to stipulate that above a certain percentage of pages (10% usually, sometimes less), the writer will need to pick up the cost of resetting the type. It strikes me that, in the digital age, this is probably a hangover from times past, and that resetting a book should be much easier now, but I could be wrong - I guess someone, somewhere, has to input the changes. At any rate, extensive changes at this stage are frowned upon, though I do have writer friends who have decided that their book does need substantial changes at proof stage, which they have gone ahead and paid to have done.

In my own experience, reading proofs is both pleasurable and profoundly queasy-making - this is it, this is really it, this is the book, take it or leave it.  In the past I’ve tended to make only a few tiny changes to the text - a word or phrase here or there, no more - alongside of correcting any typographical errors. But maybe this time will be different and I’ll go completely crazy and feel a desperate urge to rewrite the entire thing from beginning to end.

I won’t know until I read it.  Yikes.


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