Check, check, and check again.
So here we are already into the middle of January 2012. Another year with new ideas awakening and beginning to blossom like the first spring flowers in my garden.
In my case there was no time to think of new ideas because I had one final check to make on my current novel - the printer’s proofs. They arrived as soon as the postal service got back to normal after the New Year holiday. At this stage there should be no major changes made by the author, only corrections to any errors the typesetter may have made, such as accidentally transposing the letters in a word, or missing out a word or punctuation. Some authors start at the end of the book and work backwards to ensure they are really checking each word and not just reading. I check mine line by line using a ruler. The author can be asked to pay if he/she wishes to make changes at this late stage, especially if taking out, or adding phrases affect the page layout.
The last time for changes is during the copy editing stage. Most writers will admit that we see what we think we have written, and often miss mistakes such as changing the name of a character, or their hair or eye colour, mid-way through the book, or simply using a favourite word too often. Usually a good copy-editor will pick up these mistakes, but not always. It is crucial that the author should examine carefully any changes or corrections made by the copy-editor. This is the last chance for the author to check and make any changes, but by this stage major alterations should not be required.
I am sure most of you will have heard of the Australian publisher who had to destroy a large number of copies of a cookery book. Presumably both copy-editor and author overlooked the following error. “Add salt and a pinch of ground black people to the mix.”
It might have been laughable but it was a financial loss.
The topic of copy-editing is being raised again and again now that more people are using the internet for self-publishing for digital readers. Also many, like myself, are making changes to early books, hoping our writing has improved with the years. These too need the scrutiny of a copy-editor if irritating mistakes are to be avoided and punctuation used correctly. This week I read that an agency, known to many of you, charges five pounds per thousand words. Some charge two hundred pounds for a full length novel, presumably up to a maximum length.
This blog post was not intended to cover digital publications but since I have mentioned them I should add that a good book jacket is another essential and a cost unless you can do it yourself. Almost anyone can set up as a digital publisher so it is safer to check whether they provide marketing and copy editing, and the other tasks undertaken by reputable book publishers, before committing your precious work to their care.
Viburnum blooming bravely through the winter - a sign of perseverance which all writers need.