Working with Your Proof Copy

Working with Your Proof Copy

It’s been a little while since I’ve posted a blog, but with Christmas and New Years and snow and cold and more… I’ve had to step back just a bit. It’s time, now, to get back to posting blogs.

One of the things I’ve been able to do over the Christmas Season is to proof my printed book from Createspace. It’s coming out in April and I needed to get through the proofing process quickly so I can move on to the book launch teams (starting in February).

I wanted to take some time now to talk about effective ways to work with your proof copy so that your proofing experience goes well.

Once you set up your book with Createspace or Ingram (blogs coming soon), they will give you the opportunity to ship a proof copy to yourself. The purpose of this is so that you can personally go over your book to make sure it is up to the standard you want.

I watched a Youtube video a short while ago about a guy complaining that he had ordered a proof copy from Ingram and couldn’t believe the poor job they had done on proofing his book. I was shocked that he thought they were supposed to proof his book. That’s not the way it works. 🙂 These companies do not proof your copy themselves.  That is your job. If they were to proof it, you should expect a huge bill. It’s not their job to proof your copy, it’s yours.

Once your book is set up, Createspace takes about 10 minutes to process it and then they will give you the chance to look at your book digitally through their viewer. At this stage, it is just the interior pages that you can see in the viewer. They will point out areas where your print is outside of the printing area and you will have the chance to look at what your book should look like once it is printed.

If you see a problem, go back to your formatted book file and fix it. You can then re-upload your files and go through the digital viewer again.

Once you’re happy with what you see, you save it and continue. They will tell you that your book will be approved for printing within 24 hours. The first proof I sent through took 23 hours to approve. The second took about 4 hours for Createspace to approve it. You are then given the chance to view your book again digitally, but this time they will include your cover file as well. It’s fun to see it.

Next, you have a chance to order a printed proof copy which can be mailed to your home. DON’T skip this step!
The proof copy cost me the regular price for printing a POD (Print-On-Demand) copy of my book. For me with my number of pages (248 pages, cream paper, b&w printing), that cost $3.82 US. There was a $6.99 shipping charge (from the US to Canada) in addition to the printing price so the whole thing cost me $10.84 US to ship.

I was impressed at the speed of shipping. The first copy was ordered late Wednesday night and then it was printed and shipped out by 7am the next morning (Thursday). It arrived at my house the following Tuesday by UPS (keep in mind that was across the US/Canada border and included a weekend).

It is a great feeling to hold that first printed copy in your hand! It looked great. Createspace did a great job and it was an absolute thrill to finally see the book in print!

Here’s the problem. Since it’s so awesome and fun and exciting to see it in hand, you may be tempted to make sure not a single page gets crinkled. Throw out that idea. The purpose of the proof copy is to proof it. Consider this, your proof copy is much more valuable if it’s full of your scribbles and corrections showing that it truly was a well-used proof copy! If you must have an untouched one, order two proofs and put the precious one in a vault.


Here’s what I did with the Proof Copy:

I examined the front and back matter

Keep in mind that the front and back matter (copyright pages, coming soon stuff, etc.) is easy to gloss over since you’re likely more focused on the actual body of the book. Because of that, it could be full of errors. For instance, I found that I spelled the word, “Publishing” wrong on the first page. That’s weird, isn’t it? How come the spellchecker in MS Word didn’t catch that? I don’t know, but that’s a big mistake you don’t want to miss.

I also found the map in the front of the book didn’t look the way I wanted it to. I got rid of something on the map that didn’t fit with the book and changed the size of the map itself so it was larger and easier to see and read.
Look over your front matter in detail!

Keep in mind as well that you need to go over your index/table of contents (if you have one) carefully to ensure that the page numbers in the index/table of contents line up properly with the chapter page numbers.

Read through the entire book, cover to cover
As I began to read through my book from cover to cover, I was amazed at how many problems I found. I actually found some words spelled incorrectly for the context. I also found a lot of punctuation errors (some were as a result of the transferring from one program to the next–keep an eye out). I even found some sentences that really needed to be reworded and I took out some stuff.

I scribbled throughout my proof copy and probably found somewhere around 400 corrections. Understand that this is after an enormous amount of editing and proofing and a LOT of different people going over my book.  It is important to go over your book with a fine tooth comb!

I hadn’t actually planned on reading right through it. I’m very glad I did. Don’t be afraid to take the time to read through your book, cover to cover and don’t be surprised with the number of issues you find.

Since I had made so many changes, I also decided that I would, after updating the files on Createspace, mail myself a second proof copy.

I’m glad I did. When I changed things up, the font on the index in the front of the book was changed (my fault) and I ended up reading through it again, cover to cover, and found more issues. You will likely continue to find issues the more you edit it because your book will never be perfect so you can’t do this forever, but at the same time you need to be careful to catch as many as you are able.

Self-Publishing has a bit of a bad reputation for poorly edited material. Don’t contribute to that reputation if you can help it.

Keep in mind that your chapters and much of your front matter should be on the recto page (right-hand side page).  Confirm that this is the case and that you do not have too many blank pages throughout your book (blank pages cost money for you to print).

Have another pair of eyes look it over
I had someone else look it over and one of the first suggestions she made had to do with the headers. I had put the book title up on the top of the page. If you look at fiction books, some have text in the header and some do not. There is no real standard on this kind of thing.

As we looked at it, I thought about making it smaller and then changing it around a bit, but in the end the second pair of eyes convinced me it looks better without a header.

The second thing that she found had to do with the end of the book. I have included chapter one from book two in the back of this copy as a way to encourage readers to look for book two (coming out June 4/18). I had intended to put the title of the second book there, but I had instead used the title for book one. Big, annoying mistake. I’m glad it was caught.

The final area in which I heavily relied on the eyes of another person had to do with the cover print. There is an option for a glossy or matte finish on the cover. Fiction books can be either, although a lot of them tend to be glossy. The glossy actually makes the colors of the image “pop” a little more off the page and looks good. The matte doesn’t cause the colors to be as vibrant, but it has a nice look and feel to it.

I ended up asking someone for their thoughts on the matter and they helped me to choose the matte finish. I like how it has a different look and feel to it.

Examine the Cover
Take a good look at your cover. Go over it in detail, hold it at arm’s length, maybe even set it down and look at it from across the room. You should also have others look at it.

You have to remember that people do in fact judge a book by its cover. As such, your cover needs to look good and properly represent your book.

I found that my title was too high on the front and I ended up moving my subtitle from the top of the cover to the bottom. I also shrunk my own name down significantly. I had to play with the font a little bit and chose an embossing setting for the subtitle as it helped to make it stand out a little bit more on the page.

You need to also check your ISBN (make sure it all matches up). Confirm that you have the right ISBN and that the number on the barcode matches the ISBN on the copyright page. Createspace is not likely to mess that one up, but remember it’s your book and you need to make sure the quality is where it should be.

NOTE: I’ll be posting soon about cover design, but in the meantime, know that Createspace takes your ISBN, creates a barcode for it and inserts it in a 1.5″ x 2″ area on the bottom right hand corner of the back cover. This is a nice feature and saves you having to do it yourself.

For a bit more information on the proofing process, Createspace has a good article called, A Guide to Reviewing Your Book Proof.

Keep an eye out for soon-to-be-posted blogs on setting up your interior files for uploading to Createspace and Ingram, creating your cover image, setting up your book with Pressbooks and more.

Comment below about your experience working with proof copies.


24 thoughts on “Working with Your Proof Copy

  1. Thanks for relating your experience. Particularly true that, as important as the fine tooth comb is, at some point you just have to stop editing.

    1. You see… That’s the hard part. It can always be adjusted or corrected or changed just a bit more. There is always some hidden mistake on page 84 or 203 that you won’t find till next time you go over it. There comes a point where you have to stop fine-tuning and just go ahead. 🙂
      Thanks for your comment.

  2. I loved working with CreateSpace. They were always supportive and knowledgeable. Great customer service! It was nice having the free round of changes–plus there was no hassle and argument like I had with the first company I went to (to self publish my book).

      1. I was also lucky in that my first book was under a hundred pages…editing was easier. *laugh* During the proof review process, though, I was thinking “What am I going to do when it’s 400+ pages?!?!” 😉

  3. I tend to ‘save’ my request for proof copies until there are multiples – living in australia, the postage is horrible (3x what you pay). Three at a time is better, and I don’t order them as proofs. What I do is download the pdf print and proof that, bit by bit, line by line (using a solid colour or white piece of something like a bookmark so the other lines can’t distract the eye).
    When I do order the books, it’s not the proof, it’s the actual book. When I’ve finished the ‘final’ and ‘late’ proofing process (using a notebook to indicate/write/note each and every piece I want to work on/fix/amend [avg = 8 per book, even after all of the above] there are no internal marks on the book, and I can donate them to the local library.
    I’ve asked if, when it comes time to ‘debit’ the book, if I can have it back. They’ve agreed, so I now get to see all the comments the readers put in there! Sneaky, but very interesting.

      1. A library debit is when they want to dispose of the book – update the computer system, mark the barcode with a black line, and put it on the shelves to sell (for $1) to the public.
        Yes, people always write in books. They fix the grammar errors, the put question marks, they make comments – haven’t you seen them? It annoys me, distracts me, but when it’s my book that I’m getting back as a debit, it’s enlightening! But I do have to do a one-for-one swap: donation for a debit.

        1. Lol… I wonder if that’s a cultural thing. In Canada, is generally frowned upon to write in a book from a library. Some people will do it, but it’s always a shock to me when you find something written in a book from the library.
          That must be an awesome experience to get that book back from them with all those comments!

          1. I had to get to know them very well, offer my soul and every new book, and promise to one day do the author-promo thing in their library!

          2. I’d rather wait until I have a good number of backlist titles, so I can have a few of each at the lunch (whoops, launch – freudian) and the postage costs will be better spread (whoops, spent) – is it lunchtime?

        2. I love hearing about little differences like that from country to country. I wonder what they do in the US or UK with that kind of thing? Do they write in the books from the library?

          1. I’m sure it’s frowned on in most countries to mark, fold, or write in a book you don’t own. Some people just can’t help themselves. I’ve never done it – promise!

  4. I totally agree about getting a proof copy and reading it cover to cover. No matter how many times you’ve edited your book, a complete change of format will always reveal small things you simply did not see. :/

  5. This is the same process I go through with my proof copies. After working through it and making the corrections, I copy that file and re-format it to make my ebooks…then I use the ebook to do yet another read through (and check for any formatting issues). That is pretty funny someone thought the print on demand folks were going to proof his work :)).

  6. I always order two or three proof copies. One for my editor, another reader, and myself. Those proof copies are ragged by the time we are done! My editor literally reads the book four or more times! Once for content and story line, then out loud with me, then several more times doing formatting and typos, etc. We ALWAYS find more mistakes! Another wonderful thing about CreateSpace…when we have a list of mistakes we’ve found in my books, we can pull them, fix the mistakes and offer them again. And yes, their shipping is incredible. I did notice a pretty big slow-down over the holidays, but this was the first time. If you purchase copies of your book in bulk when you are ready to sell for book-signings, etc. the shipping really goes down! So that’s another advantage. I love your posts! So much great information for indie authors!

    1. Thanks so much for the encouragement, Deborah. I’m glad this is all so helpful. One of my goals was to provide a very useful and practical blog for self-publishers!
      It amazes me how many mistakes can be found even after you’ve run over it with a fine tooth comb! I ended up recently getting Grammarly and making good use of it to find a lot of problems. It sure does find a lot. 🙂

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