In my last post I described the first two stages of writing and publishing a novel, taking as an example my forth-coming book, Half The World Away. This time I’m moving onto stages 3 and 4, the copy edit and proof-read.
3. The copy editor sent me an electronic version of the manuscript where she had marked and corrected all the errors in punctuation and grammar and also style (e.g. italics or different fonts) and had flagged up any inconsistencies, queries or concerns with comments in the margin. My job was to work through and address these adding my own comments. Examples included everything from the correct way of accenting a Chinese phrase, to the timescale of the story, the use of acronyms, if a particular shrub would be in flower at a certain time of year and whether to call the evening meal tea, dinner or supper (a north/south discussion, and we agreed on tea as the characters are Mancunian). Once I had answered all the queries, I emailed the file back to the copy-editor who then finalized the changes and sent a ‘clean’ copy back to the desk editor.
4. The page proofs are unbound pages that contain the typeset book, laid out so it appears exactly as it will when published. The proof-read was the last chance to find any typos or small corrections that needed making before the book went to print. Armed with a red pen I read thirty or so pages at a time, taking a break in between, to help me concentrate on the text. As usual, I worried that I would miss something so it was reassuring that a professional proofreader would also be working on it and our corrections would be collated. Among the mistakes I caught were anomalies in the time difference between China and the UK (how many times did I already check that!), a random bit of italicised text and a rogue beard left over from when I’d changed one character’s facial hair. The pages with my red marks were sent back via special delivery.
There’s always an undercurrent of panic for me at that point as it is too late to change anything, there is no time to make anything better, the book is in someone else’s hands…
The next stage will be getting the cover design and jacket copy through. Watch this space.