After your copyeditor offers suggested additions and deletions to your MS Word manuscript via Track Changes marks and perhaps suggests rewrites to muddy or confusing passages via margin comments, you will be modifying your manuscript as you accept or reject individual changes and make minor rewrites.
Even though your copyeditor and you will have been careful, lingering or newly introduced content errors will occur nevertheless. It's quite common, for example, to see no space or two spaces between two words, two periods at the end of a sentence, duplicate words such as "the the" in mid-sentence, and missing, incorrect, or other duplicate punctuation marks. Even spelling errors occasionally sneak through.
You may be so familiar with your book's content by now that you don't notice these types of errors as you read the PDF "proof" of your book's interior. That's why you want a professional proofreader to be that second set of eyes and advocate on your behalf for excellent book layout and content, before you approve it for printing or other distribution. In addition, you may not be aware of the types of layout errors that can occur, whereas a proofreader will.You may enjoy viewing this 26-minute video podcast interview that tells you more.
At All My Best, Lynette M. Smith first examines each two-page spread of your PDF book layout, using Adobe Acrobat software to mark any errors in layout for later correction by your layout professional. (If you truly want to do this yourself, you'll want to first read Lynette's 40-page handbook, 80 Common Layout Errors to Flag When Proofreading Book Interiors, and then keep it handy to refer to as you go through your layout.) Here are the major categories of layout errors:
- Widow and orphan lines, and orphan words
- Poorly placed end-of-line hyphenations (last/first lines of a page)
- Off-center horizontal centering
- Inappropriate first-line paragraph indents
- Inconsistencies in font treatment for body text, headings, and subheadings
- Problems with repeating headers or footers
- Inconsistent or inappropriate vertical line spacing
- Incorrect page-number call-outs in the Contents listing
Next, Lynette returns to the beginning of your book, this time actually reading the content to locate and flag any content errors such as those described earlier, at the same time also flagging any word-division errors in end-of-line hyphenations.
Author tip: Definitely reread your book in PDF form at this stage; if you find any errors, alert Lynette (not your layout professional) so she can include flags for those errors in the master PDF she is proofreading.
Lynette then sends the annotated (flagged) PDF file (click for example) to the layout professional, who will make the corrections and send back a revised PDF layout.
Lynette compares the revised PDF to the previous correction-request list to make sure everything was corrected and that no new layout errors ensued. Frankly, some corrections are always missed, so Lynette re-flags them in the new PDF and returns it to the layout professional for another revision. This back-and-forth process is repeated as needed until all parties are satisfied that the layout is as error free as humanly possible. Only then should the author approve publication.
Note: You, the author, need not be involved in these subsequent PDF comparisons.
All proofreading activities are billed by the hour. The number of errors in the PDF depends on such factors as complexity of layout, whether professional copyediting took place prior to layout, expertise of the layout professional, and how diligently that individual makes all requested corrections.
As a ballpark estimate on that first phase of proofreading (assuming a professional copyeditor was involved prior to layout and the layout professional was experienced), the time involved is about the same as a light copyedit, about $12.75 per 1,000 words). Each comparison of old to new PDF takes much less time than that, because the book is not being reread – only checked to make sure errors were corrected and no new layout problems occurred.
When Lynette and your layout professional are both satisfied that you have excellent layout and content, see if you agree. If so, then authorize publication of your book.
As you have seen, producing a quality book is a team effort from start to finish. If you'd like Lynette on your team,