Putting Forth the Proof

You want to see something that makes me giddy every time I think about it? Check this out:

That’s right. That means that the first proof of Room 3 is on the way. I couldn’t be happier about it, as I genuinely had some doubts as to whether this book would ever cross the finish line. I’m not there yet, but but this is a very clear sign that the end is nigh.

One of the most common questions that I get about the proofing process is why I begin it well before my editor has finished with the book. To understand that, you really have to be familiar with the printing process when it comes to self-publishing and especially the quirks that come along with Createspace publishing. Here’s a thumbnail of how the process works for me (I’m planning a book with far more in-depth information on my process, but this will do for a high-level view).

Obviously, formatting comes first – and this is a lot trickier than it sounds. As complicated as ebook formatting my sometimes seem, the print formatting process is far more convoluted, as you have to concern yourself with things like gutter size, available space on the page, font size considerations, pagination, and proper alignment. One of the items that most caught me off-guard on my first go-round was receiving the proof and finding that, oh yes, new chapters need to begin on odd pages. We readers just accept this as a given when reading a novel, but it’s something that had just never occurred to me in the creation process. My first encounter with proofing had a lot to do with errors like this, just common little things that you take for granted when reading but actually require some thought.

Now doesn’t that seem like it would be easier to do once you’ve received the editor’s changes? Yes, that part does seem that way. But here’s the thing – that’s the easy part.

The second step is the cover and the formatting that comes with that, and boy can that one be a headache. I’ve learned more about terms like bleed than I ever thought I’d want to know. I’m fortunate enough to have a few things in my favor when it comes to this:

  1. I have a very talented cover artist who hits the margins just right and understands what’s necessary for a print cover.
  2. Createspace is generally very lenient with these issues and will often make changes to basic layout elements (this can be a hindrance as well).
  3. I know how to use Adobe Photoshop and have a basic grasp of Adobe Illustrator.

Without those, the cover process can be something of a nightmare, and forget trying to convert an ebook cover into a print cover unless you either created the original or have the original in Photoshop format. Print covers are an entirely different beast. This is why it’s necessary to carry out the proofing process so far in advance.

But let’s say that the cover meets minimum specs and Createspace performs minimal changes in the approval process (which can take up to 72 hours). You can view your proof online, which is an enormous help and has allowed me to catch some very basic errors, but in my experience there is absolutely no substitute for holding a proof in your hands. You can see if the colors on the cover are vibrant enough (if not, oops – time to go back to Photoshop and mess with the saturation), if the image is a pixellated mess (in which case your dpi is not set high enough), or whether the elements on the back come together in the right manner.

To even get to this point, however, you have to allow at least three business days for expedited shipping, which will cost you close to $12 for one copy. So I’m expecting the proof late on Monday, and am quite sure it will require changes. Once I’ve made those changes, I then have to submit the project to Createspace again, which resets the clock to 72 hours for their review. Assuming I have an hour turnaround on the changes, which is quite the generous assumption given the nature of some of these changes, they have up until Thursday the 13th to approve it, at which point I order another copy of the proof. This could take up until next Tuesday, the 18th, to arrive. Rinse, repeat.

Now imagine further changes are required, and it becomes clear why this process has to start as soon as the editor has the manuscript in hand. Yes, there will always be a final proof step that’s required once I’ve incorporated the editor’s changes, but this way all the elements are in place and approved, so it’s just one more set of relatively minor content and formatting changes as opposed to the time-consuming cover issues.

Now what was that about indie authors taking the lazy way out again?

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  1. But wai again? 😉 🙂

  2. Oooookay! So far I’ve only done ebooks. I’m planning a print version of a collection and last night I looked at CreateSpace for the first time, so your post has come at a great time for me! I hadn’t anticipated how much more complex the paperback set up is than the ebook. Thanks for warning me!

    • I think you’ll do fine, just be ready to make copious changes and roll with some of the strangeness that pops up. I’d love to know how it goes!

      • Roll with the strangeness. Okay!
        Another thing is that I live in South Africa, so the proofs will take longer to get here, spreading out the whole process … Anyway, I wanted to ask a question: What do you mean about chapters starting on odd pages? I thought maybe you meant odd-numbered pages, but I looked through the book I’m currently reading and it’s got chapters starting on odd- and even-numbered pages…

  3. I’m waiting for your book on the topic before I try it.

    So you will have edits from your editor, presumably. You may have to rewrite paragraphs, drop sentences, change words, etc. What does this mean, with respect to your proof? Will you make the changes to the proof, or will you make changes to the Word document and then re-load that document to Createspace?

    • The proof is essentially the Word document, just printed out to pdf; the cover and interior are two separate files. So changes to the word doc mean changes to that only; they’ll recompile the proof based on both documents, if that makes sense.

  4. Rachel, for some reason I can’t reply directly, but first of all, love South Africa, spent some time there a few years back, mostly in the Joburg area. Second, I did mean odd-numbered pages, so your comment made me curious. I went and dug through my books and found that it’s kind of a mixed bag. Some books have it, some don’t, so I’m guessing it’s a style preference rather than a requirement, but I honestly think it looks much better starting on odd pages.

    • Okay, so if your chapter would have started on an even-numbered page do you just leave that page blank? I think I’ve seen that in books … Don’t really take notice of it when I’m reading though!
      Thanks for the reply, and cool that you’ve been to South Africa!

      • You’re welcome! And that’s it exactly. I find it makes for a cleaner-looking final product. If I were you I’d also make liberal use of that online proofer, but of course that’s going to be difficult without having a grasp on the final product. And feel free to let me know if you have any questions as you go through the process!

  5. Marie, I’ll put it another way: the proof is a print-out of two elements, the interior pdf and the cover pdf. Any changes to the interior get re-uploaded, but the prime issues for that, such as page positioning and margins, will already be hammered out at that point.

  6. It makes me giddy to see this, too, and I can’t wait to read Room 3!


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