Michael on Corrections and Galley Proofs

The following is a guest post by Associate Editor Michael Sivilli about corrections and why authors don’t see page proofs beyond the galley stage.

Give an editor anything to read at any time, and he or she will probably find something to correct. An author will do the same with his or her own work, and probably at a higher degree, considering that it is his or her own work.

During the editorial/production process of book publishing, an author is generally given two, shall we call them, “chances,” to make corrections on his or her book before it is published. These occur during the copyediting stage, and then once the manuscript is typeset into galley pages. These typeset galley pages are usually utilized by the publishing company for various forms of promotion (e.g., to attain endorsements to help sell the book or simply to stir up media attention for the book’s upcoming release date). For either, the proofs usually come with a cover on which the words “Uncorrected Proofs” or something similar appear. In the meantime, an in-house Production Editor will see a few more stages of page proofs due to things like the setting of the index, late front matter additions such as a Foreword, or just corrections that need more attention than just one pass. Time is allotted in a book’s production schedule for such events. The idea of not allowing an author to see anything past the galley stage is to prevent costly and ongoing corrections, and delays that can cause problems in maintaining the book’s targeted publication date. And as I noted, an author will always find more to correct at any stage of his or her own work if given the opportunity.

Recently, a colleague of mine asked me for a copy of proofs for a title in progress to compare conceptually with another work by the same author. I gave him a copy of the printed galley pages. He preferred that instead of an electronic file. I told him that all I had was the original typeset galley pages. He acknowledged that they would be fine. The next day, my colleague sent me a correction regarding an inconsistency he noticed throughout the pages. I assured him that the correction had been made weeks before, and that the errors existed in the pages he was seeing because he was looking at the original typeset proofs. All was understood. Rule to employ: Always use the latest proofs for anything like this in-house.

As I mentioned, the last stage of a book that an author will see before publication is the galley proofs. Therefore, during the latter stages of the editorial/production process, a Production Editor might get a number of requests from an author for corrections that have already been made. Again, this is because the author does not see any subsequent stages of the typesetting until final product. This is not to say that some of these later changes submitted by an author can’t be justifiable (to nervously employ the double negative). The problem is, though, most are unnecessary and/or superfluous. And, again, making changes at later stages of the process is expensive and time-sensitive to the book’s publication schedule. Also, even at later stages, the Production Editor will almost always feel obligated to review any corrections submitted by an author, only to find out that most (if not all) of them have already been made. It all then becomes time wasted in the process.

The bottom line is: It’s difficult to tell an author not to submit any corrections past a certain date before his or her book is published. When that’s the case, the Production Editor can come across as uncaring as the mean Managing Editor in the Spiderman story, J. Jonah Jameson. Authors need to trust their publishers, and adhere to schedules prepared, understanding that it is all in the interest of the ultimate goal, which is the book’s sales. Authors need to review the manuscript during the copyediting stage as thoroughly as possible, and do the same with the proofs provided during the galley pages stage. Any corrections submitted after that should be filed and then made in future printings of the book, unless they are as egregious as misspellings.

Trust me, everyone who reads a book can always come up with suggestions for improving that book. An author needs to understand that his or her original way of presenting something is probably the best way to do it, considering the work will contain his or her name.

Thank you, Michael!

Michael Sivilli has been an Associate Editor with AMACOM, the books publishing division of the American Management Association, since 1988.

Earlier Posts:
Michael on Permissions

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