by Jennifer Kepler, Collaborative Editor

Image courtesy of Unsplash

All the months of writing, revising, editing, and proofreading have come to an end, and your book is off to the printer. You can’t wait to receive a box of your books on your doorstep. How do you make sure the printed, trimmed, and bound books that arrive on your doorstep look the way you envisioned?

The first way to do this is to make sure you’ve followed the traditional publishing process and hired experienced editors and designers to help you along the way. The second way is to review a printer’s proof. Printers offer many different types of proofs, and if you are new to printing and manufacturing a book, the options can be daunting. In making this decision, you’ll want to take into consideration the type of book you are publishing and the time and cost of receiving a printer’s proof.

Early in your publishing journey, it’s a good idea to research printing options and discuss the physical appearance of the book’s interior and exterior with your designer. Will your book be hardcover or paperback? What do you envision the cover to look and feel like? What about the interior pages—how do you want them to feel as a reader flips through them? Does your book have any images? If so, do you want them to be in black and white or color, matte or glossy? Printers can provide samples of paper colors and weights, and an experienced book designer can be a great resource as you make printing decisions.

Print-on-demand is a popular choice for self-publishers, and it can be forgiving if you notice a printing error—you can have it corrected before more copies are printed. But even independently publishing authors may want to order copies in bulk or print a specific quantity for limited distribution—for example, to give to clients, friends, or family or to have on hand for events such as readings and book festivals.

After submitting print-ready files to your printer, the first type of proof you’ll likely receive is a soft proof, or electronic (PDF) proof of the interior and cover. Review the interior proof closely and ensure the pages are in order, text isn’t missing, and all images are present and don’t appear pixelated. Thoroughly check the front cover, spine, and back cover. If you find an error, most printers will allow you to send them the corrected pages, usually for a fee. The printer will make the replacements and then send you a revised soft proof, which you’ll need to check again.

A common option for reviewing physical pages is a digital prepress proof, which is printed on a high-quality inkjet printer and has trimmed pages. This type of proof can be called “blues” or “contract proofs” and serves as a good representation of what the book will look like when printed.

The purpose of reviewing a printer’s proof is to make sure the physical copy has turned out the way you expected. No author wants to receive an email from a reader about pages being out of order, but I’ve seen it happen. Printers can make mistakes. Pages mysteriously get dropped out, signatures get reversed, and bindings can come loose. By taking the time to review a printer’s proof, you can feel confident that you are putting the best possible book in your readers’ hands.

Jennifer Kepler is a full-time senior production editor at an independent tech publisher where she spends many hours reviewing page proofs and doing final checks before files are sent to the printer. She’s also a part-time collaborative editor at Indigo, specializing in line editing and proofreading.