Originally post at the Book Designer on August 26, 2015.
Do you proofread your book after it's been laid out for print or formatted for e-reading? You should. Proofreading is the last stage of the editorial process and its goal is to catch any errors that the writer, editor, and book designer or formatter have missed.
Why Your Book Needs Proofreading
By this point in the publishing process, you might be thinking, "Wait a minute. What errors? There shouldn't be any errors. I hired a copyeditor to take care of those!" While a copyeditor will catch most errors, they won’t catch them all. Most editors agree that 95 percent is the industry standard. What’s more, it's not possible for a copyeditor to correct errors that haven't yet been made.
Every time someone opens your book file—you, your copyeditor, the formatter or book designer, or your keyboard-curious cat—an error can potentially be introduced!
Have you ever inadvertently leaned on your space bar while reaching for your latte and inserted extra spaces between words? Copied and pasted a section of text and discovered you missed copying the last sentence? You know what we're talking about, then. Because these things can happen to a book’s designers and formatters, and because they will receive your book after a copyeditor works his or her magic, any errors that occur in the design process will never be seen by your copyeditor.
All of this points to the importance of having a last look at your book, in its final environment, after it has been designed for print or formatted for e-reading devices. You need to be your book's first reader.
Print or Ebook?
There are lots of ways to proofread a book. How you proofread it will depend on the publishing format you choose. If your book is headed for print, you'll need to proofread the PDF that will be sent to the printer or print-on-demand service you’ve chosen. If your book will be an ebook, it makes sense to proofread it on an e-reader.
How to Proofread a Print Book
In the past, professional proofreaders proofread books on paper. Now, most proofreaders will proofread a book with software that allows them to mark errors on a PDF. Self-publishing authors can do the same, using these two free software options:
PDF XChange Editor
Adobe Reader XI
Both pieces of software have drawing tools and text tools that will allow you to circle errors, insert missing words, and make notes in the margins without disrupting the book designer's layout. You can even mark errors with proofreading stamps, which is entirely too much fun.
Proofreading an ebook requires a different strategy. You can't mark up the text as you would in a print book. The text is not static, but flowable, so you need another method for keeping track of errors.
If your ebook has been formatted as an epub (for Apple, Nook, and Kobo), it's best to proofread it using Adobe Digital Editions 3.0 (free). The ebook formatting and design company 52 Novels has created a proofreading procedure that works well for epubs.
If your ebook is in mobi format (Amazon), you have a couple of options. You can proofread your ebook using
If you're proofreading a print book, standard proofreading procedure involves checking that words at the end of lines are breaking in the right places.There are many do's and don'ts surrounding word breaks—far too many to discuss here. The gist is that you want words to break in a way that won't distract the reader or interrupt the flow of reading. Looking up words in a dictionary will help you to break them correctly.
Having said that, controlling for word breaks in ebooks is time-consuming, so many formatters and traditional publishers don't do it. Do readers notice? We'll leave it to you to decide! If you'd like to know more about controlling word breaks and similar ebook formatting decisions you'll need to make, see The Ebook Style Guide: Creating Ebooks That Work for Readers.
2. Develop a plan.
There are many steps to proofreading a document. Decide the order in which you’ll do things. For example, we tend to run a book through a consistency checker like PerfectIt Pro* before we begin an initial read-through so we can preview any inconsistencies in the book. We then do a focused, beginning-to-end, word-by-word read-through, marking up errors as we go. We might do a separate pass, using the search function to look for recurring errors, and then we'll do a "page-through" to ensure that we've addressed widows and orphans and word breaks (print books only). We then run PerfectIt Pro again, to catch any inconsistencies we may have missed or introduced.
Every proofreader will handle the proofreading process differently. Your process will be different if you're proofreading a print book or an ebook. Keep track of your process with each book, so you can find ways to make proofreading more efficient.
*To improve accuracy and efficiency, some proofreaders will strip the text from the designer's PDF and paste the text into Word. This allows them to use the Word add-in PerfectIt Pro to efficiently check for inconsistencies. Any inconsistencies are marked up on the designer's PDF.
3. Attend to details.
It's easy to allow details to slip past you as your read your book. Try not to get sucked into your story! Proofreading is a different kind of reading. You'll need to read every letter, every punctuation mark, and every space. For example, proofreaders will slow down enough to notice when a period should be italicized, or set in roman type! Proofreaders learn to search for inconsistencies, and to see the smallest details when they read.
4. Read "aloud."
In her handout Proofreading Secrets, proofreader Elizabeth Macfie explains that while reading, your brain will behave like the "autocorrect" function in a word processing program, meaning that it will tell you what should be on the page, instead of what is actually there. To bypass this tendency, read aloud or use a text-to-speech tool that can read the text aloud to you. (If you're using Adobe Reader XI for PC, it has a text-speech function built in). Hearing the words will help to you to hear the errors that your eyes are not seeing.
Tip: If you "whisper read" you'll save your vocal cords from getting too tired.
5. Read slowly.
Read at a steady “thinking” pace—not too slow and not too fast. Reading aloud or using a text-to-speech tool can help you to go more slowly than you normally would if you were reading silently. Some text-to-speech tools will even allow you to adjust your reading speed.
Set a timer and keep track of your reading rate (number of pages per hour). You’ll be able to use that information to decide if this is how you want to spend your time for future book projects, or if hiring a proofreader is a more palatable option. Keep in mind that some kinds of books, such as dense and technical nonfiction books, will take you longer to proofread than others.
6. Take frequent breaks.
Proofreading requires intense focus, and it can be difficult to sustain focus for long periods of time. Drink lots of water while proofreading to force yourself to take frequent breaks! Set goals to stay motivated. Decide how many pages or chapters you’ll proof before you'll get up for a stretch.
7. Be kind to yourself.
If you're proofreading on a tablet or a Kindle, find a comfortable armchair to sit in. It's nice to take a break from an office chair. Save your eyes from strain by positioning yourself near a window, so you have lots of natural light.
Summing it Up
There are many things to consider while proofreading. A plan, a few tricks from the pros, a handful of tools, and a little self-care will help to make the process easier and more enjoyable. If, in the end, you decide that DIY proofreading is not for you, that's okay. I know at least two proofreaders who'd be happy to help you out!
Many beta readers and editors like to proofread on a Kindle or in a Kindle app. This process involves highlighting passages and taking notes on your Kindle. When you’ve finished your proofread, you’ll need a way to get those notes to the author. But how?
Below are three options for retrieving your notes and highlights so you can share them with the author.
An Important Distinction
Amazon handles notes and highlights for purchased books differently than those for unpublished books, or personal documents. Notes and highlights for purchased books are stored in your Amazon account. Notes and highlights for unpublished books and documents are stored in the My Clippings file on your Kindle device. Below are the steps you need to follow to retrieve your notes and highlights for each kind of book.
For Purchased Books
Go to your Amazon account to retrieve your notes and highlights. Sign in with your account username and password and click on Your Highlights. All the books you’ve made notes on are stored here.
If you don’t see the notes in your Amazon account, check your Kindle device. You’ll need to turn on the Annotations Backup feature that allows you to back up notes and highlights to your Amazon account.
a) Copy the notes and highlights you want to share, and paste them into a .txt file or a .docx file. Email this file to the author.
b) If you use Evernote, and have the Evernote Clipper installed on your browser, you can it to send notes and highlights to Evernote.
From Evernote, you can share the notes and highlights with the author by clicking on the Share icon.
The notes and highlights will then show up in the author’s Evernote account.
I learned this trick from Audri and Jim Lanford’s article at Paperitis. If you’re an Evernote user you’ll appreciate the elegance of this approach.
For Personal Books and Documents
Your highlights and notes from personal documents are not stored in your Amazon account. They are stored in the Clippings file on your Kindle. Here’s how you access those notes so you can share them with the author.
Plug your Kindle device into your computer.
Find your Kindle device on your computer’s hard drive. Click on it.
Click on the Documents folder (it might be spelled documents).
Click on the My Clippings.txt file. The notes you’ve made for unpublished books and personal documents are stored in this file, so you’ll need to search for the title of the book you’re looking for (CTRL + F).
Copy and paste your notes into a .docx file or a .txt file and email them to the author:
If you’d like a place to store these notes, you can copy them into Evernote and then share that note with the author as described above.
If you don’t mind shelling out $2 per month, try the Clippings.io plug-in for Chrome. It’ll push your clippings to a Clippings.io account (free to set up) and you can manage your clippings from a central location.
You now have three ways to retrieve and share Kindle notes and highlights!
A special thanks to Len Edgerly at Kindle Chronicles for telling me about the My Clippings file and the Clippings.io plug-in.
Do you use Evernote to capture ideas and research? Many writers do. Evernote isn't difficult to learn. Here’s my five-minute guide to understanding Evernote.
What is Evernote?
Evernote is a free, multi-platform storage and organization tool. It can store
any notes or task lists that you write
Anything you store in Evernote is searchable, using Evernote’s powerful built-in search engine.
Uses for Evernote
Writers use Evernote for capturing ideas and for organizing research. (If you're a Scrivener user, you can export Evernote into Scrivener’s Research folder, keeping everything in one place.) You can also use Evernote to scan receipts to keep track of small business expenses.
Getting Started With Evernote
Open an Evernote account. Opening an account will give you access to an online version of Evernote. If you want to use Evernote on your phone, tablet, or computer, download the app for your device. Evernote will conveniently sync across devices, so your ideas and research are with you wherever you go.
To add content to Evernote, start a new Note. You can add handwritten notes, typewritten notes, audio notes, video notes, pictures, and scanned documents. Evernote can handle anything you’d like to record and store.
If you’re on the go, and it’s not convenient to key content into Evernote, you can use Evernote’s Audio Notes feature to record your ideas. On a PC, Select the New Audio Note and click the Record button. On a tablet or phone, click on the Microphone button.
You can gather information from the Internet, too. Simply copy and paste a URL into a Note, or for quick link and info gathering, add the Evernote Clipper to your browser.
Evernote Clipper is a plug-in that you install in an internet browser on your computer. I have Evernote Clipper installed on Google Chrome on my PC. Whenever I find an image, article, or website I’d like to capture, I click on the Evernote Clipper icon, and it’s immediately stored in my Evernote account for retrieval later.
You can use your smartphone or tablet camera to take pictures to store in Evernote. This is useful if you’re out and about and an object or scene inspires you. Open your Evernote app and click on the Cameraicon.
You can attach due dates to Notes in Evernote. Click on the Clock icon and select the due date from the calendar.
Finally, you can share your notes with others. Open the note you want to share, click on the Share icon and choose how you’d like to share it. You can share a link to the note, email the note to a recipient, or discuss it in a group chat.
Finding Things Quickly
In a short period of time, you can amass many Notes in your Evernote account. To find Notes quickly, organize your them into Notebooks. I like to have one Notebook for each project I’m working on.
Evernote’s powerful search engine has optical character recognition (OCR) abilities. It will scan all content, including words in pictures, so that it’s available for keyword searching. You can also add tags—your own key words—to each note, so you can find things easily later.
Evernote has a great deal of potential for notetaking and note collecting. If you’ve spent five minutes to read this post, you'll know enough to get started.