Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Bound for Glory

I have been correcting page proofs of Arabian Wine, an interesting process. Long ago -- though within memory of this middle-aged writer -- proofs (I can even remember galleys, but never mind that) were full of misprints because they had been set in type (or, later, keyboarded in) by someone working from one's copyedited manuscript. Now they are always taken directly from one's computer files. You may find conversion errors -- em-dashes seem especially prone to transferring wrongly -- but no printer's errors.

This means that you largely use the opportunity to catch your own infelicities or make tiny revisions. It is probably good that you can do this, because books set up directly from the author's files tend increasingly not to have been adequately copyedited, often (especially with small presses) not at all. My text has been read carefully and repeatedly by a dedicated publisher who loves the book, but he isn't a trained copyeditor -- neither am I! -- and I found tiny slips and inconsistencies (such as a pronoun mixup in a scene of coffee preparation regarding which servant was grinding the beans and which was setting out the cups) in scenes I had drafted and read carefully dozens of times.

Mostly, though, one makes tiny revisions -- what used to be called AAs, author's alterations, and frowned on by managing editors, who wished the author only to fix misprints on the galleys. Too many AAs and you would be charged for them; old book contracts specified this. I have been making lots of small improvements, essentially (I know) because it is no longer in my power to make large ones. Each pass through the book takes longer, because I am trying to fix things too subtle or difficult to manage the previous time.

In the middle of this last night I got a call from Henry Wessells, the book's publisher, who came home to find a box of bound galleys on his porch. Hey nonny! My corrections won't get into the version that will go out to writers being approached for blurbs (book production rarely allows that), but the idea of bound galleys -- they are actually bound proofs; there are no true galleys any more -- with the handsome cover gave me a small lift in those low-blood-sugar evening hours.

Finished book in March.


Blogger Maureen McHugh said...

Bound proofs! The book exists in print! Well, pre-print.

6:39 AM  
Blogger Madeleine Robins said...

It's a very satisfying thing to look over proofs--the first sight of your work in almost-book form. And disconcerting to come across your own errors: Good God, why didn't I catch that before? Book in March, huh? Yay!

8:03 AM  
Blogger Ted said...

Now they are always taken directly from one's computer files.Not always. I offered computer files to my editor, but he opted to have the manuscripted entered by hand, so there were a number of misprints in the page proofs. As a safety measure, I decided to spend my own money to pay someone to check the proofs for errors. I then sent the list of errors to my editor. He neglected to make the corrections.

(Things only got worse after that.)

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