The proof copy of She’s All Thaumaturgy just arrived at my door, and oh, boy, am I just vibrating with excitement (just like at least one of my characters does in every book)!
A proof copy is a physical printing of your book you can use to check aesthetics and content before ordering final copies to sell or give away and/or putting the book on sale in marketplaces. In our print-on-demand world, self publishers using services like Amazon KDP (like I do) can make changes to their books at any time, upload the new PDF, and every copy that goes out after will have them which is nice if you find a small mistake after everything is live. I can’t imagine the gut-wrenching feeling of having 1000 copies of your book and seeing a misspelling on page two.
But in an ideal world, you’ll never have to change the versions you upload, because you have reviewed the fuck out of your proof copy! Since this is my second self-published book, I figured I would go through the steps I’m taking to try and get this one right.
This version of SAT is not the final version of the text–the book is still out to beta readers, and there are a handful of sort of big changes I know I still need to make. What I’m looking for this time is mostly aesthetics.
The Cover – KDP is very particular about the size and format of your cover. I had to go back to my artist and have her adjust the dimensions of the file she sent me for the print cover because my word count changed so drastically during revision that I needed a thicker spine! Thankfully, my artist, Anna, is a rainbow-infused space unicorn and was able to make the changes super quickly. But an image doesn’t always look the same printed as on a computer. In the case of SAT, it actually looks even better in my hands (and the digital version is already amazing), but if I did have a problem, now would be the time to get it right. This includes the bleed of the image, legibility of the title, name, and back blurb, and the barcode placement.
The Front Matter – These are the pages between the front inside cover and the actual text of chapter one (or your prologue if you’re fancy like that). I have very little, pretty standard stuff (title page, acknowledgements/copyright, dedication, table of contents), but I do use the biggest variance in fonts here, so I want to see how those choices look in print: do they align properly, and are they easy to read? For instance, I’m not crazy about my table of contents:
I like the font (Century) and the sizes and use of capitals, but I’d like the first line of the right page to align with “CHAPTER 1” on the left, so I’ll make those changes in the final version. (Sidenote: How do you feel about chapter numbers v. names? I used to love naming my chapters, but I don’t see it often anymore. I think it should come back!)
The Beginning – First of all, I’d really suggest making sure your prologue or first chapter starts on a right-hand page. I’m a fan of bucking industry standards and doing whatever you want, but this is so standard in every print book that it will probably feel weird to most readers starting out on the left. It’s a mirror of the cover, I think, to start out on that right-hand page. Or do whatever floats your boat, you’re in charge!
Chapter Headings – Aesthetically, do I like the font? The size of it in relation to the body of the text? The alignment? Does it stick out enough to someone flipping through and looking for, say, chapter nine specifically? I did something pretty similar with SAT to The Korinniad, so I had a lot of faith in what was coming here. A lot of people use images or symbols along with their headings too (not me, yet), so you should look out for how those look printed too.
The Text – Here is where I got a little wild. I’m playing with a gimmick of using fictional excerpts under chapter headings for this book, and I wanted to see how that was going to manifest on the page. I also wanted to play around with drop cap lettering. In the electronic version, I didn’t like how the drop cap looked because it was so much larger than the chapter heading, but in print it turns out to look more natural. I mocked up chapters a few different ways so I’d get to see all my options in this one copy:
The Weird Bits – Sometimes, if I jump time or scenes within a chapter, I’ll separate those things with three asterisks on their own line, centered. It’s pretty common, but it’s nice to see how those look printed in your chosen font. I use Century for the chapter headings, but I’m a basic bitch for Times New Roman in the body. I also like to look at the use of italics and em dashes (my weakness) throughout the text, especially with justification. These things work out pretty well with TNR, but you might do something unique you want to check like a numbered list or an oddly indented paragraph scheme.
The Back Matter – Again, I have a really simple last page that consists of a thank you to the reader and a call to action for a review and to check out my website for more content. If someone gets a high from finishing my book, that’s the best time for them to tell the world they loved it and to check out what else I have to offer, so I want this to also be easy to find and inevitable to read, so it’s on a right-hand page, directly across from the last page of the story (lucky me, the story ends on a left-hand page).
Revising – Finally, after all the aesthetics are addressed, I’m going to use this copy to do a revision. This book is for marking up with a pen and a highlighter because you can often find mistakes in printed text that you won’t see on a computer screen (eye fatigue is real). In fact just flicking through the pages for fun I’ve already marked four things, and I’m not even trying! Revision is, of course, the MOST important thing you can do for your book–the story needs to be good and that includes plot, character development, intrigue, continuity, syntax, grammar, and a million other things–but I list it here last and so briefly because this is only one of the many, many, MANY times I will revise, and the proof copy review is about so much more.
Keep in mind, too, all these aesthetic choices are for the print version only. The ebook version will be formatted totally differently. For instance, I won’t use drop caps in the ebook at all (since they don’t look great to me electronically with everything else I’m doing), and I will include links for ereaders both from the table of contents and to outside sources, so this is only part of the big picture that is formatting.
But this is some of my favorite stuff because it’s light and easy and so close to the finish line. I mean, I’m holding over 100,000 of my own words in my hand right now. And golly gee, she is chonky. I can’t wait for you to be able to pick her up too!