Friday, April 20, 2007

THE SCRUTINIZING EYE



THE SCRUTINY OF A GOOD EDITOR would do many books a world of good these days. Within the POD market, there is the tendency to have a few friends, at most, take a look at your manuscript and then send it along to Lightning Source for printing and distribution through the INGRAM network to Amazon.com and others.

However, what we as POD reviewers are finding and what the book buyer is finding, once they begin turning pages, is a host of sore thumbs which pop up to interrupt the flow of the story. Proper editing is extremely important friends! And there are many problems that are found...some of which you might find popping up when you go from one format to another. Let me give you some examples of the kind of mistakes I see:

    Let me start with a problem which recently happened to me when posting my last interview: I cut and pasted an interview excerpt from an email into a post and without realizing it, the transfer caused some of the words to become fused together. Needless to say, the author caught it when they went to see their new interview and I'm glad they did...RULE #1: "Extra eyes can catch many things!"

    I've recently been given a PDF where the editor was a professional editor and yet somehow the errors from the old PDF have come into the new PDF. The publisher was shocked to find this was the case, but evidently this can happen...my advice is RULE#2: "Proof the final edit with a new pair of eyes. Even the pros can make mistakes!" And may I also add RULE #3: "Reading your final edit ALOUD can catch things your eyes will pass over. Remember, you read with your eyes much faster than you can read with your mouth. So, you are forced to slow down and verbalize what you are seeing. You'd be surprised how many things will appear when you use this technique. "But, Podlingmaster, I have to rush my book to print so I can get my share of POD reviews and grab my .000005% of the book market!" I know, I know...but patience, little grasshopper.

    Exaggerated margins or too much space between paragraphs. Now this one, it would seem to me, would be a simple matter for the author to gauge at the onset. Just looking at books in bookstores you will see the way that books are generally formatted. Yet, on a number of occassions, I've received novels that had double spaces between nearly every sentence. This creates alot of blank space on a page and looks completely unprofessional. Remember, when you format for the pdf and printing that you need to put everything into single space with generally four spaces between P.O.V. changes. And watch those margins folks. Don't try to exaggerate them to give your short story more pages to make the book appear thicker.

    Indentations which either have way too many spaces or not enough. Generally, you want about five letter spaces for a paragraph indentation. Now, I'm not being dogmatic...go check the grammar manual collecting dust in your closet for the hard points, but what I see many times is up to ten spaces in a paragraph indent or as little as one space...which by the way almost looks like you can't tell where a new paragraph begins.

    Watch out for the common (it's/its--there/their--then/than) stuff as well. And of course there are the missing words or extra words that crop up in a manuscript. Once again RULE #1 prevails here: "Extra eyes can catch many things!"

How heartbreaking it must be, to realize that you've got a great story that everyone enjoys, a great looking cover, but it's been edited or proofread inadequately and makes it to the reviewer or reader in this condition...because we sure will mention it, huh? Now, I realize that even the big dogs in New York have errors that creep into their books, but that should be no excuse to the struggling POD author or small press who must fight for every crumb of recognition they can get. In that sort of situation, we must all be that much more diligent to raise our standards, "be patient with going to press," and place the best product we can into the willing consumer's hands.

2 comments:

Tabitha said...

You are right on the money, Podling! Refer to my post entitled The Proof is in the Nitpick at iUniverse Book Reviews. The most prevalent errors I have found are the ones involving common words, as you have noted here. Podling has brought up a significant issue I did not address in my article: format changes that produce errors. You should proofread at every stage of the publishing process. There is no substitute for reading the manuscript aloud to another person who can hear the stumbles your eyes have overlooked. I encourage all POD authors to carefully read through The Proof is in the Nitpick. Nothing says unprofessional like a proofreading trip-and-stumble every few pages!

podlingmaster said...

Absolutely...I've had format errors occur even going from 8.5 x 11" to a 6 x 9" format as well...patience is certainly a virtue in publishing. We should take a hint from the timelines we see at large publishers on this--McDonald's drive-thru publishing is definitely NOT the way to go.