Always review proof your book before okaying it

One time while working as a magazine editor, my designer dropped a “proof” – a copy of how the publication would look when printed – on my desk. Too busy to even complete all the other tasks on my to-do list, I decided to cut corners and skip reviewing the proof. After all, I’d already looked at everything in it a dozen times and had confidence in my staff. There couldn’t be anything wrong with it, right? As the day went on and more tasks found their way onto my to-do list, I overheard the publisher telling another manager in the hallway, “Never leave anything to chance.”

With those five words, my editor’s instincts kicked in. I pushed aside the staff member’s annual review, told my executive assistant to hold the phone calls, and decided the freelance writer awaiting my notes on her first draft could wait one more day. The proof needed my review.

And good thing I made that choice. An embarrassing misspelling somehow had snuck its way onto the table of contents.

After you’ve uploaded a formatted version of your book’s text and its cover, you’ll be asked to review a proof of your book. No matter how busy you are, no matter how much of a rush you are to get your book for sale, no matter how many times you’ve already looked at it, heed these five words: “Never leave anything to chance.” Take one last look at your book.

Once you approve your proof, the book is going to print or be made available for download. If an error is in there, people will buy your book with that mistake for all posterity to see.

You’re likely to find errors in your book, too. Looking at a paper version in your hands or an electronic version on a Kindle or Nook is a lot different than reading the text in Word or a pdf on your computer screen. Think of it this way: holding the paper version in your hands is like taking a real car on the road rather than sitting in a simulator as learning to drive.

When reviewing your proof, look for the following:
• Everything should be there – Are you missing information on the title page? Maybe the price got left off the cover. Has the last paragraph of a chapter mysteriously vanished?
• Alignments – Make sure the chapter titles and page margins actually are where they’re supposed to be.
• Page numbers – Also known as folios, make sure your pages are correctly numbered. Check that numbering against the table of contents, if you have one.
• Chapter titles – Ensure they’re spelled correctly. A reader might miss a typo in the text but is certain to see any mistakes that appear in large or boldface type.

Fortunately, if a mistake does slip past, you can reload your book. With paperbacks, this can mean a couple of days that your book is not available for sale while your printer gets the correct files set for printing. Still, it’s better to not sell a book full of typos than one with them – if you do the latter, your book might be flagged for being of low quality (and removed from sales until you fix the problem) or a reader might not recommend your book – or even write a bad review of it, adversely affecting your book sales.


My name is Rob Bignell. I’m an affordable, professional editor who runs Inventing Reality Editing Service, which meets the manuscript needs of writers both new and published. I also offer a variety of self-publishing services. During the past decade, I’ve helped more than 300 novelists and nonfiction authors obtain their publishing dreams at reasonable prices. I’m also the author of the 7 Minutes a Day… writing guidebooks, four nonfiction hiking guidebook series, and the literary novel Windmill. Several of my short stories in the literary and science fiction genres also have been published.