Book Production: Top 10 Proof Copy Checklist

20 Oct

Over the next few weeks we’ll beginning receiving our spring semester book orders from different bookstores. As I’ve noted before, up to now most of our printing has been done using POD (print on demand) so we have three big print runs a year, once each before the fall, spring, and summer semesters. For a basic overview of POD, I’ve linked below to this brief, yet informative, video by Morris Rosenthal of Foner Books and the Self-Publishing blog.

POD is helpful in its own way—it allows for low inventory and reduced storage costs as well as making it possible to update books from semester to semester, a real necessity when publishing highly detailed (and quickly dated) technical information—but one of the downsides of POD is that you to go through the proof copy quality control cycle three times a year. By that, I mean that you can’t—or at least, shouldn’t—just pull a CD out of a file cabinet and send it over to print several hundred copies. Instead, especially given the ongoing organic and ever-evolving nature of our texts, we print up at least one proof copy—sometimes more—of each book to double check before sending the whole job to print.

So, here is our top 10 proof copy checklist of things we double—or triple—check one last time before sending a job to print. Some—or even most—of these things may sound pretty basic and obvious. I agree: they are (or, at least should be). Then again, I’ve seen examples of all the potential problems below in some way, shape, or form in books on the shelf from a variety of publishers.

1. Does the title on the front cover match the title page and spine?

2. Are the authors’ names spelled consistently and correctly on the front cover, spine, title page, copyright page and/or bio pages?

3. Is there a barcode on the back cover? Was an ISBN-13 used to generate it? Is it the correct ISBN? Does the price embedded in the barcode read 9000? Does the ISBN on the barcode match the ISBN on the copyright page?

4. Is the cover trimmed correctly?

5. Is the binding correct? Is it supposed to be saddle-stitch, EZ-coil, or perfect?

6. Are the interior pages black and white or color? Are the pages single-sided or backed up? Is being single-sided or backed up consistent all the way through or are there exceptions? Are the pages supposed to be perfed? Are there any color and/or perfed page inserts? If perfed, are the perforations straight? What color should any color inserts be?

7. Does every entry listed in the TOC (table of contents) have a page number that correctly matches the corresponding page in the book?

8. Is the pagination consistent? Are there any pages missing or repeated? Are odd numbered pages on the right side of the spread with even-numbered pages on the left? Are all the page breaks done correctly?

9. Did all the graphics reproduce correctly? Did any of them drop out or become corrupted?

10. Finally, are there any other elements or specifications unique to this book? Does it come with a CD or DVD? Does it have an imprint that’s different from ours? Is it a part of a multi-volume set when it is packaged—that is, shrink wrapped—for sale? Something/anything else?

Okay, so that’s more than ten questions. But, for whatever the reason, it’s dangerously easy to overlook the obvious. And there’s an awful lot of obvious to keep an eye on.

But, what’s the alternative? After all, if you do let some bone-headed—honest or not—production mistake slide through, you never can tell how much it’s going to wind up costing you. For example, I know a psych instructor at a two-year college up the highway who is looking for a new publisher for his books because the last one his most recent publisher printed came back with every page number for every entry listed in the extensive index at the back of the book as 000. I kid you not: Page after page of index entries and every single one had a page number of 000! That’s what you call dropping the ball. That’s what you call the kind of thing I could go my whole life without having us do.



One Response to “Book Production: Top 10 Proof Copy Checklist”

  1. Lori Cates Hand October 21, 2007 at 11:18 am #

    Excellent list, Mark! I am going to make sure everyone in our production department gets a copy of this.

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