From Word file to printer’s file: Copy-editing, typesetting, proofreading

There are many people who are part of the publication process other than the Channel View team themselves. Ralph Footring is one of these, providing key copyediting, typesetting and proofreading services for many of our books. In this post, he explains what his job involves and why his services are so important.

I am one of Channel View Publications’ suppliers. I take an author’s Word file for a book and give the publisher a file to hand over to the printer. In between, there is the copy-editing, dealing with author queries, setting up the book’s fonts and page layout, typesetting, sending out proofs, taking in corrections and doing some final checks.

Ralph at work

Ralph at work

Why not just send the author’s Word file to the printer? It can be done and is much cheaper, but it is difficult to get good-looking pages out of Word. Most authors set their files up for A4, which isn’t a good size for a book. And authors do make mistakes – spelling, grammar and some of a more general nature (the name of the guitarist and songwriter for The Who is Pete Townshend, with an ‘h’). I once worked for a publisher who used authors’ print-outs to produce short-run books that wouldn’t have been published at all otherwise. At first, they didn’t trouble to have anyone read through the typescript, but then they produced one too many books with a missing page. Once someone is turning over the pages to make sure they are all there, they might as well look to see if a diagram is there if one is referred to in the text. And does that diagram show what the text says it shows? And then you are slipping into copy-editing.

Needless to say, I think copy-editing is a vital part of the publishing process.

A couple of recent books that Ralph has worked on.

A couple of recent books that Ralph has worked on.

That sentence might set my stall out. Do I delete ‘Needless to say’ (it isn’t needless to say it) or the whole sentence (because it is needless)? But if it’s not my own text, what am I doing interfering with it all? And what about ‘set my stall out’? If a book is intended for a readership that will likely include a lot of people whose first language is not English, there would be a good argument to avoid such idioms, and it might be better phrased as ‘make my position clear’. And what about beginning a sentence with ‘And’? Perhaps with spelling we are on safer ground, but that leads on to a question of consistency. It seems undeniably better not to mix -ize spellings and -ise spellings (sometimes ‘recognize’, sometimes ‘recognise’), but what about ‘though’ and ‘although’? Is it really only cramping an author’s style to insist that only one is used throughout a text?  Most authors seem grateful to have someone read their work carefully, to check that the references are all there and that they haven’t made spelling mistakes and grammatical slips, and perhaps that what they have written makes sense, if it’s done respectfully and without undue interference.

Larger publishers tend to have rather rigid production processes, and it is hard to cross the boundaries between the editorial department (copy-editing) and the production department (design, typesetting, proofs). I like working for smaller publishers like Channel View Publications who can look at each book as an individual project.

My production process usually looks like this: copy-edit in Word, with ‘track changes’ on and author queries raised in ‘comment’ notes; send file to author for review of copy-editing and to answer queries; get file back from author, make any further changes (in response to queries and so on) and tidy it up; import the text file into the typesetting software (Adobe’s InDesign is pretty much the industry standard); place the text onto the page template and assign all the correct styles (chapter heading, sub-head, sub-sub-head, body text, and so on); produce proofs; take in corrections; produce the ‘press ready’ pdf file for the printer. The job satisfaction is in seeing it through from beginning to end. After many years, I still get a thrill opening a new book and thinking I’ve been part of the process.

For more information about Ralph and the services he offers please take a look at his website.

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