There is absolutely nothing interesting about the process of proof-reading your book and double-, triple-, and quadruple-checking your files before sending off to print. However, the single most annoying thing about printing books is plunking down a decent chunk of change for a print run only to find out you went to press with an error.
Typos, misspellings, omissions, art continuity errors…these mistakes happen in all sorts of ways. They’re quite simply a cost of doing business. However, it’s up to you to catch as many of them as you possibly can before going to press.
I’m a huge advocate for small-press and creator owned work, and ComixTribe is clearly a site intended to help the hardworking indie guys and gals out there trying to make it in this tough industry. But adequately proofing work is an area that indie books often fall short on. In fact, I’m often surprised to NOT find a blatant error when reading or reviewing indie work. If we as indie creators want to be taken seriously, we need to do better. You and I may not have the resources or connections to work with pencilers like Jim Lee or A-list color artists, but there is simply no reason that our books can’t go to press 100% error free. That’s something entirely in our control.
Easier said than done though.
Admission time. Proofing is not my strong suit. I wouldn’t say I’m careless, but for whatever reason, I’ve had an awful history of going to print with errors. And it drives me nuts! The good news is that most of my past print runs have been relatively small and most of the errors were relatively small, too. So the damage of going to print with a bad proof has been mitigated. But as I move toward higher profile work and larger print runs, I need to do better. I’ve been trying to put safeguards in place to see that I avoid these costly mistakes in the future. To that end, what follows are suggestions for proofing that I’ve found helpful.
Tips for Proofing
1.) Don’t Rush
One of the biggest contributors to errors is simply rushing, and not giving yourself enough time to adequately catch them all. For whatever reason, it always seems like we’re rushing to get our books to press. We humans are deadline driven, and usually print deadlines revolve around a looming con or event in which you absolutely need the books by. However, rushing to get files to the printer contributes to errors, so I suggest setting those deadlines back a bit from cons to give you the time you need to proof.
2.) Don’t be lazy
Let’s be honest. Part of the reason our books go to print with errors is because we were just being lazy. Anally reviewing pages for errors isn’t very fun at all. So we do a quick read through while watching TV, and call it good to go. Don’t do that. Set a minimum of three thorough, focused read throughs, with some time in between each, before calling it golden.
3.) Set specific goals for each proof read through.
While you can catch things with a general read through, you may find it helpful to set specific things to focus on for each perusal. For example:
- Focus on dialog and captions.
- Focus on visual consistency.
- Focus on balloon placement and shape.
This will keep you a little sharper during each read through, as your focus is narrowed.
4.) Wach out for non-story pages.
We spend so much time working on the pages of our comics, that the extra material that we put in our books (Cover, backcover, inside covers, ads, letters to the reader, sketches section, etc.) is almost an afterthought. But afterthoughts are an area ripe for errors. Make sure to be rigorous with checking this stuff, too.
5.) Read it backwards.
One reason we can miss obvious errors is that we get caught up in the story. While that’s a good thing from a product standpoint, it’s bad for proofing. One way to avoid this is to proof each page separately, starting from back to front.
6.) Double check your creative team credits.
Don’t mess up the credits of your team. In many cases, they’ve worked just as long and hard on the book as you have. So get their names right, and don’t leave anybody out!
7.) Get your team involved.
Speaking of the team, be sure to ask the team to help you out with a proofing read through. The great thing about this is, everyone on the team will tend to focus on different aspects of the book. In general, we tend to proof the areas that we’ve had the most to do with. With the New York Comic Con EPIC #1 that was proofed this weekend, as writer I tended to focus on the dialog and captions. However, artist Matt Zolman tended to focus on artistic consistency. Here’s something Matt caught that I never saw:
Likewise, editor Steven Forbes tended to focus on a mix of balloon placement, and background details, while color artist Arsia Rozegar was focused on color consistency. The team is a great resource. Use them!
8) Hire an editor or proof reader.
Of course, you could always just hire an editor to proof read. Yes, it’s an added cost, but probably worth it for a pristine book.
9) Love the iPad.
It’s an absolutely rock solid device for proofing. I’ve always found that it’s easiest to catch errors with a draft on my lap and pen and paper by my side. I can do that with the iPad.
10) Order a physical proof.
Finally, I recommend building in time to get a single physical proof of the book, before doing your larger run. Then, put that book through the ringer, too.
So there you have it, some tips for getting your books ready to roll. Proofing still ain’t sexy, but you know what is? An error free book.
Tyler James is a comics creator, game designer, and educator residing in Newburyport, MA. He is the writer and co-creator of EPIC, a superteen action comedy, and Tears of the Dragon, a swords and sorcery fantasy, and writer of the upcoming superhero murder mystery mini-series THE RED TEN. His past work includes OVER, a romantic comedy graphic novel, and Super Seed, the story of the world’s first super powered fertility clinic. His work has been published by DC and Arcana comics.
Tyler is the publisher and co-creator of ComixTribe, a new website empowering creators to help each other make better comics.
Category: Comix Counsel