May 31, 2007

The Process: Part VI—InDesign Layout, First Pass Check

Designers should have the first pass of the book layout in pretty decent shape by the time the production editor receives it from them. This means all pages should be accounted for (and allocated appropriately), title pages and table of contents formatted, and all chapter openers and running text flowed throughout. The first pass will be a rough (sometimes more, sometimes almost perfect--depends on how thorough and detail-oriented the designer is) version of the final book.

When the designer is satisfied with the file (or until they run out of time), they will send it back to me for my review. I give it a once-over, checking on a few key items before I proceed:

(1) Length: Does the book run long or short? If so, does it look like it will be an easy fix (such as moving headers down by a quarter inch or reducing the amount of index pages)? If not, I troubleshoot the possibilities and figure out what is viable without destroying the layout and keeping the book readable.

(2) Styles: Did all of my tagging flow into InDesign correctly and do all styles ? Are there random paragraphs that became all bold because of a missing closing tag? Did text that was supposed to appear in a sidebar mistakenly end up in the body? By this stage I usually know the book very well and can immediately find anything out of place.

(3) Page makeup: All title pages, the TOC, foreword, introduction chapter openers, index, etc. should begin on a recto (right page of a spread). I also check for sparse and blank pages (a blank recto is a sin), and fix what I can.

(4) Formatting codes: We have specific, searchable "codes" for a variety of common elements such as em- and en-dashes, ellipses, fractions, degrees, etc. Because none of these items translate to InDesign from Word, we ask the designer to do a "find/replace" and put in the correct formatting.

Now if anything on this list (or something related) is a serious problem, I will make a note of what needs to be fixed before I can send the pages off to the author and proofreader. (The proofreaders are usually fine working on a pretty messy set of proofs, but authors can be easily freaked out when they see a big ugly jumble of words that is supposed to be their masterpiece.) The production manager (sometimes this person acts as the art director and/or printing manager as well) looks over the file to make sure all page measurements and characteristics are appropriate for printing (for example—if the text margins are too close to the edge of the page, they must be fixed and the entire book will reflow; if the designer has used color builds that won't print, these must be corrected, etc.). Once he/she lets me know if there are major issues, we go back to the designer for any pressing modifications. It is usually expected that the designer will have the corrected file returned within a day or two.

If things are looking pretty good (or once the designer has completed the revisions), I do a very brief page-by-page glance and fix glaring errors (typos, hyphen break at the bottom of a page onto the next, widows/orphans, incorrect spacing), leaving the minor stuff for later. I print three copies of the proof pages—one for me, one for the author, and one for the proofreader (whom I will have contracted for the project a month or more previous in the same way I would a copy editor). Depending on the book (specifically design-heavy layouts) and my availability, many times I will do a simultaneous light proofread at this early stage since I know all of the style requirements in addition to the text. Otherwise I wait until I have incorporated the all of the corrections requested by the author and proofreader.

Speaking of which, what happens during the author and proofreader review is soon to follow...

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