If there’s one truth about working in book design it’s that there’s no end to the surprising contrasts we encounter.
Surprises and contrasts aren’t always bad. They are, in fact, educational, and one of the things that make our job so interesting. Different personalities, different ways to approach the same task, different opinions; all work to teach us new things as we work to produce quality books and keep the process fresh.
Before I talk about the most recent contrast we experienced, I should provide some background. For as long as I have been working in this business (36 years) it has been standard practice to proofread every book (and every job, for that matter) AFTER the text has been formatted and layed out (in addition to proofreading the manuscript before it has been layed out). Why? Because proofreading the raw manuscript is NEVER enough to ensure quality, even if it has been carefully edited. Experienced publishers know this, and some publishers proofread a book at least twice, and sometimes more, before sending it to the printer. We always find errors, sometimes many errors, during this essential quality-control step.
Most of the time, our self-publishing clients accept our explanation and appreciate and understand the effort involved in proofreading. Last year, in fact, we worked with a client who was so concerned with quality, that he asked us to proofread the book an additional time, just to make sure it was as perfect as it could be.
Then, today, comes the following almost-reprimand from a prospective client who chose not to hire us because, she wrote, “The proof-reading was actually a turn-off, as I have my own editor and would be paying for something I already have.”
Leaving aside for the moment that the word proofreading should not be hyphenated, which doesn’t bode well for either the client or her editor, I was truly taken aback by the comment.
How can we be accused of wrongdoing when we’re offering top quality work? And if one prospective client feels this way, could it be possible that others do, too, and are we losing jobs because of it? It’s truly unimaginable! How does a business compete against other, cheaper vendors, who don’t proofread? Do we stop proofreading, join the crowd and churn out terrible books? Do we offer proofreading as an option, and if the client declines, can we feel good about turning out what we know will be an inferior product?
What do YOU think? Have you encountered this challenge in your own business, and if so, how did you address it? I’ll go take a Tylenol while I await your reply.
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Michele DeFilippo, owner, 1106 Design