This post is a bit late because of technical challenges in getting the last post onto the blog.
While I was working to get the raspberry mitten material through "save," BIG events were happening in the background. I returned from the library (with my post written but not successfully released) to find this:
Printers' proofs are an interesting phenomenon of the publishing world. This is not, by the way, the time when "proofreading" takes place. That needed to have happened before the book was ever sent to the printer. This is an opportunity to see whether there have been any errors in the way the printer has interpreted the materials we sent: to "'proof," and approve of, what will happen on press. It's an opportunity to fix grievous errors before the book is multiplied by several thousand copies. And that's all. (That's plenty!)
Printers don't usually send notification that the package has been shipped, yet the proofs have to be turned around within 24 hours. Most places I've worked (including for myself) require that proofs be reviewed and all communications about them be completed by the end of the day they arrive, so it's not like we have 24 hours to eyeball, fix, and reply. If any corrections are required, the materials to implement the changes need to be prepared, transmitted to, and received by the printer within that 24-hour window.
Assuming that the proofs arrive by regular overnight delivery (appearing by 10 a.m.), they need to be back in the shipping channel before the day closes—traditionally this has meant through a 5 p.m. standard pickup or drop-off deadline, or, if the extra hour or so has been needed, courtesy of a hurried special drive to the carrier's hub, which has a later cut-off, like 6 or 6:30 p.m.
I've been doing all of this since before fax machines, much less computers, were part of everyday publishing lives. Some things have changed for the better with these shifts in technology. We no longer have to return all proofs (which were formerly used as references by the press operators), so now we can often fax in approval (which has to have real signatures because a lot is at stake) and we can electronically transfer PDFs of pages with corrections, if any are required. A race to the drop-off site is no longer scheduled into my day as a certainty the instant I see the proofing package. My reflexes kick into action, but I rarely end up having to make the drive any more.
In these times of economizing, these proofs arrived by overnight saver (not by 10 a.m.). They arrived on Friday afternoon, due back Monday by 10
a.m. to preserve our place in the printing queue.
Speaking of schedule, I don't know yet when this book will be off press. Part of that's because the printer doesn't know if I'm going to, for some bizarre reason, hold the proofs for a week. So this is what it says about ship dates at our online account:
Let's look at that more closely:
Requested ship date: 12/31/19.
I don't think so.
Obviously it's a filler date: there has to be a date there, so they plug in something absurd.
Scheduled ship: To be determined. Yes. Exactly.
Because the materials all arrived at the printer on 1/19/09, my working concept of a ship date is 2/16/09. (The book is being printed in North America, so rule-of-thumb turnaround is four weeks.) Nothing is certain until the cartons of finished books are on the truck. Might be sooner, might be later. This book is already late, because of the computer gauntlet of 2008, so SOONEST is what I'm looking for.
Fortunately, I had been checking our online account at the printer (another technological innovation) so I did know that the proofs would be arriving soon. "Soon" is not specific, but I knew not to schedule any meetings out of town for the next few days.
I'm here, therefore, shortly after the package thwapped down on the front step. I immediately opened it and got to work. Lunch? What's lunch?
There were two plastic-wrapped packages like this, one for the text and one for the cover.
Printers' proofs have changed a lot over the years. We used to be able to check color accuracy and printing quality. I have to hold myself back on that now, because while today's proofing systems are faster and less expensive than the former versions, they are nowhere near as precise in their representation of what the finished product will look like. You can still order old-style proofs, but they add a lot of time and expense to a project.
So the cover proof isn't accurate in terms of color, and the interior proofs aren't accurate for either color (this will be a two-color book) or clarity. Of the two black-and-white piles of pages above, the lefthand one came off my laser printer and the righthand one came off their proofing system. Mine is crisper and clearer than theirs. I have to breathe and trust.
What can I check from proofs?
On the cover, this is my last chance to be sure that the author's name is spelled properly and the bar code is correct and the machines are likely to trim the cover in the correct places (trims are marked on all proofs).
On the interior, I can check trims, again, and I also need to leaf through carefully and be sure that the images are correct and look okay (they won't go as far as looking terrific in this manifestation), and that nothing has gone wacko with the type (like substitution of a weird font), and that all the pages are present and in the correct order.
I have to avoid applying any value judgments to the quality of the will-be-color portions, which look pretty lousy when reproduced this way. I won't see the color for real until I see the color for real—in finished books. I've only seen it so far on my computer screen, which isn't the same at all. The way I have used my two inks (black and PMS 299) could end up looking interesting and good in the final. Or the colors could go blah, or look like a weird idea that almost worked. I trust (hope) they won't be awful. The proof copy gives me no clues whatsoever. I have to wait.
I do see a couple of things that make me cringe, but because they are artifacts of the computer problems of the past year I need to ignore them. Only type geeks will notice. Type geeks WILL notice. And the typographically unfortunate items are on pages 3 and 5, of course, not way back on, say 82 and 163.
I've marked them in yellow.
See on the lefthand page (the title page) how the initial letters in the words look much heavier than the other letters in those same words? The weights of all the letters, large and small, should be the same. It's true that this difference in weights commonly occurs when you are "faking" small caps in an informal typographic environment, like Microsoft Word. But I was not "faking" small caps, and I was working with both fonts and programs that have the capacity to produce real small caps. More on that in a moment.
On the righthand page (the table of contents), the chapter subtitle is not aligned correctly below the chapter title.
I approved the proofs without correcting these items, even though for me that's like trying to ignore the sound of fingernails on a blackboard.
The computer problems that over the past year almost drove Nomad Press out of business were most obvious in the way they affected typography. (They also caused random crashes, scrambled data in other programs, and additional aggravating time-wasting horrors. Various computer-smart people who spent a lot of time working with me to mitigate the effects of these problems diagnosed the situation as "DLL hell," and that name sounds like what I've been making my way through.)
Net result: I am NOT going to open the file for this book (on the PC) and run the risk of having MORE things go wrong unless the correction I'm going after will affect the reader's ability to benefit from the book.
These two items are simply embarrassing to me, and will reduce the book's chances of winning any publishing prizes.
They will have zero effect on the book's usefulness to knitters.
Two approval pages in the fax machine: one for the cover, one for the text. By 4 p.m. on Friday afternoon, with the slight hope that this will jumpstart the project's progress toward an actual ship date.
(The paper in the fax's supply tray has been printed on one side already: it's being recycled from the working drafts of the book. There's an approximation of my blue ink there . . . again, not accurate, because it came off an inkjet printer, nothing like the printing source for the final copies. In addition to using all sides of our office paper, we've selected Green Press Initiative-qualifying paper for the printing of the book as a finished object. We do everything we can around here to keep our footprint light.)
Now that I've signed off on the proofs (gulp), this book's production is completely out of my hands. I'm trying not to hold my breath, since there's nothing more I can do to affect the outcome.
Time for lunch.
Monday: The online account's shipping dates have not changed yet, although receipt of the approvals has been recorded.
Late Friday, 2/6: We finally have a ship date (I've been checking twice a day). The books should leave the printing plant on 2/18/09. Assuming they depart on time, they'll reach the distribution points between three and five days later, and should be out in the world about a week after that.