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The Pudding Is in the Proof

A Book Proof is Like Dessert Before the Main Course

By Michael Heath /

Advanced copies have their purpose in ensuring the most accurate and best book publishing results
Print proof before going to press

What could be more exciting to an author than seeing his/her book in print for the first time? A book proof essentially gives the writer that initial glimpse. As fun as it may be to see one’s work in print, the purpose of a proof goes far beyond simply providing a first look.

Why a Book Proof?

Having a book published can be a fun experience. After all the writing, editing, book design, etc. the author finally gets to see what the book will look like after it has gone on to the big press. But there is an important reason for first creating a proof: to protect the printer. No printer wants to print a large volume of the wrong edition. A print proof is basically a question asked of the author by the printer:

Here is a sample from the file from which we intend to print.

Do you approve?

What Does a Print Proof Look Like?

Most authors expect the print proof to be an exact replica of the books that will come off the big press. That is not the case. Normally print proofs are unbound, i.e., the cover is separate from loose interior pages. Often the paper is of a lower quality since it is “just a proof.” This may be disappointing to some authors, but the true intention of the proofing function is to ensure accuracy. The writer is obligated to go through the pages to make sure everything is where it needs to be. An examination of the cover is just as important. He/she will want to make sure that the cover is correct and not one produced prior to any revisions.

Galleys, ARCs, Print Proof, Digital Proof, etc.

There are several terms used in the prepublication process when referring to advanced copies. Sometimes they are used interchangeably which can cause confusion to anyone new to publishing. Here are some definitions that may help provide a better understanding:

  • Galley proof – a nearly complete version of a book used in the final editing stage which often contains wide margins for editor’s notes

  • Digital proof (also called a PDF proof) – a digital format proof often used in the design stage to show what a book will look like and provide an opportunity to make design changes

  • Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) – prepublished book copies sent out to reviewers and book buyers to create a buzz before a final book is launched. These versions contain a disclaimer on the cover that they are ARCs and not for resale. They are almost always paperback even if the book to be launched is a hardcover.

  • Page proof – a copy of the interior pages as they will be in the final printing. This proof is often printed on regular copier paper.

  • Print proof – a copy of the book from the file as it will print on the big book press. It is sometimes created on inferior paper and is often unbound

Proofs for Self-publishers

Most printers provide a print proof before going to press but I’ve heard of printers who only give digital proofs. Print proofs are highly recommended to check color clarity, especially before big print runs. Printing galley copies can be tough since small print runs can be expensive, i.e., the cost per book is high. One solution is to upload the files to Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). There proof copies can be ordered at a reasonable price and contain a Not for Resale banner on the cover.

Getting It Right

Advanced copies have their purpose in ensuring the most accurate and best book publishing results. It is up to the author, editors and publishers to effectively utilize the function to achieve those means. When all follow a system using a trial impression with accuracy as its goal, errors are avoided. Anyone can then see that the proof is in the pudding.

When indie authors order their cover design and interior book design with SelfPublishingUS, we will send a proof for your approval. learn more about our book design and printing services.

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