There are certain telltale signs that differentiate a traditional trade-published book from a self-published book. There are little subliminal types of things that separate a professionally published, properly edited/proofread book from the rest. Much of this is subconscious. Your average readers will pick up on these things without even realizing it, and this will influence their opinions of your book.
If you want to self-publish your book and you want to ensure the most professional result possible, then it is always wise to hire outside help to catch all these little details for you just as the trade publishers do for their books. In an ideal world, you’ll work with a professional copy editor, designer, and proofreader because they each bring something different to the table that can dramatically improve the quality of your book.
Where a copy editor’s job is to review and improve an author’s raw manuscript, and the graphic designer’s job is to arrange that raw edited text into a professional and appealing layout, a professional proofreader provides yet another set of eyes to ensure that all the components fit together properly and the book is ready for public viewing and printing. The proofreader’s job is to complete the following nine-point check:
• The front matter (such as the table of contents) is accurate and correct.
• The back matter (such as the index) is accurate and correct.
• Headers and footers are accurate and correct.
• Bad breaks, widows, and orphans are eliminated.
• Text is kerned to flow smoothly throughout.
• Margins and trim size all measure properly.
• Spelling and punctuation is correct.
• Spacing, bleeds, and trim size all measure properly.
• Spelling and punctuation is correct.
As shown in the above list, a professional proofreader is someone who is knowledgeable and experienced with both basic language editing (spelling and punctuation) as well as the technical aspects of book design (kerning, bleeds, trim size, et cetera). His or her job is to catch all the “leftovers” such as bad breaks, widows, and orphans that may still be in your book once it has been copy edited and designed.
Bad Breaks, Widows, and Orphans
A book’s interior is usually either justified or flush left as shown in the diagram below.
If you choose justified alignment for your interior, then you have to be especially concerned with bad breaks in words. For example:
The words “curious” and “remember” are badly broken up in the above sample. To avoid this, you can kern that particular block of text either slightly looser or slightly tighter to ensure the full words land on one line rather than breaking up into two lines. Believe me when I say that extra little detail can subliminally affect the quality of your book in other people’s eyes. It takes no time at all to fix it, so I highly recommend that you do.
Widows and orphans are a concern whether your text is justified or flush left as shown in the below image:
As shown above, a widow is a lone word stuck on a line by itself anywhere in a page; whereas, an orphan is a lone one or two words that have landed by themselves on a line, up on the next page. Both of these things affect the flow and professional appearance of a book whether you realize it or not. Professional publishers always ensure these types of issues are eliminated by meticulously kerning certain blocks of text throughout the book (as opposed to adding in extra line breaks or paragraph breaks in random places to try to correct the issue).
Self-publishers should do the same for best results. It will make a subconsciously noticeable difference to your end result by ensuring a more professional product.
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