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Proofreading tips for self-publishers (from an editor and typesetter)

Some thoughts on self-publishers proofreading (or copy editing) their own work. Or why it’s not a good idea to do it.

Three Wishes Books

iPad stylus

Here are some of my tips for proofreading for self-publishers:
1. Don’t do it yourself unless you absolutely have no choice. I’m not saying this because it’s (part of) what I do for a living and so I would say that, wouldn’t I. I’m saying it because proofreading is hard, and proofreading your own work is harder. It’s harder because you’ve cut and pasted and reworked and reworded and deleted and added and changed … and you know your work intimately – or at least you think you know your work intimately.

A small example: you know you wrote, ‘The milkmaid went to the dairy to make some cheese’, but what you don’t know is that your fingers accidentally typed, ‘The milkmaid went to the diary…’, but your brain ever-so helpfully decided ‘close enough’ so you don’t notice the error when you read it back over. Your readers (pre-publication or otherwise) are coming to…

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Star Trekking – Radio Times magazine August 1996

Radio Times magazine cover Star Trek 30 anniversary

OK – you may have noticed I’m a Star Trek fan. Star Trek and I are celebrating the same milestone birthday this year. My daughter is also celebrating (well in her case I’m not sure she considers it celebrating) a milestone birthday.

A couple of days ago I came across this issue of the Radio Times on Ebay. It’s from the week of my daughter’s birthday. I duly bought it from a fantastic seller who not only posted it quickly and carefully, but also used seventeen stamps from the 1970s to pay for the postage!

This has been a real joy to look though – and I hope my girl gets a kick out of seeing what would have been on the telly the day she was ten.


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Wonderland Tales 1973

Wonderland Tales Book

Wonderland Tales and Story-and-Picture Book. Published by Ideabooks 1973. Featuring artwork by Spanish illustrators Jesus, Alessandro and Adriano Blasco. According the blurb the brothers lived and worked together. You can see the slight differences in style through the panels, and I love the definite 70s aesthetic Alice has to her.

DSCF2283WL2Wonderland Tales Book

The book also features Gulliver’s Travels and The Golden Box as well as a couple of short stories, Shouting Stones and The Brave Young Shepherd

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Walt Disney’s Giant Book of Fairy Tales

Published in 1974 by Purnell Books. Over thirty fairy tales – and not all the usual suspects either, ‘Toads and Diamonds’, anyone? When there was an existing Disney film, they used scenes from that, but when there wasn’t, they just bunged in characters they already had. So we have Grumpy in place of Rumpelstiltskin, and Alice (of Wonderland fame) standing in for the little match girl as well as several other characters. Somehow I can’t imagine Disney going for this approach today!

Disney Fairy Tales


Disney Fairy Tales

Pre Lumiere, Cogsworth et al

Disney Fairy Tales

Alice in disguise

Disney Fairy Tales

Isn’t that John from Peter Pan? And Figaro? And King Stefan from Sleeping Beauty?

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I’ve been a bit quiet lately… (or the week I built my website)

…This is because I’ve just gone freelance. Yes – it’s now up to me to find people to do edit-y things for, for money, on a weekly, monthly, yearly basis.

When I went freelance people the first thing most people said was: ‟Have you got a website?” and ‟Well I’ve got my blogs…” didn’t seem to cut it.


I noticed that my Adobe Creative Cloud subscription included Muse – a program that allows you to create websites without coding, so I thought I might as well give that a go.

So I rolled my sleeves up and got stuck in with the help of the amazing training website. I’m really pleased with what I ended up with, by myself and with no coding. It’s great for my needs (so that people can see what I do and contact me). I’ve even made tablet and mobile sites and my own little icon in the browser address bar.

screenshot of

Website screen shot

And what’s with the hares?

Well hares are usually pretty shy, elusive and solitary, but I have found a place where they gather – albeit a long way off. On the day I went officially freelance I was walking in the woods with my husband and two hares came out on to the track and came up close to me. I’m not superstitious, but as hares are meant to represent independence, swiftness, growth and new beginnings, it seemed like a good omen to me – so I’ve adopted the hare as my symbol so to speak. And they are simply beautiful animals too.

Hare sitting

Ready for my close-up

Two hares

Hares approach

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Books and Illustrators from my childhood number 6: Pere Castor’s Wild Animal Books

I have to confess that I don’t remember these, but they would have been around during my childhood. I’d like to think I would have seen some.

While I was pottering in a secondhand and bric-a-brac emporium in Hitchin today I came across this.

Frou jacket art

Frou jacket

This is a story about Frou the hare, number 4 of Pére Castor’s Wild Animal Books, illustrated by Feodor Stepanovich Rojankovsky also known as Rojan.

There are more examples of his work here

The series was translated by Rose Fyleman  and was published by George Allen & Unwin Ltd in the UK and by Flammarion in France. This book has no date, but Amazon are listing it as 1938.

There’s more on Pére Castor here

This book is absolutely enchanting; a mix of non-fiction and a story of Frou the young hare from his early life (His father had been eaten up by a fox and his sister had been carried off by an owl!) to meeting Capucine, his girlfriend and their life together.

Page from Frou

We’re introduced to Frou

Frou meets Capucine

Frou and Capucine meet

The story covers about a year in their lives. They have to hide from foxes and crows, the huntsmen and their dogs, a separation and a joyful reunion.

The happy ending

The happy ending

The lithographs by Rojan are just gorgeous – I shall be looking for more in the series.

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iBooks Author experiments

Last week was a week for conversations with various individuals and companies about fixed-format epub, KF8, Adobe DPS, book apps and their various merits, capabilities, pitfalls etc. During those conversations I was reminded of iBooks Author. I downloaded it ages ago, but had only given it a cursory glance.

So over the weekend I took it for a test drive. (Please note: I’m using my own photographs and made-up or placeholder text. The ‘book’ is a test of the program’s abilities.)

On the plus side iBooks Author is free to download.
But on the minus side it only works on a Mac running Lion and above. Which leaves a lot of potential users out in the cold.

Another minus (for some people) is that if you want to sell any books you create, you must do it on the iBooks Store. But you can easily test them on your iPad, give them freely away, er, free, and you can make PDFs (although they won’t have any interactivity and I haven’t tested the quality).


When you open iBooks Author you’re presented with a number of templates to choose from. They range from photo book layouts to text-heavy ‘classic’ layouts, recipes etc. You seem to have to choose a layout to start with, but they are all completely customisable. The ‘basic’ layout is probably the one to go for if you want to go it alone.

This is a screen shot of the iBooks Author with my test book in progress. Note it implies that you have to import images through iPhoto. You don’t. You can drag and drop from desktop or Bridge. There’s a pull-out drawer of styles on the right and page thumbnails on the left.

Screenshot of iBooks Author

Screenshot of iBooks Author

You test your book by hooking computer to iPad with the iBooks app open and clicking Preview. The book is downloaded to iBooks and is completely functional – except it has ‘Proof’ written across the corner of the cover. (The book next to it is Animals from Miles Kelly.)

iBooks library screen

iBooks library screen

This is a chapter opener, with the thumbnail table of contents along the bottom. The table of contents is automatically generated and updated.

Chapter opener and table of contents thumbnails along the bottom.

Chapter opener and table of contents thumbnails along the bottom

If you work with InDesign, Quark or even Pages, Word, etc it’s all very familiar territory. It’s also quite similar in a lot of ways to Blurb’s BookSmart program.

The interesting stuff is the interactivity that is possible through widgets. The program comes with a selection of these which include galleries, scrolling boxes, interactive questions, media (video and audio), inserting Keynote presentations, pop-up labels, 3-d images and HTML functionality.

Gallery. Tap the thumbnails to view

Gallery. Tap the thumbnails to view

Embedded video has to be in .m4v format.

Embedded video has to be in .m4v format



Zoom-in zoomed in.

Zoom-in zoomed in

You can also make HTML widgets in programs like Hype, and I found a site called Bookry which allows you to create all sorts of widgets. I made a wordsearch to go in this book.

Wordsearch widget from Bookry.

Wordsearch widget from Bookry

Word search poster image

Wordsearch poster image

These are multiple choice question widgets. You can have standard text or picture questions with up to 6 options or drag label or image to target questions. It will show you the correct answer and total your answers at the end of the test.

Questions widget. Drag the answer to the correct spot

Questions widget. Drag the answer to the correct spot

Questions widget. Drag the image thumbnail to the correct spot.

Questions widget. Drag the image thumbnail to the correct spot

I’m still playing with this, but I really like it and think it could have interesting possibilities if you’re happy to be limited to Apple platforms.

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Uses for a scanner Pt 3: Digitising printed texts – a guide for authors and publishers


Recently I’ve had enquiries from authors who are thinking about self-publishing their rights-reverted books as e-books, but don’t know where to start and what is involved.

Let’s assume that you are sure the rights have reverted to you, you feel there’s a market for your books, and you’ve got someone to market them – or you’re prepared to put the time in – and that you realise that you will have to spend some time and probably some money (if you don’t want to spend an inordinate lot of time) on converting your books.

So let’s start with first things first – how do you convert your printed book into an e-book?
Step one: The text must exist in an editable digital form. This means that if all you have is a printed book, you must somehow get it into a text document (Word – or similar will do).

You could type it up again … or get someone else to type it up again…
You could check with your agent and/or publisher to see if they still hold files
You could scan the book and use OCR scanning software. Which brings me to the point of this post.

You can use an ordinary flat-bed scanner that often comes with home printers these days. But it is a drawn-out process. Open book, place on scanner, scan spread (holding book down as flat as you can), take book out of scanner, turn page over and repeat … and repeat … and repeat. You can see how this will quickly become tedious, and you really do have to hold the pages as flat as possible or the OCR scanning software will struggle.

Another option is to use a sheet-feeder scanner. You will have to cut your book up – so book-lovers of the ‘weep to see a broken spine’ disposition look away now…

Step one: Thoroughly break the spine. Open and close in several places, bend and generally loosen up.

Step two: Carefully pull the cover away from the book block.

Gently pull the cover away from the book block

It’s not essential that the cover stays in one piece, but I think it makes it easier to handle.

Step three: Once the cover is off, carefully pull the book block apart into sections. Or if you have a huge guillotine about your person, use it to trim off the glued section.

Pull apart into manageable sections

Step four: Trim along the glued edges. You don’t have to worry about perfection here, just so long as you don’t cut into the text areas. I use scissors, but you can use a knife if it’s easier.

Trim off the glued edges

Step five: Fan through the pages several times to get rid of paper dust and to make sure all the pages are separate. Any still glued together will snarl up in the scanner. Books make a surprising amount of dust too.

Fan pages to separate and get rid of dust

Step six: Place about forty pages in the scanner (with my scanner it’s face down and pointing down). No need to count the pages – just experiment with how much it can cope with. Set the scanner going. Keep an eye out for snarl-ups or misfeeds. Make sure that you put the sections through in the correct order.

Pages going through the scanner

Step seven: Save the resulting scan as a PDF. This has created a series of page images. The text still isn’t editable at this point.

Step eight: Run your OCR software. I use ABBYY Finereader Express. Save the result as a RTF file.

You now have an editable file.

Step nine: You’ll need to check it through for OCR errors. The software is very good for reasonably normal text, but if your original has any fancy fonts, handwriting, etc, expect a lot of errors. I recently scanned a couple of books with chapter heads in a gothic blackletter font and they came out as complete gobbledygook. You’ll need to find and delete page numbers, running heads, etc. I’ve noticed errors on italics with ?or! directly after them and I converting to 1 or the other way around. Foreign accents tend to be ignored too (if scanning in English that is).

Step ten: You now have digital text ready for formatting and converting – but that’s another story!

If this all sounds like a huge faff – I can do any or all parts of this process for you, and I can convert to e-book formats too. Just contact me for details.

Please note:  you must own the rights to the work (or have permission from the owner).

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Uses for a scanner pt 2:

Confetti cone and buttonhole

Wedding souvenirs scanned. This is the first time I’ve used the carrier sheet. This allows you to scan up to A3 size documents. It will also take flat folded objects like this.

Uses for a scanner pt 1: Edwardian postcard collage

Edwardian postcards of Bath, England

My collection of Edwardian postcards of Bath. Scanned on the Futjitsu ScanSnap. The scanner automatically scans both sides and will take about eight cards at a time. I converted the resulting PDF file into a folder of jpgs in Adobe Acrobat. Then used Picasa to create a collage.

Postcard dated May 1900 and sent to Hamburg, Germany