How to Review a Digital Interior File
By Amy Groening

One of the great benefits of working with a partner publishing company is that you, the author, get to have extensive input and feedback on the design of your finished book. Now, many authors understand the merits of a good cover design, but when it comes to an interior file, things get a bit more hazy—depending on what type of a reader you are, it’s possible you’ve seen the interiors of thousands of books and never thought about what a book’s interior actually looks like. Generally, this is a good thing—from your early reading days, your mind has been learning certain “cues” and “rules” of a book that you might not consciously know about. The simple fact that a chapter starts on a new page, that if the first chapter is titled “Chapter One”, the second one should be called “Chapter Two”; not “Ch. II”—are second nature to most readers. Your mind takes in the cues a book page gives you and explains how to navigate your way through the book without you even thinking about it.

This can make reviewing a typeset file especially hard. Suddenly, you have control over what an interior looks like—where do you even start? What are the rules of typesetting, and which ones can you break?

Luckily, if you’re working with us, you’ll have a project manager and publishing consultant guiding you through this process, and we’ll be reviewing your files too—we know how to confirm margins, we understand what orphans and widows are, we watch for drop caps and we are aware of how surprisingly common it is to have a regular chapter page that’s missing its page numbers—we’re trained to catch these things, so you won’t be alone in all this.

Here are a few hints on what to watch for when you’re reviewing a typeset file, from an author’s perspective:
1) Consistency

One of the most important and intrinsic foundations of a good typeset is consistency. I hinted at this earlier, but if you use roman numerals for the first half of your chapter titles, you shouldn’t be switching to spelled-out English numbers halfway through. If Part 1 has a subtitle, Part 2 should probably have a subtitle as well; if one of your chapters has a big fancy letter at the beginning of it (called a “drop cap”), the rest of the chapters should have one as well.

2) The Basics

  • Page numbers—does every regular page have a page number noted? Chapter start pages should not have numbers, and certain other “special” pages (the dedication page, for instance), should not have the page number on them, but all other pages in the body of your book should have a number
  • Recto and Verso headers88these are the headers at the very top of your regular chapter pages. They usually denote either:

Author Name (left) & Book Title (right)
Book Title (left) & Chapter Title (right)
Part Title (left) & Chapter Title (right)

This is, again, a good time to make sure they’re consistent; that if you’re using chapter titles, each header is on the pages of the right chapter; that all chapters are spelled correctly, and that your name is, too—if you are using a middle initial on your front cover, you should have a middle initial everywhere else in the technical aspects of your book (headers, copyright page, bio, etc.).

  • Kerning—this is the spaces between letters and words in your book. Since the body of a book is full-justified, sometimes a line is spread out a bit further than all the others and can look a bit funny. If the text is spaced out too far on a line of the book, make a note of it.
  • Accuracy of Illustrations or photos—if this is an illustrated book, compare what the text on the page is saying to what is happening in the illustration. If it says “Susie’s mother washed her hair”, but in the picture, Susie’s mother is towelling her hair dry; or “Joey put on his red t-shirt” and he’s wearing a purple shirt in the drawing, you might want to change the wording so it matches the picture. If there are photos, make sure they’re in the right spot, and that there aren’t any missing.

3) Chapter title accuracy

Did you take one of the major points from chapter 5 and move them to chapter 7 before we started typesetting? Is chapter 5’s title still accurate, or does it hang on a point that isn’t even in the same place any more? Did you spell all chapter titles correctly, including checking things like setting, character names, and other items we might not know are incorrect?

4) Table of Contents

Do you have one? Do you want one? Did you send in your TOC before you added that last chapter? If so, you better check to make sure that last chapter is listed.

5) Personal details

Think about things like your dedication, acknowledgements, and About the Author section. Some authors write these sections months before they actually go to publish their book, and something major happens along the way: your book dedication says, “To my three beautiful granddaughters, whom I love.”—but by the time your book is typeset, you have been blessed with a fourth granddaughter. You might want to add her in, too. A photo caption says “Me and my first dog, Charlie, 1981”—but wait a minute! That’s not Charlie! That’s Sparky, from 1985! Your About the Author section refers to a volunteer organization you’re involved with, but since writing that section, the title of the organization has changed. Since you have the most intimate understanding of these details, you are also the most likely person to catch them, so make sure to watch out for these!

6) Missing information

It happens. You receive a last-minute endorsement and send it in when the book is mid-typeset, and it doesn’t make it in to the book. If you send information later than expected, or have a last-minute change to that information, it’s a good thing to double check and make sure that change has actually been made. These little stragglers run a greater risk of being missed when we’re preparing your book for press.

As I said, we review these files, too; these are the sorts of things we look for—but it never hurts to have another pair of eyes, and as the author, you’re most intimately aware of the details! Make sure to set aside some time to go over the file carefully, and try to limit any distractions so that you can catch inconsistencies—let your kids know you’ll be busy for the next hour; put your cell phone on silent; get a nice cup of your favourite hot beverage and turn this into an exciting opportunity to envision what your book is going to look like when it finally goes to press!

About this Contributor:

Amy Groening is a project manager at Word Alive Press. She is a passionate storyteller with experience in blogging, newspaper reportage, and creative writing. She holds an Honours degree in English Literature and is happy to be working in an industry where she can see other writers’ dreams come to life. She enjoys many creative pursuits, including sewing, sculpture and painting, and spends an embarrassingly large amount of time at home taking photos of her cats committing random acts of feline crime.

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