Countdown to Dreaming Spies: galley proofs

The proof, or galley stage of a book is when I receive a stack of printed matter that shows what the book will actually look like. This is always a surprise: Wow, it’s a real book! With margins! And pretty stuff!—since the publisher’s art department loves to contribute their little extras to the reading experience, whether it’s the choice of font, a design for the chapter heads, or the pages that separate the book’s sections.DS page

If you look closely at the picture, you will discover a book in progress. Little marks in the corners indicate where the page will be cut for the hardback, with the target-mark at the sides showing the exact halfway point. A line of words and numbers at the bottom tell you my surname, the13-digit ISBN number (part of which is the publisher designation, Bantam books), that page’s number, and a bunch of in-house code that tells them what book they’re looking at. Over at the right, it tells precisely when this set of proofs was printed off.

The proofs are the last time I will have to change things, so I go over every word to make sure that the audio book doesn’t have peculiar juxtapositions, that I’m not repeating myself, that I’ve explained sufficiently but not too much, that I’ve spelled things right, that I haven’t overlooked a passage I’d meant to take out. And individual words—this time I discovered an overuse of the word interesting. Sigh.DS MS

The way to find these mistakes is not to lay the pages down on a desk and go over them with pen in hand. The way to find them is to read every word, aloud, slowly and with attention. I can only do about 40 pages a day before my voice and my brain begin to wander, but when I do find errors, I often am nervous about correcting them then and there. If I’ve used the word interesting twice in a paragraph and want to change one of them to, say, intriguing, what if I used intriguing a few lines before? Because I’m not sure my tongue will have remembered it, I stick a Post It on the side and, at the end, go over the whole thing a second time with the laptop open, doing a word search to check. There are also Post Its to double-check on whether I’ve made proper use of a planted phrase or clue, whether I’ve sufficiently explained a situation, whether the wording on this section is clear enough, whether…

Which is why, by the time I send the proofs back to my editor after two or three weeks, I NEVER WANT TO READ THE THING EVER AGAIN REALLY NEVER.Dreaming Spies

This explains why readers should never regard those Advanced Reading Editions as the final work: AREs are the proof pages, not the corrected proofs. Not only do you get little oddities like wonky spacing (resulting in the word somemeansofkeepingboredomatbay) and a few places where the typesetter has picked up a word from the wrong row in the copy edit (“devoid of passengers” has become “devoid of indicated”) but you’ll also find irritating things like anachronisms (but “hairdo” sounds so Twenties) and a young woman who sits down in Russell’s kitchen in Oxford and takes off a coat that an earlier scene has established she is not wearing,

Things change, up to the last minute. All to make a smoother read for you guys.

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Dreaming Spies publishes five months from today.  I know it’s early, but if you’re on Goodreads, you can note that you’re looking forward to reading it here; if you’d like to pre-order a copy, you can do that now too, with a signed copy from Bookshop Santa Cruz or The Poisoned Pen, or from Barnes & Noble, or from Amazon,


  1. Merrily Taylor on September 24, 2014 at 5:48 am

    Some years ago I read proofs for a friend of mine who was publishing a book written by her late husband. Not only had I typed the manuscript, but of course when the galleys came, we had to go through them to make sure everything was correct. Well do I remember one of us reading and the other following along in the manuscript (oh, and did I mention you had to read the punctuation as well, to make sure that that was correct?). It gave me real respect for the process – and kudos to you for managing it all by yourself, Laurie! I just can’t wait for this book. Now to go off to Amazon to make sure that I pre-ordered it…

  2. jean utley on September 24, 2014 at 6:04 am

    I read an arc and didn’t notice anything! But I’m used to ebooks and theit errors. What a sad commentary on the editing business. Anyway, I really loved this book and the part of the world in which it is set.

  3. Lynn Hirshman on September 24, 2014 at 7:57 am

    Ah, but at least you were able to write on a computer (was it here we had this discussion?) — I remember constructing my book in (1982) from odds and ends of typewritten copy, LITERALLY cut and pasted where I wanted it, before I TYPED my final version, Wite-out and all, and sent it off….

  4. Lynne Rosenthal on September 24, 2014 at 11:31 am

    I hope you do read your books after a while. I’ve read all of them at least twice — many of them many more times. They are SO good.
    Looking forward to Dreaming Spies — already pre-ordered.

  5. Janis Kiehl Harrison on September 24, 2014 at 12:21 pm

    Dearest Laurie R. King: I am a fan, a recently converted fan (!) and I am reading through the Russell memoirs from the beginning. I’m only up to “Justice,” so you may have caught these little quibbles. I’m a bit of an anglophile, but not a terminal case, anyway:
    (1) An English person my apply the curb rein to a horse, or curb his/her tongue, but a roadway is edged with a kerb. S/he steps up on the kerb to the pavement…
    (2)Wrist watches developed during WW One for the use of pilots, and were not particularly available, especially to women, until a bit later after the Unpleasantness. Women usually used smaller pocket-type watches often on a lavalier or pinned to their blouses.

    • Laurie King on September 24, 2014 at 7:45 pm

      Hi Janis, thanks for catching the Curb typo–can you give me an idea where it is, so I can let the publishers know for the next reprint?
      As for the wrist watches, by the mid Twenties a fair number of people were wearing them, especially iconoclasts like Russell!

  6. RAchael Hungerford on September 28, 2014 at 3:34 pm

    I have read and reread your Mary Russell books a number of times – While I will never have the opportunity to live in England It is none the less the home of my heart. Your description keep me there – they also keep me in other countries as well. I enjoy them all over and over again. Are you ever going to write another Kate Mellini (sp?) mystery? I have reread those many times as well and I enjoy them over and over again.
    You have done a really fine job with these series. Thank you.
    Rachael Hungerford

    • Laurie King on September 29, 2014 at 9:20 am

      Hi Rachel, thanks, although I do hope you get to England one day! As for Kate Martinelli, the same applies: I hope to revisit her some day, although it won’t be for a few years, alas.

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