Who line edits, proofreads some of these expensive books: Microsoft Word?

Hi, folks. I'm back after a long absence from the Internet and missed all of you terribly.

During the time that I couldn't get on the Net (gasp, sob), I did a LOT of reading. Big, expensive books from my local library. There were errors not only in continuity, spelling and grammar, but line repetitions and widows and orphans everywhere. Who is watching these books for errors? Don't they send the proofs to the authors any more? What do you think?

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I'm published with a major house (Penguin). Not all publishers handle their books the same way (and that has nothing to do with whether the book is expensive, big, or hardcover). At Penguin a book is first edited. This involves plot changes and possible cuts. The book comes back to the author for those changes. Then it is copy-edited by someone else. This involves grammar, spelling, capitalization, inconsistencies, and punctuation. The book comes back to the author for approval or disapproval of those changes. Then the text is transferred to galleys or first-run pages. These comes back to the author for another proof-reading.
I pride myself on careful revisions and proofreading, but even so, a couple of things slipped by me (and all those other people) and had to be changed before the final printing.

This work format may not, however, apply to all books. Most books do not get edited. And copy-editors aren't always perfect. Neither are authors, who may insist on their own versions.
SM/M uses the same process: editor's revisions, copy-edits, galley-proofing, prayer. My editor and copy editor are VERY good--my CE doesn't just check for grammar, etc.--she fact-checks, checks for timeline issues, repeated phrases, character inconsistencies in dialogue, on and on--and I have to respond to all of it. Still, one or two little things always get through--novels are big, complex beasts with a billion moving parts, and schedules are often tight. But yeah, I've seen incredibly bad editing in books that were major releases: spellcheck homonym errors (peddling for pedaling), simple grammatical mistakes not the result of POV or dialogue, you name it. It does seem that high profile publishing and good editing do not necessarily go hand-in-hand.
Well, not every editor at SM/M actually edits. I can't say I approved when that happened to me.
I get very few line edits from mine, thank God. She does help with pacing, continuity, plot and story issues, among other things--which is great. Her instincts are spot on, and she gets what I'm trying to do. She leaves the little stuff to the copy editor and proof-reader, which is probably as it should be.
Jon, you seem to have found one of the great ones, which today seems to be a rarity. One longs for the days of Max Perkins, who managed to edit Scott Fitzgerald, Thomas Wolfe and Ernest Hemingway, along with a host of other more compliant authors.

Glad you found your Max Perkins.
I wouldn't go that far: Perkins was a stylist and maybe the real genius behind Hemingway's work--Hemingway wouldn't have sounded like Hemingway without Perkins. My editor's mostly hands-off regarding style, which is just the way I like it. I know how to write a sentence so it sounds like me. Where I need help sometimes is with the macro stuff, as I said above.
You are lucky then. Congrats.
I don't have a problem with a few things getting by, but when Andrew and Julie get changed to John and Martha in mid-book, it upsets me a bit. Nobody's perfect, but when history gets all muddled up and I can't figure out why page 13 appears where page 15 should be, I become hostile.

I'm very happy when I hear about folks that have had good luck with their editors, copy editors and proofreaders. Things often slip by authors, who have revised and proofread so often that things just go right by them. That is normal. I probably need an editor to take care of these two paragraphs.
the proofing process is so rushed, almost like an afterthought. copy edits, line edits, and page proofs usually arrive unexpectedly, and have to be back within days. i've had page proofs hit my door on xmas eve with a deadline of Jan 2. i like to go through material 3 x, but i usually only have time to go thru it once. and with those final page proofs -- you have no idea if the edits and corrections are made until you see the book in print. recently a friend discovered none of her edits had been made when she got her hot-off-the-press copy. not long ago i was doing a reading and came upon an embarrassing paragraph that had been missed by the person who implemented corrections. it's too bad we can't proof it one more time, but all of that cost the publisher money. in the same book they failed to compress and italicize diary text. i was told i would have to pay for that correction, so i had to leave it.
I do hate the waitwaitwait, hurryhurryhurry component, and I worry, too, about whether the last round of changes will actually make it to print; talking through larger corrections with my editor helps, but it doesn't always mean they get done. The good news is that they're in a hurry because they've got promotional plans for your book. No hurry equals who cares, as far as they're concerned.
on the other hand, i'm surprised the expensive books have so many mistakes, because publishing houses have their tiers of freelance copy editors, etc, and they would most-likely be using their best freelancers for the big books. but i imagine those freelancers are also getting material with little or no warning and a few days to turn it around.
Well, I've had a reasonable amount of time. My galleys that apeared 2 days before Christmas were due back Jan. 7. But I never go through 3 times. I go through once, at the rate of about 50 pages per day. 25 in the morning and 25 in the afternoon. Otherwise my eyes glaze. Errors slip in not only from the author, but from anyone else who handles the text subsequently. And copy-editors make occasional embarrassing mistakes when they change an author's version. Even when they don't make mistakes, their versions are not always better. I use my "stets" fairly liberally. And while one is grateful to the copy-editor (invariably a somewhat overly fussy individual who believes authors are illiterate), one also gets very frustrated with the insertion of tons of optional commas and other irrelevancies.


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