The later stages of book production can involve three stages: copy-editing, proofreading and indexing. Each requires separate training and expertise. While some people offer all three, it’s not a great idea to have the same person providing all three for the same publication. A few words about each can clarify the roles.
To quote from the SfEP website:
Copy-editing takes the raw material (the ‘copy’: anything from a novel to a web page) and makes it ready for publication as a book, article, website, broadcast, menu, flyer, game or even a tee-shirt. The aim of copy-editing is to ensure that whatever appears in public is accurate, easy to follow, fit for purpose and free of error, omission, inconsistency and repetition. This process picks up embarrassing mistakes, ambiguities and anomalies, alerts the client to possible legal problems and analyses the document structure for the typesetter/designer.
After material has been copy-edited, the publisher sends it to a designer or typesetter. Their work is then displayed or printed, and that is the proof – proof that it is ready for publication. Proofreading is the quality check and tidy up. Proofreading is now often ‘blind’ – the proof is read on its own merits, without seeing the edited version.A proofreader looks for consistency in usage and presentation, and accuracy in text, images and layout, but cannot be responsible for the author’s or copy-editor’s work.
And on indexers:
A professional indexer compiles an ‘analytical’ index – not just a list of keywords. There are no quick fixes for the kind of intellectual analysis required in order to produce the most efficient ‘finding’ and ‘navigation’ tool for a printed or electronic publication. An indexer considers the terms the readers are likely to use and relates them to the language chosen by the author. An indexer analyses the meaning and significance of the entire content in detail, and identifies tangible concepts from the woolliest of descriptions.
So three stages, each doing different things with the text to make it as good as it can be, given the commercial and other constraints.
The first SfEP/SI joint conference was an excellent opportunity for our large community of copy-editors, indexers and proofreaders to develop their professional knowledge, network and socialise, alongside international delegates from both societies. The Storify gives a glimpse here #sisfep15.