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The Nitty-Gritty of Galley Editing


By Jody Hedlund, @JodyHedlund

I'm in the middle of reading two different sets of Galley Reviews. The first Galleys is for Out of the Storm, a historical romance novella that kicks off a 3 book lighthouse series. The novella releases in late fall of 2014. The second Galleys is for Love Unexpected which is the first lighthouse book. And it releases December 1, 2014. 

Whenever I mention that I'm working on Galleys to friends, they invariably raise their brows. Most people don't really understand what Galleys means or entails.

Before I was published, I had no idea there was even such a thing as Galley edits. And even after I got my first Galleys, I was still confused about what the term meant.

So I did a little investigating and discovered that the term "Galleys" is actually short for Galley proofs.

Old wooden galley tray with lead type. *Source Wikimedia.org*

In the old days printers had to meticulously place each individual letter of each individual word together to form a printed page. The printer laid and tightened those letters into wooden or metal trays called galleys. Then a limited number of copies were printed and proofread. The printer would make further changes, re-arrange the type, and print the final copy.

Nowadays, printing has evolved beyond metal letters and trays. Actually, the Galley editing stage involves different things for different publishers. But I think it's safe to say that overall, Galley Reviews are one of the final editing stages that a book goes through before publication, and the stage usually involves proofreading a printed version of the book.

My publisher is somewhat unique in that they have two sets of printed Galleys.

During the first round, I'm able to see the manuscript that has recently been line edited by my in-house editor. Most of the time, I can't even tell my editor has made any changes unless I carefully compare the Galleys to an earlier manuscript. I've realized that's the sign of a good line editor, when he's able to make important changes but his fingerprints are invisible.

Here's an example of the kinds of changes he makes during line editing (this is taken from the first page of my novella):

My version: "The man's wide-open eyes peered into the heaps of gray clouds covering the early morning sky, the streaks of black the reminder of the storm's fury."

My editor's version: "The man's unseeing eyes stared up at the dark-gray clouds covering the early morning sky, a reminder of the passing storm's fury."

As you can see, he subtly trimmed some of my wordiness. If I don't agree with the changes he's made, I make notes on my printed Galleys about how we can further adjust things (and usually we come to a compromise). I also trim, check for repetitions, and try to catch any mistakes, before finally sending the Galleys back to my publisher.

During the second and final set of Galleys from my publisher, each page is already set for how it will look in the book. So at that point, I'm not allowed to make any big changes. I can only mark little mistakes, missed commas, misspellings, etc. It's actually the very last time I'll see or read my manuscript before it goes to print.

Why are Galleys done six months ahead of the book's release?

There are actually many benefits to having the book *mostly* edited and ready to go that far ahead including allowing time for publishers to begin marketing the book, sending it out to reviewers, and soliciting endorsements.

For me personally, Galleys are a rather depressing stage in my love affair with my book. By the time I see the Galleys, the gushing and giddiness that I felt with my first draft is definitely over. I've read and edited the book so many times, that it's lost its appeal. In fact, as I nitpick the manuscript, everything begins to glare at me. And by the time I finish reading the last set of Galleys, I'm ready to throw it in the trash. Needless to say, I never read the book again.

What about you? What do you think of the Galley stage of editing? Do you think it's a worthwhile editing stage or is it antiquated?


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