The Making of a Book

“A motion is made, supported, and carried to authorize the editor to proceed with the publishing of….” So each new R.F.P.A. book has its beginning at a meeting of the Publications Committee. As soon as I receive the typewritten manuscript, I set to work. Every afternoon when my two young children nap, I collect the manuscript, dictionary, manual of style, Bible, and red ink pen, and settle down to proofread. An editor must read with an eye for many details. All punctuation and grammar must be correct. As a guide I follow A Manual of Style, published by the University of Chicago. This book also shows the proofreader’s symbols for making corrections, proper form for footnotes and bibliographies, proper format for front pages, and just about anything else one needs to know about publishing a book. My dictionary is consulted when I doubt spellings and word divisions. I doublecheck Bible passages that are quoted for accuracy, especially as to punctuation. I check, too, for typographical errors. Perhaps the most difficult aspect of proofreading a manuscript is watching for consistency. An author or typist may begin, for example, by spelling marvellous with two l’s. Several chapters later I find marvelous. Both are acceptable spellings. The same is true of punctuation, capitalization, and footnote form. While watching for these mechanical details, I also must read for sense. A “not” inadvertantly omitted could make a heretic of the most Reformed theologian! Finally, I must correct technical details—margins and spacing have to be even; and long, quoted passages must be indented and reduced. When I finish, I check with the author if I have any questions about clarity or if I make major changes in wording. 

Next I consult with the typesetter, Mrs. Judi Doezema, who does most of our typesetting. We decide on page size, the kinds and sizes of types, how much space to leave for margins and between lines, and format for each chapter. While she is typesetting, I take care of correspondence. I must fill out and mail a form for the Library of Congress Catalog Card Number, which appears on the copyright page. I send off requests for prices on printing the book. And I ask our artist, Jeff Steenholdt from our Kalamazoo congregation, to begin the artwork for the cover. 

Soon chapters start trickling back from the typesetter. Again I proofread, this time especially for typographical mistakes. And since this is the final, photo-ready copy, I check for letters that are misformed, for lines of type that are slanted or uneven, and for margins that are not straight. If the author wants a textual index, I make it now. I write each reference and page number or an index card. Then I sort the stack into the various books of the Bible and order them by chapter and verse. When I finish proofreading, this copy goes to a second proofreader, usually Jeanette Clason from Kalamazoo. Then back it goes to the typesetter for corrections. 

Meantime, I tie up many loose ends. I have been assembling the material for the front pages. The large type for the titles, the ISBN and catalog card numbers for the copyright page, a preface and dedication from the author, and the table of contents are all sent along to the typesetter. When she finishes, I check the corrections once more for mistakes. 

By this time Jeff has sent a rough draft of the artwork for my inspection. It passes with flying colors, and I mail it back with the printed material that appears on the back cover or dustjacket. The Publications Committee meets again to decide whether the book will be hardcover or paperback, how many copies to print, and what price to charge. In accordance with their decisions I mail the typeset manuscript and the artwork to the printer. We use two printers in Ann Arbor, Michigan, who cater to customers with jobs of our size—Malloy Lithographing and Cushing-Malloy Lithographers. The pictures of the printing process in the following article were taken at Cushing-Malloy. 

The printing process involves making negatives from our photo-ready copy, printing the specified amount of copies (sixteen pages on a sheet), cutting and folding these sheets into sections or folios, and gathering and stitching the folios. For paperback books they also bind, pack, and ship the books. For hardcover books they pack the folios and send them to Dekker and Sons Bookbinders in Grand Rapids. Dekkers binds the books with the cloth I select, stamps the title on, puts on the dustjackets (which I get printed locally and deliver to Dekkers), and shrinkwraps each volume with a plastic wrapper. From there the books are stored in a rented self-storage warehouse. 

But I’m not finished yet. Review copies and author’s copies must be distributed. Library of Congress gets a copy also. Two copies and a completed form go to the Copyright Office. A file must be made for all the data which has accumulated. Pictures must be taken for the catalog. 

Am I finished? The telephone rings, and Mr. VanderWal tells me we need more catalogs. As long as they need to be reprinted anyway, I include new and upcoming publications. This involves several trips to Wobbema Printers to check layout. Mr. VanderWal adds that we are running low on some of our books. As soon as the committee gives its okay, I’ll have to set the wheels in motion to get those reprinted. 

Finished now? No, the phone rings once more. My father informs me that Mrs. Meyer has several chapters typed on the next manuscript. I can pick them up any time. The work has its frustrations—delays, lost artwork for reprints, running out to pick up copy, to mail packages, or to pick up dustjackets when I’d rather stay home. (My boys never seem to mind; they’ve made friends at each stop.) However, the rewards far outbalance the complaints. I enjoy the challenge of the job and the interest outside of homemaking it provides without taking me away from my children. But far more rewarding is the opportunity I have to read, not once but two or three times, the writings of our Protestant Reformed theologians. Never can I say, when the patter of little feet signals the end of an afternoon’s proofreading session, that I did not grow in the grace and knowledge of my Lord and Savior.