Self-Publishing Proofing … UGH!

You’ve heard the old saw about the dog chasing a car? What will he do with it if he catches it?

I feel the same way about proofing the files for my Viet Nam memoir, HOTEL CONSTELLATION: Notes from America’s Secret War in Laos.

I’m about a third of the way through the process; I’ve found some issues. Now what do I do?

Proofing for a self-publisher is different than for authors pursuing the tradition agent-print publisher model. In the latter, someone else is fudging with the details. (At least, I assume that’s true. Why else would you share 85% of the gross if they weren’t doing work you don’t want to do?)

And if I’ve learned anything about self-publishing, it’s that the process is full of details. Hundreds of details. Maybe a thousand details, or tiny decisions that must be made and acted on. (In fact, I’m already planning another paean to lists. I could never plow through this self-pub production process without lists — to do lists, check lists, deadlines, reminders, catalogs of lists, links to lists of lists, etc.)

Witness the first issue I discovered during my proofing tests. (Oh, yes, I tested many devices and apps. See below.)

ProofingThis is how the Library page appears in Kindle:

  • Top – That’s my computer monitor showing the FOUR versions in the Kindle app for the MacBook Pro.
  • Lower left: A Kindle White, showing a generic cover with the HOTEL CONSTELLATION title. All other books in the library show their appropriate cover.
  • Bottom row, second from the left, the iPhone: Perfect. It’s hard to see in the photo, but it’s there, just as you would want it.
  • Bottom row, second from the right, Kindle Fire. My book is a no-show in the library. It’s there, and you can find it by scrolling across the bottom of the screen, but it’s not where I would like it.
  • Finally, lower right, the Kindle app on an iPad. Same issue here as with the Kindle White. The book shows up with a generic cover.

This problem of how (and even if) the books appears in the Kindle library may, or may not, be easy to solve. Just like the issue of having the cover appear twice in every file. (But that’s a separate issue … I think. I hope. I desire it to be so.)

I don’t know, because I’m not certain whom to ask. I’m sure I’ll fall back on the patience of my designers. I’m using their files; they’re experts (and I truly believe that); they probably run into this from time to time. They’ll know.

But you begin to see the magnitude of the proofing chore. And that’s just one item I’m checking. (Makes sense, right? Start with the cover.)

You can’t check everything. That would require rereading over and over a book you’ve already been through close to 100 times. So you create a sample that will cover Here’s what I’m checking:

  • Cover —
    • Appearance in library —
  • DLH email link hot? —
  • TOC / links
    • 1
    • 15
    • 27
    • Sources
    • Back links
  • MAP 1 —
  • MAP 2 (CH. 16) —
  • CH. 16
    • Pullout quotations —
    • Footnotes
      • Format —
      • Links forward/back —
  • Photos End of CH. 17 (10) —
  • Source links: 5
    • Show as links? —
    • Links work —

Let’s see. I’m proofing this on five devices: The Kindle app on my MacBook Pro; Kindle app on my iPad; Kindle app on my iPhone; Kindle 1 and Kindle 2. I regret — really, but for this purpose only — NOT having a Windows system to test this on. You can only do so much. (Big lesson there: You can only do so much.)

So what do I do? What’s good enough? I counsel young people not to let the perfect be the enemy of the good (enough). I will try to follow my own advice. But those two cover issues HAVE to be resolved.

Meanwhile, I have the proof the printed book to proof — it arrives on Monday, maybe — and that will involve turning every page, if not rereading the entire text. In addition, I have to upload all the files to Smashwords for distribution outside the Amazon world.

It’s just getting interesting.

Authors on Proofing

I was working on the proof of one of my poems all the morning, and took out a comma. In the afternoon I put it back again.
― Oscar Wilde

Picking up your first copy of a book you wrote, if there’s one typo, it will be on the page that your new book falls open to the first time you pick it up.
― Neil Gaiman

I do my best proofreading right after I hit send.
― Anonymous


Memoir Cover: The Winner!

I approved the final ebook cover design for my Viet Nam memoir, HOTEL CONSTELLATION: Notes from America’s Secret War in Laos.

Damon Freeman and the designers at are now working on the print cover (with binder and back cover). I expect they will present something early next week.

The final ebook design is a variant of the Chopper concept.


I invited feedback, and about 20 readers responded. Most favored the Chopper concept with the Window idea a distant second. Almost no one (except me) liked the Bullet design.

I liked the bullet design because, with the three war photos, it said war, death and destruction to me. A larger number than I would have expected said it made the book look like a work of fiction. Live and learn.

On the Chopper design, I requested four changes: Different chopper and people photos, larger subtitle and bolder line drawing of the border. The first two were for authenticity; the other two were to increase legibility of the thumbnail version.

True to my inability to perform good design work, three of the changes actually detracted from the overall design, so I asked to go back to the original and made one final change – I got rid of the people with the conical hats.

Overall, I think the final version says “Viet Nam war”, “secrecy” and “Laos.” I can only hope the buying public will be intrigued.




Cover Design: Decisions, Decisions


The book designer for my Viet Nam memoir, HOTEL CONSTELLATION: Notes from America’s Secret War in Laos, nailed it with three cover concepts.

Now I have to nitpick them apart, find reasons not to like them … and choose ONE to move forward with.

Any thoughts? Input welcome.


Hotel B





Great job, You’ll be hearing from me.