At NIAS Press, we call it ‘flicking through’. I’m sure there is a proper name for the process – final-final proof? – but essentially this is a last-minute checking of the cover(s) and body pages to ensure there are no silly mistakes.
This task is usually carried out by press staff (often including the production editor). The author is almost never involved.
A few of the classic errors picked up at this late stage are:
- Details on the cover (e.g. subtitle) do not match those inside the book.
- The wrong publication date is stated on the copyright page (normally because publication of the book is delayed).
- Chapter titles in the table of contents do not match those in the text and/or in the running heads (names may be different or it could simply be that the capitalization differs).
- Page numbers stated in the table of contents and in the lists of tables, maps, figures, etc. do not match the actual pagination in the text.
- Caption text in the lists of tables, maps, figures, etc. do not match those in the text (as with chapter titles above) but note that this may be deliberate (e.g. because only abbreviated details are stated in the prelims whereas on the actual page the full details are given, including source and acknowledgement of permission to reproduce the material).
- A chapter title, heading name or caption that should be listed in the prelims is missing there.
- Chapter titles in the running heads are out of sync with the chapter pagination (e.g. the last two pages for Chapter 2 use Chapter 3’s running heads).
No matter how hard the production editor tries, some blemishes can slip through. This can be embarrassing but it is rare that the error is serious. (That said, it can be; I remember one publisher having to withdraw and reprint an annotated edition of the Koran due to a single spelling mistake being found a few days after publication.) However, once this last-minute check is done and any mistakes corrected, the book files will be uploaded to the printer.
Finally, your book is (almost) out of your publisher’s hands. All that remains is to create the final print files and send them off to the printer, something done very quickly and simply these days via the internet (often via the medium of a FTP server).
Now our attention can shift to the printer. The question is, which printer?