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What Is a Galley Proof?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 23, 2024
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A galley proof is a version of a printed piece prepared for the purpose of editing and commentary. Once all parties have had an opportunity to review it, a final page proof can be produced. This document includes correct pagination, images, and other formatting conventions, to allow people to check it one more time for errors. After approval of the page proof, it can be submitted for final publication and the production of copies for general market distribution.

This term refers to the metal galleys once used with hand-set type to hold type. This process typically starts with careful review of a manuscript to put it in as final a form as possible. When printers make the galley proof, they take the text as prepared and reproduce it with wide margins for notes. They may use inexpensive paper because the proofs don’t need to last. Galleys, as they are also known, may not have images, correct pagination, dedications, and other details, because the primary focus is on the text.

Copy editors look at a galley proof to identify typographical errors and other issues that may arise, such as inconsistent word use. A document may use a word in hyphenated form in some places, but compound in others, for example. Editors can also make contents about the style and tone of the content to request additional changes, while authors may look the piece over to make sure it is accurate and complete. In the case of documents prepared for scientific publication, peer reviewers may examine galley proofs as well.

Some publishers bind galley proofs and distribute them to reviewers. This allows reviewers to read the book before publication so they can prepare reviews in a timely fashion. Their copies will note that there may be changes to the text, and any quotes must be checked against the final printed version. Such proofs are also used for promotion. They may be distributed to bookstores, for example, to encourage staff to read and recommend them.

Review of a galley proof may take weeks or months, depending on complexity, project, and deadlines. Publications like magazines typically have a very tight production schedule that leaves limited time for checking the galley proof. Once the proof is approved, the publisher can begin setting a page proof, where issues like spacing, typography, and font become critical. At this stage, all errors should be corrected, as making changes to page proofs before they go to publication can be quite costly.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a Language & Humanities researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By mrwormy — On Nov 07, 2014

I had a poem included in a political poetry anthology, so everyone got a galley proof copy to look over before the presses started running. I did find a few minor problems with the way the lines of my poem were formatted, so I emailed the publisher and she made the changes on her computer. I wasn't the only one who had problems with pagination and formatting, so they ended up doing yet another galley proof after that one. We all signed off on that one.

I found out later that galley proofs of certain book titles can be worth a lot of money in the book collecting field. Unlike first editions, galley proofs were never meant to be distributed to the public. The only people who would have copies would be the authors and the publishing company. Even the galley proof I had of the poetry anthology was selling for four times the retail price of the finished print book.

By Ruggercat68 — On Nov 06, 2014

I do some self-publishing through an online print book publisher, and after I upload all of the text and artwork to the publisher's site, I get access to a virtual galley proof, in the form of a PDF file posted online. I have to go through it page by page to make sure there aren't any formatting errors or misspellings or whatever. Once I sign off on that galley proof, the book itself will be printed on demand from a master file. It's a much easier way of doing things than the old way of printing out a paper galley proof and writing corrections all over it.

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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