What Is a Galley in Magazine and Book Publishing?

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If you work in or around the publishing world, you're sure to come across the term, "galley," at some point or another. When you hear it, don't start looking for the kitchen. In publishing, a galley has little to do with where you prep your food. The name comes from the printing press: A galley was a metal tray into which type was inserted for creating the first print for proofreading. The tools may have changed today, but the meaning is still very much the same.

What Is a Galley?

Generally speaking, a galley is a final proof of an article or book before it goes into production. They are created primarily for editors, proofreaders, and authors to do a final review to catch any mistakes before the writing goes to the public. Sometimes, though, they may be used for promotional purposes. Depending on the publisher, they may be uncut and unbound, or might be in some form of mock binding to show off something close to the final product.

Galleys in Magazines vs. Book Publishing

Galleys play different roles when writing for a magazine (whether it's a one-time gig or ongoing work) than when writing for a book publisher. In magazine publishing, a galley is either the final proof of how your article will look (including typeset, paragraph breaks, lede, images, and headlines) or it is a very close version of the final page (perhaps without photos, for example).

In book publishing, you may find some variation concerning the definition of a galley. For example, a "galley proof" is the preliminary version of a publication meant for review by authors, book editors, and proofreaders. These galleys are created for proofreading and copyediting purposes but may be used for promotional and review purposes as well. A "page proof," on the other hand, is created in a near-final version and assumes that mistakes have been corrected. Because correcting errors at this stage of production is expensive, these pages are a very close representation of the final printing.

When Do I Need a Galley?

If you're a publisher or magazine editor, a galley—or some digital form of it—is an important step in the editing process. It can provide one last chance for you or the author to catch mistakes and make sure everything is correct.

As a publisher or book author, galleys serve important promotional functions as well. They can be sent to potential book review outlets for advance reviews ahead of publication. Authors can also use a digital proof as a way to present their work to potential publishers. These days, you may not even need the expense of a printed galley, but in certain situations, it is helpful to get a physical representation of your work in the right hands.

The Bottom Line

Even though technology has changed, galleys still serve an important function in the publishing world. Whether you are a publisher, a freelance writer, or an author, you'll want to understand galleys and know how to use them. It doesn't matter whether you go print or digital—galleys will help you ensure your work is accurate and that it has the best chance of getting seen by as many people as possible.