This article was written with authors in mind. It’s a (hopefully) simple 10-step how-to tutorial that will both smooth and shorten the feedback loop between authors and their book designers. Although I focus on authors, the advice shared should prove useful for anyone else who uses the PDF format on a regular basis. I really hope this helps you 🤓
As always, if I am able to help you 👉 you owe me a comment down below 😛
Why do I need to comment on a PDF?
During a typical publishing process an author receives a number of PDF documents needing feedback. The most commonly-shared PDFs are usually the print-ready cover and typeset interior, destined for the printers.
The document normally needing the most feedback is your print-ready interior. This process is known as typesetting, where your book-interior designer, known as a typesetter, takes your Word document and works their magic on the font styling and sizing. A successful typesetting process should make it difficult to distinguish your book’s pages from something published by a Penguin.
A typesetting process typically involves a few rounds of grouped feedback where the author requests updates and small tweaks from the designer. This is sometimes where confusion creeps in. What is the best method of sharing feedback with your typesetter?
Examples of updates you may need
- You may prefer a different style of font is used.
- You might need your Table of Contents structured differently.
- Or you might simply need your email address updated within your book “back matter”.
Commenting directly on a PDF is by far the easiest method of giving your book designer feedback. You can easily leave your thoughts, feedback and even replacement text directly where the change needs to happen.
Not meant for editorial feedback
Commenting on the PDF is not the right place to make large-scale spelling and grammar changes to your document. Ideally the wording of your book should be as final as possible before the layout person begins. The type of feedback given at this stage should ideally be smaller changes, mostly stylistic.
I recommend being as comfortable with your editing before getting your book typesetter started. Large amounts of editorial corrections are a sure-fire way for a grumpy typesetter.
Alternatives for Feedback?
If for some reason you aren’t able to leave comments on a PDF, the next best option would be a numbered list of changes, ideally saved within MS Word document.
Remember, the benefit of commenting on the PDF it makes it easier to see where each change needs to happen. If your updates are emailed outside of the document, you need to give as much context as possible to help your typesetter find the right spot to make the change. Feedback given this way will likely take the designer longer to complete.
Best software for commenting on a PDF?
The screen grabs and instructions from this tutorial will be taken from the widely-used PDF-reading software, Adobe Acrobat DC. However, the process for leaving comments within other PDF software will likely not differ much.
That said, Adobe Acrobat is not the only software capable of leaving comments within your PDF. Nor is it necessarily the best. I actually prefer using a piece of free software called Foxit PDF reader.
The reason I dislike Adobe’s software is the annoying habit of them trying to install other bits of software along with the PDF reader. Please be careful: when installing Adobe (or any alternative) make sure to “untick” or deselect any boxes where they might try and slip you anything other than the software itself.
Where do I download Adobe Acrobat Reader?
Adobe Acrobat Reader can be downloaded from this location = https://get.adobe.com/reader/
Already have Adobe Acrobat installed? I would recommend updating the software just to make sure that you are working from the most recent version. To get the most recent version, either reinstall from the download link above. OR Open the Adobe software and update from within the “Help” menu option in the top menu strip. Clicking, “Help à Check for Updates.”
Method 1: How to comment directly on a PDF (Step By Step Instructions)
Step 1: Let’s make sure the Adobe Acrobat DC software is installed and up to date.
Step 2: Next, make sure the PDF file you need to work on is saved in an easy-to-find location.
Step 3: Open the PDF.
Step 4: Navigate to the page or location needing the update.
Step 5: Select the “Tools” link from the upper menu bar. (Next to “Home”.)
Step 6: Click the “Comment” option on the screen.
Step 7: Then select the comment icon from the new “comment” menu strip that should have just appeared in the upper portion of your screen. Below the “Home” and “Tools” menu options.
Step 8: Point and click at the location in the document where the change needs to be made. Your mouse pointer should look different.
Step 9: Finally, leave your comment in the right-hand-side comment “side-bar” that should have just appeared.
Step 10: Seal the deal by clicking the “Post” button appearing under your new comment.
You did it! 🥳
Method 2: Adding a note to the text
This method seems to achieve the same results with a few less clicks.
Steps 1-3 remain the same as Method 1 above.
Step 4: From within your PDF, highlight the text need to be changed. Right-click and select “Add Note to Text.”
Step 5: Enter your feedback into the “note bubble” that pops open alongside the highlighted text.
Step 6: Click the “Post button”.
Step 7: Once done, save your PDF and send the document to your designer.
Don’t Forget to Save
No matter the software used, this step is universally important. I never want to see you spending precious hours leaving important feedback for your book person, only to lose everything by missing this step. The comments left within your PDF will need to be saved, the same way your writing was.
After completing your commenting, save your PDF file using the “File à Save” menu option.
This is now the version of your PDF that should be emailed back to your designer.
Don’t rush your feedback
When commenting within your PDF, I recommend allowing your feedback to rest for at least a day before returning to the document to finalise your feedback. The more updates you are able to share with the designer in your first reply, the easier you make it for them to finish your document within a given deadline.
Sharing 5 separate emails with 20 changes commented in each, spread over a number of days will result in a grumpy designer and possibly risk charges for the additional time needed. Take your time, be comfortable that you found everything needing to be updated.
That’s it! Hope this how-to article helped you or at least taught you a nifty new trick.
//Dedicated to Marella