Back in the way back day, I was the lone PR person working for an advertising agency and as such, I became the de facto proofreader for every proposal, report and piece of ad copy that came out of the agency (well that and because of my perfectionist Virgo tendencies, which will be the death of me one day). It was really easy for me to point out the flaws of what someone else wrote, but doing it for myself? Forget it. I would always miss something.
Now that I’ve joined the ranks of Indie authors, having my manuscripts professionally proofread is right up there with having an actual graphic designer create my eBook covers (thank you, Torrie Cooney!). It’s an essential component to the overall presentation of my book. I’m always perplexed by the debate that continues to rage on in the world of Indies about whether or not to have a professional edit/proofread their work.
Granted, trying to figure out the distinction between an editor and a proofreader can be a little confusing, so here’s a little breakdown of the differences:
A proofreader checks your work for typos, spelling, punctuation and spacing issues.
A content editor reviews manuscript inconsistencies in style, theme, character behavior/speech and overall readability.
A line editor (sometimes called a copy editor) is similar to a proofreader (in fact, the two are sometimes interchangeable). A line editor will go over each line for clarity to make sure your work really sings.
At the very least, engaging with a proofreader should be high on your pre-publication checklist (your beta readers can give you guidance with the content editing).
Some Indies decide to proofread their own manuscripts, arguing that 1) they can do a better job than any professional because they know their work best 2) they can’t afford to retain a professional proofreader and 3) traditionally published books sometimes have typos.
While it’s true authors know their work better than anyone, that’s exactly the reason why proofreading it yourself is a bad idea. You look at the words so often that you start to see what you think is there or what you meant to be there, not what is actually there. And that inevitably leads to missed typos, missed misspellings and missed punctuation, among other issues. No one is immune and it doesn’t make you somehow less of an author/writer because you missed a typo or spell check didn’t know the difference between “through” and “threw” (as Stephen King reminds us, as writers… we need to make sure we know the difference. And if your proofreader doesn’t know… find a new proofreader! Just don’t let it convince you that you don’t need one – it just means it’s not the proofreader for you J).
Another common refrain is not being able to afford it. My philosophy is “find the money.” Put aside a little bit of money at a time while you’re writing your book so when it comes time to engage with a proofreader, you’ve already got a fund established. Get creative. Are you a professional chef? Offer to cook a private dinner for four in exchange for proofreading services. An IT whiz? Exchange computer services for proofreading services. Don’t have a skill to trade? Propose a payment plan. There are a lot of different ways to make it work. Truly, a professional proofreader is the best and biggest investment you can make in your book.
I recently read a traditionally published book that had three typos; two bonafide typos and one that just skated on this side of being a typo. Surprising? A little. Reason to adamantly refuse having my own book proofread because I once in a while see a typo in a traditionally published book, which somehow makes it okay to skip the process entirely? No way. It’s a ridiculous justification and really, we’re all better than that. I’ve seen reviews from readers where they counted up typos in books that numbered in the three digits. I can forgive a book with a minor typo here and there; but a book riddled with them? Can’t and won’t do it. And why should we think it’s okay to ask our readers to (literally) pay for our mistakes?
So how do you find a proofreader anyway? Here are just a few ways to do it:
1) Look in the acknowledgement pages of other authors books for the names of their proofreaders
2) Try the Yellow Pages at Kboards.com (formerly Kindleboards)
3) Good old Google
4) Reach out to a former English professor/teacher to if they might be able to recommend someone or if they themselves might be interested in proofreading your manuscript
5) Talk to your fellow writers and find out who they use
You can ask for a sample edit to get a feel for a proofreader’s work. Don’t be afraid to ask for references and don’t be afraid to do a bit of comparison shopping to find the best fit for you.
Please forgive any typos you see in this post – I proofread it myself. J