There is an ongoing debate in the world of independent publishing about the need (or not) to hire a professional proofreader before approving your book for print. Some authors wouldn’t consider pushing “send” without first hiring at least one set of professional eyes, but it seems like many more still have a difficult time justifying the expense. I’m going to show you five reasons why the second group is wrong.
1. As soon as you try to cut costs (and corners), you end up costing yourself extra money.
In the excitement of getting your manuscript to publication, it’s not uncommon to convince yourself that skipping the proofreader won’t really hurt. So you publish a book that’s full of mistakes, and at best you’re embarrassed by comments from people who notice; at worst, you end up pulling your book from sale so you can fix all the mistakes.
There’s a reason why traditional publishers include professional proofreading as part of their complete editorial process before the book goes to press, and it’s the same reason that most independent book packagers offer proofreading as one of their optional services. As Imagineer ebooks puts it, “One area we all believe is vital is proofreading! We’ve all had enough of the never-ending typographical errors of just about every kind of publication!”
2. No matter how well written a manuscript is, we all make mistakes.
Do you want those mistakes to be your legacy as a writer? Of course not. And using a spell checker isn’t enough. Spell checkers don’t usually catch misspelled proper names, close-but-no-cigar mistakes like “uniformed” instead of “uninformed,” or affect versus effect . . . but a professional proofreader does. And don’t even get me started on their, there, and they’re.
3. Even professional writers make mistakes.
Check out one of my guilty pleasures, a blog called Terribly Write that is filled with examples of mistakes by the writers at Yahoo.com. Enough said.
4. Proofreaders are your last line of defense.
One of my independent publishing clients told me, “While I received copious compliments about my writing, I was reminded that no one should ever publish a book without an editor. There were some punctuation errors and spelling mistakes; e.g., “weak” when I meant “week,” etc. That was when I decided to have someone proofread the manuscript.”
Even if your manuscript was professionally copyedited, you owe it to yourself to hire a professional proofreader. As Brooke Warner of Warner Coaching says,
“One frequent mistake made by self-publishing authors is skipping the proofread (or doing it themselves). You might think they should know better, but when you’re paying out of pocket for editorial services, it’s easy to convince yourself that a professional copyedit is enough. It’s not! Copyeditors are looking at the bigger picture, not for the typos and tiny misspellings that proofreaders catch.”
5. Your book (and your professional reputation) rides on the “professionalism” of your editing team.
You, the author, are the first proofreader on your team, so use all the tricks you’ve learned to catch as many errors as possible before you hire a professional, including printing out the manuscript and reading it out loud or reading it backward paragraph by paragraph. The more mistakes you catch yourself, the less you’ll pay in the long run.
There is no state board or licensing body that guarantees the experience or qualifications of someone who calls him/herself a “professional” editor or proofreader. This means caveat emptor (buyer beware). Mere possession of an English degree does not a proofreader make.
Before you hire someone, ask for references, ask about other projects he or she has proofread, and ask for a sample; any proofreader worth hiring is proud to provide all three. You are the one who’ll have pie on your face if your manuscript is loaded with mistakes, so be sure you do everything possible to avoid that.
Candace Johnson is a professional freelance editor, proofreader, writer, and ghostwriter who has worked with traditional publishers, self-published authors, and independent book packagers on nonfiction subjects ranging from memoirs to alternative medical treatments to self-help. As an editorial specialist, Candace is passionate about offering her clients the opportunity to take their work to the next level. She believes in maintaining an author’s unique voice while helping him or her create and polish every sentence to make it the best it can be. Learn more at http://changeitupediting.com.