Are You Ready for a Proofreader?
Knowing when to hire a proofreader is hard, so below I’ve made a simple checklist to help you know when the time is right, followed by a few things you can do to make your editor’s life easier (thereby reducing the overall cost of their edit), each with a docx/PDF file to help you get started.
It should be noted that this list is primarily aimed at authors (of fiction and non-fiction), but much of this advice should still be applicable to businesses and independent contractors looking to hire a proofreader.
Who’s Read Your Book?
If your answer to this question is “nobody” then it is unlikely you are ready for a proofreader. We’re all prone to bias in our work, and often see what we want to see, not what’s there.
Thankfully there are a number of ways in which we can get invaluable advice both from professional editors and avid readers. It should be noted that your intention as an author will influence which of the steps below you take. Not all are necessary for everybody.
- Family/friends are often the first people to call on. Often focused on finding the positives in your work, their feedback is great for morale but can sometimes lend itself to missing out key, useful critiques.
- Beta readers/critique partners are a great (free) resource. Preferably these are people you do not know who can give more critical (and often more useful) feedback. Often these are other authors who offer to swap manuscripts, or just people who enjoy reading.
The above two steps are free and often incredibly useful. Some people will offer to beta read for a small fee, but most are happy to read your book for free in exchange for their feedback. You can check out social media groups on sites like Goodreads to find beta readers.
Once you’re happy with your book, you can look at hiring professional editors to elevate your book. Some places you can find a professional editor are the PTC’s Freelance Finder and the CIEP’s Directory.
- Developmental editors are the first professional editors on your book’s journey. They’ll read with a trained eye to find any and all aspects of plot, pacing, and characters which can be improved. (Some authors choose to skip this stage in favour of more beta readers – there is nothing wrong with this, but if you want a truly professional book, hiring a developmental editor is a crucial step.)
- Copyeditors are your next step. They check everything in your book from consistency and coherence to inclusive language, text formatting, images, references, and copyright/legal issues.
- Typesetters help create the page layout, making consistent styles which can be applied across the entire book. They also work to make sure your book’s formatting will work well in all formats – ebook, paperback, and hardback.
- Proofreaders are the last step. We check for any mistakes which may have crept in over the process – from mistakes in spelling and grammar to inconsistencies in style, formatting, and layout. The job of the proofreader is not to rewrite your book but to give it a slow, meticulous readthrough, correcting any mistakes which have crept in.
The above steps are necessary for creating a high quality book, but there are many more factors than quality to take into account – budget, deadline, and your end goal (do you plan to print a book for you and those close to you, or do you want to see your name in every bookstore in the country?) play a key part in deciding which route you take.
Check out this free downloadable PDF to learn more.
Making Your Editor’s Life Easier
While the editors you hire can take your book from first draft to published best-seller, their time is expensive, making the total project cost huge. Doing some (or all) of these things can help reduce the cost of hiring editors by reducing the level of ammendment needed.
Style guides dictate the author’s preferences when it comes to spelling, layout, and punctuation and help to ensure consistency across the whole book. They are quick to make for the author but can often take more time for an editor to create (we have to learn what you like; you already know).
Some of the things to include in a style guide are whether you prefer ‘-ise’ or ‘-ize’ endings (realise/realize); en-rules or em-rules (–/—); paragraph indention; digits or spelled numbers (1/one; 99/ninety-nine/ninety nine); and lots more.
If there is no style guide, many editors will make one for you (I offer this as part of my proofreading service) based on which styles you write with.
I offer a free docx/PDF download of a sample style guide to help get you started.
Formatting is especially important for when you transfer your book from a word processor to another software (like Amazon’s Kindle Create). Often these softwares interpret formatting commands slightly differently, and being aware of this can save your editor lots of time.
Some key points to check and amend are:
- Paragraph styles (do you press TAB to indent each paragraph?)
- New chapters (do you press CTRL+ENTER (or ENTER lots of times) to start a new page?)
- Headings style (do you highlight each heading and change the size, typeface, and justification each time?)
Thankfully, each of these things can be amended easily. Check out this free downloadable PDF and see what formatting tricks you can apply to your book!
An editor will still check for these things and will be happy to fix them for you, but ironing out these issues early on will help keep their focus on your story and keep your editing costs down.
So, are you ready for a proofreader?
Get in touch using the form below.