Why You Need an Independent Proofreader

by Lauren Hidden on October 10, 2012

As Jan mentioned in her last blog post, proofreading is a very important part of the book creation process. Unfortunately, it is one that many self-published authors skip—often as a cost saving measure. But proofreading, like editing, is one of the many “pay now or pay later” aspects of book publishing. If your readers or reviewers tell their friends about your book—and how many mistakes are in it—do you think that will that help or hurt your sales?

Proofreading is one of many services I provide authors. I often edit books (both for content and copy) and as a standard part of my contract, I remind authors that a final proofread is not included. If I edit a book, I don’t proofread it too. Sure, I like to think I’m a good editor, but often the book I start working with looks vastly different by the time I send the final version back to the author. And in all the back and forth and many revisions, it’s surprisingly easy to delete an extra word or forget to insert a necessary word. Or punctuation can get lost by an overzealous delete key. In a print-ready proof, the chapter page numbers can be wrong in the Table of Contents or the chapter titles might not match up with the ones in the pages of the book. As Jan said, these differences are hard for the best of editors to recognize–the more often you read something; the harder it is to notice subtle changes.

I have some other editors I trade projects with sometimes—they edit and I proofread, or I edit and they proofread. It works out well. But keep in mind that not all editors proofread and not all proofreaders edit.

If the manuscript contains unconventional spellings, word usages, capitalization, italics and the like, it’s helpful for the editor to provide the proofreader with the book’s customized style sheet. It can help eliminate the guess work in distinguishing stylistic choices versus true errors and omissions.

Yesterday I received Susan’s manuscript (edited by Kim Pearson) and I look forward to proofing (and reading) it. For this manuscript, I will be using the Track Changes function of Word to show what I marked for review by the author. If this manuscript has already been professionally designed and formatted, I probably would have been sent a PDF, using Adobe Acrobat to mark my changes.
Stay tuned for an update on how the proofreading progresses.


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