Recently, I sent part of WILLOWS OF FATE to a proofreader to prepare it for pre-order. I was worried I was overpaying for a service I didn’t really need. Like a lot of people, I figured my beta readers and myself would have caught any issues by now.
I was wrong. Very, very wrong. On further reflection, I realized five reasons why we writers need a proofreader.
1. Grammar is slightly more fluid than you think.
Conventions over time change and we may not be as aware of them as we think we are. For example, when I was originally taught keyboarding, it was pounded in my brain that two spaces should be put after every period. That is a convention that is quickly disappearing because, online, that extra space gets automatically removed.
2. You don’t know all the rules.
One of the things my proofreader changed was taking out the period in “Mr” or “Ms”. It’s a US convention to put a full stop there, but can it really hurt to use the British rule? Probably not. Either way, it wouldn’t have occurred to me even to consider it.
3. You won’t catch everything.
When we read something we’ve been working on for months, we read what we know should be there, not actually what is there. It’s like our own personal Matrix. What if I were to tell you that a proofreader has taken the red pill and can see your manuscript for what it is? Because he has.
4. You think you’re right…but you’re not.
Unless you are a full-blown Grammar Nazi and The Elements of Style sits on your nightstand, there are going to be some rules you are getting wrong. For example, I thought it was perfectly okay to not include a question mark when my character was shouting a question, feeling that the question was implied. What I needed to emphasize was the shouting. I was wrong.
5. It frees up your time.
A proofreader gets out of the way an onerous task and frees you up to focus on other things, like preparing pre-sale marketing and outlining your next masterpiece.
What You Should Look Out for in a Proofreader
1. Track Changes
In this electronic age, it’s a little ridiculous to proofread a copy by hand. Using track changes is easier and not using them may be the sign of an amateur.
The potential proofreader must be able to provide testimonials and references. You are the boss. This is going to be your employee, even if for a brief time. No hiring manager in his right mind would hire someone without references and neither should you.
3. An updated website
If a potential proofreader can’t be bothered to keep up with the copyright notice on the bottom of his page, then how can he be trusted to proofread your work?
Hiring a proofreader may seem like overkill or waste of money, but it’s not. In self-publishing, we don’t have the luxury of the services publishers offer their authors. We have to do everything ourselves if we want to look professional, and that includes proofreading.