large_edit-find-replaceOur thanks to novelist Brad Graber for this guest contribution!

Struggling with the decision to hire a proofreader?

It seems like it should be a no-brainer. After all, who can possibly write a novel while they’re busy checking grammar, punctuation, and spelling? Certainly, not me. But as indie authors, we’re on a tight budget. So, is this really where we need to put our money? After all, how many mistakes can you really have in one little book?

So you hesitate.

Your best friend, spouse, and/or beta readers review the book. They’re all intelligent, well-educated people. How hard can it be to proof a book? Surely everyone pulling together should be able to get the job done. And they do seem to catch a fair share of problems. More errors than you imagined. Maybe you’re home free.

Think again.

It takes a special expertise to proof a book properly. The ability to “truly see” the page. Someone with the skill of a copy editor, and the eye of an eagle, who can:

  • Spot typos, grammatical errors, spacing, font size, and formatting issues
  • Look up words that spellcheck might miss – including your incorrect use of a homonym
  • Fact-check information
  • Apply the Chicago Manual of Style rules
  • Ensure consistency of terms, spelling, and capitalization

We’re only human – but talented proofreaders are superhuman.

After all of your edits and rewrites, you’ve more or less memorized the material, breezily reading along, oblivious to anything but the most obvious catches.

You’ve misspelled judgment. Too many e’s (but judgement looks so right!). You meant “pour” not “pore.” Your ellipsis needs another space… so that it … looks like this. You’ve omitted commas and goofed on the use of a semi-colon. And your confusion with “laid, lay, lain,” has your sentence reading like a tongue twister. These are just samples of the errors a talented proofreader will find loaded into the manuscript.

So how deep in your pocket do you dig?

That all depends on the talent you’re looking to buy.

In the world of the Internet – you can find anyone for any price (remember: we are still talking about proofreaders). So it makes good sense to rely on referrals from friends and colleagues. And before you pay for anything – make a personal contact by phone. You certainly don’t want to hire a resource in New Delhi who has been masquerading as Agnes from Iowa.

Scope of Work

Before money changes hands, agree on the “scope of work” to be performed. This is best documented in a letter which outlines clear expectations of: (a) when the project will start, (b) the work to be performed, (c) how corrections will be shared back to you, and (d) the expected deadline. Do not send a deposit for the work until you have this letter in hand. And do not pay for the project in its entirety until it is completed.

Yes, it’ll cost you – but it will be well worth the investment

You’ve hired a literary service to edit your book. They’ve counseled you on structure, point-of-view, character development and plotline. You’ve reworked the manuscript. Hours of writing and rewriting to get to “done.”

You’ve hired a cover designer. A professional who can give your book that added pizazz which makes everyone who walks by want to reach out and grab a copy.

Likewise, you need to have your book professionally proofread. A talented proofreader will be a critical partner on your self-publishing team.

And when you read through the final copy, which you’ll inevitably do, you’ll marvel at your creativity instead of cursing your misuse of their/there/they’re.

brad-graberBrad Graber was born and raised in New York City. He obtained a B.A. in Biology from the State University of New York at Buffalo, and an M.H.A. from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. As a healthcare executive, Brad has held a number of management positions over the years. He’s lived in Highland Park, a suburb of Chicago; West Bloomfield, a suburb of Detroit; and Mill Valley, a suburb of San Francisco. Brad currently resides in Phoenix on the grounds of the Arizona Biltmore with his long-term spouse and their dog Charlie. The Intersect is his first novel.


6 thoughts on “Five Reasons Why an Indie Author Must Hire a Proofreader

    • September 14, 2016 at 10:34 am

      Thanks Lynda. The video is really great. Gosh – I hope everyone watches it.

  • September 13, 2016 at 10:42 am

    Good article. Wanted more, though. I’m already convinced that hiring a proofreader is essential. What I’d love to have a better handle on is, a) how much to pay, and b) whether or not perfection is attainable. Regarding the first point, the people who did my interior design included proofreading in their price. Since it was done, I’ve found a number of errors, and am in the process of hiring a second proofreader. I’ve gotten quotes ranging from $400 from an online friend who is an English teacher to $1,500 from my editor. (It’s a 95,000-word book). Regarding the second point, (the level of perfection to expect): With 95K words, getting 99.99% accuracy still leaves nearly ten errors floating around to be found by a reader who may write an Amazon review dinging the book for lack of proofreading. And I myself regularly see errors from typos to fact checking even in books from major publishing houses that presumably have a big budget for proofreading. So I guess what I’m asking here is whether perfection is possible (or practical), and how much I should expect to pay for it.

    • September 13, 2016 at 3:28 pm

      We’ve seen anywhere from 2-7 cents a word and $15 – $45 hourly. Perfection is always the desire but you’re totally correct – I’ve yet to read a book, magazine, newspaper or website that’s 100% error free – EVER. $1500 for 95k words is a fair price. A true “proofreader” vs. a copy editor is the challenge though. Example – best proofreaders we’ve run into read from front to back, and then backwards, because reading backwards actually finds a lot more typo errors since our brains aren’t filling in…

      • September 14, 2016 at 11:29 am

        Yes. Those price ranges are fairly broad. And, in addition to the typical corrections you might expect, there could be layout issues too. By that I mean, three consecutive sentences that end in the same word, which by sheer coincidence, stack together directly on top of each other. Yes, I had this happen. My eye didn’t catch it – but my proofreader did.

    • September 14, 2016 at 11:21 am

      Thanks John for the question. As for perfection – well – as in life – that just may be too much to ask. Is anything ever truly perfect? For my book – I had three beta readers (who found quite a few typos) and a professional proofreader – who did an amazing job – she caught so many errors per page it practically made my head spin like Linda Blair in the Exorcist. And still, as I was going through the final corrections – I too found 1 or 2 minor misses. Now that’s pretty darn good. Bottom-line: the work must be proofread by a professional – and like all professionals – hey – they too are only human – but talent always wins out. As for price – I didn’t touch on it in the article because I had such a wide range of quotes for my project. Quotes came in at $2 per page, $35 per hour, $2,000 for the project, $720 for the project. My book was 160,000 words and 460 pages. I did not go with the cheapest quote. Instead, I looked at credentials and references – and then – based on a referral – and a personal phone call – made my decision. So I know it is a very difficult and time consuming process. Good luck with it.

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