It is a truth universally acknowledged, that…
…every good writer needs an amicable assistant.
My name is Emma, I have proofreading experience with authors, students and businesses. So is it worth hiring a proofreader for your book? Hopefully I can give you some pointers below to help your decision-making process.
It is well known that Jane Austen drafted some of her ideas on old letters, writing between the lines of old correspondence. I struggle to imagine what it was like for a writer to revise an entire manuscript with ink and paper. Writing novels by hand over 200 years ago still captures the reality of writing today: sans candlelight, and ink and quill of course! This is because proofreading and redrafting is a large part of crafting a finished novel, whether using pieces of paper or a computer. A quality proofread and edited manuscript is priceless.
Austen may have lived 242 years ago but her proofing techniques are ones that people still use today. For instance, to improve her manuscripts Austen read stories to her family and friends. Austen’s reading aloud to others is rather like today’s proofing process. However, there are things that a trained proofreader can implement more professionally than friends and family.
As an editor and proofreader I have worked on many different documents such as business leaflets, academic articles and fiction. What proofreading is differs from place to place and country to county, as do the costs. It is very confusing for an indie author to navigate, so I hope the following four points will help.
4 tips for an indie author
The key when selecting your “writing helper” is to ask some questions:
1. What qualifications do they hold, and is this suitable for your novel?
For example, when I proofread Miss Darcy’s Beaux for Eliza Shearer I was clear upfront that I am not an historian, so the work involved typos only at a final stage of the writing process. I have read all of Austen’s books, however, and certainly enough to know my Bennets from my Fitzwilliams, which was handy to catch a typo where Lizzie was named doing an action, yet was not present in the scene. I could not help with the background research of the book however because I’m not a specialist in that time period. Though I can do specialist fact-checking.
2. Are the guidelines clear?
Sometimes all it takes is one bad review on Amazon or Goodreads about bad punctuation and typos, and the book won’t sell. Writing a book is an investment of your time and energy. Think of the final proofing and editing stage as a crucial step to ensure a high quality finish. Reviewers will notice and thank you for it. It makes them more likely to recommend the book.
This is a good place to think about costings. Cost will depend on length, complexity of writing style (i.e. how well your draft is written) and what you want checked. The good news is that the cost can be tailored to your needs and circumstances. Here are some simple guidelines of services that, in my experience, indie authors require the most.
Reduce costs via a typo-only check
To keep costs down ask for a typos only check. Are there any full stops or missing speech marks? Is the wrong name of a character inserted in a scene? The next level up would also include adding or removing incorrect punctuation along with a thorough spell check. The third level would be to alter grammar and improve the flow of the writing. The final level involves editing, such as restructuring and providing detailed comments on characters and plot. Rates can also vary by proofreader experience: compare 0.01 a word to 0.3 a word, for instance. For a 75,000 word manuscript this is a difference of £750 compared with £22,500.
Indie rates differ and are usually below standard industry rates. Be realistic with the price and bear in mind that this is someone’s income would you want to work for $1/£1 an hour? I hope not! A friend told me that they were once offered £90 ($116) to proofread a 10,000 word chapter of an academic book including references. An academic with a substantial salary requested a quote. My friend quoted £350 ($452). The academic responded that someone else would check the document for £90 ($116). The person who took the job was either badly underselling the service they provided or doing a bad job. Be wary of people who quote very low prices. You should expect to pay them to read every line of your work more than once for a quality proofread.
3. Do they provide US or UK English proofreading services?
As writers we live in a global community. Your proofreader might live in the US, UK, India, or even China. Check that the person you approach can provide the language and style that you need. Many proofreaders, like myself, do both US and UK style proofing and will clarify this with you when quoting a price.
4. When am I expected to pay?
Expect an invoice when the job is completed. Proofreaders work on a freelance basis and are responsible for paying the tax in their home countries. It is worth double-checking that this is the case and you won’t be hit with any unexpected fees. It is usual for the person to request a deposit upfront (20-30% for example). You can even arrange to pay in manageable deposits.
Bear in mind that you have invested a lot of time and energy in creating a unique piece of writing. Investing at the final stage will ensure that your work shines above the rest. I wish you all the best with your writing.
If you’d like to get in touch to discuss your writing project contact me here.
Who is Emma?
Emma is a proofreader with 18 years of writing experience with businesses, academics and creative writers. She obtained a Creative Writing MA (St Andrews University) and a PhD in Storytelling (Warwick University). Then set up her own proofreading business and became a published author of fiction as well as academic literature such as Young People, Learning & Storytelling (Palgrave Macmillan).