I am such a creature of habit. When I find something I like, I always go back to it. At the time when I first published Diary of a Penguin-napper, I was happy with every aspect of it apart from one: the proofreading. There were three different people who did the proofreading for me – the first was the brother of my illustrator who was training to become a proofreader, the second was a paid professional proofreader and the third was a friend of mine who works in the media.
Of those three, the first did a reasonable job, considering that he was still learning the ropes and he did it for nothing. In those circumstances, I was impressed with what he did. I figured that he had picked up quite a few of the errors, so hopefully there wouldn’t be much for the professional proofreader to pick up. I was right. The proofread that came back from the professionals had only fairly minimal errors to be seen. Then, I gave it to my friend. The idea was that he would just check for any final details that needed to be corrected. The ideal was that he would find no errors, the reality was the maybe he would find three or four.
I was pretty shocked when the proof copy of the book came back filled with post it notes of typos and missing word errors that needed to be corrected. Sorry, what? Let’s just say that I was unimpressed that I’d just spent $7 per 1000 for professional proofreading for 25,000 words to come back with some glaring mistakes. Normally, I’m more than happy to promote the freelance services that I use to get my manuscript into shape as a book, but not in this instance. There is no way I could recommend them. Needless to say, I was on the hunt for a new proofreader for my second book.
Enter Julia. I came across her on Twitter back in March and favourited her tweet, knowing that in the future I’d be in the market for a new proofreader.
I didn’t even look back on that Tweet until about June, when my manuscript was finished and had been sent off to the manuscript assessor. Then, I started hunting for quotes. There were two things that impressed me about her:
1. She offered to do a sample proof of the first chapter of Ruby Marvellous to be sure we were both happy with what we would be signing up for and
2. She is seriously reasonably priced!
Anyway, she’s my new favourite person and I could go on about how happy I am to have come across her on Twitter. But, I figure I’ve gone on enough, so why not let Julia write a guest post and explain to you all why you need someone like her as a proofreader. Here she is:
Why does an author need a proofreader? The answer becomes all too obvious to some writers, alas! The one thing that no author needs is bad reviews that focus on grammar and spelling, and once these reviews are out there, they don’t go away.
Nobody, and I mean nobody, can proofread their own work! No matter how educated or intelligent a writer is, the fact is that the author is too close to their work and can’t see the wood for the trees. When you read your own work, you see what you expect to see, not what’s actually there! I’ve been given novels to work on that the author has gone through multiple times – and I’ve still found scores of mistakes! Everyone makes typos, there’s not a writer alive who doesn’t.
I would say, by all means ask a friend or two to look through your work for typos. They will probably spot quite a few. But your friend has a different mind-set to me; I don’t know you, I don’t know anything about your work, it’s all completely new to me. I don’t know what to expect – but I will find those pesky typos, it’s a whole different ball game when proofreading is your job! I always offer to proofread up to 5 pages for any author, free of charge and without obligation, so that they can see if what I do is what they are looking for.
It’s hard to say when I became a proofreader, because I sort of grew into it. From almost as early as I can remember, I have loved reading. I am in awe of anyone who can write a book or a story. I used to walk to school with a book in front of my face (dangerous!) I was very good at grammar and spelling at school, and learned foreign languages easily. When I started work as a secretary, I used to automatically correct all documents, in fact my boss used to insist that nothing left the office without my checking it. Then one day I thought – I can do this full time!
I think you have to love proofreading in order to do it properly. And you don’t have to go to college to learn how to do it, though of course some do choose to. The most important thing is, you have to have a real passion for correcting text, this passion cannot be taught, it has to come naturally.
There is a difference between proofreading and editing fiction. Editors will perform services such as: suggesting cutting out characters; changing or omitting dialogue; changing the narrative arc of the novel; moving chapters around; various other suggestions that will in their opinion improve the book. I don’t alter the writer’s work apart from correcting it; I don’t consider it my role to interfere with the writer’s ‘voice’.
Proofreading should take place after the novel has been edited, and been through however many re-writes the author wishes to do. If you use an editor, your proofreader should receive the manuscript after the edit has been done, because after the edit there may be more corrections to be made. To summarise, the proofreading should be done as the last stage before formatting and cover design.
I love getting lost in a book, and feeling I’ve really helped to make it ready for publication. I get a great sense of pride when I see the book for sale on Amazon, and I think, ‘I worked on that one!’ I repeat, I am completely in awe of writers, I can’t do what you do! I am always happy to hear from any authors, whether experienced or just starting out. At heart, I am a reader and a fan, and I never know what wonderful new books are out there waiting for me to discover them!
To get in touch with Julia, follow her on Twitter @proofreadjulia
or drop her an email juliaproofreader at gmail.com
Oh and while you’re there, don’t forget to follow @franklybooks too!
She’s seriously fantastic – your readers will thank you for it!