Proofreader Julia explains why you need a proofreader like her!



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!

JULIATo get in touch with Julia, follow her on Twitter @proofreadjulia
or drop her an email juliaproofreader at

Oh and while you’re there, don’t forget to follow @franklybooks too!

She’s seriously fantastic – your readers will thank you for it!



Be my guest …


Today’s post is a bit of a shout out to all bloggers out there!  I’m on the hunt for a few friends to join me here on the blog at the end of November and I was wondering if that might be you?  Possibly?  Ok, read on …

1. Guest Post
Would you like to write a guest post to appear here on Frankly Books?  Awesome! It needs to be somehow related to self-publishing but other than that it is up to you.  You need to have your own blog for me to connect back to and I won’t be taking articles containing affiliate links.  I’ll even put an ad for your blog on my sidebar for the month of December.  Too easy!

2. Review copy of Ruby Marvellous
Do you write book reviews on your book?  I’m on the hunt for reviewers for Ruby Marvellous. I’m happy to send through either a paperback or a e-book copy for you, but you’ll need to have time to read and review it on your blog in Dec/Jan (and preferably on Amazon/Goodreads/etc too).

3. Book Blog Tour
Just like I did with the launch of Diary of a Penguin-napper, I’m really excited to announce a blog tour coming up for the last week of November/first week of December.  If you’d like me to drop by your blog (and provide a giveaway copy of Ruby Marvellous for your readers) then let me know!

If any of the above appeals to you, please don’t hesistate to drop me a line at sally [at] and let me know what you’d be keen for. It’s going to be (ruby) marvellous!

Self-printing goals: Was self-publishing Diary of a Penguin-napper a success?


Back when I started this whole self-publishing caper in October 2012, I really had no idea how I’d go and it caused me a lot of sleepless nights, lying awake wondering if I’d made the right decision to self-publish or not.

In order to track my progress and give myself something to work towards (and something to hopefully celebrate along the way) I decided to set myself some goals.  I promised to come back in 12 months and tell you (a) What my 4 goals were and (b) How close I came to achieving them and here I am.  And how did I go?

1. Embarrassment Level Goal

This is the minimum number of sales that you would need to make to not be totally humiliated and have to move to some remote island in the Pacific to hide.  For me, that goal was 200 paperbacks and I’m pleased to report that I’m not writing this post from a remote island.  I actually achieved this goal within the first 2 weeks of my book going live on Amazon, thanks to lots of time spent on blog tours, tweeting, sharing and family and friends on Facebook and an book launch event at the school where I was teaching.

2. Break Even Goal

This is the number of sales that you would have to make in order to make back the money that you spent on the whole venture. In total, it cost me around $2000 to take Diary of a Penguin-napper from manuscript to publication.  This included things like:

  • Manuscript Assessment
  • Editing
  • Proof Reading
  • Cover design
  • Purchase of fonts, stock photography, etc.
  • Approx 30 custom illustrations
  • Proof copies
  • Marketing materials

And I’m proud to say that I’ve sold enough copies to cover these initial set-up costs and I’ve been able to put enough aside to cover the costs of publishing my next book Ruby Marvellous in November this year (for significantly less than the cost of Penguin-napper too! Win!)

3. Achievable Aspiration Goal

This is again a numerical goal that isn’t too easily achievable, but, with a bit of hard work, you’d be really happy if you got there.  For me, that was 1000 sales and, well, let’s just say I’ve totally smashed that.

4. Pinch me! I’m Dreaming Goal

This is your ‘something to daydream about’ goal.  If this goal happened, you’d be absolutely ecstatic, thrilled and probably over the moon as well.  This goal is not a number, but most probably an event.  I decided that my goal would be to have my book in a bookshop.  I picked this not only because I thought it would be awesome, but also because I knew that it would make me get out there and approach bookshops as potential stockists.  I’m pleased to say that as I write this post, Diary of a Penguin-napper is currently available in BookTalk in Richmond (Melbourne), Collins Booksellers in Mildura and Dymocks (Melbourne).  There are a few other bookshops that I am also looking to approach when Ruby Marvellous is ready to hit the shops too.

It is hard to believe that this time last year, I had never brought a book to market, let alone sold a copy of it.  Here I am, 12 months later, having sold far more than I even anticipated that I would (or could).  Additionally, I have learnt so much more about the process and running a business than I ever would have doing this any other way.  The fact that I’ve even been able to achieve my ‘Pinch me!’ pie in the sky goal just blows me away and I’m feeling totally motivated to try and beat these figures with my new book, Ruby Marvellous, coming out at the end of November, 2013.

Do you have goals for your self-publishing ventures?  Are you getting close to achieving them? Do you think self-publishers even need goals? Tell me below!

I’m in love … with my new book formatting


Right, so if you’re playing along at home you’ll know that I’m in the process of sharing … well the process!  Week 1 saw me sharing why I believe manuscript assessments are a good starting point. In Week 2 we talked about the value of good quality beta readers and now, in Week 3, the real fun begins: formatting your manuscript into a book.


Up until this point we’ve employed experts and discerning friends to help us.  This is something you are going to do on your own and therefore it is also where you can go horribly wrong.

When I formatted Diary of a Penguin-napper I did it using Adobe InDesign as I happened to have the software and managed to work out how to use it without giving myself a bald spot from pulling out too much hair.  You can read about my InDesign adventures here.  That was back when I had loads of time and infinite patience for the whole experience.

This time, I’m pressed for time, plus it’s been 12 months since I’ve used InDesign and yes, I’ve completely forgotten how to use it and no, I’m really not interested in using up any more hours of my life learning how to use it again.

And luckily for me, I didn’t have to.  Say hi to my new best friend: Book Design Templates

This site was created by Joel Friedlander (The Book Designer) who is font of knowledge when it comes to all things self-publishing and he knows a badly formatted book when he sees one!  He created this collection of pre-made book formats, which writers can download (alongside a set of easy instructions) to help them format their book).  It is, however, so easy that I only made it through the first few pages of instructions before I had the hang of it.

For my new book, Ruby Marvellous, I’m using on of the children’s templates called Affection.  Yes, I’m feeling the love for it right now.  Here is a sample of what the first page spread in my book looks like:


Cute, huh?

I know that I previously said that I’d be InDesigning everything because I love it so much.  Well, this is something that I love just as much and it has taken much less time/patience/sanity, so that it a plus too.

In addition (because I’m clearly just full of helpful information tonight!), I’ve got another top tip for you.  Did you know that you can use Adobe Acrobat to compile groups of PDF documents?  It’s really easy to do:  you just choose the option to ‘Combine Files into PDF’ from the start menu, add your files in the correct order and voila! One PDF made for you! Love it and it’s been great to use to add all different pages, sample chapters, etc all into one PDF to upload to Createspace.

Why you need to get yourself some beta readers


So, last week, I wrote a post explaining the benefits of using a manuscript assessment service as one of your first steps to publication after finishing your manuscript.  Today, I want to talk about the next step that I take: beta readers.

Beta picture

In a nutshell, beta readers are critical friends who are willing to cast an eye over your manuscript and are able to give you some feedback or a critique of your piece.  After my piece has come back from the manuscript assessor and I’ve fixed all of the holes that they have pointed out, the next thing I do is to share it with 4-6 discerning friends who are willing to give me critical feedback to help me improve my manuscript.

What do I look for in a beta reader?

Unfortunately, not everyone makes a good beta reader, as you want unbiased, critical feedback.  You can probably rule out most of your immediate family, as well as a number of friends straight away, just based on their ability to g

The ideal beta reader will:

– Be an eager reader.  They will know what is good in the particular genre you are writing in and be able to identify where your book is lacking.

– Be honest, but not mean about it.  They can provide critical feedback without the sting.

– Have time to read.  This is another spot where readers can fall down a bit.

– Have an eye for detail.  Beta readers will pick up the things that may have gone overlooked by the manuscript assessor.  For example, I once changed a character’s name based on a suggestion by the beta reader.  I had chosen Siobhan and she said that it would be difficult for Australian readers to know how to pronounce it.  So I changed it to Sasha.  It didn’t change the character at all, but it did make life easier for a lot of 8-12 year old readers!

Should I pay for a beta reader?

This is a good question and my short answer is no.  There are three reasons for this.

  1. If you are self-publishing, you should have thought about your budget.  For me, there was no space to be paying for beta readers.
  2. Why pay for something that you can get for free (or for exchange).  My beta readers are friends who are keen readers and have proven themselves to be honest with their feedback over the years. In return for their reading time, I usually reward them with either a free copy of the book when it is finished or a home baked cake of some description.  Why pay money for something that you can pay for in cake? If you don’t have any friends that fit into this category, there are a number of websites and forums that will help you to find someone with common writing interests to exchange manuscripts with.
  3. You should really have more than one beta reader and, going back to point 1, would your budget really stretch to that?  The more beta readers you have, the more chance of picking up every single little detail that could be improved to make your book the best that it can be.

If you’re interested in trying out beta readers, here are a few websites and forums to get you started:

Ladies Who Critique

Goodreads Beta Reader Group

World Literary Cafe

So I’ve written my manuscript … now what?


I can’t believe that it has been just over a year since I made the decision to self publish Diary of Penguin-napper.  It has been such an amazing/full on/stressful/engaging/rewarding/bewildering/exciting adventure and I’m really excited to be able to do it all over again this year.

Right, so where to start?  Well, Step One is finish your manuscript!  There are lots of things that I can help you with, but writing your book for you isn’t one of them.

Right, so where to start after that?  Well, after I finished writing Penguin-napper, I really wasn’t sure if it was a good first draft or if it was downright awful. (Truth be told, it wasn’t my first attempt at writing a book and after I wrote the first one, I left it for a few months before I looked over it with fresh eyes.  And, when I finally did, it stunk! Yep, it was truly awful.)

Anyway, I decided that wanted a second opinion and not just from my mother who would mostly only say nice things about it.  That’s where a manuscript assessment came in.


A manuscript assessment is essentially paying someone to go through your manuscript and point out all of the flaws/potential problems/gaps in the plot.  A manuscript assessor isn’t like an editor or a proofreader.  They don’t actually touch your writing.  They just read it, think about it, perhaps read it again and then send you a report pointing out the positives and negatives of your story.


My suitably coffee cup ringed ninth draft of Ruby Marvellous and a copy of my manuscript assessment from the Writers’ Centre.

What are the pros of a getting a manuscript assessment?

The Diary of a Penguin-napper manuscript assessment was done by The Literary Consultancy in the UK.  At the time it was completed (back in 2010) and for the length of the manuscript, this was the best deal that I could find.  They did a fantastic job.  The final report back from them was detailed, lengthy and, best of all, really useful!  It both highlighted points in my manuscript that need clarifying and confirmed that my manuscript was on the right track.

Fast forward two years and when I finished writing my new manuscript in June, I knew right away that I would definitely be booking in another manuscript assessment.  This time, the best deal I could find for Ruby Marvellous was with the  Writers’ Centre of Victoria, right here in Melbourne.   Whilst their final report was much shorter than the TLC report, they still made some valid points and gave some positive feedback too.

Plus, if you’re keen to get on with taking your manuscript through to being published, a manuscript assessment can also save you some time.  The moment I finished both my manuscripts, I sent them both off to be assessed. Three t0 six weeks went by before I received the report back and that was a good amount of time to get some distance before tackling future drafts.

And what’s the downside?

In short, the cost. Manuscript assessments can be pricey.  I’ve been quite lucky because I write for children and my manuscripts have both been just under the 25 000 word mark, which makes an assessment affordable.  I have also found combining a manuscript assessment with some really nitpicky beta readers and then a paid proofreader to be a great way of preparing a manuscript for self publishing.

And that’s my first step towards publication.  It’s only 10 weeks until my new book is coming out and each week I’m going to share a new step that I take when trying to get my book to a place that means it is the best possible book I can produce!

In the meantime, have you used a manuscript assessment before?  Would you?  Or have you got any other recommendations to share?  

Trim size, schim size. Who cares, right?


If you don’t want your book to scream “self-published/indie published/homemade” when you give it a potential reader, then you need to do everything that you can to ensure that it has a professional finish to it.  One of the big decisions that you’ll have to make before you can format your book and get a professional cover design is to choose the trim size for your title.

Trim size is the size that the paper of your will be cut down to, or, basically, how big your book is going to be when it is printed.  Just browsing the list of trim sizes available through companies like Lightning Source, Createspace or Lulu can be really daunting, so I thought today I would share my top tips for choosing the best trim size for your title that you can.

So, to get started, take out your ruler, go to your bookcase and measure some of the books that fit into the genre that your book fits into.  If you don’t have any books from your genre on your bookcase, you’ll need to take your ruler to the local bookshop and measure some.  (That being said, if you don’t own any books in the genre you are interested in writing in, is that really the right genre for you?) Once you have surveyed books in your genre, there should be one combination that really stands out as the most common trim size for books of that genre.

The next step is to visit the website of the company that you would like to use to ‘publish’ your book and check that they offer that size or something very similar.  With Diary of a Penguin-napper, I considered Createspace, Lightning Source and Lulu as possible printers for my title. I was really keen on using Lulu because I know that they are able to print copies of books ordered in Melbourne (which would save time and postage costs). However, when I looked at the trim sizes that they offered, I realised that Lulu didn’t offer the trim size that I really wanted, so I ended up publishing with the other two instead.

As I try approach my writing with a business hat on, I really wanted the best price for the number of pages and the trim size that I wanted.  The trim size of your book will have an impact on the costs, so this is another place where you need to do your research.  For me, per book, Createspace offered the best price per copy easily.  However, because I’m in Australia, the postage from the US is both turtle-slow and cripplingly expensive. To give you an idea, to get the books  in a reasonable amount of time, the cost of postage per book is about the same as the cost of the book.  Because of this, I ended up going through the process of publishing through Lightning Source in addition to Createspace.  Whilst they are much more expensive per book, they have a print centre based in Melbourne and the postage is around $10-$20 rather than $200+.

The final thing that I did before I settled on a trim size and a publisher/printer was to get a proof copy printed by each the printers that I was considering.  As you can see from the photo, the Createspace (centre) and the Lightning Source (right) books look very similar.  The only difference between them, which doesn’t show up in the photograph very well, is that the Createspace copy is a gloss finish, whilst the Lightning Source copy is matt (and looks/feels far superior!)  Lulu (left) didn’t offer the trim size I wanted (hence the plain cover) and the overall quality wasn’t as good as the others, so that helped me to make the final decision.

While ultimately trim size won’t have an impact on the quality of your writing or finished novel, it does have an impact on how others will view your book.  I’ve seen a couple of self-published books, for example, that are 6″ x 9″ trim (and that perhaps should be  5.06″ x 7.81″ instead) and they stand out as being awkwardly sized and a bit less professional than  their traditionally published counterparts.  Choosing the best trim size for your title isn’t something that should take a long time, but it is something that you will have to look at for a long time after your books have been printed – so it’s worth doing right!