Ready for take off
Just like a flight attendant makes all the final checks on an aircraft before take- off, a proofreader is engaged when a book or article is ready for publication, before it “takes off.” They will double check for spelling mistakes, grammatical errors and anything else that might detract from the flow of the writing. The lasting impression a reader should have is of your story is their enjoyment of reading it, not that there was an indefinite article missing on line 10, paragraph two, in chapter 3, on page 98, which is what puritanical readers will remember and talk about. Working for ages on a story sometimes means we can’t see the woods for the trees. Think of a proofreader as a fresh, unbiased pair of eyes to ensure that your “T”s are crossed and your “ I”s are dotted.
A professional proofreader is objective and emotionally detached from your story and you. They have a good eye for detail, and have developed methods and processes for meticulously detecting even minor errors in your work, from missing commas to misused or ambiguous words. Furthermore, they will check for discrepancies in typeface, spacing, and font size, page to page, chapter to chapter. In essence, a proofreader has the dedication of your biggest fan and the insight and sharpness of an editor.
Where to find an editor or proofreader.
You should already have an editor by the time you need a proofreader and your editor will probably assign a trusted proofreader they work with. If not, then nowadays we can google Author Assistance websites or simply google “proofreader” to find a freelancer. Try to be specific as proofreaders do specialise in different genres and categories. Try to find one in a location near to you should you ever need to meet face to face. So when searching, use as many keywords as possible to narrow your search, for example: Proofreader, fiction, romance novel, Florida, USA.
Prepare a brief and an overview of your story. Then make enquiries with several proofreaders online asking if they would be interested in helping you. If you like their response, send them a cover letter and perhaps include the first few paragraphs of your story. Let the proofreader know the scope of what you require. The cover letter should be very clear about what you want, when it should be done by, the genre and the word count as prices are often calculated on word count. If your work has already been professionally edited say so, so that the proofreaders will be crystal clear about what you need them to do. In addition, ask the proofreaders for information about themselves and their portfolio, and, if possible, ask for contactable references. Equally important, ask them for a quote which should specify the cost and any terms and conditions. Lastly, include an amateurish piece of writing, approximately 500 to 700, words for them to proofread, at no cost. This is not foolproof, but might provide an idea of a proofreader’s skill set and commitment.
Just like when catching a flight and you need to check in timeously, give the proofreader you’ve selected advanced notice and adequate time to do the proofreading. They can’t do much when you and your book are already boarded and waiting for take- off. Lastly, don’t skimp. Don’t try to save a penny and end up spending a pound/dollar. Make a phone call and have a chat to your candidates. This will help you make your final decision. Trust your instincts more than your wallet, and hire a proofreader you can trust.