Self-publishing a novel requires a lot of planning, money, and, let’s face it, stress. Taking on everything yourself isn’t impossible but it definitely isn’t for everyone, so knowing about the different stages in the self-publishing process is important.
Proofreading is one of the final steps when self-publishing a novel, and finding the best proofreader for the job can be overwhelming. Especially when you have to look at so many other publishing services too.
Knowing how proofreading fits into the self-publishing process, what it entails, and how to find a proofreader are all things any independent author needs to know. Here you’ll find my advice for finding and working with a proofreader.
The process of self-publishing a novel
So you have your story and you’ve decided to self-publish.
Depending on what works for you, you’ll look into different editors, deciding between developmental editing, copy editing, and line editing – if you have the funds, then perhaps all three! You need beta readers as well.
Then it’s time to look into production. Where to print or host your novel is important, and once you’ve decided on that you start looking at book formatting and cover artists.
Whether you format your book yourself or hire someone to do it for you, it’s important to schedule a proofreader to work on your book after formatting is complete. A proofreader’s job is to catch as many remaining mistakes in the text as possible, alongside checking for formatting errors.
Some publishing services handle production for you and may have their own proofreaders, but most self-publishing authors will build up their team of publishing services personally.
It’s an expensive task, self-publishing a novel, so many indie authors do as much as possible themselves. Proofreading a novel is one of the most important final steps to self-publishing.
Why should you proofread your novel?
You, the author, should do everything you can to not proofread your novel. Your familiarity with your story makes you essentially blind to its faults, and that isn’t a bad thing.
Does proofreading include editing?
Proofreading and editing are two different skill sets, and both provide different, but complimentary, services to an author.
Editing takes place after an author is happy that their novel is ready for the self-publishing process, once they’ve done all of their own editing.
Proofreading happens after the novel has been formatted, when all other editing has been done and the novel is ready to be published. This ensures any errors introduced in the editing or formatting stages can be caught prior to publication.
After all, you don’t want your readers to find a massive mistake on the first page.
Should you hire a separate proofreader to your editor?
Let’s start by saying that, as a proofreader, my answer is biased here. But it’s also what I’ve been told during my training.
It’s advised that an editor and proofreader for a novel should be different people. Each pair of fresh eyes can pick up on different mistakes.
For many authors, the purpose of proofreading isn’t clear. Depending on your goals for self-publishing, it might not seem worth the cost. If being a successful author hinges on critical acclaim or making a living from writing, proofreading is essential.
Winning awards and competitions are a common goal of authors who see success as involving critics or judges praising them. Making a living from writing requires as many readers and positive reviews as possible.
No author wants to receive reviews containing sentences like “littered with mistakes” or “couldn’t finish, too many basic errors” or “frustrated to read this with how many typos there are”. For authors who want to make a living or win awards, these opinions can be really damaging to their chances of success.
How to find the best proofreading services in the UK
The best place to find proofreading services in the UK is the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading’s directory. The CIEP is a non-profit organisation focused on setting and demonstrating editorial standards by training and supporting editorial professionals. Their directory compiles all editors and proofreaders they have deemed Professional or Advanced Professional Members of their organisation.
Professional and Advanced Professional Members have a lot of training and experience, marking them out as the best of the best. Oversight from the CIEP means you can be certain proofreaders on their website have a lot of experience. This also makes them more likely to be trustworthy to work with.
Another place where experience is guaranteed is Reedsy. Proofreaders need at least 3 years of experience with big publishing companies in order to be listed on Reedsy. Work goes through their website so you have someone to contact if anything goes wrong.
You can also look online for proofreaders’ websites, much like my own here, where you can compare prices, terms & conditions, and testimonials between freelancers.
Places like The Empowered Author’s Services for Authors and Find a Proofreader also act as directories of proofreaders. While there is less oversight here, these directories are great places to find proofreaders, make comparisons between providers, and obtain quotes before committing to paying someone.
On directories, you can search for keywords, so you can find someone who has experience proofreading for your genre. Someone unfamiliar with SFF fiction is more likely to be unprepared to deal with fabricated words and unusual spellings than someone who expects it, which could risk the proofreader missing the deadline.
Many proofreaders offer a sample proofread. Usually between 1k–3k words, a sample proofread is taken from the middle of a manuscript and given to a proofreader to see how they work. Sample proofreads can be free or may be available for a small price.
It’s best to have a budget in mind when searching for proofreaders. You may find proofreaders quote a variety of prices, especially dependent on experience level, specialism, and more.
How long does it take to proofread 50,000 words?
Depending on a proofreader’s experience, how fast they read, and how many times they read, the time it takes to proofread 50,000 words can vary greatly.
The average reading speed is around 250 words per minute. Proofreaders need to read more slowly to catch mistakes, and how long it takes to mark corrections varies too.
You can ask proofreaders you’re considering how long it will take to proofread your novel based on word count, and most will have a good idea based on previous projects. They will also include buffer time to account for days off, possible sick days, and other commitments.
After all, most proofreaders control their own working hours. I haven’t met many proofreaders who can work more than 4 hours a day on the same project, due to eyestrain and fatigue.
For instance: my neurodivergent brain struggles to focus after 2 hours of proofreading, even with breaks. But thanks to hyperfocusing, I make up for this with a quicker proofreading speed.
Every proofreader is different. If you have a specific deadline in mind, plan ahead and schedule a proofreader at least 1 month in advance so you can keep the production of your novel on track to your deadlines.
How do proofreaders charge for their services?
Most proofreaders charge per 1000 words or per word, though some proofreaders have set rates for projects, and others may talk about an hourly rate. For the most part, this will work out to the same cost, even if a proofreader is open to charging based on any of these charges.
The Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading sets a suggested minimum rate every financial year. As of 2023, the suggested minimum hourly rate for a proofreader is £28.65.
Proofreading qualifications in the UK
There are a number of proofreading courses in the UK available to proofreaders. The CIEP has a suite of 3 proofreading courses, while the Publishing Training Centre offers a course in Essential Proofreading.
Many proofreaders include their qualifications on their website, including courses from the above providers, as well as any formal qualifications like degrees.
Tips for hiring a proofreader for your self-published novel
Here are some top tips for hiring a proofreader in the UK:
- Figure out a budget beforehand, along with budgeting for all other services you need to self-publish (editing, cover artist, formatting, marketing, etc.)
- Have a production plan, including an idea of when you want each stage (including proofreading) completed by
- Draw up a list of proofreaders you’d like to work with, by searching directories or asking for recommendations from other writers
- Check each proofreader’s reviews, including on websites like Trustpilot and Find a Proofreader
- Get a sample proofread and ask for quotes from your shortlist of proofreaders
- Decide on a proofreader and schedule ahead of time
- Provide a style guide to your proofreader when you start – these can be made by editors and can help make a proofreader’s task easier
If you’re interested in getting a quote for my proofreading services, please use my enquiry form. Best of luck with your self-publishing journey!