Many authors aren’t aware of all the steps involved publishing a book, because traditional publishing takes care of it all. When self-publishing, authors have to handle everything themselves. So many ask: Why is proofreading important?
Proofreading is an essential step in the publishing process, the last quality check before a book is sent out to readers.
So let’s explore why proofreading is important for self-publishing authors.
What is proofreading?
Proofreading is the last step before publishing your book. As a final quality check, proofreading looks for spelling errors, missing or incorrect punctuation, repetition (‘the the’), formatting mistakes, formatting consistency, spelling consistency, missing words, and more.
A proofreader works with the author by working on a PDF of the book and marking all corrections. The author is then responsible for sending the proofreader’s corrections to their formatter or for making those corrections themselves.
What is a professional proofreader?
A professional proofreader is someone who works as a proofreader. They’re not only paid to proofread, they also commit to training and professional development.
The Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading is a membership organisation that encourages professional development for editors and proofreaders. Providing training courses for both, the CIEP ensures a high level of professionalism and quality to its members.
While you can find proofreaders outside of organisations like the CIEP, there’s no guarantee that they’ve had any training. A person holding a degree in English Literature or Creative Writing isn’t trained in proofreading, even if they have experience in proofreading.
Something is better than nothing, but if you want to ensure your book is in the best shape possible, and you don’t want reviewers to point out mistakes, you need a professional proofreader.
Why is proofreading your own writing more difficult than proofreading someone else’s writing?
Even a trained proofreader can’t proofread their own book thoroughly. Proofreading your own writing to the same level as someone else’s writing just isn’t possible, because our eyes might be following the text but our brains aren’t always reading it. Instead, the mind makes an assumption about what is written.
That’s why it’s easy to miss mistakes even if you read it three or more times. In fact, the more you read it, the harder it gets to pick up on mistakes.
People often suggest that writers edit their work after shelving it for a time. This helps writers edit because you’re not as familiar with the writing as you were when writing it. It’s not a perfect solution though.
It’s even recommended that editors don’t work on the same text twice, even if the second time they’re proofreading. Many editors offer both services but sub-contract or collaborate with proofreaders.
What is the best AI or software to help with proofreading?
First, we need to understand that AI and software alone can’t proofread. They can be used as tools, but there will always be things missed.
You can’t proofread with AI or software alone because the human eye picks up on errors that AI just can’t. To a computer, the phrase ‘eye see you’ looks fine, but the phrase ‘I see youse’ doesn’t. So anyone writing accents in their book can’t rely on computers at all.
Then there’s consistency. Right now, AI and software just don’t check for consistency, they have their own rules. If you have a character called Thatcher and you typo it as Hatcher one time, the AI won’t know you’re referring to a character.
AI lacks context. That’s one of the biggest advantages of a human editor and proofreader.
Editors and proofreaders often utilise macros in Microsoft Word, which are created by amazing people to aid checks. But there’s still a lot of work to do for the editor or proofreader. Most macros I use are analysis macros, which list common words used, proper nouns found in the text, count punctuation to show me consistency, and so on.
Why do you need an editor and a proofreader?
Editors and proofreaders have different, but very similar, jobs when it comes to self-published books.
An editor will carry out major editing tasks, including rewording sentences and more. The author then takes this feedback and applies it, though you’re always able to ignore suggestions if you disagree with them. Even if you use multiple editors (such as developmental editors, line editors, and so on), not every mistake is going to be caught.
You’re always going to miss or introduce new mistakes during this correction process too. Formatting can also introduce more mistakes, but there are also formatting inconsistencies that a proofreader will catch before publication.
Some self-published authors forgo editing entirely to save money, and this makes proofreading even more important.
What is the best way to find a proofreader?
Recommendations for proofreaders from other authors is the best way to find a proofreader. But if you don’t know anyone, try:
- The Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading directory
- Facebook groups such as ‘I Need a Book Editor’, ‘Services for Book Authors’, and more
- Services For Authors
- Searching keywords on search engines, like ‘fantasy proofreader’
After you’ve found some proofreaders, you can narrow down your options to find the best proofreader for your novel. Free sample proofreads are one of the most efficient ways to find a quality proofreader who you’ll like working with.
When should you hire a proofreader for your manuscript?
As a self-publishing author, it’s a good idea to have a plan in place for when each stage of the publishing workflow will happen.
Once you know when your book will be formatted (whether you’re doing it yourself or you’ve scheduled with a formatter), you’ll want to contact proofreaders. Ask them for their availability and a quote.
Based on availability and quotes, you can narrow down who you want to work with, and schedule your project with them. Make sure to set a reminder for when you need to send your book to them. You’ll also have the proofreader’s deadline in mind, so you can plan marketing and ARC readers for this time.