Here is the last installment of my multi-part series on the types of editing involved with book publishing. We’ve gone from beta readers to developmental editing, copy and line editing and now, finally, to proofreading. Hopefully now you are better informed about what editing services you may need as you pursue publishing your story.
When I worked for a bookstore that had just gone through an upper management change (not long before it ended up closing for good), we received some signage for a sale from our new corporate overlords. Already having little faith in their abilities to run our store (they had no bookselling experience), and with a fair amount of trepidation, we opened the boxes. Our expectations were sadly met when we pulled out the first bright red sign with large, white, italic lettering and found a typo. We were having a special on paperback books in a few days. Or “paperbook books” according to the corporate designer who had no one proofreading their work before it went to the printer.
A collective groan—complete with eye rolling—came from the entire staff. We were a bookstore. And now we were a mortified bookstore. We couldn’t just put the offending signs up like that and pretend the typo wasn’t there. Our store manager (who had been with us from the day we opened), shook his head tossed them in the garbage can. Pretty sure he left not long after that incident. As did many of us booksellers. How could we work for someone who had little respect for the written word, not to mention our very well-read customers?
While there are a plethora of reasons writers and designers skip the proofreading stage, none of them are good reasons. Checking your work for errors isn’t about you. It’s about your readers, your customers. Your attention to detail shows them you respect their time and their money by making their experience with your product a joy, not work.
What does a proofreader do
Where copy and line editors clean up a manuscript by polishing the prose itself, proofreaders check to make sure those changes came through without introducing more problems. They buff your manuscript to a brilliant sparkle. Specifically though, proofreaders check for:
• grammar and punctuation errors
• broken links
• design-related issues
• adherence to style sheets (when necessary)
• consistency & continuity
When do I use a proofreader?
The good news is that if you’ve gotten to the proofreading stage of the publishing process, you are one step away from being a published author. Once your book has gone through beta reading, developmental editing, copy and/or line editing, and formatting, it’s time for the proofreader to come in and make sure all is right with
the world your manuscript before you hit “upload.”
Do I need a proofreader?
Yes. Always. Do you need to hire one? Maybe not, but if you don’t hire someone, learn how to do it effectively yourself. Because you are close to all the words on your pages, know that it’s going to be harder for you to do the job by yourself. Your eye will correct mistakes and your brain will provide explanations for things that are clear to you, but maybe not your reader.
Along with copy editing, proofreading before publication is one of those services that makes a difference in how professional you come across. A good proofread will make sure your book is not only error free, but distraction free so your audience can immerse themselves in the world and characters you created.
In the comments below, tell me about an error in a publication that gave you pause.