9 Questions To Ask Before You Pay Someone To Proofread Your Self-Published Book | Self-Publishing Relief

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You’ve just finished writing your novel, memoir, or book of poetry and can’t wait to self-publish. But as a savvy writer, you know that your masterpiece needs an experienced proofreader to check spelling, punctuation, grammar, and style before you start the self-publishing process. For this, Aunt Edith just won’t do! So how do you choose a professional proofreader? And how can you be sure that the proofreader you decide to work with is worth the price and won’t cramp your creative style? Self-Publishing Relief knows the questions you need to ask before you pay someone to proofread your book.

Questions To Ask Before Hiring A Proofreader For Your Book

Do You Have Any Experience Proofreading This Type Of Work?

Proofreaders are not one-size-fits-all. Technical proofreaders have specialized knowledge about a particular subject, such as pharmaceuticals, engineering, or scientific research. Though they’re skilled in finding errors in grammar, spelling, and usage, technical proofreaders may not be sensitive to an author’s style. They may not recognize the nuances of your creative work, which may be full of sentence fragments (in dialogue) or peculiar breaks (in poetry).

The best proofreader for your needs is one who has experience working with writers in different formats and genres. Work experience in the publishing industry is a big plus.

Which Style Guide Do You Use?

A style guide sets up the standards for the writing and design of articles, documents, books, etc. If you want your book to look and read like it was released by a Big Five publisher, you want a proofreader who knows the style guidelines that are standard in the field.

When it comes to publishing fiction, nonfiction, or poetry, popular style guides include the Chicago Manual of Style and The Gregg Reference Manual. For magazines and newspapers, the preferred manual is the Associated Press (AP) Stylebook.

Do You Have Any Specific Educational Degrees Or Certifications For Proofreading?

To become a proofreader, you don’t need any special certification. A bachelor’s degree in English, journalism, or creative writing is a good start, but doesn’t guarantee that the individual has hawklike precision or full knowledge of style and usage.

Through the Editors’ Association of Canada, proofreaders can take an exam and become certified. In the U.S., there’s no comparable nationwide certification. However, some universities (like NYU in New York City) offer a two-year diploma in copywriting, proofreading, and fact-checking. Some local and long-distance institutions offer classes in copywriting and proofreading. For U.S. proofreaders, proofreading experience in a publishing house is probably the best indicator of ability.

What Are Your Strengths And Weaknesses In Proofreading? 

Asking a proofreader to evaluate her own skills can give you an idea of the extent of her knowledge of the task as well as a glimpse into how she handles a tough question. Also, if you know you tend to misuse semicolons, and semicolons are her weakness, you may want to find another proofreader.

Do You Offer Other Services? 

Many freelance proofreaders also offer additional services such as developmental or content editing, copyediting, and occasionally copywriting and book formatting. Make sure the proofreader you hire understands precisely the service you’re requesting. 

How Much Do You Charge? 

Most proofreaders charge by the word, and rates can vary depending on the experience of the proofreader, his or her location, and, in some cases, the length and quality of the manuscript. As noted on Quora, the average charge for a professional proofreader is about nine cents per word—but the rate can be higher or lower by a few cents. Other proofreaders charge by the hour, ranging from $40 or $50. 

What’s Your Turnaround Time? 

As a self-published writer, the timing of publication can be important. Make sure your proofreader is available and willing to proofread within your specified time range, or that you can adjust your schedule accordingly. Many good proofreaders require that you book your manuscript in advance.

Do You Work In Digital Format Or On Paper?

Although some proofreaders still work in red pencil on paper, most have converted to digital editing. In Microsoft Word documents, they’ll use the track changes and comment bubble features. If you work in a different word processing program or only use a Mac, make sure your proofreader can accommodate your preferences. 

Are You Available For Questions?

Unlike content editing or even copyediting, proofreading doesn’t tend to give rise to too much controversy, but you may still have questions about a change or adjustment the proofreader suggests for your manuscript. Make sure you ask whether he or she is willing to offer feedback on any questions you might have, either by email or phone.

Proofreading is a very important preliminary step in the production process for your self-published book. It ensures that you have a polished book to offer your readers so they won’t get tripped up by an unexpected error. Fortunately, even if you discover an error in your e-book after it’s already been published, you can still fix it for future readers. Being able to make quick corrections and nimble adjustments to your manuscript is one of the wonderful benefits of self-publishing.


Question: How much have you paid per word or per hour to have your manuscript professionally proofread?

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