Thursday, June 9, 2011

Go for the Pro: Hiring a Proofreader

Yesterday my guest, professional proofreader Karen Elliott, gave us insight into all the things you need to check when proofreading your manuscript. If you are not confident in your abilities, you may want to hire a professional. If you are planning to self-publish, you definitely want your manuscript to have a professional polish before it goes to print.

Just how much will this cost? Some people offer an hourly rate, often $30-$60 per hour. Others offer a per-word rate, often 1½ cents per word. I like the latter, because you know exactly how much you will be spending. If you go with an hourly rate, make sure they’ll give you an estimate after seeing a sample of your work. (For reference, I got an estimate of up to 30 hours for my 85,000-word adult book, Rattled, which didn’t have many errors.)

For a full-length adult novel, it may cost $1000 or more for a professional proofreader. Shorter children’s novels may come in at half that. That’s a big chunk of change, but this isn’t the place to skimp. If you are going to hire somebody, make sure they can and will do the job well. Here’s Karen to explain how to find someone who will give your manuscript the attention it deserves.

Karen Elliott:

Planning – Start looking for a proofreader the minute you start your book or soon thereafter.  Don’t decide you need a proofreader on Monday and hire one on Tuesday. Shop around. Ask other successful writers for recommendations. 

Ask for Specifics – Ask the proofreader to outline exactly what they consider “proofreading” and “copy editing.” These differ significantly throughout the industry.

Put away the hatchet, please – When I proofread and edit for a client, I prefer to suggest changes; I do not make edits for the writer. You should direct how the edits come to you.

Research online – Look at the proofreader’s website, Linked In, Facebook, Twitter, and blog. Are they positive? Do they share tips and links? Are their online pages clean?

Style book – Ask them what style book(s) and references they use. If they hem and haw or say, “Oh, I don’t need those things,” run away.

Testimonials – Get testimonials or references and then look at the publications of the testimonials. Contact the people who have provided these testimonials.

Turn-around – Look at their turn-around time – if a proofreader says she’ll have your 100,000-word work of art back to you in two days, that’s just not gonna happen.

Contract – Sign a contract. I would caution that if the proofreader doesn’t use contracts, again, run away. Be sure you can accept the contract payment terms, turn-around time, cancellation terms, additional cost for phone consultations, etc.

NDA – Ask the proofreader to sign an NDA – non-disclosure agreement. You don’t want your hard work to end up in someone else’s book or in the proofreader’s e-book!

About Karen: “I am a voracious, nit-picky proofreading shark! I was raised by two women - a mother who worked for Merriam-Webster as a proofreader and an aunt who could do the New York Times crossword in a day, in pen. Please see testimonials, commitment statement, and other information at my blog.”

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