Kateproof offers an affordable and efficient proofreading service

Q&A for authors looking to get their fiction proofread

Posted on 29th May 2018

Do you charge upfront for your proofreading service?

I know a lot of editors and proofreaders who charge 50% upfront, but this isn't something I have done in the past and generally wouldn't choose to do. There are a few reasons for this, but on the whole, I believe there needs to be mutual trust between the author and the proofreader: the author trusts me to do a good job within the agreed schedule and I trust that they will pay. So far, touch wood, this has worked fine. I am happy to discuss payment in instalments though, and in those instances, I would request the first one to be made upfront.

Do you offer free samples?

When I proofread fiction, this level of work is more a question of me correcting errors, be they related to spelling, grammar, punctuation or format. By the time the book needs my proofreading service, it should have no major questions left, so I don't feel the need for a sample to show how I can help in a way that might differ from someone else. Proofreading fiction does not involve changing style, flow or story, and is more about the mechanics of the text. If I'm proofreading a book and I encounter issues with plot or consistency, I always raise a query (in a comment box) but I wouldn't change the story itself.

That said, if I were to offer developmental editing services for fiction, a sample might be useful for both parties to be sure my style and editing approach fits the author and their book. At present, this isn't something I do.

I am more than happy to discuss me working on the first few chapters, for a fee, before the author decides if the full proofreading or copy-editing service is in line with their needs/expectations, or sometimes an author just wants to get the submission text finalised and I will work on those sections only.

Why do you need to see a sample before providing a quote?

I know many authors are concerned about sending their manuscripts out, but I have a privacy policy in place that stipulates that I don't share any of the details with any third parties and everything is treated confidentially. I can't quote for work until I've seen a sample because the scope varies so much from one project to the next: I tend to ask to see a sample that includes dialogue because if I have to format the dialogue, including querying speech tags, that will take a lot longer than if the manuscript is in fairly good shape. It might also be that the author wants a proofread but upon seeing the sample, I feel it needs a heavier touch or a different service. If this is the case, I will let the author know and if I am not suitable for the work required, I usually try to give them details of someone who can help them.

What does it cost to proofread my novel?

I've written other posts about the fees for my proofreading services so I won't repeat myself too much here, but needless to say the price depends on the sample, word count and service required. I usually quote a per 1,000-word rate, resulting in a fixed fee, and payment is then due when I return the marked-up file, not upfront.

What's the difference between your copy-editing and proofreading service?

This blog post explains the traditional process a manuscript will go through prior to publication, but here's a summary of what is included in my copy-editing or proofreading service.

If an author asks me to proofread a manuscript that hasn't been professionally edited or copy-edited, my proofreading service often overlaps quite a lot with what I offer for a copy-edit, but if it's been copy-edited first, the following distinctions usually apply:

Copy-editing service:

  • Formatting the manuscript
  • Implementing house style and consistency, such as spellings, capitals and hyphenation
  • Creating a style sheet to include all the house style and formatting details
  • Querying suitability of language, such as swear words in a children's book or references to technology that wasn't created in the time the book is set
  • Querying overuse of certain words, phrases or constructions
  • Amending and/or querying non-speech tags in dialogue with suggestions for alternatives
  • Querying potential legal issues for the author to consider, e.g. use of lyrics or references to real people
  • Querying if plot flow/character issues have slipped through to this stage but not amending them

Proofreading service:

  • Checking the formatting is correct and amending where not
  • Checking consistency across the file and amending where necessary
  • Correcting errors in spelling, grammar and punctuation
  • Querying if plot flow/character issues have slipped through to this stage but not amending them
  • Flagging non-speech tags used in dialogue
  • Checking pagination, contents pages and other cross-references

How long will it take?

As you might expect, this varies massively from one project to the next, both depending on how long the book is and also how much work is required. If I have to implement formatting from scratch, that will obviously take longer than if I am just moving a few erroneous commas or adding the occasional paragraph indent. For an average book, I usually try to schedule in two weeks for the proofread, but can sometimes do it within one week. I try to always give myself a bit of leeway in the schedule – I would much rather return the work early than get ill and have to ask for an extension.

Can you also provide an assessment of the book when you return the proofread manuscript?

I often get asked if I can critique the book while proofreading or copy-editing it, but I find this is quite tricky, not to mention I don't usually offer manuscript assessment services. For example, when proofreading, I am focussing on the fine details, such as pesky commas, dialogue format and consistent hyphenation, and this means I don't read the book in the same way someone might if picking this up for a leisurely read. In fact, some proofreaders read books backwards so they purely focus on the details and not the plot, though that's not something I've ever done. I would also add that a manuscript assessment should come earlier in the process, because if I were to pick up on issues or make suggestions for major changes, this would no doubt require further edits and then another round of proofreading.

Written by Kate Haigh.