Kateproof offers an affordable and efficient proofreading service

Q&A with a self-publishing author

Posted on 15th October 2013

In the traditional world of proofreading fiction for a publisher, my remit is limited because every amendment I make on the typeset file costs the publisher money. The file will already have been edited and copy edited so there is no need for me to query plot or content and instead, put simply, I will focus on spelling, grammar, punctuation and formatting issues.

For authors looking to self-publish, the manuscripts often haven't gone through the same level of work before coming to me and they are often still in an amendable format where the only cost is time for the author to go through the queries and amendments. I therefore thought it would be good to get the views and perspective from an author who's used my proofreading service to make it a little clearer about what the process sometimes involves (no two manuscripts will ever require the exact same level of work) and how it worked for them.

Niall, thanks for taking the time to help me with this blog.

My pleasure.

First of all, what did you expect from a proofreader? What level of work did you think you'd get?

Well, I know that there is proofreading and copy editing. Copy editing is a longer process which looks at clarity and assists the author in writing down what he or she wants to say. While I could probably use that at times, what I was looking for was someone to work over my text and take out grammatical and spelling errors which I had missed; that's proofreading. Being a self-published author, I operate on a faster schedule than the published authors I've heard or read about.

I produce a book in 3–4 months rather than 6 months or a year. It's about a month to write, and then two to get it into a final state to publish. However, I want to put out as polished a manuscript as I can. Errors in things I'm reading annoy me, so getting rid of as many as possible in my own work is important to me.

How many proofreaders did you contact for information and/or quotes?

Two. I would have gone for more, but I had time constraints. The selection was based on both availability and price. If someone is thinking of taking on a proofreader, I'd suggest allowing a couple of months to find someone who can give the right value and provide the service on the timescales you need.

How did you feel when you sent the manuscript and before you got the work back?

Nervous. My books go through a beta reader and two cycles of my own copy editing before they go out, and this was the first time I'd let a professional proofread them. I knew there were going to be mistakes, but how many? Just how embarrassing was this going to be?
That said, I was asked about some elements of style before and during the process, and I felt engaged with that process. This was very useful to me as it made me think about some of the things I was writing, and how I was writing them down.

When you received the file, what were your first impressions?

There were a lot of corrections. Some were simply due to me not understanding grammar as well as I'd like to think I do. Some due to things that have changed a little since I did English thirty or so years ago, but there were many that I should have seen and did not. It is a daunting sight, but I knew that when I'd gone through and set the changes into the text I'd have a much better product.

Was there anything that the proofreader did that surprised you or that you didn't expect to be covered in the work? How did the actual work differ from your expectations?

In addition to the basic corrections, there were comments and suggestions, and these were extremely useful. Some were clarity suggestions, not required by the strict rules of proofreading, but very welcome. Some just made me think about whether I was using the right word for something. I scanned through them initially and got rather excited about doing the full read through. Some of this strayed into copy editing, which was above and beyond the call of duty, and very welcome.

I guess I was also a little surprised at the interactive nature of the work too. I guess every author has a style, and also there are elements of grammar which have some flexibility. I use 'Oxford commas' for example (though I didn't know they were called that) and I was asked whether I wanted to stick with that form. I'm writing science fiction: do I want to capitalise alien race names or not? And I could ask advice on what was traditionally done. The process has helped me in my later writing, I think. We'll see when the next book gets sent back.

Will you be using a professional proofreader again?

Writing for me is a hobby which pays. It has to support itself to a large extent. I was able to get this book proofread because of sales of the last one. As long as they keep selling in sufficient numbers, I plan to keep using a proofreader. It is not inexpensive, but I think it was well worth it.

Thanks again to Niall Teasdale, author of The Cold Steel Mind and other science fiction novels, available here.

Written by Kate Haigh.