Kateproof offers an affordable and efficient proofreading service

Another Q & A with a self-publishing author

Posted on 22nd October 2013

Last week I asked Niall Teasdale about his experiences of using a proofreader, but to really highlight how very different it can be for authors, I thought I'd ask another author I've worked with to give her views on the process.

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

You're very welcome.

First of all, what did you expect from a proofreader? What level of work did you think you'd get? What processes had you been through before getting the book proofread?

My expectations were that I'd end up with a completely polished book with any grammar, punctuation and spelling errors picked up and changed, or alternative suggestions made. Attention to detail and clarity were what I was looking for and hoped I would get.

My book, The Butterfly Storm, had been through quite a few processes before I got it proofread. I started writing it in 2004 as part of my MA in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University. During that time and whilst I continued to write it after graduating it was thoroughly critiqued and beta read by fellow writers and published tutors.

Once finished, and over a period of two to three years, I sent it out to agents and independent publishers and was lucky enough to have five agents and one publisher request to read the whole novel. Although I didn't get an offer of representation or a book deal the response from all of them was incredibly positive and the publisher made some very valuable suggestions of how I could improve the manuscript. I took that advice and rewrote the novel.

After deciding to take the self-publishing route – and to ensure the book was as good and as professional as it could be – it was at that point that I decided I would need it proofread.

You mention using beta readers (as did Niall), so as an aside and for the purposes of those who don't know much about them, who did you use and how did you find them?

From the very start of writing The Butterfly Storm I was lucky enough to have a group of fellow writers critiquing my work, which was invaluable. The book was also read by five agents and one publisher who gave me feedback that led to me rewriting a good part of the book, an exercise that most definitely helped to make it a stronger novel.

With my second book, Time Shifters, I had a ready-made network of writing friends I could ask to beta read the book. These are writers I've met on Twitter, connected with via our mutual blogs or am still friends with since our MA in Creative Writing days. I ended up with six beta readers: three from the UK, two from the US and one from Australia. All of them write and half of them are self-published authors.

What value do you feel they give to you, your book and your writing development?

In many ways beta readers are similar to proofreaders in the fact that they highlight elements of the book that the author has missed. However, the focus of beta readers is on the flow of the story and how it hangs together, along with characterisation, setting and readability. Having a few people read the finished novel is an excellent way to find out if something doesn't work - if the majority or all of your beta readers suggest that you need to rewrite chapter one then it's probably best to rewrite it. Beta readers can also confirm what works well with the story.

Feedback from readers (whether they're writers or not) prior to publication will not only give you confidence in your story or a chance to work on it further but is also an effective way to improve your book and your writing skills as a whole. You will also approach the publication of your book with a confidence that it's been read and hopefully enjoyed by your beta readers.

Beta readers do often pick up spelling mistakes or grammatical errors but they're no replacement for a proofreader who will bring consistency and their professional proofreading skills to your work. In my mind utilising beta readers and employing a proofreader will ensure a polished and professional novel that's as ready for publication as it can be.

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

You were the only one. I met Helen Hart, the publishing director of SilverWood Books at a book launch last year, and she not only stressed the importance of getting my book professionally proofread but also recommended you and emailed me your details. I may well have found a cheaper proofreader if I'd looked around but recommendation from someone like Helen was pretty persuasive.

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

I felt satisfaction sending the manuscript off knowing I'd edited it all that I could. I was excited to get the work back as I was eager to put the finishing touches to the book; however, I was slightly apprehensive about how many errors would be highlighted and what suggested changes would be made.

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

That I hadn't made too many errors! Having said that it was amazing to see what I'd missed. My main issue seemed to be with consistency but the attention to detail that went into the proofreading was meticulous, ensuring that all those inconsistencies were rectified. I felt confident that everything had been picked up.

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?

My expectations of what a proofreader would do were certainly met. What I hadn't expected (and was very grateful for) were things like advice regarding the disclaimers at the start of the book and the flagging up of a line of the novel that could be considered libellous. There were stylistic choices to be made throughout the book and there were suggestions of how to rework clunky phrases, which I appreciated. The whole process was collaborative and I liked that.

I opted for the two-staged approach to proofreading that Kate offered and this was something I hadn't considered when thinking about hiring a proofreader. This approach initially involved emailing my manuscript as a Word document, which was proofread using track changes. This was then sent back to me to accept or reject the suggested changes, format the book and then email over a PDF copy for a final proofread and for the formatting to also be checked.

Will you be using a professional proofreader again?

Most definitely. In fact there's no way I would publish a novel without having it proofread first. However many times you read your work you will miss things. When you are so familiar with what you've written you tend to read what you meant rather than what is actually there.

Thanks again to Kate Frost, author of The Butterfly Storm and the upcoming Time Shifters.

And as a final comment from me, I realise that not everyone has the budget to spend that other writers may have but hopefully these two Q&A blogs have given you an idea about what you're getting for your money for this sort of work. If you're thinking of getting your book proofread and aren't entirely sure about the process and what's involved for your specific manuscript, I thoroughly recommend you ask a proofreader for full details and to discuss your individual needs.

Written by Kate Haigh.