Kateproof offers an affordable and efficient proofreading service

Finding the right person for your project

Posted on 29th August 2016

I had a bit of a weird interaction recently with a potential client. I was asked to quote to proofread his novel, which I did, and the author then accepted the quote. A few weeks later, and still 6 weeks before the work was due to arrive, I got another email saying I was no longer required. Intrigue got the better of me so I asked him why, and he said that a relative had just qualified as a proofreader and he felt obliged to use her. I had no arguments with that and was pleased it wasn't a reflection on me or my rates. I'd have thought nothing more of this if it hadn't been for the fact that I was later contacted and asked if I could proofread one of his chapters. I quoted and then did the work, not knowing if this was me being compared with the relative, me working on something the relative had already proofread or the author just wanting to see how I'd approach the work. I completed the work and sent it back. And then, yes, once again, intrigue got the better of me so I asked why I was doing the work; the author said it had been proofread and was the one chapter he wasn't happy with and had wanted a second check. He then added that he wants me to work on the next book. I asked no further questions, especially as no howlers had slipped through though formatting seemed 'non-conventional', and many of my amendments and queries on the file possibly fell more into a copy-editor's brief, but it left me thinking that sometimes you need to look at what's best for your book rather than employing your relative, a friend or your next-door neighbour.

I realise it's hard for someone starting out and they need to get experience but the concept of 'qualifying' as a proofreader can be vague. See my blogs on style and how some rules can be broken for some examples but fiction is often less prescriptive than non-fiction, which is often the focus of proofreading training. A key part of my work with independent authors also relates to formatting of dialogue and to my knowledge, this isn't covered in many of the courses. That's not to say someone new to the industry hasn't done lots of research to find out about this so would be able to check and correct these elements, but it's worth asking any potential proofreader about their experience to be sure your preferred proofreader is right for the job.

As in all walks of life, business and pleasure often don't mix; employing a relative is fine if the relative is right for the job but if they're not, you risk the relationship going sour if you have to complain or get negative reviews, not to mention risking your reputation as an author if the quality of the output isn't good enough. And let's not start on whether your mum or husband can offer a fair critique; I'm sure some can but I think a bit of distance always helps with these things. After all, how many wailers have gone on TV singing contests saying that their mum and their gran love their voice?!

Written by Kate Haigh.