A proof reader isn’t a member of the grammar police. They are literary inspectors who carefully check the “proof copy” for errors.
This is the final check that is meant to catch the final few errors.
What do proof readers do?
Things proof readers look for are:
- Spelling mistakes
- Grammar (misplaced, incorrectly used, or omitted punctuation)
- Formatting (including page numbers, line spacing and indents)
- Duplicated words or sentences
These are things that have been scrutinised by all your editors. But they also come under the remit of a proof reader.
At this stage, having already paid professional editors, you would like to think your manuscript is 100% perfect. But you’d be wrong in most cases.
Despite a few rounds on the editing desk, there’s a high possibility that your book has an error or two hiding within the pages.
How much does a proof reader cost?
Prices in this field have a wide range and quotes can be between £5-£25 ($7-$35) per hour, but some might go higher.
Some proof readers will quote by wordcount. You must check this before you commit to a contract.
The contract should include a full read-through as well as providing written feedback.
Be prepared to pay for a professional service. Their work is their reputation.
Also, just because it takes you four hours to read a book, it doesn’t mean a proof reader will do it in the same amount of time.
They aren’t trying to get through the book to save you money. They are reading it carefully to catch mistakes.
Do I need a proof reader?
In the first print of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s stone (Sorcerer’s stone in the U.S.), there was a misprint.
Harry’s shopping list stated “1 wand” followed by a few other items, and finally, “1 wand.”
It must’ve been infuriating for J.K Rowling and her publisher when this was spotted.
They probably went straight to print to fix the mistake.
So, to be blunt… yes, you need a proof reader.
However, in J.K Rowling’s case, thanks to her success, the few copies with this mistake that are still in circulation, are worth tens of thousands of pounds.
Choosing a proof reader
Not every proof reader will handle fiction. Some cater for academic papers, others will work on non-fiction, so please do your research to make sure your chosen professional works in your area.
A great way to build a list of proof readers is to speak with other self-published authors.
Ask for recommendations.
Skills needed for a proof reader
A proof reader will have a tremendous amount of focus and great attention to detail.
When reading your novel, they not only digest the story to make sure it makes sense, they also pay close attention to all the things listed at the top of this article.
Some people don’t hire professional proof readers at all. Instead, they enlist the help of friends and family. However, I urge you to avoid doing the latter.
Although friends and family might be able to spot a hidden mistake here and there, they are not trained to look for them. And that means they could become too engrossed in the story to notice errors.
That being said, if you do decide to save some money and forego a professional, I recommend asking several people to proof read for you. The more, the merrier at this stage.
The more eyes you get on your pages, the more likely they are to find the last few problems.
The thing to remember when making this choice is this: how successful do you want your book to be?
I prefer to invest in my books and will always hire a professional proof reader.
Acting on feedback
On a physical copy, a proof reader will mark the corrections with specialized markings.
On a digital copy, they will use tracked changes.
Proof readers do not re-write or offer suggestions on how to amend the error.
They merely highlight the error to the author.
Where can you find a proof reader?
Anyone who enjoys reading can be your proof reader.
They must have a good understanding of the language, be extremely attentive, and enjoy reading. But if you go down this route, you shoulder ask several people to ensure you cover all the bases.
Should you choose a professional, a quick Google search will generate a list of proof readers in your area.
Be careful about paying for a service up front. Some websites display attractive prices to draw indie-authors in.
They know that we are working to a budget. And there are plenty of scammers out there who will ask for an up-front payment, and never provide a service.
Research anyone you intend to hire.
Proof readers are NOT copy editors. They will only highlight an issue. It’s up to you to fix it.
And remember, this is your manuscript. You are about to release it to the world.
Be sure to give it the best possible start by giving it a good proof read before publishing.