Thursday, February 2, 2012

Proof-reading, an underestimated profession

 If you follow my blog, you will know that every now and again I do come up with some controversial posts. Their purpose is to make people think, consider different angles on one subject. Today, I'd like to write about proof-reading due to a recent appeal from a self-published author who received reviews saying his books are in dire need of it. Several people have kindly volunteered to help him out, but do they really know what their job will be? Do they actually have the knowledge needed to proof-read a book? Many will pipe up saying they are good at it, but only few really are. It's an underestimated profession which demands a keen eye on detail; it's exhausting because you have to concentrate. And: you're the last one going through a manuscript and therefore will be judged based on the cleaniness of the book.

Proof-reading is not only correcting a few typos, I think that almost everyone can do; proof-reading is correcting grammar, punctuation (including dialogue attributes), it's looking out for inconsistencies, meaning that the spelling of a character's name, for example, is always the same. Very important in fantasy, where you have made-up names and places. A good proof-reader will find every single stray comma, spaces, misplaced/wrong quotes, correct apostrophes and semi-colons, find missing indents and paragraphs. They will go through your ms with a fine tooth comb and erase all errors that might distract a future reader.

I would suggest to look at someone's e-mails, posts or websites, to see how their writing is, if you find errors, steer clear, if the person starts out newly, like the one above, test them. Let them proof-read the first few pages or even the first chapter of your novel. Then go through it slowly yourself or ask a friend to check if the services has found all of the errors. If yes, you can go ahead. If not, thank them and find someone else. Always remember, your author name is a brand and if you put out an error-riddled book, you'll have to do a lot of damage control and I speak from experience. Finding the right proof-reader is difficult and the work-relationship is based on trust. Your novel is your baby, take good care of it.

Another word of warning: proof-reading is the last step in the whole process. Please make sure your novel has been edited beforehand or you have to pay twice.

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