If you’re going the traditional-publishing route, this question probably won’t come up. The publisher arranges all of the steps of the publishing process, and your book will go through the proofreading process.
However, if you’re self-publishing, you’re probably looking for ways to cut out any unnecessary costs. A professional copyeditor has already done a thorough cleanup of your manuscript, and the book may have even gone through a designer. So, is another step really necessary?
Is a proofreader strictly necessary?
Think of it this way. Publishing houses are in the business of making money in an increasingly tough market. They’re just as budget-conscious as you are, if not more so, and they employ proofreaders. That should tell you, right there, something about the value of proofreaders.
What does a proofreader do?
First, it may help to clarify what exactly a proofreader does. Proofreaders are not copyeditors. Their job isn’t to make major editorial changes; they don’t change wording or meaning; they don’t make stylistic choices. They’re there to catch true errors.
Simply put, proofreaders are the last cleanup stage before your manuscript meets the public.
If I hired a good editor, why do I need a proofreader?
Even if you hired the best editor in the world, a proofreader can still be a huge asset for three reasons.
First, no editor, no matter how skilled and experienced, is perfect. While the number of errors should be small, we all miss things, like that its that should be it’s. The proofreader is a second set of trained eyes to catch those few errors the copyeditor missed that could still be potentially embarrassing.
Second, designers and typesetters aren’t editors, and occasionally, errors get introduced during that process, after the copyeditor has finished their work. Every time another person works on the manuscript, there is a chance for new errors. Again, it may not be negligence on the designer’s part; human error occurs any time humans are involved.
However, there have been instances where an overly helpful (but misguided) designer makes unauthorized changes, thinking they’re fixing mistakes when they’re actually introducing errors. In either case, having a professional do a final pass before production prevents costly and embarrassing issues from making it into the hands of readers.
Finally, as I said above, any time human hands touch your project, there is the potential for human error, and those human hands include your own. I don’t know how many stories I’ve heard of authors being shocked by scathing reviews only to discover that what went out to readers wasn’t their final manuscript. And when they traced the problem back, it turned out the author themself had given the designer the wrong text file, either the wrong version of their manuscript or the wrong manuscript altogether. Since the contents and state of the manuscript aren’t the concern of the designer, they didn’t see any problem, and the book went to market with the completely wrong content. And because the fault lay with the author, the author had to eat the cost of pulling the book and paying the designer to get a completely different manuscript ready for publication. A proofreader would have caught the problem and at least reduced the cost, embarrassment, and headache.
Ultimately, as a self-published author, you are responsible for overseeing the process of getting your book to market, but employing the right professionals along the way is essential, especially in areas that may not be your expertise. A good proofreader is one of those professionals. We all need that final check, and since you’ve put so much of yourself into your book, it would be a shame to fall down on that last step.
Rebecca has a passion for helping you fill the world with great literature and making sure said literature doesn't get passed over for the lack of a little editing.