Six Reasons Why I’m Not the Right Proofreader for You

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Your genre, budget, timescale requirements, and a whole host of factors go into finding the right editorial professional for your manuscript. And finding the right fit is important. Doing so saves you time, money, and stress.

Not every proofreader will be right for you, nor will every author be right for me. I’ve turned down projects before for this reason; it’s nothing personal, just the nature of the job!

This post is about diving into why you may not want me as your proofreader.

You want it quick!

You’ve just finished your book. This is an immensely exciting time for you, especially if it’s your first! You want it out there in the world. So do editors – we love books (duh)! Proofreading – as with all editing – is a consuming, draining skill that requires meticulous attention to detail and sharp focus. Speed is, therefore, the antithesis of proofreading!

Average reading speeds can range from 12,000 to 18,000 words per hour, yet a proofreading pace is much slower – 2500 words per hour is an acceptable benchmark and that’s only if the text is in serviceable shape. There are whispers of those that have adapted to freakishly superhuman turnaround speeds while maintaining efficiency, but these are outliers. For the most part, be wary of those who promote ultra-fast turnaround times, it’ll likely be a rush job.

Being the attention-demanding and energy-sapping role proofreading is, it rarely equates to a whole ‘shift’ length of work. Admin, marketing, emails, and down time have to fit into an editor’s/proofreader’s day, too.

I always recommend poking around for editors and proofreaders months in advance to secure a slot. As I work full time, I cannot accommodate urgent projects. If that describes yours, I’d happily get you in touch with other trusty proofreaders.

You expect perfection

Although this is a post about why I may not be right for you, this applies for any proofreader. Perfection is rarely, if ever, achieved, and offering such an unobtainable standard is simply unrealistic. Science agees – studies have shown a 95% error catch rate isn’t an industry standard, but the best humanly possible (see editor Adrienne Montgomerie’s post about the matter).

This is why books at a publisher pass through a rigorous process of editing, proofing, typesetting, and further rounds of proofing and perhaps proof collating (where both author’s and proofreader’s changes on the final proof copies are reviewed and merged). This is why I always recommend potential clients to have as many eyes on their manuscript – beta readers and editors – before handing their manuscript to a proofreader.

Yet, despite these measures, you can still spot errors in the wild. Why? Because perfection doesn’t exist. But before you question the skills of those who played a role in books containing errors, always consider how many errors were caught compared to those that slipped through – believe me, the difference is huge.

So if you’re after perfection, I won’t be the proofreader for you, as I can’t promise that (and neither should anyone else).

A 95% error-catch rate isn't an industry standard, but the best humanly possible.

You want it cheap

I get it. You’re on a budget, and while a proofread is cheaper than a developmental edit and a copyedit, which dig deeper into your book, it still doesn’t come cheap. And with bills to pay and prices rising, you’d want the best value for money, without leaving too large a dent in your wallet.

It may be tempting to go for the ultra-cheap option on sites such as Fiverr or Upwork, and while I can encourage you to steer clear of these, it’s your choice (although some reputable editors use those sites, it’s like finding a needle in a haystack, and they’re unlikely to charge from next to nothing). Those websites are a race to the bottom, fostering an environment where cost is the deciding factor.

My fees are, at the time of writing, lower than the CIEP’s suggested rates. Working a full-time proofreading role alongside my own business means I can charge competitive – but by no means dirt cheap – rates, while respecting the value of my skills.

Even so, I’m a firm believer that an author’s decision to work with any type of editor shouldn’t rest on cost alone. Training and experience are a no-brainer, of course, but also a proofreader’s/editor’s work ethic, care, enthusiasm, and commitment elevate the relationship to more than a mere exchange of the manuscript. If you value cost over finding the right fit, I’m not the proofreader for you.

You don't trust me

Now don’t get me wrong, I invite questions to anything you’re unsure of, and I accompany any non-obvious changes with clear explanations, but I also value trust.

By the time you’ve hired me, I gather you’d have explored your options, whittled them down to a handful by vetting your proofreaders to some degree, and made a considered choice. It’s a large investment, so you have the right to be picky! You wouldn’t walk into a dealership and buy the first car you see or let any ol’ plumber fix your toilet, right?

If then – after all the nail biting and head scratching over who to trust with your hard work – you choose me, I must have instilled trust in you. You believe your book is in capable hands. Questioning every editorial decision I make would run counter to that decision-making process, and shows you don’t trust I can do a professional job. And I can’t feel comfortable working without trust.

You want control

Being a freelancer, I control what I work on, where I work, and how I work – pretty much sums up freelance! I try hard to accommodate my clients’ needs to make the experience run smoothly for all. But the moment the relationship cascades from healthy collaboration to a ‘you play by my rules’ show, I’m taking a step back and reevaluating our agreement.

Freelancers have a right to turn down any project if it affects their mental health. Unfortunately, many freelancers get stuck in the cycle of accepting anything from anyone to assuage the fear of famine months. Tolerating unwanted, controlling behaviour is then seen as ‘part of the job’, a wave to ride, but it shouldn’t be! We shouldn’t have to wake up dreading dealing with a client out of a false sense of obligation.

Tolerating unwanted, controlling behaviour is then seen as 'part of the job', a wave to ride, but it shouldn't be!

Your values don't align with mine

This is a nuanced subject. Fiction allows expressions of diverse subject areas that explore the human condition, and those working with stories, whether the author or editor, require a great deal of open-mindedness to explore such material.

There’s a world of difference between having things like racism, homophobia, sexual or child abuse in your story and actively promoting them. The former won’t cause me to decline your project (narratives that highlight such injustices shouldn’t be ignored), but the latter definitely will. Spending time with a project I’m strongly disagreeable with won’t squeeze the best work out of me, and you wouldn’t want that.

Final thoughts...

Regardless of your requirements, there’s an editor or proofreader out there to suit your needs and budget. Here’s a quick recap of why I may not be the proofreader you’re looking for:

  • you want it quick
  • you expect perfection
  • you want it cheap
  • you don’t trust me
  • you want control
  • your values don’t align with mine

This doesn’t mean there isn’t a proofreader out there who would tick all your boxes (well, aside from the perfection one!). Keep looking and good luck with your search!

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