While book proofreading is usually the final stage of your manuscript’s pre-publishing process, it pays to pay attention to what your book editors will look at while you’re writing, and thereby minimize payable hours later on.
Book proofreading should be done once your book has been laid out for print and or formatted for e-reading. You might argue that there shouldn’t be any errors after the book editors, book designers and formatters have checked it. However, it is nearly impossible for a copyeditor to spot all mistakes, no matter how rigorous the editing process and that’s why many writers hire a proofreader. There’s a 95% spot rate amongst good copy editors, and that excludes errors that occur after the fact – for instance when you approve changes, add something, or when your cat steps on your keyboard. If you’re unsure, get hold of freelance book editors or free beta readers.
What is Book Proofreading?
Book proofreading is different to recreational reading in that you need to spot details, such as punctuation marks that are in a different format to the text, or too many spaces between words or sentences.
When proofreading your book, remember to –
- Read out loud: Your brain has an autocorrect function that basically bypasses errors while you read quietly. However, when you read aloud, you will notice mistakes better. Your ears will hear what your eyes don’t see.
- Read slowly: Read at a speed which allows you to focus. Some writers use a text-to-speech tool, which may allow you to adjust the reading speed.
Book Proofreading: What Book Editors Will Look For in Your Manuscript
By spotting these issues ahead of time, you can save on freelance copy editor rates:
- Are you using a consistent font style and size for the running text?
- Are you using the appropriate headers for chapters and subtitles?
- Is the font big enough, and easy enough to read?
- Do you use spaces before and after dashes, em dashes and ellipses consistently?
- Are there any strange characters where punctuation should be?
- Are there any forced line breaks in inappropriate places?
- Have you left any pages blank?
- Are there additional spaces in the wrong places?
- Are some words merged?
- Do your hyperlinks work?
- Are images in the right places and are they sized correctly?
- Are there any typos and spelling errors?
- Have you used the appropriate spelling variations?
- Does your document contain any misused easily confused words?
- Are there missing hyphens?
- Are there missing headings?
- Are there any punctuation errors and placement (semicolons, apostrophes, comma splices and punctuation marks outside of your quotation marks) errors?
- Is there evidence of unconventional use of formatting that should be changed?
- Did you spell out acronyms and abbreviations of names the first time you used them?
- Have you checked the consistency of numbers (spelled out or numerals)?
- Have you been consistent in the spelling of specific words?
- Have you used proper and consistent capitalization?
Seeing your mistakes, and stretching your mind to fixing them, will provide you valuable insights, which are bound to translate into a much better writing experience for your next book. It makes sense to add book proofreading to your schedule before handing your manuscript over to your book editors.