One of the Big Five traditional publishers has asked me to do a proofreading test.
If I’m successful, I will hopefully be added to their freelance pool.
The sample is from a fiction manuscript.
It’s typeset and will need marking up with PDF tools.
It’s ‘proper’ proofreading.
As in, it does what it says on the tin. It’s checking a page ‘proof’.
No value judgement is intended by my use of the word ‘proper’.
What I mean is that it’s what I learnt in the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading’s P1–P3 courses which are very much geared towards the traditional publishing processes.
But, since completing those studies, I’ve specialised in working with indie authors. It makes sense. I’ve been around this world and its people for more than five years now. It’s a place in which I’m very comfortable.
In indie publishing, proofreading is often requested on Word documents where in-line changes are welcomed and encouraged. Where, because a digital file of the manuscript can be updated with a click, authors would rather I didn’t hold back – not everyone’s the same, but that’s been the general stance I’ve found. (So proofreading is asked for but copyediting is wanted, hence my service: ‘proof-editing’.)
The difference with traditional publishing is that changes at proofreading stage are much more light-touch. Flag something only if it’s wrong, not because you don’t like it – a sentence that would sound better with the word order rejigged would be left alone, so long as the word order you’re looking at is not incorrect.
But, because the manuscript has been through all of the stages of the traditional publishing workflow, by the time you get to proofreading, the chance of coming across something that rankles to this degree is pretty slim.
So, it’s about dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s. It’s the final polish.
To flag too much at this stage would mean the publisher incurs more expenses than they would like. Any anomalies I spot would be referred back to the typesetter to fix. Too much fiddling with the text could result in new errors being introduced. Then you’d be on a never-ending cycle of edit, check, edit, check, edit, check. The proofread should mark the This-Is-It stage. Done.
There are a few reasons I hope I’m successful in this test and in getting on their books. In the long run, this will help me and you (authors, both traditionally published and indie):
1) CONFIDENCE – For you. I don’t care what route you’ve chosen, I just want to help you gain confidence in your manuscript when it’s there on the shelves/e-shelves. You should be proud of your book and your achievement whether you’ve gone the traditional or indie route. It’s something that many say they will do but few achieve. If proofreading is done well, it should be invisible. Your readers will see what you want them to see – the story – rather than being taken out of the experience because ‘from’ is written as ‘form’, for example. I’m happy to help authors accentuate their stories however they’ve chosen to publish.
2) CONFIDENCE – For me. It would be helpful, two years as it is since I finished my proofreading courses, to check in with publishers that my skills are still up to their standards. They won’t want me if I overstep the mark and, after two years of pretty much being given the green-light to intervene a bit more in texts, I want to make sure my ‘judgement’ is still there. That was one of the assessed skills on the CIEP course. Judgement. Do too much and you’d lose marks. Do too little and you’d lose marks. Proofreading is essentially the ‘Goldilocks’ principle. It’s got to be just right.
3) DIVERSIFICATION – For you. Indie authors can benefit from my work with traditional publishers as you can be confident you will receive the same level of service as those who go the corporate route. That’s if you want me to give you the same level of service. My training, as I said, is in the traditional workflow of publishing. But the beauty for indie authors is that you-know-that-I-know how to proofread to trade standard. But you can request adjustments to that if you’d like more or less intervention.
4) DIVERSIFICATION – For me. There’s the whole ‘niching’ thing and I’ve been following that as a sensible route since starting my business. (Check out my website, for example. It’s all geared towards fiction clients, which is my primary niche, and then is focused on indie clients, and, within that, fantasy, romance and women’s fiction clients. There is barely any mention of the fact I sometimes edit blogs and web copy for businesses, for example.) But… But… I’m trying to square the circle, here. Niching vs all eggs in one basket. Fiction is still my thing. It’s my bag. It’s sensible, though, isn’t it that I diversify my income streams. It’d be nice to fill up my schedules going forward with a mix of traditional publishers and indie clients.
5) GENRE SPECIALISATION – For me and you. It’s the marketing that takes the time. And ‘onboarding’ as it’s sometimes called. Actually, I’ve had a good run of five months fully booked up (the previous three and the next two), with fiction clients every month. But, if I’m not careful, I end up so focused on the proofreading/editing that I squeeze the time I have for marketing and finding new clients. So then I’ll get a quiet month a couple of months after I’ve had a blip making my presence known on social media! I’m going round the houses here trying to explain that being offered freelance work with traditional publishers should mean I have a steadier and more reliable stream of work coming in. If that work is fiction, if it’s fantasy, romance or women’s fiction, so much the better. Indie and traditionally published authors: I’ll be far more immersed in your genres. Eventually, I may even niche down further. It’s primarily fantasy, romance and women’s fiction at the moment because they are the genres I both read and edit, but with more experience of one over another, it would benefit authors of that genre to know that I live and breathe it.
So, today marks my first tentative steps towards getting work with traditional publishers. Indie authors: this will work to your advantage, too.