The Cost of Proofing

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I’ve been doing some contract work lately proofing other people’s writing, both fiction and nonfiction, with a children’s book in the offing. Being of a sunny disposition and sure that those sending their work to me have put it in the best shape possible, I bid what turns out to be paltry sums .

But no more. I’m going to have to charge upscale prices from now on.

Not that the money is the thing. The writing’s integrity is what matters, of course. But here’s the way that works:

By the time the work reaches me, it should have been pored over, the story laid out in a way that attracts the reader, page by page. And the grammar – sentence structure should be varied, amplifying the story as tension develops and is resolved. My job should be one of polishing, looking for inadvertently misspelled words, correcting, adding, or deleting punctuation that in its turn affects sentence structure and indirectly the story itself.

That’s not what I’m finding.

The grander culprit in the work before me is long, convoluted sentences, sentences that are poorly or improperly punctuated. Why the long sentences? I asked a friend that once. He said, in essence, that he was a damn fine writer, and his ability to write these Byzantine sentences proves it. Of course, that’s not so. One might overdo short, declarative sentences, but they do serve a purpose. And who writes so cavalierly that he/she misspells famous persons’ names when it’s so easy to check the spelling on the Net? Who uses commas instead of periods, perhaps thinking that since these two marks are adjacent on keyboards, a near miss counts?

I’ll quit the examples before this turns into a rant but, dear writers out there, when you hire someone like me to proof your writing, it’s really cost-effective to have the manuscript in the best shape possible before I see it.

It really is.

Visit my website here. Then there’s my FB Fan Page here. On both you’ll find more on ideas and events that matter to me — and possibly to you.

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One thought on “The Cost of Proofing

  1. This is Bob: I’ve had a couple of “under the radar” questions about this post, so I thought a further comment would be appropriate. I think some people may be confused about the difference between copy editing and proofreading.

    Copyediting as I deem it is a process where someone critiques a manuscript in general, i.e., comments on the story structure, the character development, the theme, voice, and tone, AND the sentence structure, grammar usage, spelling, punctuation, and overall format.

    When these comments have been accommodated by the writer, and the writer has gone over and over the manuscript, certain that all of the above are a perfect as he/she can make them, then it’s appropriate to have the manuscript proofed.

    Proofing, then, is a second set of eyes on the manuscript to make sure there are no typos, misspellings, or no or improper punctuation. THE PROOFER AT THIS POINT SHOULD NOT BE CONCERNED WITH ANYTHING ELSE.

    Consequently, a writer should know that copyediting will cost more than proofing, significantly more.

    What will I do, then, if approached to proofread?

    I’ll ask for a sample of the manuscript, say twenty pages or so, to evaluate whether I think it’s ready to be proofed. I may even ask for proof that the writer has received and accommodated copyediting comments from his/her copy editor. My price for proofing, then, will be based on the page count, i.e., how many hours I’ll have to spend on the manuscript (don’t worry – I work diligently and quickly) and a price set roughly in the area of minimum wage (I don’t want responsible writers to forego the proofing because of cost – your publisher and publishing editor will thank you deeply if you have the work proofed and in perfect shape.)
    If I deem the manuscript not ready to be proofed, I may offer my copyediting services, which will be more involved hour-wise and the price will be twice that of proofing. If nothing shows up to change my assumed hourly estimate, I will remain committed to a lump sum price as quoted.

    If anyone has further questions about this, please let me know. And, no, I won’t give you my exact hourly price, and I won’t give you my time assumption. Just a bottom-line, lump sum price for the work.

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