Online Proofreading Services
I have lost count of how many times I’ve been the cleanup crew for another company purporting to be professional proofreaders or editors. Authors find me for help after their book is out in the world, serviced by subpar editors. They share with me disheartening complaints from their readers, who cite major errors in consistency, formatting, and grammar, along with the usual typos. These authors are (legitimately!) cautious about hiring editing or proofreading services over the web.
This faux-editor trend is a challenge to professionals working in publishing: we not only have to correct the lamentable oversights of others, but we also must restore the once-burned author’s opinions of internet-located editing services. Editorial trust is built between a writer and editor once a relationship has been established, but if a writer’s already been scammed, the cost of entry can be high.
(Read about the birth of Book Editing Associates in 1998. Formed to protect writers from scammers.)
Six ways to tell if your proofreader offers professional proofreading services
1. Read reviews
A great way to tell if a proofreader will do right by you is to see what clients have to say about them. Reviews will reveal if a proofreader is providing quality services. If you can’t find any reviews, take it as a warning sign to be careful. If there are loads of anonymous raves, be skeptical. Anyone can say anything on their own website. How can you believe the hype is real? Book Editing Associates posts client feedback on each proofreader’s page. BEA also had their feedback copied and used on other websites.
2. Request a sample
Proofreading requires a concentrated level of attention: we tune in when other readers go on autopilot. If you are deliberating between proofreaders, send a sample from your project to your potential proofreaders and request sample proofreads. Make sure it’s the same snippet from your manuscript so you can compare.
Another bonus to getting a sample from a few places: you can see whose style meshes best with your work (and it’s probably not the lowest-priced option!). Don’t overdo the sample requests. You’re likely to lose track of which proofreaders you contacted and the websites you found them on.
3. Price check
My jaw still drops at the below-basement bids I encounter through clients who’ve worked with companies or pay-for-play sites offering too-low pricing and too-fast turnaround. The practice is unreasonable and unscrupulous, yet those outside the industry (for example, first-time authors, my client base) will not recognize the ruse. Professional proofreading rates (non-rush) run about 1.5 – 3 cents per word.
Beware of bidding sites such as Reedsy, Upwork, and Fiverr. Professional proofreaders don’t have the need to price compete with self-proclaimed proofreaders who cannot pass a proofreading test. If the price appears too good to be true, it is! Wannabes will often underbid everyone so they can gain publishing creds by cutting their teeth on your unsuspecting manuscript.
Are you on Wattpad or have you joined Facebook groups for writers? When someone posts that they need a proofreader, suddenly the thread explodes with “I’m a proofreader” comments. No. They’re not.
Proofeading is not reading. It is not realistic to expect 100,000 words to be proofread within a week. You are likely paying for spell-checking and grammar-checking through their word processing programs. Find a fairly thick book and a small ruler that you can use to read line-by-line. Read 10 pages aloud using this method. Inspect every word and punctuation mark. Time yourself. That gives you an idea of how long proofreading takes. So, back to 100,000 words: Each line is inspected, and when the proofreader is through, it’s back to page 1 for a second round. That book can take a month to proofread. If you receive an extremely low quote, rather than rejoice, run.
4. Get it in writing
Once you are certain you are dealing with a professional proofreader, a service contract should be offered. This agreement should outline the scope of services, as well as costs and deadline.
Book Editing Associates recognizes that each writer’s work is important and deserves the respect of a proofreader’s confidentiality. Prior to beginning work, I always draft an agreement that includes a nondisclosure clause. I do this not only to help authors feel comfortable handing over their prized drafts, but also to establish mutually agreed-upon terms of service.
5. Avoid anonymous edits
Have you noticed most online proofreading services don’t give you a choice of proofreader? You submit an “order” and upload your document.
Many companies farm out their projects to proofreaders anonymously. You do not have direct contact with your proofreader.
The Book Editing Associates network connects authors directly with editors and proofreaders. Writers can review qualifications and areas of expertise, and then request the editor or proofreader most closely aligned with their project. Once connected, this personal relationship adds a layer of trust. It also creates accountability for the quality of the work. The icing on the cake is that all of the proofreaders passed the infamous proofreading test.
6. Use a vetted service provider
On the web, anyone can say anything: even on established sites like LinkedIn, someone can claim to be the Executive Director of Dictionary Decision-Making. How do you know what to believe?
In addition to having numerous publishing credits, the proofreaders who are a part of Book Editing Associates must also pass a rigorous proofreading examination designed to weed out the fakes. The pass rate is around 2% of applicants. The remaining 98% want their tests corrected so they can become “better proofreaders.” Declined.
It’s tough to get in, proving it is not a come-one-come-all clearinghouse like Craigslist, Reedsy, Fiverr, or Upwork. “Cheap editors” or “cheap proofreaders” are popular search terms. Dangerous. You either want it perfect, or you want the cheapest. Why hire a proofreader if you don’t want perfection?
By the way, traditional publishers use BEA proofreaders because the testing has already been done.
You’ll find vast value differences by using a high-quality, professionally vetted proofreading service.
We hope you’ll use our professional proofreaders before you publish. Your success is our goal too.
MARIE VALENTINE has edited diverse writers, from poets to romance novelists to engineers; her clients are often first-time authors and include mystery authors, Air Force pilots, family historians, and even a self-published congressman. Her experience as a business journalist and small press editor influences her professional work.