By: Susan Defreitas
By the time your book reaches the final stage of editing, you've read each sentence what feels like a million times. And yet, insidious errors lurk within the pages of this perfect manuscript that you, the author, simply cannot see.
That's where proofreaders (also known as copyeditors) come in. A good copyeditor is not just someone who has mastered every comma rule in the English language (no small feat); a good copyeditor is someone who will find errors that twenty beta readers manage to miss but anyone who paid actual money for your book, somehow, will not.
I'm a freelance editor, and my debut novel, Hot Season, comes out later this year from Harvard Square Editions, so I've experienced this process, as Joni Mitchell might say, from both sides now. Here are a few things that few authors realize (and few copyeditors are willing to admit).
You'd think that because a manuscript has already gone through a line edit, one round of proofreading would be enough to catch any lingering errors. But this is seldom the case...
1. Every Book Goes to Print with Errors
Don't think this is true? Check out those old periodicals dedicated to book collectors; they always listed the typos in each first edition. These errors, once they were pointed out by readers, were eradicated by the next edition.
Those typos were, in fact, used by collectors as a way to authenticate first editions: e.g., if someone claimed this book was a first-edition Phillip Roth, but it lacked a typo on a certain page, that person was lying to you.
Finding errors in your first print run isn't the end of the world. In fact, it's par for the course, even if your book has benefited from many rounds of editing.
2. One Round Is Never Enough
You'd think that because a manuscript has already gone through a line edit, one round of proofreading would be enough to catch any lingering errors. But this is seldom the case, because proofreading requires such a different focus—sometimes, you have to completely tune out the content of a sentence to see the grammatical structure beneath it.
That kind of close focus can be difficult to maintain, which is why proofreaders often only work on the same project for a few hours at a time; it's a lot easier to miss two thes in a row when you're caught up in the story.
Of course, two rounds of proofreading is better than one, but few can afford such luxuries these days (even the big publishing houses).
3. You Are Your Book's Last Line of Defense
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