As I noted further down the page, Louise Harnby runs a very successful website dealing with all things proofreadery, and she has kindly written a post for my blog. Here it is.
Misfiring and Mis-hiring – Getting the Right Help
More and more of us are choosing the self-publishing route to bring our stories and advice to a broader audience. Deciding on the most suitable level of editorial intervention can be tricky for the first-timer. Inexperienced writers, even those who believe their language skills are top-notch, can fall victim to the misfire or the mis-hire.
The misfire occurs when a writer assumes they don’t need a fresh set of eyes to assess their work professionally.
I’m an experienced proofreader and yet when I published my own editorial freelancing guide I hired a colleague to work on my book. It’s not that I don’t have confidence in my ability to pick up mistakes in the written word; it’s that I don’t have confidence in my ability to pick up mistakes in MY written words. When the writing’s your own you see the ideas in your head rather than the text on the page.
The nub of it is that poor spelling, grammar and punctuation can irritate readers; poor structure can confuse them. Successful self-publishing requires that both problems have been attended to.
The mis-hire occurs when the writer picks the wrong person for the job. For example, they commission a proofreader when they need a copy editor; or they hire a copy editor when they need a substantive editor.
Commissioning the wrong person for the job is time and money wasted – it’s as simple as that – and unless the writer has an unlimited supply of both, it makes sense to make sure the person hired is the best fit for the job.
If, on the one hand, you’re thinking about whether you should bother hiring a professional to work with you on your written material, ask yourself the following questions: (a) Do you judge a writer negatively when you come across errors in their written work? (b) Have those mistakes affected the message being communicated in a way that either annoys or confuses you? If you answered ‘yes’ to the above, do you think you can risk a misfire of your own?
If, on the other, you’re wondering what kind of professional you should be working with, take a look at these free Guidelines for new authors that I created with this issue in mind. They’re available either as a downloadable pdf or as an ebooklet. They’re designed to help you avoid the mis-hire.
The ability to self-publish with such ease is possibly the single most democratizing event to have taken place within the publishing industry in the past decade. And with democracy comes choice – and lots of it. Choosing well is part of the secret to self-publishing success.