Science, that’s who.
You’ve heard (probably more than you care to) that as a self-published author, you’ll need to hire a professional proofreader before releasing your novel. That’s easier said than done when you’re a debut author, or an author with only a small following, and you have no way of knowing if you’ll ever get any return on that investment. It’s conceivable that you’ll pay, per word, for professional proofreading and never sell more than fifty books. Why spend the money? Why not just proofread the darn thing yourself?
Because we can’t spot our own typos.
This article on Science ABC confirms that while the brain is truly a miraculous thing, it doesn’t function like a computer that can easily spot mistakes. Our brains take sensory information and combine it with what we expect to see (like, say, what we know we meant to write), allowing us to read right over mistakes. Don’t believe us or Science ABC? Well, try and read the boxed text to the right.
We’re betting you read right through it with little or no difficulty, right? It’s OK. You can admit it. We already know we’re right.
So, now you have proof (see what we did there?) that it’s not a good idea to proofread your own work. But what happens when someone else reads your work?
Someone else, someone other than you, is reading your work with fresh eyes. They have no idea what you meant to say. It’s all new to them. As such, other people have a much better chance of catching your typos.
OK, so now you’re thinking: that’s all fine and good, but why pay a professional to proofread for me? Why not just let my mom/sister/friend proof my novel?
There are a few reasons why it’s a bad idea to let a non-professional proof your work:
Still not enough proof (we did it again…sorry, we love puns) for you? Well, how about hearing it from someone who’s been right where you are?
We talked to bestseller and friend of the blog Isabel Jordan to get her opinion on the matter. Her debut novel, Semi-Charmed has sold tens of thousands of copies since its release in 2014. Did she hire a professional proofreader?
...a few reviewers pointed out typos. And I don't mean little stuff like missing commas. I mean glaring, egregious errors. Like confusing a “grizzly” death with a “grisly” death. Yeah, embarrassing stuff. Stuff that I knew was wrong, but had missed in proofreading.
“When I released Semi-Charmed, I was a complete novice. An idiot, really. I’d done no marketing, didn’t have any kind of following or social media presence. I had absolutely no way of knowing if I’d ever sell more than a handful of copies (with most of those being to my friends and family). I didn’t see the point in hiring a professional proofreader. It seemed like a lot of money to spend when I wasn’t even sure I’d make a dime on the book,” Isabel said. “So, I read it myself (like, a thousand times) and had a friend from work who had a sharp eye for detail read it as well. Together, we caught an embarrassing amount of typos and grammar mistakes. I was sure the book was in perfect shape before I released it.”
As Isabel later found out, that wasn’t the case.
“The feedback I received was largely positive. But…there were a few reviewers who pointed out typos. And I don’t mean little stuff like missing commas. I mean glaring, egregious errors. Like confusing a “grizzly” death with a “grisly” death. Yeah, embarrassing stuff. Stuff that I knew was wrong, but had missed in proofreading. Needless to say, I hired a proofreader for my next book. A good one.”
When she hired a proofreader for her second book, Semi-Human, she says she also paid a little extra and had Semi-Charmed proofread. She later released a corrected version of the book, which is one of the most amazing benefits to self-publishing: it’s never too late to go back and right past wrongs. Or “grisly” embarrassments, as the case may be.
Long-story-short: you’ve put your blood, sweat, tears and hours of your life into completing your book. Why release it into the wild and let something as avoidable as typos hurt its chances of success? Even if your audience amounts to no more than fifty readers over a lifetime, don’t those fifty deserve the best possible product you can give them? Self-publishing is a business and should be treated like one.
What about all of you writers and authors out there? Have any funny proofreading stories for us? Let us know in the comments below or if you're a little shy, send us an email.