A writer asked online recently how to get a proofreader to proof his material before sending it to a publisher. Forget the ridiculous answers he received from other respondents. I gave him the real lowdown. Here's what I said.
* * *
The answer to this one is simple. Pay him.
Or is that too simple? Is it possible that, rather than asking "how" to get a proofreader (the answer to which is painfully obvious), what you're really asking is "where" to get a proofreader? As in where do you find one? The answer to which is a little more complex. But only a little.
Of course, you can go to an online meat market to locate a proofreader. Places such as Reedsy and Fiverr advertise help in writing and publishing and boast a list of available proofreaders (let's call them editors for convenience) where you can hire one and hope for the best. But a recent investigation showed them to be more interested in working with editors who fit their "style" and "purpose" (which is cranking out big bucks) than with editors who really know what they're doing. You might have a different experience with them and luck out. You might not. Either way, I'm not impressed with their standards. And I train editors in how to be better at their editing jobs, so I know what I'm talking about.
As a general rule, rather than looking toward the Internet to fill your needs, I suggest finding an editor who is independent of such gratuitous and self-serving shops and owing to no one other than the author. To find one of those proofreaders, look for authors whose works you admire, and query them as to who they used for their editing. Most will gladly share their recommendations and experiences.
Or you can search the acknowledgement pages of some books you like, contact the publishers to find out how to reach the authors, and, through the authors, find the editors' names.
More simply still, you can find an author whose works you admire (particularly within the same genre or form as your work), and ask if he would be interested in editing your work. Often, authors have periods of "down time" between books in which they are free to take on outside work. The risk here is that not all authors are qualified to be editors, so that road becomes a little slippery.
Failing all that, you can approach a publisher directly via listings in Writer's Market or Publishers Marketplace (run an Internet search) and pick up some potential candidates' names there. Or peruse the members' list of a writing organization such as The Author's Guild, find some writers whose work you admire, and query them through that organization. That should open a few dozen doors for you.
Finally, if that doesn't work, you can always come to me through the contact page of my Website, www.djherda.org. I maintain a short list of the best freelance editors working in publishing today. And, unlike Reedsy and all the others who have hundreds if not thousands of run-of-the-mill editors on hand, I don't collect a fee for my recommendations. Are you following me here? When it comes to editing, I'm neither Democrat nor Republican. I'm totally independent where the well-being of other authors is concerned. I'm trying to help them get the help I never received when I was starting out--and wish I had! I'll help you find a professional freelance editor capable of working on the type of book you've written or die trying.
Once you've found the editor of your dreams, the next thing you'll want to do is to share your work with him, ask to review a sample editor-author contract, and proceed from there. And (of course), pay him. A good editor will accept terms--half down and half on completion: a third, third, and third; or even more generous terms than that. Maybe. You'll never know until you take that all-important first step.
After that, just sit back and watch the magic that transpires when you work with a really good, professional editor. Oh, yes, and in the meantime, don't forget to ...
Smoke if you've got 'em.
* * *
D. J. Herda is author of the new series of writing advice, About Writing Right, available in eBook, paperback, and hardcover formats at Amazon and at fine booksellers everywhere. You can check out his weekly column, "The Author-Ethicist," at Substack.