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How much do you pay for getting your manuscript proofread?

Posted: November 2nd, 2010, 3:12 am
by kans_007
I just finished a non-fiction work, which is about 24000 words in length. The proofreader I found on craigslist charged me $25/hour. He estimated 6.5 hours for the work after sampling 10 pages and finding the work to be "pretty clean". He ended up taking 9 hours for the job. I am fairly happy with his work, as he went beyond just strict proofreading, and offered some valuable critique on the work. But I still think I might have overpaid a little bit (plus the proofreader sounded really busy and always took several days to get back if I had any questions; and he didn't finish the work on time)

Just wanted to doublecheck to see if his rates are competitive. How much do you pay for proofreading your manuscripts before submitting it to an agent or publisher? If you don't pay for it, do you get it proofread just by family and friends? Are there other good options available?

Ofcourse I have a few other volunteers including my dad, sister and some friends who are helping me proofread for free :) [And also a kind member on this forum offered to read my work and critique it. Thanks Priya!] and I must have proofread my own work atleast a hundred times, and am reaching a point of nausea! What is the cost of professional proofreading these days?

Re: How much do you pay for getting your manuscript proofread?

Posted: November 2nd, 2010, 9:46 am
by Down the well
I've never paid anyone anything.

There are legitimate editors that charge astounding fees to review a ms, but I've never felt the cost was worth it. JMO.

Re: How much do you pay for getting your manuscript proofread?

Posted: November 2nd, 2010, 9:52 am
by Quill
$55 per hour, $65 per hour, and up, is the going rate.

Re: How much do you pay for getting your manuscript proofread?

Posted: November 2nd, 2010, 10:56 am
by polymath
My bread and butter income comes from proofreading and copyediting legal transcripts for court reporters, stenographers. It's piece work. Pays by the page. The copyediting side of it is purely nondiscretionary mechanical editing suggestions. Grammar, misspelled words, punctuation, homonym conflicts, word compounding, light fact checking, and so on, what's known as light copyediting to editors and typesetters but my clients call proofreading. Proofreading is conforming a reproduction to original copy, like a printing job shop client's typewritten or handwritten copy compared to a galley proof preproduction print run or a new edition of a previously published work. Proofreading costs more because it takes more time from closer scrutiny.

24,000 words is roughly 100 pages equivalent. Straight nondiscretionary suggestions, mostly professional writing, that would take me two hours and run about $35.00, same day turnaround. Medium copyediting, some commentary on big picture stylistics and fact checking, plus light copyediting, runs more per page, up to a per word rate. Heavy copyediting, a detailed scrutiny of sentence by sentence stylistic construction, plus medium and light copyediting. In other words, three or more passes over a manuscript, each more detailed than the previous ones. Pricey, and I don't like to do it because the project probably isn't ready for it. If a writer wants to go ahead regardless, he or she's got more money than sense. I don't want to be involved. My reputation is at stake.

I evaluate a manuscript for level of copyediting indicated, determine time on task, and propose a rate. More often than not, I won't take a project on because the writing level doesn't justify the writer's expense. There's a Catch 22. If a manuscript is professional enough to justify the expense, it doesn't need costlier copyediting. Light copyediting will do what's needed. If the manuscript is on life support, it's not ready for copyediting. I say no thank you, and include a report of big picture suggestions for rewriting.

On the other hand, if a client merely wants a light copyediting pass regardless, it's $0.35 to $1.00 per page, depending on number of suggestions per page and time on task. I don't make stylistic commentary in those circumstances, which nonetheless is purely subjective. More often than not, that's what most writers want, light copyediting for nondiscretionary suggestions prior to submission, nothing else, and wind up paying for more than they intended or contracted for.

Re: How much do you pay for getting your manuscript proofread?

Posted: November 2nd, 2010, 11:18 am
by sierramcconnell
You shouldn't have to pay anyone anything. There are plenty of people out there that offer services for free.

Granted, you get what you pay for. If you want the ability to boss people around and have a strict turn around time, then you pay for it. But for free you can swap or offer your novel to any level of reading. For "professional" services you never know what you're going to get.

And unless you're thick enough, you might not like it.

Re: How much do you pay for getting your manuscript proofread?

Posted: November 2nd, 2010, 11:46 am
by steve
Find a graduate student at the college closest you and buy them a sandwich and a pack of cigarettes.

They'll do a great job for you.

Re: How much do you pay for getting your manuscript proofread?

Posted: November 2nd, 2010, 12:13 pm
by polymath
Disspelling common misconceptions;

When to engage a critiquer; prior to submission for publication consideration.
When to engage a copyeditor; when a manuscript is ready for submission, prior to typesetting or publication layout and design.
When to engage a proofreader; after typesetting or publication layout when a galley proof copy is available. Reading a proof print for accurate typesetting.

Critiquing is an ongoing process.
Copyediting is a last pass process before presenting a manuscript for production publication.
Proofreading is a last pass process for verifying accurate typesetting of a finished publication product prior to production printing.

Re: How much do you pay for getting your manuscript proofread?

Posted: November 2nd, 2010, 12:36 pm
by Down the well
steve wrote:Find a graduate student at the college closest to you and buy them a sandwich and a pack of cigarettes.

They'll do a great job for you.
You owe me fifty cents.

Sorry, Steve, I couldn't resist. :)

Re: How much do you pay for getting your manuscript proofread?

Posted: November 2nd, 2010, 12:40 pm
by Truth and Fiction
If this person went through and not only proofread for you, but also offered critiques, I don't think you overpaid at all. I wouldn't do that kind of work for only $25/hour. (Esp. when you consider the tax issues for a contract/self-employed worker). I think many people charge by the page, which would eliminate the hourly rate problem.

I also happen to think most writers are better of doing this themselves. We all should be able to proofread/edit our work at least fairly well. I understand, though, that in certain cases, you just want to pay to have someone clean it up.

Re: How much do you pay for getting your manuscript proofread?

Posted: November 2nd, 2010, 1:09 pm
by steve
Down the well wrote:
steve wrote:Find a graduate student at the college closest to you and buy them a sandwich and a pack of cigarettes.

They'll do a great job for you.
You owe me fifty cents.

Sorry, Steve, I couldn't resist. :)
You get two cigarettes.

Re: How much do you pay for getting your manuscript proofread?

Posted: November 2nd, 2010, 2:15 pm
by kans_007
Thanks folks!
When to engage a critiquer; prior to submission for publication consideration.
When to engage a copyeditor; when a manuscript is ready for submission, prior to typesetting or publication layout and design.
When to engage a proofreader; after typesetting or publication layout when a galley proof copy is available. Reading a proof print for accurate typesetting.
Thanks for clearing that up polymath. Looks like a critiquer and a light copyeditor is what I am looking for. May be I might end up using your services for light copyediting.
steve wrote:Find a graduate student at the college closest to you and buy them a sandwich and a pack of cigarettes.

They'll do a great job for you.

Down the well: You owe me fifty cents.
LOL..Down the well. Well done on earning 2 cigarettes from Steve!
sierramcconnell wrote:You shouldn't have to pay anyone anything. There are plenty of people out there that offer services for free.
steve wrote:Find a graduate student at the college closest you and buy them a sandwich and a pack of cigarettes.
Thanks for the suggestion: Steve and Sierra
truth and fiction wrote:I also happen to think most writers are better of off doing this themselves. We all should be able to proofread/edit our work at least fairly well.
I wonder if Truth and Fiction will give me 50 cents for this :) ...sorry T&F I couldn't help it :)

Re: How much do you pay for getting your manuscript proofread?

Posted: November 2nd, 2010, 2:28 pm
by polymath
kans_007 wrote:Thanks for clearing that up polymath. Looks like a critiquer and a light copyeditor is what I am looking for. May be Maybe I might end up using your services for light copyediting.
Cool, kans_007. My copyeditor turn, may be: might be, maybe: perhaps. My handmade smokes only cost a nickel a piece though. Not the quarter for readymades many U.S. consumers pay. So that's gonna cost you a dime, payable forward to other writers.

Re: How much do you pay for getting your manuscript proofread?

Posted: November 3rd, 2010, 2:27 pm
by Truth and Fiction
kans_007 wrote: I wonder if Truth and Fiction will give me 50 cents for this :) ...sorry T&F I couldn't help it :)
It was a test! A test! Lucky for you, you passed.

Re: How much do you pay for getting your manuscript proofread?

Posted: November 3rd, 2010, 2:45 pm
by Margo
Down the well wrote:I've never paid anyone anything.

There are legitimate editors that charge astounding fees to review a ms, but I've never felt the cost was worth it. JMO.
The 'astounding fees' cover more than proofreading, and I can tell you that the good ones are worth more than they charge by far, even at $2000+ a ms.

There's no reason proofreading should cost anything, though. You can find crit partners in a variety of places who will do it for free, in exchange for you looking at their work. People just need to be straight about what kind of things they want their crit partner to focus on.

Re: How much do you pay for getting your manuscript proofread?

Posted: November 3rd, 2010, 2:47 pm
by Margo
Down the well wrote:
steve wrote:Find a graduate student at the college closest to you and buy them a sandwich and a pack of cigarettes.

They'll do a great job for you.
You owe me fifty cents.

Sorry, Steve, I couldn't resist. :)
Leaving out the 'to' is common in certain regions, including the UK, so I would consider that style rather than error. That will be $2800. :)