Monday, April 25, 2011

Guest Post by Diana Cox

A lot of writers have asked me who proofreads my manuscripts before I self-publish them.

My answer: Diana Cox at

Here she is to talk about her proofreading business:

Not many people have careers they can honestly say they enjoy. Throughout my past fifteen years in accounting, I have constantly, in the back of my mind, wondered if there wasn't something I could do that would allow me to make a living doing something I truly enjoy. One of my favorite things to do is read. But who gets paid to read? I finally realized that I could put my OCD/perfectionist tendencies to use and get paid to read! Ever since I was in school and throughout my career, fellow students and co-workers have brought me writings and communications to check over. I already had my accounting bachelor's degree, so I started taking courses in proofreading and editing, as well as grammar and writing improvement. It was a perfect fit—I loved it and I was good at it! I find it very exciting and an honor to be part of the process that makes these great books available to the public. Although my part in the process is small, I feel my work puts the finishing touches on the book and represents both my work as well as the author’s—and I want us both to look exceptional!

Proofreading is necessary, even for authors who have excellent spelling and grammatical skills. It is not a matter of the author being capable of doing it himself; it is a matter of where the author needs to focus his energy. Plus, it is very difficult to proof one’s own work. The purpose of my service is to allow the author to do his job. Writers are very creative and they need to focus on that creativity rather than the small details. The author should be able to concentrate on the story and maintain momentum once he gets writing, not waste time and effort worrying about crossing every t and dotting every i. In order to compete with the traditionally published works, however, independent authors need to ensure their work is up to par and maintains the same standards set by the publishers.

Since my market is mainly independent authors, I try to keep my prices low. I know authors in this situation have to cover all the expenses themselves up front to get a book published. I want to help independent authors get published, not hinder them.

Joe has been gracious enough to give me this opportunity to introduce myself and provide some basic information on my proofreading services. I focus on novels and short stories. My rates are very reasonable—they start at $4.50 per 1,000 words for projects under 25,000 words, $3.50 per 1,000 words for 25,000 to 80,000 words, and $3.00 per 1,000 words for projects over 80,000 words. There is a $20.00 minimum charge for any project. Expected turnaround time for an average novel is three to four days. Requests for turnaround times of less than two days may incur additional charges, depending upon the project. I will do everything in my power to meet your deadline; however, that is not always possible. If there is any doubt in my capability to meet your deadline, I will let you know up front.

In an effort to build my client list, I am offering half off my first proofreading project for new clients. Please feel free to visit my website at You may also e-mail me at

Joe sez: Diana has proofed my last five or six projects. She's fast and thorough. She sends you a MS Word doc with her editing suggestions, which you can either approve of or reject directly on the manuscript.

I highly recommend her.


Barry Eisler said...

But don't you need a traditional publisher to have your books proofread?


Good to meet you, Diana, and I'll definitely be in touch in the near future.


D.L. Medley said...

Joe, you must have some freaky super powers. I wonder about it, and it appears on your blog.


Angela M Hudson (AM Hudson) said...

Awesome! Thanks for this, but the link at the top doesn't work.

Donna Ball said...

Diana, your prices are wonderfully reasonable! Thanks for the post; as it happens I will be needing a proofreader in the next couple of weeks and I will definitely save this link.

Karen Woodward said...

Hi Diana, I will definitely be in touch in the future. Joe, thanks for sharing!

Ana said...

Diana, delighted. I keep your link. For now, I am to launch my book in Spanish, but the idea is translated into English in the coming weeks to launch in August-September 2011 at Amazon. I'm looking for a Spanish-English translator for my book. Contact grateful if anyone knows someone with this profile.

Robert Burton Robinson said...

Diana, sounds great. I hope you won't be completely snowed under when I am ready to have my next book proofed. ;)

Author of eBook Magic said...

Wow! Those are excellent rates and she has a fast turn around time.

I am a professor and my communication department has a lot of English profs so I have worked out deals with them. From dealing with them though, she charges a very fair rate.

Michelle Muto said...

Sold. I'm story editing a book right now. How much notice do you need? It'll be at least a month, maybe slightly longer before I'm ready. I could certainly use another pair of eyes to ensure it's correct before uploading.
I must have read the last MS 15 times. That's time I should have spent writing.

F.A.Ellis said...

Thanks Joe! for providing info for us newbies.Also thanks to Diana for letting us know what type of sevice you do.It's hard out there when no one is offering info.

roh morgon said...

Very timely post!

I've been shopping for an editor for a few weeks now and just added Diana to my list!

Thanks, Joe, for sharing your resources once again.

Dylan English - Author said...

Good timing on this post, Joe! I have three beta readers go over my manuscripts before publication. Might look into something more professional. I tried to do it myself, but quickly realized that you can never catch your own mistakes or plot holes or characterization inconsistencies.

I guess nobody's 100%, but having pro eyes look at it sure would be great.

Rebecca Knight said...

Thank you for posting all of these wonderful resources, Joe!

Diana: thank you for letting us know about your services! I'll pass this info along.

Donald Wells said...

Diana, it's nice to meet you, and Joe, thanks for sharing your resources. It's good to know who the cream of the crop are.

Joseph D'Agnese said...

I think it might be helpful to explain how proofing varies from copy editing.

I recently asked some copy editors for their rates. All three quoted between $25 to $35 an hour, and said that they typically edited 5 to 6 pages an hour. At those rates you might end up paying $1000 to $1750 for a 200 to 250-page MS. Two of the copy editors mentioned that they followed the basic editorial rates put forth by the Editorial Freelancers Association:

But I must add that all three of these copy editors were accustomed to working for traditional publishers, not self-pubbed authors. I imagine the rates would change if they wanted to court that clientele, but that's not a given.


Jacquelyn said...

Thanks so much for this post! There are so many proofreading services out there, and it's hard for a newbie to know who to go with.

Link has been bookmarked. :)

Judy Croome | @judy_croome said...

How did you know I was wondering about this? An excellent reference to have, thanks.
Judy, South Africa

Blake Crouch said...

Diana has also proofed a number of my projects including Run....I second everything Joe has said....she's indispensable.

Mary Stella said...

Great information. Joe and Diana, thanks for sharing. Those are extremely reasonable rates.

Barry said:
But don't you need a traditional publisher to have your books proofread?

I heard the editor of a traditional publishing house include professional proofreading as part of their reasoning that traditional is better. A few days later I read a book from that house that used Columbia as the South American country instead of Colombia.

Jim Thomsen said...

Thanks for the post, Diana. Interesting stuff, as I am in the same business — though I try to see it as a side business while I get my own books ready to roll. I also do substantive copyediting, as a former longtime newspaper copy editor, and have been lucky to parlay a handful of connections into a client roster with some recognizable midlist names. (Retraining my mind to conform to Chicago Manual style has been a bitch, however, after decades of AP Style conditioning. It's not been easy, learning to love the serial comma!)

Interesting, too, to see that your prices parallel mine, though I arrive at them from a different place. Before I give an estimate, I generally ask to see a few chapters and a word count so I can get a handle on how much time I'll need, then provide an estimate that comes out at about $25 an hour (about what I made before getting laid off from my last newspaper this January). So far, I haven't overbid any jobs, though that's always a risk.

Congratulations to you on your success. It is fun, rewarding work. And I love that I can just take the work to a coffee shop, put a Pandora station, plug in the ear buds and do my thing. Beats the hell out of sitting in a cubicle, doesn't it?

What, if I may ask, is your background. Did you work more formally in a word factory? Or are you a self-taught language geek?

And by all means, feel free to farm out some work if you get overwhelmed!

Greg Halpin said...


Your rates are very reasonable. I'll be mentioning you and your website at an upcoming discussion I'm leading in Happy Valley, PA for those interested in self-publishing.



Kate Madison, YA author said...

Joe and Diana,

Thanks for posting this. Diana, I'll be contacting you soon.

Kate Madison

Author of upcoming title:
Empty: An Apocalyptic Romance for Young Adults (With Zombies)

Jimmie Hammel said...

Those are really amazing prices. Do you suggest editorial changes to content as well?

Nick Cole said...

Love it. I'll check this out. At one point during a 121,000 word trainwreck I called a manuscript my wife and I devolved into warring tribes. I felt a strong desire to Stanley Kowalski the manuscript straight out the window. It might have had something to do with chicken leg I was eating. Thanks

Jacqvern said...

Joe, thank you very much for this, very useful :)

Diana, nice meeting you. I'll be contacting you in the near future :)

Jeff Faria said...

Diana sounds great. While you're at it, I could use an editor, as well...

Christina Garner said...

So great to hear of your service. I just paid to have my novel proofread and ended up still having several errors. Luckily I found them before I published, but it was unnerving to think it was handled, only to find it wasn't.

Unknown said...

Sounds great. It's always a struggle to find someone affordable. I'll have to start saving my pennies.

LynW said...

Diana - thanks for adding to this conversation. Great to "meet" a fellow editor!

I've noticed, as @Jim and @Joseph mentioned, that editing rates vary widely not only by the specific level of service being offered, but also by the audience being marketed to. It seems that those of us working directly with indie authors often offer more affordable rates than editors/proofreaders accustomed to working in more traditional, salaried jobs.

Diana - if you ever find your editorial inbasket is overflowing, feel free to point folks in my direction; and I'll bookmark your link and do the same!

Lyn Worthen
Camden Park Press

Jim Thomsen said...


Agreed. I want to make a living, but I mostly like helping promising authors make their dreams come true. 'm a big believer in indie publishing and will be publishing my own work that way when the time comes.

Many of these writers, I've found, are people struggling after some career upheaval, or in a single-income situation. It would be cruel to empty out their checking accounts. In some cases, we've worked out payment plans and even bartered services. (With one client, I traded half the cost of the job for a bedroom dresser.)

Individual flexibility and professionalism need not be contradictory.


LynW said...

Jim -

Absolutely agreed.
I, too, have bartered services, or worked out payment arrangements for clients. Charging indies a ridiculous rate would make me feel like a barracuda!

You also said: “...Individual flexibility and professionalism need not be contradictory...”
I think that applies not only to the services we offer, but to the entire indie approach to publishing. Just because writers are figuring out a more flexible way of getting their work out doesn’t mean it has to be anything less than a professional presentation. Many of the people on this list are figuring that out, if the quality of covers and blurbs and such I’ve been seeing is any indication.

Good work, people!

Lyn Worthen
Camden Park Press

David said...

Thanks, Joe. Very timely. I've been making a list of editors. Good to have back-ups, as I'm sure they'll all get much busier. You were already on there, Lyn.

RW Bennett said...

Great post, Diana!

Looks like you're going to be busy for a while. I'd like to give a plug to my excellent editor, D. Michael Whelan who also has affordable rates and a real eye to help polish a book ( Best to all of the writers looking to produce the best possible manuscript and the burgeoning supporting services for us all.

J. E. Medrick said...

That's very cool! Your rates are incredibly reasonable. I will definitely be keeping your link in mind! You may be hearing from me this year ;)

YA: Cheat, Liar
Adult: Shackled

Joshua James said...

This is great, thanks for this Joe!

Diana, you will definitely be hearing from me in the coming months ...

Jack D. Albrecht Jr. said...

Holy shit! That is by far the most amazing price for proofreading I have seen to date! I have been pricing around and most of them charge over 1000 for 90000 words. How do you offer the same service so much cheaper?

I am not complaining in any way. I am bookmarking you website, and in a couple months, you will have my novel for sure! This is by far the most helpful thing i have read on this blog! Thank you sooooo much!


Livia Blackburne said...

This is great, and at a perfect time for me too. Could I second the person who asked about the diff between proofing and copy editing? is there a formal difference?

Shéa MacLeod said...

Aw, man! Where was this post when I needed it? lol

Robert Bruce Thompson said...

Livia said...

This is great, and at a perfect time for me too. Could I second the person who asked about the diff between proofing and copy editing? is there a formal difference?

There's a great deal of blurring the lines nowadays, but traditionally the acquistions editor (which most authors simply call their editors) would do one or more passes to suggest substantive changes to the manuscript. Once the author and AE were satisfied, the manuscript would go to a copy editor, who is responsible for correcting spelling, punctuation, and grammar, fixing awkward phrasing, making sure the text fits the house style, and so on. Once the copy edit (which may involve multiple passes) is complete, the book goes to typesetting. The proofreader does a critical read through the typeset manuscript, doing a final check for typos and other errors.

Nowadays, it's not uncommon for the AE to do both general (substantive) and copy editing, and the copy editor and proofer may be the same person.

Tim McGregor said...

Wow, great post. Those rates are so reasonable, Diana. Like everyone else here, I'll be in touch.

And with Jim and Lynn, even more options for the indie author.

Thanks Joe.

Joe Florez said...

i dont' need profreading. I doit all myselff.
Joe said...

Thanks for the valuable info. I made sure to bookmark your site for future assistance.

Cyn Bagley said...

Good to meet you Diana. I will probably be contacting you when I finish my next project. I have tried to do my own books, but - you have all the reasons right for why an author shouldn't proof her own books.

Cyn ;-)

Kendall Swan said...

So in the publishers lunch email this morning there were a couple of things that look like the world as JAK envisions it.

1) Penguin has created Book Country. As of now it is mainly a critique site but the blurb said it will eventually offer authors the ability to self pub their works there for a fee. Is that like a bridge between traditional and indie? They aren't quite smashwords bc they aren't free. I assume they would be an aggregator like them. Or maybe a full service book packager like Telemachus? That would make the upfront money justified. Anyone have specifics on this? I think it's newsworthy simply bc it is Penguin doing it.

2) Harry Hurt's upcoming self published book is full of ads and product placement. Joe specifically predicted this a couple of years ago. (I'll research to find the specific post I'm thinking of.)

The future is now, I guess.

Kendall Swan
NAKED Parent Teacher Conference - only 99c

Kendall Swan said...

Here is the link I was looking for. It's from November 2009.

For you cut and pasters:

NAKED Housecleaning

Ann Voss Peterson said...

I just finished going over a book (FLEE) that Diana proofread, and she did a fabulous job. Thanks, Diana!

JA Konrath said...

Speaking of FLEE, it will be available on April 29th.

If I promised you a free copy, and you haven't gotten the link yet, email me.

hschinske said...

I think Diana is selling herself short. She could and should be doing much better for herself. At seventy-five cents to about a dollar-twelve per standard page, she would have to proofread up to 11.5 pages per hour JUST TO GET TO MINIMUM WAGE. And even at that, she's not getting benefits or having half of FICA paid.

I do both proofreading and editing, and I too point people to the EFA page. I also, when necessary, point out that a typical hourly wage for a freelancer is about the equivalent of paying that person a salary of 1,000 times that amount (no, *not* 2,000) to do a job full time. It's pretty much impossible to invoice for 2,000 hours a year unless you're working way over full time in reality, and then there's that benefits thing ...

Do you guys honestly think it is a great idea to pay someone around $10,000 a year to do a highly skilled job? Do you think authors should get to pay their car mechanics, doctors, or plumbers less than other people do? That isn't right. It isn't asking for the moon to say that a professional job should pay enough to keep a person out of poverty, for pete's sake.

Incidentally, $40,000 a year is below the median income for a college-educated person over 25 in the US. Still think $30 an hour (the lowest rate on the EFA page) is out of line?

Helen Schinske

hschinske said...

P.S. I meant to say minimum wage in my state, which I believe is currently $8.55 an hour.

Helen Schinske

Karen Woodward said...

@Kendell Swan
Thanks for the link! That future is almost here and it sounds wonderful!

@Joe Konrath
Thanks for the copy of Flee! I have to leave for work now, but I know what I'll be doing tonight. :) Looking forward to leaving reviews on Goodreads and Amazon.

Dawn said...

Great post. Good luck with everything Diana.

I've heard there are authors who can proof their own work, but I kind of think they are like Bigfoot---I've heard he exists, people swear they've seen him, but I've just never run into him in my life...

On a different subject, but same facet, I also believe that playwrights (myself included)are better off NOT directing their own work --at least not by themselves...

A fresh set of eyes goes a long way.

Diana Cox said...

Hello and thank you all so much for your warm welcome. Joe has given me an incredible opportunity with this post and I am most grateful! First, I apologize to anyone if I have not yet replied to a request or question. I should have everybody caught up by the end of the day today.
And to answer a few of the questions:
1) I do proofreading, not copyediting. I will offer comments on any major inconsistencies I notice or if something just doesn’t make sense, but I don’t like to overstep my boundaries as a proofreader, so I try to keep those to a minimum. I do not rewrite any of the manuscript or in any way change the author’s tone or voice. I catch things like typos, misspellings, grammatical issues, inconsistencies with character names or details, and extra or omitted words.
2) As for my pricing, well, honestly, I am still pretty new at this. I don’t expect people to pay top dollar for someone with minimal experience. As I get more experience and references under my belt, I will eventually adjust my prices slightly. But as I said in my post, I want to help indie authors publish the best product they can. I’m not trying to get rich; this is something I honestly enjoy doing. But, of course, I still need to be compensated for my time. Don’t worry—if I ever hit the big-time lottery, I’ll do all the proofreading for free!
3) The more notice you can give me, the better chance of having the project completed in your requested time frame. It is great if you can give me a heads up the week prior to submitting a manuscript so that I may schedule work accordingly. I realize that is not always possible and I will always do the best I can to meet your deadline.
4) I am a “self-taught language geek.” It must be like authors who just seem to be born with the ability and imagination to tell wonderful stories; I was born obsessive-compulsive and with a love of reading! My eyes just seem to catch the small details that most people tend to read over. I have an excessive attention to detail. J
Thanks again and I look forward to working with many of you!

Tara Maya said...

Anyone notice Penguin's announcement about Book Country, a social forum for genre authors, and ultimately, a place to self-publish.

The coolest part of the site, IMHO, is the Genre Map, with examples of each subgenre:

When Harlequin tried something like this, they were accused of setting up a vanity press. So far, the reception to Penguin's idea has been more positive.

I discuss it in more detail in my blog:

Tara Maya

Sebastian Dark said...


Just recommended you to a few friends of mine. Hope you see some nice business increases!


Author of The Targets - Available for $2.99 at Amazon US and Smashwords

Robert Bruce Thompson said...

On an entirely unrelated note, I've been pushing one of my friends, SF author Jerry Pournelle, to get his backlist published on Kindle.

Late Sunday evening, he published his first ebook, a non-fiction collection of essays on technology that was first published around 1984, called A Step Farther Out. By Monday morning, it was sitting around 2,000 in overall Kindle rank, and when I checked a few minutes ago it was at #337 overall. He's mentioned it on his blog, but done no other promotion.

My key takeaway from this is that someone who's a major name in traditional publishing is absolutely nuts if he or she isn't doing everything possible to get his or her backlist self-pubbed as quickly as possible. Not to mention trying to get rights reverted on older work.

Now I'm pushing Jerry to self-publish any new stuff novels he still has in the drawer.

Maryann E. said...

Thanks for the proofreading post! I think this whole topic gets overlooked a lot.

Just to give a rate comparison from a different field, I used to work as a senior proofreader for an ad agency and we paid our freelance proofreaders $40 per hour. We billed our clients much more for that service.

Speaking of proofreading, I tend to see the same types of errors repeated in ebooks.

Error One: Putting a closing parenthesis outside a period when it should be inside a period and vice versa. (When a complete sentence is within the parentheses, the period goes inside the closing parenthesis like this.) However, if a parenthetical phrase or fragment is within a sentence, the period goes outside the parenthesis (per the style guides I used at my old jobs).

Error Two: Putting a hyphen between an adverb ending in ly and a participle or adjective. I see this mistake all the time in ebooks and blogs. Yet according to the Chicago Manual, there should NOT be be a hyphen in "fully cooked meat," "quickly written novel," etc. Here is a good chart about when to hyphenate.

Error 3: Straight quotes and straight apostrophes instead of curly ones (a.k.a. "smart quotes").

I don't work as a full-time proofreader anymore, but seeing the above mistakes distracts me from reading ebooks because I've been mentally trained to notice those things and correct them. If it's a good book, the distractions are minor, but they're annoying.

P.S. This post might have some errors, because even proofreaders miss mistakes in our own writing! Another pair of eyes is crucial.

JA Konrath said...

Straight quotes and straight apostrophes instead of curly ones (a.k.a. "smart quotes").

Smart quotes don't play well with Kindle and other ebook formats. They must be straight quotes to format correctly.

Paul Rogers said...

Maryann's note re proofreading, copyediting and style reference (Chicago etc) raises interesting issues with regard to indie ebooks.

Because ebooks will be available from authors in many countries, 'styles' will vary, and Chicago will not always be the chosen one. (Eg, See Cambridge and Fowler's in UK.)

Readers beware. This is a global village.

Anonymous said...

"I don't work as a full-time proofreader anymore, but seeing the above mistakes distracts me from reading ebooks because I've been mentally trained to notice those things and correct them."

I would say 99.99% of readers wouldn't even recognize these as errors (if in fact they are, but that's a philosophical issue for another time). Did I do it correctly?)

Paul Rogers said...

Also, regarding the 'serial comma' mentioned earlier, although this is widely used in the US (except for AP and journos), this is not so in the UK (Oxford excepted), Australia, Canada and much of Europe.

The implications for indie authors may be that they need to decide on a formal style for their book and enlist an editor/proofreader with those specific skills.

Paul Rogers said...

And the logical extension of this for editors and proofreaders in a global market is that you need to confirm with your clients that the style you will apply is appropriate for their needs.

David said...

What is it about worrying over a comma that seems to validate those who fancy themselves wordsmiths? It must be that old anecdote about spending the morning...and then the afternoon blah, blah, blah.

For goodness sakes! It's, just, a, comma. If you don't yet have the experience to figure your commas out, then that just means you should keep writing.

And I don't buy into this idea that oceans and invisible boundaries somehow specifiy when and where a comma should appear. Commas are as universal as English. Let's let our hearts and fingers be our guides: style, Style, STYLE!

Paul Rogers said...

David wrote:
For goodness sakes! It's, just, a, comma . . .

I don't necessarily disagree with you about the serial comma; I tend to see how it reads rather than follow formal style rules on this arcane grammar convention.

However, you missed my point. If you are to employ an editor, you don't want to waste her time and yours if she is going to mark up all the serial comma misfits in strict accordance with the Chicago Manual of Style, referenced here more than once. Some degree of communication about such things may benefit both parties. This is only one example of course and many other points of style are contentious across international waters and style guides.

You can break the rules and create your own style, and this may work as long as it reads well and you don't get the grammar police giving you bad reviews on Amazon, which is never a good thing. Having said that, there are obvious reasons for following recognised styles.

One thing to note for indies is that when you sold your novel to a traditional agent/publisher, the international rights were (usually) looked after for you. That is, you did not have to worry about changing spelling, idiom and style to suit readers across the Atlantic or Pacific: your publisher did so if it was seen to be advantageous. The classic case was changing 'Philosopher' (UK) to 'Sorcerer' (US) in the title of the first Harry Potter book, as well as some idiom etc. This was a poor decision on any number of criteria.

With Amazon recently opening a German Kindle Store, and probably more to come, whether indies decide they need to have more than one version of a book in order to maximise international sales is worth considering . . . or at least your editing style is.

Tom Keller said...

Great stuff, Diana! You are in my address book. I hope I'll need your services by summer.

hschinske said...

Smart quotes don't play well with Kindle and other ebook formats. They must be straight quotes to format correctly.

That may be true (and probably reflects someone's lack of foresight in designing the converter), but the final product must have smart quotes to look professional, which I think was the point, as that is what the proofreader should be seeing. I just checked a sample of one of your books on Kindle, and it did indeed have smart quotes, so one way or another, someone's making that happen. (I did see a typo, by the way :-) -- inconsistent capitalizing of Dumpster.)

Helen Schinske

Mags said...

@Tara Maya: one of the objectionable things about the Harlequin self-publishing effort, as well as those from some other commercial publishers including Thomas Nelson, is that it is a rebranding of AuthorHouse's extremely overpriced vanity publishing program. I remember one of the services (admittedly optional) was a book trailer for the low-low price of $20,000. Rarely will an author make back the money they spend even on the most basic of those packages. It's hard to tell from the Random House site how their vanity publishing arm will work and what it will cost.

Another objection is that there was some weasel-wording about how the books would be distributed and the possibility of eventual commercial publishing under Harlequin's commercial program. Also Harlequin was planning to market the vanity service to authors who submitted to the commercial house and were rejected, with the possibility of confusing newbies into thinking that they were actually accepted for publication by Harlequin, when really they were not. I think there has been some improvement in the language and transparency of this effort since it was first announced, but I'm not sure how much.

Note I used vanity publishing as my term of art and not self-publishing, as they are two different things. What Joe and many other of the new pioneers in digital publishing are doing is indeed self-publishing.

Mags said...

Wait, my bad--the $20,000 was for a MOVIE TRAILER of your book to show to movie studios who might be interested in buying the rights.

(And oops, said self-publishing in the first para when should have said vanity pub. My very bad.)

hschinske said...

Many of these writers, I've found, are people struggling after some career upheaval, or in a single-income situation. It would be cruel to empty out their checking accounts.

Er. Check the previous post. It's full of stuff like In March, I earned over $68,000.

And he's still paying at most $1.12 per page for proofreading.

Do you guys really see nothing wrong with this picture?

Helen Schinske

Maryann E. said...

Even if most readers wouldn't be able to point out grammar or punctuation mistakes, I wonder if on some unconscious level, it distracts them from the story? Things like hyphens where they don't belong, a parenthesis inside a complete sentence and smart quotes mixed in with straight quotes can visually add clutter to a "page," whether hard copy or electronic. IMO, good proofreading doesn't call attention to itself, it clears mistakes out of the way so readers can pay attention to the story.

Serial commas bring up bad memories! I remember how emotional some clients used to get about them, either pro or con. So on their style sheets, we'd note their preference. Our agency didn't care one way or another, as long as the usage was consistent within the ad or brochure. It's just funny the drama that was created over commas.

On another strange note, one of our clients hated the word "that." Weird.

nwrann said...

@hschinske wrote: Do you guys really see nothing wrong with this picture?

Do you see anything wrong with paying .99 for a novel? Pricing is determined by what the market will bear. If "legacy" proofreaders are charging $1000 per book then Diana will make a name for herself and a good client base by charging less, and then be able to raise prices as her reputation grows.

The only difference between her below market rate and the .99 book is that her time is finite, whereas e-books are not.

If it is unsustainable she will probably raise rates.

nwrann said...


Also, if you're concerned about Diana, and others like her, undercutting "legacy" proofreader rates and the "race to the bottom" and an overall lowering of wages, I suggest that you create a "Proofreaders Union" or "Guild" like the Screen Actor's Guild. Force the "Big 6" as well as some of the other smaller publishers to become signatory, and blacklist all others who don't. Then you will be able to maintain wages where you feel they should be. Of course, you also might end up with something like the 96% unemployment rate that SAG has.

Robert Bruce Thompson said...

Pricing is determined by what the market will bear. If "legacy" proofreaders are charging $1000 per book then Diana will make a name for herself and a good client base by charging less, and then be able to raise prices as her reputation grows.

Exactly. And I doubt that "legacy" proofreaders are well-paid, unless things have changed a great deal.

A girl I knew in college back in the early 70's was an English major, and she went to work for one of the big NY publishers after she graduated. I talked to her some years later, and she told me that all the publishers hired scads of young women like her, most of whom lived three and four to an apartment, to read slush piles, proofread, and do other jobs that the publishers considered to be low-skill. Nowadays, I suspect most publishers subcontract proofreading out to the lowest bidders.

hschinske said...

Exactly. And I doubt that "legacy" proofreaders are well-paid, unless things have changed a great deal.

They have not. That's why going a whole lot lower is putting the rates at the poverty level, which is just wrong for a skilled worker. If it's wrong for publishers to underpay authors, who do almost all of the work, it's also wrong for them to underpay editors, who do certain significant parts of the work.

The way I see it is that the changes in the publishing model should by rights make it possible for all the people who do the actual work of creating the book to be better paid -- meaning mostly, but not only, the authors. I just don't see why anyone should have a big problem with that idea.

I have nothing against people who have little money drumming up volunteer support, bartering goods or services, or otherwise finding creative solutions to getting their books prepared for market, just as I would have no problem with them cutting their hair themselves or getting a friend to cut it if they couldn't afford even a cheap barber. But I would have a huge problem with someone suggesting that Supercuts stylists should be cutting people's hair for three bucks, just because some of their customers are poor, and a REALLY huge problem with a rich person insisting on a three-buck price.

Moreover, if a friend cut my hair for a job interview when I was broke, and I got the job, I would certainly then go back and pay her for the haircut, if she'd let me.

Helen Schinske

David said...

"Of course, you also might end up with something like the 96% unemployment rate that SAG has."

I'm a WGA member (and a SAG member, though not active), and it too has a high unemployment rate, but the union has nothing to do with that fact.

Lowering salaries and cutting benefits wouldn't necessarily open up new slots for writers. If a show has 22 episodes, it has 22 episodes. If there are only so many shows on in a season, that's it--no one's gonna create more hours in the day to fill up because unions have folded.

On a related note, script analysts for all the major studios are unionized (IATSE #700, the Story Analyst's Guild), yet there are hundreds readers who analyze scripts for individuals and production companies, and for much less money (often for free as interns).

Robert Bruce Thompson said...

I really don't understand your argument. Are you saying that Diana is being exploited? If so, by whom? Herself?

Tom Wood said...


"I remember one of the services (admittedly optional) was a book trailer for the low-low price of $20,000."

That's an outrageous amount. I constructed my own trailer for a fraction of that ( Admittedly I have a video editor background, but even taking into account hiring a professional, it shouldn't be anywhere near that figure. 

David said...

The editors and cover artists are the only ones guaranteed to make money on a book in this new world. In fact, most editors putting out their shingle will undoubtedly do better than most writers just starting out.

And thinking about the traditional publishing world, I don't know how much editors and proofreaders make, but we know that many debut authors get a $5,000 advance, so let's do the math.

Assume 4 months of writing and rewriting to finish a novel, 40 hours a week, 5 days a week: That's $7.81 an hour before taxes.

SunTiger said...

Awesome recommend. :-)

Marcus Blakeston said...

Is there a bounty for mistakes that she misses? :)

Jude Hardin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
nwrann said...

Not to get too far off topic here but...


SAG has such a high unemployment rate because they create roadblocks and hardships to independent filmmakers looking to cast films. I've known plenty of SAG actors willing to work with independent filmmakers for the terms provided but couldn't because SAG prevents it.

I do have a question to ask you though, if an independent, non-signatory producer wants to buy a script from you, can you sell it to them? If yes, then (as I suspect) the WGA is a far better union to its members than SAG.

Betty Houle said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Betty Houle said...

Thanks, Joe , for introducing us to Diana. She's going to take a look at my children's picture book even though she's never done one before. I'm glad to have another set of eyes on it.

David said...


I thought there were SAG wavers for low budget projects. Granted, I'm sure there are conditions.

re: the WGA--short answer, no. We're not allowed to sell scripts to non-sig producers. That said, people still do. And they often get burned.

Unions like SAG, IATSE, AFTRA, DGA, and the WGA don't exist to put up roadblocks to other artists, but to stop the abuses that would surely would and have occurred without the unions, and to provide for the long-term welfare of their members.

Producers would pay minimum wage if they could, and there are plenty of people willing to work for free for the chance to see their name in lights.

Werner Von Braun said...

Hey, Joe:

What happens in a year or so, when Amazon decides to give you thirty percent instead of seventy? Or fifteen percent? Or ten? Or whatever percentage they feel like forking over, once you've done their work for long enough to establish how little books are worth, and they're finished with naïve self-promoters like you?


wannabuy said...

@WVB:"What happens in a year or so, when Amazon decides to give you thirty percent instead of seventy?"

It is far more likely that authors will go to a 80% cut first... Amazon is dropping towards 50% ebook market share.

WVB, you must really hate the 25% of 70% minus 15% agent of the big6...


Jack D. Albrecht Jr. said...


Not converting anyone here.

@Everyone else

I'm sure you have all caught spelling and grammar mistakes in every single book you have ever read. I am a big fan of J.K. Rowling and i have found at least three spelling mistakes in every Harry Potter novel. Even the big publisher's Editors miss things. There is no such thing as a perfect book.

nwrann said...


yes, SAG has recently created contracts specifically for low budget and indie productions. Unfortunately the problem with these come into play in the residuals. SAG requires residuals paid off of gross sales revenue. So when a distributor sells $100,000 (if one could be so lucky) worth of tickets/dvds but claims that they spent $99,999 on marketing and recoupable costs the producer receives $1 but has to pay SAG residuals on $100,000.

I understand that they are there to provide for the longterm welfare of their members but with 96% unemployment who are they providing for? The problem is that their model is upside down. They go in with the thought that every movie makes gazillions in profit, which is what they focus on rather than the majority of films which could offer meaningful work for their members.

With all that said, I would love to continue this conversation but I don't want to hijack Joe's comment thread.

nwrann said...

@Werner Von Braun,

Why would Amazon change their royalty structure? Give us something logical rather than crystal ball speculation.

Ender Chadwick said...

@Werner Von Braun,

I don’t really understand your argument. Should Amazon choose to slash the royalties they pay it would be for everyone. So with a traditional publisher you’d still be making less off of the ebooks you sell, and with those quickly gaining so much market share this would impact traditional publishers just as much as an indie.

If it’s a modest decrease there would probably be no major impact for anyone. If it’s a large cut I can imagine a domino effect.

Because as an indie, you have control of your work. Amazon slashes their royalties, fine let’s band together, collectively pull our books down and sell primarily from Smashwords or whoever else comes to take their slot. And with more and more authors going indie there would be the numbers to make an impact. Others would probably raise their book prices to make up lost money and selling less.

Overall it could spell a big loss for Amazon and I think they’re far too savvy not to realize this. But again, should that happen as an indie you can do what you feel is best for you. With a traditional publisher you have to hope they make the necessary changes for you.

Werner Von Braun said...

Why would A-Z change their payment structure? Easy. It happens all the time. Here's a lesson in business dynamics.

A-Z wants to utterly dominate bookselling. To increase current market share and get more kindles out there and make it harder and harder for competition to penetrate, they need low prices on software (ebooks) right away. So they start by selling major publishers' ebooks at less than they pay for them. Then they invite self-publishers to the party, offering big percentages that leave money on the table. They even set up their royalty structure to drive DOWN your prices. That's good for them, long-term. Bad for you.

Soon it will be good for them to start taking back the money they've been leaving on the table, by lowering the percentage that they let you keep. They'll be pretty much the only game in town. Self-publishers will have helped them accomplish their goal. But they won't have any loyalty to you. They'll slit your throats by halving or quartering your money, and you'll have nobody to cry to. Nobody at all. This happens all the time in all kinds of businesses. All of the "we'll all desert to Smashwords and kill Amazon" thinking in the world won't help you.

Lesson over.

Werner Von Braun

Livia Blackburne said...

Werner -- How closely have you been following ebook developments? You seem to have some misconceptions about the industry.

1. Amazon market share of ebooks has been shrinking, not growing. Mostly due to B&N's growth so far, but they'll be facing more competition as iBooks and Google books grows.

2. You talk about Amazon selling ebooks for less than what they pay, but it's common knoweldge that they were forced to abandon that model last year. Now they're selling ebooks books (trad and indie) according to the 70% agency model, where publishers set the prices. Ender had a good point that if do indeed reduce royalty rates (which becomes less likely as B&N, iBooks, and Google come on the scene), they'll be screwing both indies and traditional publishers equally.

Werner Von Braun said...

Yes, Livia. Amazon was forced to abandon that model BY OLD-LINE PUBLISHERS. I mentioned it as a part of a historical review. Loss-leader pricing was one of the first steps they took in their efforts to win the marketplace, but it was unsustainable.

And yes, Amazon faces powerful competition. Which is why they've enlisted self-publishing writers to provide low-cost software.

Anna Murray said...

Soon it will be good for them to start taking back the money they've been leaving on the table, by lowering the percentage that they let you keep. They'll be pretty much the only game in town. Self-publishers will have helped them accomplish their goal. But they won't have any loyalty to you. They'll slit your throats by halving or quartering your money, and you'll have nobody to cry to

And this is different from traditional publishing? They were the only game in town as they controlled distribution to the oligopoly chains (Borders, B&N). They didn't have any loyalty to the mid list authors. The paid low advances and crap royalties.

With Amazon ebooks, the author gets 70% and keeps all rights. If Amazon decides to cut me down to the traditional 15% I can withdraw my books, and go elsewhere. The traditional industry locked authors into a prison because they owned the rights.

If Amazon wants to lock in authors at a lower rate it will begin with them going to a traditional publishing model -- purchasing rights, so that works are available exclusively on Amazon. They tried to do that with Amanda.

Werner Von Braun said...

Amazon won't need to lock in writers at a lower rate. There will always be a fresh crop of newbies ready to take whatever deal is on the table at the moment, and the old guys can go pound sand.

Livia Blackburne said...

"There will always be a fresh crop of newbies ready to take whatever deal is on the table at the moment, and the old guys can go pound sand."

I'm pretty sure that phrase is used more often to describe traditional publishing than amazon.

You do have a good point that amazon's market share gives it power, but my takeaway is that indie authors should avoid putting all their eggs in one basket and publish with the competeing distributers as well.

David said...

There are many authors, despite distributing across all formats, that make 90% of their sales on Amazon. For them, picking up and moving would mean losing most of their income. Still, I don't think that Amazon will drastically cut their royalties.

Livia Blackburne said...

Good thing to keep in mind when deciding where to buy books as well.

Kendall Swan said...

@Anne They tried to do that with Amanda?

Livia Blackburne said...

Kendall -- There's an article about Hocking and Amazon here

Kendall Swan said...

Thanks, Livia!

@Werner I have to say, your argument seems more emotion than logic. Technology is what opened things up. If things change again, it will probably be bc of technology again.

As Livia said, Amazon's market share is shrinking. The color nook and ipad are getting some of the pie themselves as well as making the whole pie bigger. These are good things for authors.

The only slight caveat to that is the loss of bookstores -- Amazon will increase their share in the print book business. But as Joe has pointed out, that print is becoming a subsidiary right. Ebooks/ereaders--this is what matters. And BN, Apple, Kobo, Sony, and maybe, someday, Google if they can get their act together will all serve to keep Amazon honest.

Kendall Swan
NAKED Housecleaning

nwrann said...


Amazon et al have a decade of data regarding the sales of digital intellectual property by looking at iTunes model. After iTunes forced the .99 cent model and fixed rolayty rates on the music industry and the music industry fought back, demanding higher royalties, Apple compromised with a restricted fluctuating price structure. Songs are sold at either .69, .99 or 1.29.

The lesson learned is that the behavior of the property owners can be influenced by guiding the royalty rates. So if Amazon does anything, they will try to guide the property owners toward the points at which they make the most money.

And guess what, with their royalty structure, they already have. Amazon knows that they will sell the most books between 2.99 and 9.99 so they entice publishers to price them at this rate with the 70% royalty.

It's also worth noting that the success of individual self-publishers gives Amazon an incredible amount of leverage AGAINST the big six. If individual artists had been kicking ass on iTunes the music publishing industry probably wouldn't have been successful in making iTunes change their pricing. If the self-pubbed leave or are not successful at e-publishing, the big six will be able to tell Amazon what to do.

Werner Von Braun said...

Don't say nobody warned you.

Ender Chadwick said...

@Werner You said, "There will always be a fresh crop of newbies ready to take whatever deal is on the table at the moment"

This sounds more like traditional publishing thought. 2 years ago I would have taken 'whatever deal was on the table' if a publisher had put it there.

Things change.

Let's say for arguments sake a year from now Amazon does keep a vast portion of the market share and decides to drastically cut royalties.

First with the camaraderie I’ve seen between indie authors and the shared benefit it would present—I can easily imagine authors banding together and leaving Amazon in mass.

So why wouldn’t newbies simply fill the ranks like scabs? Well if you were going to self publish and store A is giving, let’s say 20% royalties and store B 70%, AND all your peers are working with store B. Which would you choose?

Without product to move, Amazon would quickly lose market share.

Where your very train of thought is exactly how I understand traditional publishers have treated new and mid-list authors for a very long time. “Oh, you don’t want to take this $5k advance and scraps of royalties, well I’ve got another 500 authors lined up so take a hike.”

David said...

"So why wouldn’t newbies simply fill the ranks like scabs? Well if you were going to self publish and store A is giving, let’s say 20% royalties and store B 70%, AND all your peers are working with store B. Which would you choose?"

Again, I don't think this would happen, but as a purely hypothetical game, it's interesting.

First, being on Amazon is not an either or thing with most authors. They are on Amazon AND B&N AND Smashwords, etc...

So leaving isn't the issue. If one wants to protest such a move by a company like Amazon, one would have to eliminate a revenue stream. And since some authors outsell ten to one on Amazon versus the other outlets, that would be throwing away a massive chunk of change.

Now assuming Amazon returned to 35% royalty across the board, 1000 sales a month at $2.99 is still much better than 100 sales a month at $2.99 with a 65% royalty. Even 20% would be much better for some authors.

It's easy to say authors would band together and leave, but I'm not sure how realistic that is. John Locke for instance is more than happy earning 35% on Amazon. In fact, many writers here aren't balking at that royalty either. They choose it for themselves because they know the lower royalty at the lower price is reaching more people.

Livia Blackburne said...

Also, ebook readers are not as mobile as paper book readers. A paper book can be bought at any store, but if you own a kindle, you'd have to buy a new ereader to get it from another store (stupid proprietary format). Amazon can definitely lower royalties if they want to play hardball, but I'm not sure what there is to be gained from worrying about it. The most we can do is to support Amazon's competitors as authors and consumers. It's certainly not an argument to go back to the traditional model -- they have a history of playing hardball with authors, whereas Amazon just has the potential.

Ender Chadwick said...

@David I actually completely agree with you. It isn’t a one outlet or another scenario. I was just trying to state a case against the idea that Amazon has this power to destroy authors that was previously suggested. And you’re right again about the 35% royalty mark, isn’t too bad. We could very well be looking at something like that in the future. However if they tried to cut it to 10% (again as suggested), I think there would be repercussions.

Now in regards to the market share and how much authors are selling on Amazon versus other vendors, you’re right again that everyone that I’ve seen is selling many more copies on Amazon than anywhere else. But my point was, is that if all the authors moved away from Amazon (or a vast majority of them) so would the audience and those books would still be sold, just on a different platform.

Of course, such a transition could get kind of ugly. This is all conjecture anyway. None of us can see the future and of course, Amazon (being a business) is going to try to make money, but despite us all being warned I don’t see Amazon trying to slice all of our throats.

But maybe that's just me and I'm completely naive :)

David said...

"But my point was, is that if all the authors moved away from Amazon (or a vast majority of them) so would the audience and those books would still be sold, just on a different platform."

Probably. But then brand loyalty doesn't extend to authors alone. I never EVER think to shop and B& I'm not against it. It just doesn't enter my consciousness.

Just like drinking Pepsi never entered my consciousness back when I drank coke, or going to Burger King wasn't even a possibility when I was a McDonalds person, or Del Taco versus Taco Bell, or PC over Mac, or CBS over NBC.

God I was an unhealthy couch potato!

If John Locke dropped Amazon and moved to B&N, it's possible he would only retain a tiny fraction of his readers. There could be a different type of reader frequenting Amazon versus B&N versus Smashwords, etc.

Anna Murray said...

"There will always be a fresh crop of newbies ready to take whatever deal is on the table at the moment, and the old guys can go pound sand."

True, but in the ebook world the old guy and gal authors have great economic value built on their own marketing efforts. Take Joe as an example. He has a successful blog with thousands of followers, website, facebook, etc. The author builds a platform and audience.

You can toss them for a "fresh crop of newbies", but why would you jettison established brands (especially when those brands continue to work daily on marketing themselves, at no cost to you)?

These thousands of author brands are not commodities or interchangeable parts. They take years and creative energy to build. You don't kill the geese that lay golden eggs.

Unknown said...

Thank you for posting this. Diana is going to be busy!

Jim Thomsen said...

Getting back to the issue of "why worry so much about commas," I'd say this: It's not so much about what's correct — as a self-publisher, you're free to hew to whatever style you choose, including your own — as it is about what's CONSISTENT. Consistency may be the hobgoblin of little minds, but there's no doubt that it is also crucial to being taken seriously as a writing professional.

You might be surprised at how often writers need to have that imposed by them by somebody like Diana (or Lyn, or myself). I'm editing a novel manuscript right now in which the author is having a hard time settling on spellings for the names of several characters. For her main character, for instance, she's wavered between "Hallie" and "Hailee." And that's OK, and not a criticism at all. Her job is to write a good story. Mine is to sweep up after her. All part of being a hobgoblin for hire.

But arguing about whether the serial comma is "right" or "wrong"? Waste of time. Because there's no right answer. Or rather, the answer is only as right as you as a writer decide it needs to be, for you.

I worked as a newspaper editor for nearly twenty years, meaning I worked with AP Style. (Serial comma = bad; hyphenated compound modifiers = good.) Now I work with the Chicago Manual of Style. (Serial comma = good; hyphenated compound modifiers = bad.) Maybe we should lock the style gurus in a pitch-black room with sawed-off pool cues and let them settle it.

Jim Thomsen

**Lisa Daily** said...

It's so clear from your post that you love your work, which makes you incredibly appealing to work with.

I'm on the hook with legacy publishers for two more novels, but am seriously considering going indy for my next nonfic, will definitely be in touch.

On another note, wondering how many writers who decided to post comments today spent ten or fifteen minutes rewriting their remarks knowing a proofreader would be reading them. :-)

Earning Jack said...

Hi Joe, I've been reading your blog for a while.

I just want to say thanks, and that you've given me the reason I needed to put aside other petty diversions, and focus on my writing.

Thank you.

lynw said...

Jim said: "...Maybe we should lock the style gurus in a pitch-black room with sawed-off pool cues and let them settle it...."

Wouldn't help, Jim. We'd just end up with a lot of holes in the walls, and bodies on the floor. I've see too many style-wars to think things will be standardized any time soon.


Lyn Worthen, Editor
Camden Park Press

kathie said...

It's great to hear from you, Diana! Would you say your work is different than editing? I'm seeing some comments that seem more like requests for editing rather than proofing. Is it semantics or do you critique as well as find typos, etc.? I'm glad you found the work that makes you happy! I know how great that is.
The Last Letter--live on Amazon!!!!

Jim Thomsen said...

I'm good with holes in the walls and bodies on the floors. Fewer style gurus is addition by subtraction.

Jim Thomsen

Eugene said...

I'll second Ninja's comment and recommend Textanz. It's a text analyzing tool that sorts through manuscripts at the word/phrase/sentence level for repetition and overall usage (in ranked numerical terms). My only caution is that it can make you overly self-conscious about your writing. Not all repetition is bad, and some repetition (like "said") is good. But it will catch egregious duplications and flag spelling inconsistencies.

kevin lynn helmick said...

wow! this website's going in my favorites but it looks like your gonna be backed up while.
You must have to turn some projects down?

Erika Liodice said...

This referral comes at just the right time as I will be needing a proofreading service in the next month or so. Thanks so much for sharing!

Betty Houle said...

Thanks again, Joe for sharing Diana with us. She has proofread one of my children's picture books and has agreed to do a second. Her daughter has given her input as well (favorable, I might add) so I feel the stories are set correctly for the age range I was aiming for.

Damian said...

Very reasonable. I'll be in touch.