Do not try to proof your own work. You are too close to it and will miss some typographical errors. You need a professional with fresh eyes.
Your computer’s spelling and grammar checkers are good for a first pass, but never rely on them exclusively. Jan Nathan tells the story of a publisher who had his book professionally designed but decided to save money on proofreading by relying on spellcheck. After he had printed 5,000 copies, a colleague pointed out misspelled words both on the cover and inside. For example, all 5,000 covers announced the “Forward”–instead of “Foreword”–by a very prominent person.
Make sure your proofreader uses standard proofreading marks so the corrections will be clear to all. For a chart of proofreader’s marks, see your dictionary under (what else?) “proofreader’s marks.”
There is more to proofing than just punctuation and spelling. When Advocacy Press marketing specialist Bill Sheehan was hand-carrying the art for Mother Nature’s Nursery Rhymes to the printer in Hong Kong, he noticed that bees were mentioned in a poem on page 15, but there were no bees in the accompanying illustration. Upon landing, he called Itoko Maeno, the illustrator back at the press in Santa Barbara, and she solved the problem by suggesting that the printer copy a bee from a previous page.
Do not skimp on proofreading. It is far more expensive to take ink off paper than to put it on. Make the book right. The more eyes the better.
Dan Poynter is the author of “The Self-Publishing Manual” and a past Vice-President of PMA. His company, Para Publishing, provides valuable guides on book publishing. For more information, visit http://ParaPublishing.com.