The other day I read a blog about the importance of hiring someone to edit your book before publishing it. The writer couldn’t fathom any reason an author would not put out their best work which in her opinion meant having a professional editor review the book before publication.
While I agree that putting a professional, well-polished, grammatically correct novel should be the goal of all authors, I do, however, understand why someone wouldn’t hire a proofreader or copy editor.
Money. Pure and simple, I believe it is a financial issue. It doesn’t have anything to do with not valuing their work or not being a professional. Hiring a professional to review your book is not cheap. I am one of those authors who didn’t have someone proof my first novel, Summoned, before I self-published it, and money is the reason why.
Now before we go any further, let me say that people throw around hiring an editor and a proofreader as if they are the same thing. While related, they are NOT the same. An editor is going to look for consistency and substance in addition to grammatical, spelling and factual errors. They are going to comment on improving the flow and consistency of your story. A proofreader is someone you hire after your work has been edited. They look for common grammar errors and typos.
Now back to my story…after the first few reviews of Summoned mentioned grammatical errors, I looked into having my book proofread. The estimates for my 84,000-word novel were between $450 and $1400. It is hard as a newbie to justify shelling out that type of money. Yes, you want to be professional but think of how many books I have to sell to cover that cost. Summoned is available for $2.99, which means I make $2.05 on each book sold. Assuming I went with the low end of those proofing amounts, that means I would need to sell 220 books just to break even and that isn’t including cover design or any book promotions. I couldn’t justify that cost at the time.
And I am being a realist here because as much as I love my work and believe readers will enjoy it, there are millions upon millions of books out there. It is hard for an unknown to crack the bestseller lists or even make a decent amount of money. Roughly, half the self-published authors make $500 a year or less.
So since I wasn’t willing to shell out that type of money, but wanted to improve my work, I decided to invest in one of the leading grammar checking programs. After reading reviews and much research I went with Whitesmoke. Now this is a comprehensive grammar checker that will blow away what Microsoft Word does. Check out this comparison using actual sentences with errors. (NOTE: As of November 2016, Whitesmoke no longer works. Company may have gone out of business.)
Not only does it do grammar, punctuation and style, but it also alerts you to word repetitions and missing words. To use WhiteSmoke you must have an internet connection as their database of words and phrases is too big to be downloaded to your computer, plus they are constantly testing, improving and upgrading it daily.
Now I am not saying that Whitesmoke is perfect, and it can make suggestions that don’t fit into a fictitious work. It is a time-consuming process as it reviews everything paragraph by paragraph. But when I ran it on Summoned I was amazed at how many things it caught. I then used it on Quietus (Book 2 in my trilogy) and The Search (my short story) before they were published. None of the reviews for either of these works have ever mentioned grammar or spelling being a problem. I am currently using it as I edit my upcoming book Destiny (Book 3 in my trilogy).
So should WhiteSmoke replace a copy editor? No. Could it replace a proofreader? Maybe.
But if nothing else, it can certainly allow those budding writers out there a chance to produce grammatically-correct material at a fraction of the price. Now helping them with the plot is a whole other issue.