Before we get into the subject of proofreading rates for nonfiction books, it’s important that I explain the full range of work that professional proofreaders do and the critical role that they play for your book.
Sometimes we think that as authors we don’t need a proofreader, especially after working with an editor. After all, once we produce the final edited manuscript the book should be as good as it’s going to get.
In fact, after re-reading it several times and not having caught any more typos everything should be good to go… But the reality is that it’s hardly ever good to go at this stage, and here’s why.
Our brains are capable of processing missing information and filling in the blanks based on pre-established patterns in order to provide our lives with continuity.
So, for example, if you’ve read the phrase “There are other fish in the sea” a hundred times before, then chances are that if you’re reading a book at a good clip and you come up with “Their are other fish in the sea” your brain may not even register the typo.
The difference between a professional proofreader and the rest of us is that they’re trained not to get caught up in the “story” and remain focused on the mechanics of the words instead.
It’s like the director of a TV talk show, who’s calling the cues of melancholic music and different camera angles when the show’s participant breaks down into tears (along with a big part of the studio audience).
They can’t afford to get involved in the story, otherwise the quality of the show will be sub-standard – it’s no different with proofreading.
What Specific Tasks Do Nonfiction Proofreaders Perform?
Technically, proofreading is the final editorial stage for your nonfiction book before it goes into print.
When your manuscript is complete, with no further changes whatsoever, then it’s time to proofread it line-by-line with a fine-tooth comb.
What you want your proofreader to do is to get it as close to perfect as possible in relation to:
- Punctuation, spelling and grammatical errors (e.g. typos that were missed in all prior editing passes, like “there” instead of “their” or “its” instead of “it’s”).
- Formatting inconsistencies (e.g. your numbered lists are all numeric except for two or three that use letters instead).
- Incorrect internal references (e.g. in chapter 5 you reference a section in chapter 9, but in a previous editing pass chapter 9 became chapter 11; or you refer in one page to reference #31 at the end of the book, but there are only 30 listed).
- Incorrect external references (e.g. some titles of journal articles in your list of external references don’t match the title of the actual articles, or contain typos in your book)
- General fact-checking (e.g. you make mention in your book about an event that happened in 1952 when in reality the event took place in 1957. If you don’t corroborate facts and figures during proofreading, then your readers will do it for you and they’ll often let you know about it embarrassingly, usually via social media or reader reviews).
- Caption errors (e.g. three graphs and two images in your book have the wrong information in their caption.)
Typical Proofreading Rates by Word Count
Now that you know what a professional proofreader will do for you, let’s look at their rates.
The most common way for proofreaders to charge authors is by word count. Quite simply, they’ll multiply the number of words in your manuscript by a cost per word, or possibly the cost per 1,000 words.
Common professional proofreading rates can be expected to be between $25 and $35 per thousand words. So, for a 50,000-word manuscript (about a 200-page book) the proofreading cost will range between $1,250 and $1,750 depending on the experience of the proofreader.
If you see “freelance” rates per thousand words on the Internet that are much lower than $25 (say $5 or $10), then you likely won’t be dealing with experienced nonfiction proofreaders with many years of experience in the craft.
In addition to checking their credentials and their experience always ask for titles of books that they’ve proofread and check them out on Amazon using their Look Inside feature.
Now, if your book is full of facts, figures and research that need to be corroborated, the cost will naturally be higher.
In this case, you’ll likely be quoted by the hour in addition to word count.
Typical Proofreading Rates by The Hour
For research-intensive titles, proofreaders will do an initial scan of your book to get an idea of the effort required to fact-check it. This may require a significant time investment on the part of the proofreader.
Your cost per word won’t change, but you’ll be quoted an additional hourly rate to account for the time that the proofreader will have to spend finding and corroborating facts, figures and other information.
Qualified nonfiction proofreaders will charge hourly rates ranging from $55-$95 depending of the complexity of the text and the associated fact-checking, as they may need assistants.
By-the-hour proofreading is critical if your book is academic or scientific in nature, because as an expert in your field, every single fact and figure will be expected to be accurate.
Your professional reputation will be affected by the quality and accuracy of the information in your book. Don’t cut corners here, even if it increases your proofreading bill significantly.
On the other hand, if the facts and figures in your book are completely accurate, this will cement your status as an expert, dramatically increasing demand for your services, increasing demand by the media and increasing your public-speaking fees, among many other benefits.
Once your final manuscript is proofread, your book’s body will be print-ready. The next step will be to proofread your book cover (a typo of any kind on your book cover will kill your book sales and your reviews!).
The good news is that book covers don’t have a lot of text to proofread, so you can easily afford to check them many times over (preferably by different people, after your proofreader is done).
Other book sections to proofread are the front matter sections and the remaining back matter sections not already referenced (e.g. acknowledgments page, preface, foreword, glossary of terms, etc.).
Don’t skimp on these sections. Many people will read parts of your front or back matter before they begin reading the body of the book, and if they find a typo there, they’ll assume that the entire book is full of them.
All the best!
Leave me a comment below if you have any questions or a specific need that I can help you address – I operate an author services firm that specializes in helping entrepreneurs, professionals and business owners who want to publish books as a calling card for prospects, to establish their status as an expert or to just to generate additional leads for their businesses.
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Bennett R. Coles is an award-winning author of 6 books published through Harper Collins (NY) and Titan Publishing Group (UK). He is also the publisher at Promontory Press and the founder/CEO of Cascadia Author Services, a boutique full-service firm that specializes in premium author services specifically designed for busy professionals. Our end-to-end services include writer coaching, ghostwriting, editing, proofing, cover design, book layout, eBook production, printing, distribution and marketing.