Oh boy, this was fun.
Proofreading and editing is an expensive service and involves a lot of trust. Anyone can charge you a few hundred to pretend to read your work. There’s also the saying that ‘opinions are like arseholes’ (everyone’s got one and nobody wants to hear it). Although there are rules to things, at the end of the day you are just getting another person’s take on things. It may be a fantastic take or actually, it might not be. I wouldn’t knock editing as a profession but I am a bit cagey about the model for freelancers. The incentive for an in-house editor is to take a manuscript and make it as likely to succeed commercially as possible – that’s what works for them and it’s the same thing that works for you. The incentive for a freelance editor is to get your work off their desk as rapidly as possible – that doesn’t work for you quite as well.
I’ve been stung with proofreading and editing before so I decided to go down the cheap and cheerful route. It was as unspectacular as the time I tried expensive proofreading but at least it was cheap.
The first person I hired was allegedly a full-time editor. She was actually very quick, returning the first 20000 words in three days and the remaining 15000 a few days later. It was very clear to me that she’d skim-read it at best. There is a lot of technical language in the book and a huge number of changes had been made to words that were completely nonsensical – the sort of thing only an automated spellchecker would put in. ‘Archs’ (a colloquial abbreviation for ‘archaeologists’) had been changed to ‘arches’. Inexplicably the article ‘a’ had been added to every appearance of the word ‘stone’ leading to sentences like: “A stone is a material which has seen countless uses over thousands of years.” ‘Plan view’ became ‘a planned view’. There’s too many to mention here but she did sort my gratuitous misuse of commas out. She was not, however, an editor. A bad proofreader at best.
Person two was a beta-reader who cost $20US. He wrote me a very short, glowing report saying how much he liked it. I could get one of my friends to pretend to read something and tell me it was awesome for free. He did, however, pull me up on a couple of things that tripped him up. Overall he did a good job and it was money well spent.
I realised I could pour a semi-infinite amount of cash down the drain getting cheap, or expensive, people to go over this so figured I may as well get on with the next step. Time to typeset and illustrate!