Your book needs final, professional proofreading…


What will kill a reader’s fervor fastest? Misspellings, punctuation errors, endless paragraphs, no flow, and nonsense.

If somebody asks another, “How was ____ (your) book?” and they respond, “I couldn’t get into it. He can’t spell.” Or they say, “It didn’t make any sense…,” you probably lost that potential reader forever.

So you need a no-nonsense professional with the eyes and mindset to carefully go through your final second draft and check every word, every phrase, every section, and every chapter of the whole book to make certain that those fatal shortcomings don’t sap the worth out of otherwise good ideas, valuable life-changing suggestions, and your ticket to acknowledged expertise.

Where do you find this literary angel? Not in your family or among your friends. They usually have too much vested interest in agreeing with you or at least keeping you happy. You need a person who simply tells you like it is (maybe with compassion).

How do you locate them? Ask other publishers or professional writers. Check Google. Ask local newspapers, businessfolk, or ad agencies who they recommend and why. Look at or; then check every “proofreader’s” credentials very closely. (Be certain that American English is their native tongue.) Expect to pay from $150 to many hundreds.

Also ask how they work best: do they want to write on printed paper or will they make corrections (in markup; see View in Word) directly on your digital copy? If the latter, do you understand the markup process? (Word’s Help section will decipher it, sort of.) And do you want them to make the actual change or suggest it to you, for you to do?

Mind you, you needn’t correct or modify your book text as they say. For years I gladly used a woman who was superb with context and commas but was very uncomfortable with humor (despite the fact that she was personally quite humorous). So my paper copy returned with giant question marks next to anything that even suggested mirth—and all the punch lines had another, dour alternative written above! Granted, a few times she saved me from printing something sophomoric, but I refused to throw out the fun just for form. It’s always your choice.

It usually takes several weeks to get the proofreading done and the draft adjusted. You must double-check every correction later. Where I’ve printed errors, about 90% of them were corrections I didn’t see or corrected incorrectly. But the reader doesn’t know: you look as stupid or inattentive whatever the cause.

A final set of related steps and it’s time to get your five magic files ready for the open publishers.

Once all of the corrections are made in your file and the artwork is firmly in place, you must decide if you will use running pagination (chapters simply begin where the previous chapter ends, on the right or left side—fine for fiction) or the chapters start only on the right side (odd pages), which is common for most nonfiction.

If the latter, will you use any artwork or quotations on the empty left-side (even) pages? If so, now is the time to place any text or images in the file. Then you will know your final pagination, and you can insert the correct numbers into the table of contents.

At last, you can finally produce your index, if your book uses an index (fiction doesn’t).

Of course, there are professional indexers that are used by the big houses, but that’s an expense for a small book that you needn’t bear. Take your final printed text copy, circle the key words you would expect to find in an index of your book, add to those words the most important words in the chapter headings, and make a combined list. Open the edit/find box and subject each word in your list to its own hunt, then write down each page number found next to the word in your list.

For example, if yours is a law-related book, you might include the word “lawsuit.” Then go to your Edit key, open the “find” box, and type in lawsuit. If you find useful references at, say, pages 12, 56, 59, 98, and 201, then those are the numbers you would put after “lawsuit” in the index. (But beware if you type in “laws” that you don’t include the references to lawsuit since what you are seeking is also part of the longer word.)

When you have your list completed, alphabetize it, and tell the computer to put the numbers in order. (You can do this in your sort file, in Word’s Table section.) What’s left is for you to combine consecutive numbers, so if the list says, 7, 8, 9, 12 you will alter it to read 7-9, 12.

Write INDEX on the top, probably reduce the type size, modify the spacing, put it in two columns, check closely, and you’re ready to go!

(Yes, this can also be done through software. If you know how, go to it. My way takes about three hours. And yes, it may not be quite as good as a professional indexer would do it. Your choice. I won’t tell.)

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett

You might want to read How to Get Your Book Published Free in Minutes and Marketed Worldwide in Days. The first half explains all of the steps needed to compose a marketable book (like much of the blog material you just read), while the second half walks you through the step-by-step process of submitting and publishing the book through open publishers, Like Kindle, Nook, etc.

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