Picture this. You’ve bought a lovely new washing machine. You call your local plumber to plumb it in. You think he’s charging too much, but you manage to get his price down. Result! He does the job quickly; you pay him and he’s gone. Time to do some washing. The machine fills; the drum starts to rotate. Lovely suds are soon working their way through your grubby smalls. The rinse cycle will start once all that soapy water has been pumped out. Then horror! Mucky water is flooding your kitchen! You’re furious. You call the plumber. “Yeah, I plumbed it in, but you didn’t pay me enough to connect the pipes to the drain!” he says sarcastically.
You wouldn’t have done that, though, would you? You’d have paid him a professional rate for a professional job. Yet authors often expect copy-editors and proofreaders to work for way below the going rate. Yes, they need to keep their unit costs down but why expect other professionals to bear that? Do they expect their electricity providers to charge less for the power needed to run the computers they use to write their masterpieces? I think not. If I flick through a novel and spot errors, I won’t buy it. A book that’s as error free as possible and reads well is likely to be far more successful. This is why good editorial support is invaluable, but many authors are unwilling to make this investment and try to find ways to avoid it. “I got my mate to read it!” “I proofread it myself!” Your mate’s not a professional proofreader, and it’s nigh impossible to proofread your own work. Yes, even proofreaders find that difficult!
Unfortunately, there are those who are willing to “do it for a fiver” but they devalue our profession and make it difficult for others to command the proper rate for the job. So, dear authors, value your copy-editor and proofreader and offer more than peanuts.