Hi! I’m Kathy Ide. In addition to being a published author, I’m a full-time professional freelance editor. For CAN, I’m blogging about tips for writers based on the manuscripts I edit.
5 Ways to Uphold Your Reputation as an Author
The buzz word in publishing is platform. And for good reason. Authors need to get the word out about their books. After all, if no one knows about them, no one will buy them.
But there’s another “p word” that, in my opinion, is even more important than platform. It’s proofreading. No matter what you write or how you choose to publish your work, typos, inconsistencies, and mistakes in punctuation, usage, grammar, and spelling (what I call “PUGS”) will brand you as an amateur. And that will affect your sales as much as, or more than, your platform.
- Proofread your manuscript.
Before you submit a manuscript to a publisher (book, magazine, or other), check it carefully for typos, inconsistencies, inaccuracies, and PUGS errors. And make sure you use the appropriate style guide and dictionary for the type of publisher you’re submitting to.
If you plan to self-publish, you’ll need to proofread even more carefully, because you won’t have a publisher’s in-house proofreaders to check your work before readers see it.
- Proofread your queries and proposals.
The content of your manuscript might be brilliant, and you could have a fantastic platform. But if an acquisitions editor notices typos, inconsistencies, inaccuracies, and PUGS errors in your query or proposal, you won’t be presenting a very polished, professional image. And the editor will likely be thinking about how much time it would take their proofreaders to fix all those mistakes. If another proposal she’s considering has fewer errors, she may very well choose that one instead of yours.
- Proofread your galleys.
The term galleys refers to the final version of your manuscript before it goes to print. This is your last chance to catch typos, inconsistencies, inaccuracies, and PUGS errors before your readers see what you’ve written. Don’t rely on the publisher’s in-house editors or proofreaders. Even professionals can miss things.
- Proofread your back cover copy.
A friend of mine once picked up a book at a bookstore and noticed a typo on the back cover. When she reported it to our critique group, she didn’t say she’d found a mistake on a book published by “XYZ Publishers.” She said she found the mistake on a “Jane Doe” novel. She didn’t connect the error to the publishing house but to the author.
- Proofread your promotional material.
As you’re creating promotional flyers, blogs, social media posts, handouts for your talks, even e-mails you plan to send to colleagues in the industry, read through them multiple times to check for typos, inconsistencies, inaccuracies, and PUGS errors. Your reputation, and your book sales, will be affected—positively or negatively.
For a lot of avid readers, typos and inconsistencies practically jump off the page. And many are familiar with the rules of punctuation, usage, grammar, and spelling. If your reader knows the rules and you don’t, that’s not going to make you look very professional.
Readers who find a lot of mistakes in a book will not be as likely to recommend that book to their friends. And who knows? A creative writing teacher might just read your book and want to recommend it to her students . . . but she probably won’t do that if there are a lot of mistakes in it.
Most people have a hard time finding typos and inconsistencies in their own writing, because the eye tends to see what the mind expects to see. And many new writers aren’t familiar with the reference books that publishers use for punctuation, usage, grammar, and spelling. That’s why I wrote Proofreading Secrets of Best-Selling Authors. It has tips from multi-published authors on how to catch typos, inconsistencies, and inaccuracies. It also contains industry-standard guidelines on the PUGS issues that most writers struggle with.
Once you’ve got your manuscript, galleys, or promotional material as polished as you think they can be, you may wish to consider hiring a professional proofreader. I’m not talking about your neighbor who’s a high school English teacher, but someone who knows and understands the publishing industry’s requirements. You can find professional freelance proofreaders at writers’ conferences or by filling out the form for Authors Seeking Editors at the Christian Editor Connection.
The investment you make in proofreading could make a tremendous difference in the success of your writing journey.