Self-Publishing 101: 3 Quick Tips to Knowing the Difference Between Proofreading and Editing

When you self-publish, there are so many costs that come with the arduous task of getting your book out there. Apart from choosing a reputable publishing company, you must also put together your own team, to include, your editor, proofreader, illustrator and publicist. When I work with clients as a coach or as their editor, they recognize the need for all of the roles I just mentioned. But, if they are confused about anything,  they are often confused most of all when it comes to what the difference is between an editor and proofreader.

Does What You Wrote Make Any Friggin’ Sense?

Truthfully, an editor is that person that you may pick for your team before you even complete your manuscript. The editor is the person who will read your work (most likely each rewrite you send their way), give you critical feedback, and basically let you know if what you’re trying to say is actually conveyed through what it is you have written down. Your editor checks for consistency in plot, characters (“Didn’t you write on page 10 that her name is Selma? Why is she called Lucy now?”) and format. Your editor informs you when your tone is shifting or when you are slipping in and out of third person and whether that works or not. Your editor directs you to resources you may need to revisit regarding writing and some editors like me may even help you with your outlining.

The editor is not so much interested in your spelling but focused on your content and your writing quality. Your editor, if you allow them, pushes you and drives you to rewrite, rewrite, rewrite if necessary to get your best writing out. Once you can agree that your manuscript has reached its full potential, you then are ready for a proofreader.

“There” or “Their”

The proofreader reads your manuscript and catches grammatical errors and misuse of homonyms. Your proofreader literally crosses your T’s and dots your I’s while making sure your periods and quotations are appropriately placed. Your proofreader should have a good sense of referencing and writing styles and will be most useful once the editor has had her way with your manuscript and you have finished all rewrites.

How to Choose An Editor

Choosing an editor is much simpler than it seems. You should have an idea of what your attitude is regarding feedback. Do you appreciate someone who is totally honest and tells you their opinion about every aspect of your manuscript or are you more interested in them just paying attention to when your tone shifts and general consistency issues? Whatever your preference is regarding receiving feedback should be the first thing you share with a potential editor.

Next, find out their policy on rewrites. Do they charge for each time you send them a rewritten manuscript or is that included in their fee? Also, what other services do they offer besides editing? I include outlining services in addition to my editing fees, but if an author is interested in a package of services, discounts may be included. Find out what your editor offers when more than one service is offered.

Most importantly, if you’re hesitant about hiring an editor once you’ve talked with them and pretty much found their price reasonable, ask for their references. Good editors usually have a list of people who can vouch that they are the real deal.

Are you an author who has had a great experience with an editor? Share your story in the comments section.


Khadijah Z. Ali-Coleman is a writer and editor of several books, including the anthology Liberated Muse Volume I: How I Freed My Soul.  She offers editing, proofreading and creative coaching services to authors who self-publish. Contact her at for a free consultation.


5 Comments Add yours

  1. Aki Antonia says:

    Great article. Very helpful!

  2. artsymoon says:

    Thank you for visiting, Aki! You’re an incredible blogger, so I’m sure a book is next 🙂

  3. Im very impressed.

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