Trang came back from the proofreader today--oh my God. If you're wondering what the difference is between a good proofreader and a bad proofreader or just a normal reader: My sister, who is intelligent, educated, and literate, but not in any way a publishing professional, read over Trang and noted any typos she found. In the entire book, she found five. This fellow found way more than five--way more than five in each chapter. And I do mean outright errors, not debatable questions of style.
The thing that people often don't appreciate about proofreading is that it's rarely about catching misspelled words--those are relatively easy for readers to catch, but spell-checking software does a good job of catching them, too. I left in a lot of things like "he said replied." Each of those words is spelled correctly, so the eye tends to skip over the problem, but one of them needs to go!
The proofreader also had some good suggestions for the layout--I think I'll input the changes to the e-books first (and do a giveaway on Library Thing) and then tackle modifying the print layout. One thing he suggested was removing the "***" I have to mark breaks within the chapters. I think it makes sense to take them out of the print book, but I wonder if I should leave them in the e-books. Maybe they're not necessary, but I'm a little paranoid about formatting, and the "***" makes it absolutely clear that the breaks are supposed to be there and aren't the hard returns magically multiplying. Then again, maybe it looks amateurish. Hm.
Anyway, I don't know if the guy wants me to put his name here, and he doesn't have a Web site to link to, but I do recommend him. If you e-mail me (use the Contact Me form to the left there), I'll give you his contact info. He charges $25 an hour, and it took him 14 hours to proof Trang, which is 108,000 words. As always when you use a proofreader, you want to give them your final copy--there's no point in having someone proofread something if you're going to, say, completely change the ending. Clean copy will be proofed more quickly and less expensively, so have your friends and writing buddies look it over first before you send it to a pro.
And, as a former freelancer myself, I must say, PAY ON TIME. You get the manuscript back, you look it over to make sure the job's been done, and you immediately write a check and put it in the mail. Nothing says "Thank you!" like timely payment.