Yes, it is a superhero talent to weed through and catch every error from comma placement to sentence structure to checking historical facts. And after all that, they still comprehend the work enough to make sweeping editorial changes!
How do they do all that?
I’m completely impressed by my editor’s talents. Both times I sent my ms to her I thought, I really feel like a caught everything this time. And both times, my ms came back painted with insertions, deletions, and editorial suggestions. My editor is the person who double-checks my parachute before I jump out the airplane. That added bit of confidence that I have produced the best novel that I can is priceless. Although, even with that extra pack inspection, every parachutist still has a backup parachute.
A proofreader (or copyeditor) is that extra parachute.
It’s important to get another pair of discerning eyes to pick up on the oversights the first editor missed. As authors, we’ve all experienced the moment when someone points out an obvious error and you say to yourself, I must have read that sentence a hundred times before, how could I have missed that! Well, your editor is only human–although mine is as close to superhero as you can get–and they can overlook as well. Since my editor is making comments on practically every other sentence, things can get harder to spot. I do send it back for a second look through, but again, things may still slip on by.
Since the sequel is much longer (epicly long), I toyed with the idea that maybe I didn’t need a proofreader since my first editor is so amazing. The proofreader did find a few instances where she really saved my professional tukus in the first novel, but my editor caught most of the problems. So the cheap side of me tried to overcome the perfectionist side of me, but my OCD girl won out, and I opened up my wallet to hire the proofreader as well. The good news is that a proofread usually costs half of what the editor costs.
Phew! Was I glad I did get the proofread!
It must have been because this book is so much longer that it caused more opportunities for oversight, but she really caught some critical things. At one point I added something during the revision process and used the wrong name for a character and the proofreader caught that. That would have majorly confused someone. That one catch was worth her whole payment.
No matter how incredible your editor is, they are only human and can’t be 100% accurate.
The best evidence that all self-publishers should use an editor and a proofreader (if they can afford it) is that traditional publishers have a whole team of editors and copy-editors, all triple-checking your novel before release. As a self-publisher, I strive to mirror as many of the steps that a traditional publisher would carry out—at a lower cost of course.
So, you still might decide to only use an editor to save money, but if you hear feedback from an eagle-eyed reader about an error somewhere in your published novel, you’ll end up paying a formatter to go back and make those corrections for you, not to mention the fact that every review or rating you get mentioning that error is permanent.
My advice: hire the safety inspector and splurge for the backup parachute. It’s money well spent.