How To Proofread Romance Novels For A Living

When people find out I proofread romance novels for a living, they get excited and want to know everything about what I do. Most people can’t even believe that such a job exists! It is in fact a very real, and fun, job. Not only have I done it for over 17 years, but I’ve helped other people start proofreading romance novels too.

Romance is everywhere, and romance books will continue to dominate the publishing industry. People cannot get enough of love stories and characters that bring them joy, belonging, and hope. The future is bright if you want to become a romance proofreader, and this post will give you guidance on starting.

In this post, I share:

  • How I started proofreading romance books 
  • The inside scoop on what it’s really like to proofread romance novels 
  • How to work with romance fiction
  • The key to a successful editorial biz 
  • What you can earn as a proofreader 
  • What my day proofreading romance is like

How I Started Proofreading Romance Books


I’ve always been a bookworm, so it was an easy decision for me to work in publishing. However, I didn’t intend to work with romance fiction when I packed my bags and went to publishing school. 

In fact, I wanted to work in women’s magazines or edit contemporary literature. I had read a few romance novels, and was a sucker for a love story, but working in the romance genre wasn’t something I had given much thought to. 

The truth is, I didn’t even know that it was possible to make a living working within one writing genre. I thought that as a proofreader and editor, I had to work on everything.

proofread romance novels

After I completed my post-grad program in book and magazine publishing, I worked briefly as a freelance proofreader and editor. When I heard about an opening at Harlequin, a global book publisher, I decided to apply—and landed an in-house proofreading job.

Did you know that romance books are a billion-dollar industry and one of the top categories on Amazon? It’s a serious business, as I quickly learned.

Harlequin is the largest publisher of women’s fiction in the world, and is known for their romance novels, although they do publish books in various genres under numerous imprints. Harlequin was a great company to work for, and I really enjoyed my time there. When a company’s biggest day of the year is Valentine’s Day, and everything is women-centric, how can you go wrong?

As soon as I started as a proofreader, I fell in love with my job. I became a fan of romance fiction. I was shocked to find myself getting teary eyed over romance. Romance has its share of tragedy, I’ll tell you that. 

And most importantly, I was delighted to discover that romance books are full of strong, independent women. The romance stories I was reading were so different from the ones I had read as a teen. Those were about helpless women being rescued by pirates and sheikhs, although those subgenres have their place, too.

After a few years proofreading and editing in-house at Harlequin, I left my cubicle to break out on my own and freelance. As much as I loved my coworkers and the company, I realized that I’m just not suited for the 9-to-5 life. 

The company has very high editorial standards, and provided me with incredible publishing experience, so I felt confident in my abilities to make it as a freelance proofreader and editor.

What It’s Really Like To Proofread Romance Novels


Everyone wants to know what it is really like to proofread romance novels, so I’m going to be 100% truthful.

proofread romance novels

It’s awesome.

It’s entertaining and enjoyable and I can’t believe I get paid to do this. I’m grateful every day that I get to sit down and get lost in a love story and fix errors I come across. I’ve never been bored once.

I’m not the only one. As an editorial educator and mentor, I’ve helped other romance readers start proofreading romance books as a side hustle or full-time business, too. And they LOVE it!

Christine Wheary is a former student of mine. She worked in the medical field, where she had a demanding director position. She was a lifelong romance fan, and started a side hustle working with romance books so she could stay busy when she retired. 

Well guess what? Christine’s side hustle turned into a thriving, full-time business that allows her to work from anywhere as she enjoys “retirement.” Her proofreading and editing services are so popular with romance writers and publishers, that she is booked months in advance.

Christine says, “Starting my editing business has had a huge positive impact on my life. I now have the freedom to work from home doing a job I absolutely love! I’m so proud to help romance writers put their best work out in the world.”

You can read an interview I had with Christine when she first started freelance proofreading to learn how she got started.

And here is the follow-up interview I had with Christine three years into her romance proofreading business. You’ll be amazed at what she accomplished in that time.

How To Start Working With Romance Fiction


It’s easy to start proofreading romance because you don’t need an English degree or prior experience in publishing to start. You also don’t need an accreditation or membership in an editors’ association to work professionally. 

In fact, you don’t even need a degree to work in publishing anymore! Many romance writers and publishers hire proofreaders based on their skills, knowledge of publishing standards, and ability to maintain the writer’s style. 

Every writer has a different voice, and while all of the books are centered around romance, each story is unique. Depending on the subgenre, some books are lighter on romance or heavier. 

For example, in a thriller novel, romance is often a subplot meant to drive character development. Whereas in a medical romance, finding love is the central theme.

So what exactly does a romance proofreader do? When working with traditional publishing houses or self-published writers, proofreading involves:  

  • Fixing errors in spelling, formatting, punctuation, and obvious facts
  • Following a style guide to maintain a writer’s voice and style
  • Flagging issues in typography and formatting
  • Spotting errors on book covers
  • Adhering to a publishing house’s or writer’s style preferences
  • Working according to publishing industry standards

If you’re worried there could be too many romance proofreaders in the world, don’t. Here are some eye-opening stats to prove how big the romance book industry is and how many opportunities are available:

  • Romance novels are the biggest category of fiction, generating over $1.44 billion in sales revenue annually
  • In 12 months, over 19 million printed romance novels were sold in the United States

(source: WordsRated, 2023)

All of those books, ebooks, novellas, and short stories have to be proofread and edited. If you have the skills and time to learn, you can be one of the lucky few who get to make money doing it.

How You Can Proofread Romance Novels, Too


Editorial training and mentorship is very important to becoming a romance proofreader. Fiction books have their own editorial issues and standards that are very different from other kinds of content. It is reassuring to learn from an expert who has been where you are and can support you in growing.

Romance fiction also has its own unique considerations that proofreaders must be familiar with. Once you know what writers, readers, and publishing houses expect, you can create a name for yourself in the romance niche like Christine did.

If you’re interested in working with romance novels and are wondering what you should do next, I have a free resource to get you started. The Romance Proofreader’s Checklist lays out the steps you need to take to go from passionate reader to money-making editorial professional.

Download your bonus so you can put this checklist to use right now:

The Key To A Successful Editorial Biz


Everyone defines success differently. One of my former students, Celise Downs, who proofreads and copyedits romance, says this:

“I’m not only reading the genre I love, but editing the books of authors whom I read for pleasure. Honestly, I’m still pinching myself. I’m editing books by Brynn Hale and Lana Dash (and other authors as well), and I’ve been reading their books for a couple years now?! What the what?!!! LOL Sur-real.”

One thing that Celise, my other students and myself have done that has led to us building profitable and successful editorial businesses, is add an additional skill to our services.

I have been working with romance writers and publishers for over 20 years. When people ask me what makes a successful proofreader, this is what I tell them: Someone who can also copyedit. 

Copy editors and proofreaders share many tasks like correcting errors in spelling and punctuation. That’s why it is also known as “high-level proofreading.” Copyediting is the step before proofreading in the publishing process, and can even be done in the same workflow. To become a copy editor is just as easy, and there is a small learning curve.

In my professional opinion, and based on my experience, it is crucial to know copyediting. I think it would be a shame to turn down a project because you don’t know how to copyedit. I teach students both proofreading and copyediting in my editorial training program, The Editorial Business Bundle.

Copyediting also enables you to stand out from the competition by meeting the needs of clients who need more than proofreading. Sometimes clients require copyediting because it goes deeper than the surface-only checks of proofreading.

What You Can Earn Proofreading Romance


There are various ways you can charge for your editorial services: by hour, by word, and by project. It is your business, so you choose what works best for you and your clients. 

If you’re not sure how to set your proofreading and copyediting rates, you may want to test your pricing model to see what works best. 

The following are guidelines for proofreading and copyediting rates. They are based on what is quoted by various editing associations, my personal experience, and what other professionals charge.

Proofreading Rates

Fiction: $20 – $35/hour, $.02/word and up

Copyediting Rates

Fiction: $35 – $40/hour, $.02/word and up

Once you have set your rates, you can consider bundling your proofreading and copyediting services together. That way you can earn more money and sign the client on for a longer, bigger project. Bundling editorial services is a great way to set yourself up for long-term profitability and business growth.

For a complete guide to setting proofreading and copyediting rates, check out this article.

What My Day Proofreading Romance Is Like


As a freelance proofreader and editor, I get to set my own schedule. Some days I juggle a bit of everything. Other days I spend on  marketing or business tasks like invoicing. 

proofread romance novels

I love the days I can focus on just proofreading or editing a book. I settle down in front of my laptop with a cup of tea and read all day. This is what my typical day is like when I proofread romances:

Morning

  • The usual routine of getting my son ready and dropped off at school
  • Yoga or a quick walk, meditation, and journaling. These things help me get into a productive and positive mindset for the day.
  • Quick email check and tackle any urgent business tasks
  • Make coffee, settle in and proofread a book for a couple of hours

Afternoon

  • Go for a walk in my neighbourhood and pick up lunch; usually a sandwich, sushi, or a burrito. If I’m tired I’ll make something easy at home to eat.
  • Eat lunch at home while I watch some TV or scroll social media
  • Back to work with an email check
  • Respond to social media comments or messages, post on a platform
  • Back to proofreading for a couple more hours until it’s time to pick my son up from school
  • After-school activities, house chores, dinner (No work until my son has gone to bed)

Evening

  • Proofread for an hour (if I have the energy)
  • Spend time with my husband watching tv or catching up over tea or wine
  • Bedtime routine: reading a book and journaling

Conclusion


Romance books are not going anywhere. They will continue to reach new readers, evolve with new subgenres, and romance writers will thrive. If you want to proofread romance novels, you can with the proper training and guidance. 

Proofreading and editing books are such great skills to have that can enrich your life personally and professionally. I’ve discovered that romance is everywhere. It adds depth and character development to any story, and it’s something everyone can relate to. Who doesn’t want to feel love—to give and receive it? It wasn’t until I started working with romance that I realized I’m a big romantic at heart. And you know what? After all this time, I still cry, laugh, or cheer over a good love story.

Do you like romance novels? Which are your favourites? Tell me in the comments below!

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50 thoughts on “How To Proofread Romance Novels For A Living”

      1. I read a lot of Afrikaans romans and love to do proofreading in the Afrikaanse field. I see a lot of spelling errors while reading and realy would like to proofread Afrikaans e-books and earn extra income as a pensioner

          1. Hi Phon,

            This would definitely be a dream job for me! Hello free masterclass!! I’ve been interested in proofreading for a while now, as a side hustle to start and eventually scale to full time, but was unsure how to break into this specific genre. I would love to learn how.

    1. I have a proofreading certification, and have set up my own business, but am finding it difficult to get clients. Do you have any insider tips that might help me?

  1. I love romantic novels! Also, as a psychic, I enjoy books on psychic ability, psychometry; the tarot, ancient aliens and UFOs! 🙂 🙂

    1. I didn’t know you’re a psychic, Anita! That’s amazing! I’ve seen psychometric psychics in the past and was always very impressed. And I’ve actually read a few romances starring psychic characters. So good.

      1. Hi Phon,
        I come from a long line of psychics! No matter how much I try to dodge it, I can’t escape! 🙂 So now, I go with the flow.
        By the way psychometry is, without doubt, my favourite way of reading.

        Apologies for the delay in responding. The bones in my hand are taking a long time to fuse.

  2. I absolutely love to read! Words become alive to me, so much so, that I keep most books I read, and re-read them, sometimes several times. For years I’ve dreamed of making a living as a proofreader. In fact, one of my password security questions used to be, “What is your dream job?” Of course, my answer was “Reading”. Every time I read a romance novel and stumble across an error, I’m so invested in the story, that I can visualize and hear the characters, so any error disrupts the flow, as a record that skips would. My first thought is always, how I wish I could make a living doing what I love. Reading!

  3. I absolutely love everything that Nora Roberts, Julia Quinn and Karen Kingsbury write. I love knowing that their characters are absolutely real to them, so vividly that they are able to walk out their lives through love, trials and of course, relationships, throughout sequels, and trilogies, and even series, if we’re really lucky. I fall in love with their characters so completely that I hate finishing a book wondering, wanting the story to go on, needing to know the rest of the story. Sometimes they flesh out characters so brilliantly that you end the book almost devastated, hoping there’s a sequel, praying maybe even a trilogy, in the works. Honestly, I LOVE their books so much, that I’d, gratefully, proof anything they wrote for free!

    1. Hi Carla! Those three authors are such masters at storytelling. I always fall in love with the characters, too, which is why I end up crying when there’s hardship. Series books are great, especially when they’re centred around a charming little town. Have you read Susan Mallery? She’s great, too!

  4. I want to do this too! I’m already a “hey, I’m happy to proofread for you” kinda person. And what’s not to love about proofing books I enjoy? Romance novels are the niche I want to concentrate on for proofreading. Romantic Suspense and Paranormal are my jam. Super excited to learn more about your course so I can do this for a (part-time) living!

    1. That’s great, Erin! Proofreading romance novels is definitely a wonderful way to make money, and those paranormal ones are pretty fun 🙂

  5. Reading is my passion. Romance, paranormal romances, historical romances. Every extra minute I have I’m reading. I also find myself pointing out mistakes I find while reading. So I think this would be a wonderful opportunity.

    1. Reading is the best way spend time, ever! Proofreading would be a great way to read more and make money at the same time. 🙂

  6. Hi Layla,

    Yes, I remember those days when it was really tough to get into publishing. Thank goodness it’s so much easier now! I hope you enjoy the training and blog posts. 🙂

  7. I have been an avid reader my entire life. I love Romance, and have devoured Nora Roberts, LaVyrle Spencer, Susan Mallory, Kristen Hannah, Julia Quinn, Julie Garwood, Kathleen Woodiwiss, Jude Devereax, and so many others. As a librarian at the secondary level, I was exposed to and learned to love many young adult authors as well. So reading has been a passion, but also a profession for me.
    I have proofread doctoral theses, biographies for a small publishing company that didn’t make it, and many teaching manuals. What could be better than to note the mistakes I often find and have someone pay attention to them? I am known as a grammar Nazi. I am not offended by that title, but I am offended by the misuse of our language and its punctuation. This generation has done more harm to the English language than any other I have lived through. Their total lack of knowledge of comparative and superlatives is a pet peeve of mine. I also hate that they believe they can add ing to any word and be correct. I plan to explore your courses and would love to believe this could really lead to employment.

    1. Hi Lisa!

      I love Susan Mallory — her books make me cry more than anyone’s. It sounds like you have a strong background in books and working with text. I know contemporary writing can be unsettling at times, but as proofreaders and copy editors, it’s good for us to remember that language evolves and reflects current times. Also, these days, publishers and clients want you to be flexible. I hope you enjoy the articles and courses!

  8. Kathleen Woodiwiss was my first fave romance novelist. Lately (maybe because I’ve been single for so long) I’ve been reading black Ops adventures like Vince Flynn, as well as murder mysteries.

    My career has been technical so my writing is much more technical. I find it hard to get far without numbering steps and giving instructions. But I love the idea of proofreading for novelists! I think this is the answer to ‘What’s my New Year’s resolution?” I’m definitely saving this post and following! I’m looking forward to going through your free courses!

    1. Oh, yes, I’ve worked on my share of black ops books and murder mysteries. I’d have to say murder mysteries are one of my faves, especially if there’s humour.

      Working with authors would be a great new years resolution! I hope you have a fabulous 2019!

  9. Hello! I’m trying to get my proofreading business going and am trying to figure out how to find clients. Do your courses touch on that or do you have any suggestions? Thank you!

    1. Hi Trisha!

      Yes, my course, High-Level Proofreading Pro teaches you how to market yourself, find work, communicate with clients, etc. There’s a module just for business and marketing. You can find more info about the course here.

  10. I’m an old English major. I’ve worked as a secretary, a technical writer, and an author. For the past two decades I’ve been HOOKED on romance novels, and have been struck by punctuation and usage errors that have been allowed to remain in the pages of at least one particular author (not my favorite). Recently I’ve returned to my first love: cozy-type murder mysteries.

    Now that I’m retired, I could do with some supplemental income. Afraid I’m too feeble to be a Walmart greeter, too absent-minded for office work, too cranky to be a receptionist or for sales, and too lazy to check groceries. But I’ remain an addicted reader. What you offer interests me like nothing else.

    1. Hi Jude!

      Aren’t romances the best? And I love cozy murder mysteries, too. Have you read any published my Worldwide Mystery? The have some really great titles. I’m happy you’re enjoying the content on the site, and if you have any questions about taking your reading interest further, let me know!

  11. I love Nora Roberts, Joan Johnston, Judy Christenberry, and Kathleen E. Woodiwiss and more authors. I love Nora Roberts with her characters of the MacGregors. I always go back and reread my books that I have kept. I have always loved reading these authors and others. If I could do this for a living I would love to lose myself in a good romance novel.

    1. Ah, the McGregors! Such a good series 🙂 Working on romance novels totally doable. If a girl raised in a small Mennonite town like me can do it, then anyone can!

  12. Hi
    I would like to proofread romance ebooks. I have romance ebooks in IBooks, Kindle and Bluefire. Authors – Mia Caldwell, Erosa Knowles, Theodora Taylor, Kaye Blue to name a few. On some author’s spelling or lead character name wasn’t correct.
    I have a day job working from 7am to 4pm. I would consider proofreading romance a dream job as a side hustle.
    I would like to to take the 5 day course after I get home from work.

    1. Mitzi Spalding

      I love to read romance and other books. I read alot. My favorite authors are, Nora Roberts, Debra Weaver, Sherilyn Kenyon,Diane Mott Davis, Lori Foster, Jodi Thomas.

  13. I’ve read a lot of romance novels. I’ve books on IBooks, Kindle and Bluefire. Authors I’ve read are MIA Caldwell, Marie Rochelle, Kaye Blue, Theodora Taylor to name a few. I’ve noticed on certain authors ebooks, the spelling is incorrect or the lead character name is different from the cover story.
    Is it possible to take your 5 day course after work which is after 4pm? I love reading books.

    1. Hi Lauris!

      Yes, you can sign up for my 5-day course and take it whenever it’s convenient for you. It’s an email course, so you get a lesson sent to your inbox every day.

      Cheers,
      Phon

  14. I like my romance, just a little more graphic. I like Samantha Whiskey, Lauren Landish, Penelope Sky. But I also notice grammar errors in alot of my books, I can easily read 300+ pages in a 24 hr. Span. I would love to get paid to read!

  15. My favor author is Sylvia Day. Her books are wonderful. I have read many romance novels and I always go back to her. This sounds like a great opportunity to do something that I love. How do I find courses on proofreading?

  16. I love to read MC romance. A little bit racy but a good love story in the end.
    However I am a fan of ALL romance novels.

  17. I like all type of romance novels which include a variety of authors. I would like to become a proofreader as a second job because I enjoy reading romance novels.

  18. Hi Phon! I have been an avid reader since I was a little girl. I am retired now after working as a Legal Secretary/Paralegal for thirty years. My great passion is reading. Romance novels are my favorite. I would love to become a proofreader. What is needed to become one? How long does it take?

    Thank you for your time.

    1. Hi Maggie! To work on romance novels or fiction in general, you need to be trained since there are specific editorial issues that exist only in books (and not other kinds of content). Have you watched our free masterclass yet? It’ll give you strategies for starting out, and it’s been a great first step for many of our students and grads. In terms of time, that depends on many factors, but you starting working with clients within weeks of finishing your training.

  19. Jennifer Arnado

    I have been an avid romance reader since I was very young. I have a passion for reading and books. I particularly like paranormal romance, I also enjoy historical romances and contemporary romance. When I got my BA in english my capstone project was titled “Romancing the Canon” as I am convinced that the genre should be taken more seriously. Working a corporate job right now and I am not feeling fulfilled and have recently decided that I need to follow my passion for books. I need a starting point and am looking for a career shift so I can also work remotely so I can live the life I want. Any information about the industry would be appreciated. Thank you for your time.

    Jen

    1. Hi Jen! Romance is such a popular genre, and writers are constantly creating, so there are lots of opportunities for proofreaders and editors. Many of our grads go on to work with romance indie writers and publishing houses. To balance with a full-time career, I recommend starting off with proofreading/editing books as a side hustle. That will allow you to develop a workflow, see what marketing tactics work, and create a roster of clients before you decide to take it full time.

      1. Lottie Jane Rogers

        Currently I am reading a book on line, it is not a Harlequin romance but another e-book app, and it is driving me crazy. The story line is good but it has too many chapters, there are constantly miss spelled words, and they can’t keep the characters straight. If you are not emerged in the story it would be difficult to figure out what is supposed to be going on. I just want to scream ” Do you people not proof read your own book? Do you not have an editors to look at these books before going to the print shop?.” Now that I have vented my discuss for this app I would like to say I have been a constant book reader since age 7 and I am 64 years old now. Harlequin has always been my favorite source of reading. After seeing all the mistakes in this one book, I would love to become a proofreader. I am retired from manufacturing and have a lot of time on my hands. Is it possible for me to start a new career in proofreading?

        1. Errors in published books are so frustrating! Romances are a popular and profitable genre for proofreaders and editors—there are so many opportunities. To answer your question, yes, of course you can start a career in proofreading! Age isn’t a factor. In fact, we have quite a few proofreaders and editors who started, and continue to run, successful editorial business in their “retirement” years.

  20. Hi ,reading romance helps the reader to improve and grow their imagination.I also find it as a very helpful way to utilise time and study to improve one’s grammar all at the same time.

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The ultimate guide to freelance proofreading and copyediting

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