So what is the difference between proofreading and editing? It can be difficult to differentiate between proofreader and editor, but it's important to know what you're looking for before you reach out to an editor. It's also important to note that proofreading and editing are not two roles up against each other; it is not one or another, they work together at different stages in your writing.
So you need someone to look at your work?
Before you decide whether you need an edit or a proofread, it's important to work out what you're looking for. In most cases, it's a good idea to go through your work and completed a self edit before sending out to an editor.
This comes in a lot of different stages, but mostly focuses on the macro aspects. There is the structural edit where you are focusing more on the bigger aspects of the piece, such as accuracy, structure, story line, development. This is completed in earlier drafts, it focuses more on the macro aspects of your work, where the bigger changes happen.
During this stage, it's common for the editor and writer to work together, sending back and forth with the work, making changes together.
Then comes the copyedit. In some instances depending on what you're writing, you may not need a structural edit, just for an editor to come in and tidy your work up a bit. For example, if you have business communications or website copy. This is a copyedit, where as well as fixing any errors (like a proofreader), the copyeditor will go through and make changes that will affect the overall quality of the piece, changing syntax, sentence structures, consistency etc.
In terms of editing fiction, a copyedit is completed when the book is completely finished. Copyedits focus on the micro aspects of an edit, therefore any of the big changes to the manuscript such as structure will have already been completed. Here are some of the things copyeditors look at: voice, style, language, storyline, context, POV, dialogue, consistency, flow.
When it comes to spelling, punctuation and grammar, this is still something a copyeditor will correct, however its not the focus of a copyedit. A copyeditor will aid the author in highlighting any issues or inconsistencies and help them produce their final draft.
And finally, when all is finished...
This is the final part of the editing stage. This is one of the last things to be done and is usually completed after the typeset. It's essential that the proofread is completed at the end of the editing stage, as any changes made to the work after that would have to be proofread again. The focus is finding any errors and correcting them.
Checking mostly for:
Spelling, punctuation, grammar and the minor inconsistencies.
It's essential that the proofread is completed when the book is completely finished, even the typeset. This gives the proofreader to flag any errors in the book, even minor design flaws on the inside of the book.