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Fact Checkers

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Does anyone have experience with or recommendations of independent fact checkers for nonfiction books?
#1 - August 20, 2016, 03:45 PM
« Last Edit: August 21, 2016, 04:56 AM by Spence »

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I write lots of science books, so I always try to find a professor at a university to fact check the ms.--more than one, if I can find them. It varies according to topic. I had to find several paleoanthropologists for a recent manuscript. I do most of this through Google or Google Scholar. I email them and ask very humbly if they will read and comment on my manuscript--I try to contact 5 to 10 people.

I then make sure I mention them in Acknowledgements when (if) the book is published. Many times people are willing to do this--especially the junior scientists. Although sometimes a really big name person will take the time to help, when no one else will. That always surprises me when it happens, and I'm always grateful. The ones who aren't interested usually don't bother to respond at all. Some people do a thorough job--some just correct a few typos.

Really, it depends on the topic. For a nonfiction book, I never skip this step because significant errors can creep in. If you're not writing in your own field of expertise, it's really easy to think you understand a subject when you don't.
#2 - August 20, 2016, 06:14 PM
« Last Edit: August 20, 2016, 06:19 PM by Betsy »
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Thanks Betsy. This article got me thinking about it.
http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/2016/08/why_doesn_t_anyone_fact_check_science_books.html

I agree it would help with credibility, and I wouldn't mind paying a fee for a good job.
#3 - August 20, 2016, 06:45 PM

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Thanks, Spence. That's a good article. Thanks for sharing.

I know one children's publisher who absolutely fact checks every single fact in the books it publishes. It's a pain, but if I know I'm going to submit to that publishing house I make sure I have every fact documented at least twice from different sources and I send all that source material along with the ms.

Others aren't so careful, but I still check everything that I put in a book. And then I have an expert or two go over it. There's another reason to do this. It makes a publisher more willing to buy a manuscript if you can tell them in the cover letter that you've had experts review it.
#4 - August 21, 2016, 01:04 AM
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Looks like you and Betsy have it covered quite nicely. Thanks for the article link. Like Betsy I always contact experts in the field to review my articles (sometimes they also grant interviews) but it's always good to have an independent fact-checker as well. I know at Odyssey, they'd get their own fact-checker. Of course, any errors that creep in reflect poorly on the author first and only secondarily on the publishing house, though I suspect a house that doesn't check facts will not be selling to the school/library market much.

Ellen, are you thinking of Calkins Creek? Their books also have a fantastic back matter with extra resources for further study. I really love how meticulous Carolyn is. She said that when a proposal comes in, she looks at the bibliography first to see who's been consulted.
#5 - August 21, 2016, 06:19 PM
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I am a former fact checker and can possibly do it again if the project is of interest to me. I recommend finding the best reference librarians at a college or university library near your home.  They have all the resources available to them from proprietary databases to statistical volumes to government documents. A young professional may want the experience and the extra money and an older one may do it just for fun and keeping skills sharp (plus the money).

My fees were set by the publisher and they mailed me 2-3 articles every 3-4 months. I had a month to return the articles. Facts to check were highlighted or underlined in the article.The publisher required verification of the facts with at least two published sources (not free websites) and preferably the primary source. If the fact was correct  I initialed the fact. If the fact was not correct, I marked it and attached documentation with the correct information.

Many librarians at universities have a specialty. For example, there are Psychology librarians, Humanities librarians, Art librarians, etc... Many of these are also generalists and can answer any reference question very well.  Depending on the topic of your work, you may consider a specialist, (often called Department Liaisons or Subject librarians) or a good old fashioned well-rounded librarian.


#6 - August 23, 2016, 07:16 AM

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I'm interested in know more, Sala. I have a very complex book (though it's a picture book, so it's limited in length) with a certain small publisher and we've just finished the editing process. It involves a number of areas of expertise, so I'm not sure how to fact check this one. The library nearest my house would charge a fee if I used it, as I'm not a student.

What's your background? Are you a librarian? Either post here or PM me. Thanks.

No, Vijaya, I wasn't thinking of Calkins Creek specifically--someone else. But, yes, I know CC has very high standards. I don't do many historical manuscripts anymore because the research can be so formidable with sources contradicting each other--and it can be extremely time consuming trying to sort it all out.
#7 - August 23, 2016, 01:57 PM
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I thought on this some more and have a few additional suggestions.

There is a difference between facts (dates, numbers, when someone was born, etc...) and processes and experiences, (how to fly an airplane, what if feels like to be on the top of Mount Everest).
For processes and experiences I recommend the following:

Experts: Most colleges and universities have a list in their Public Relations Departments of all the faculty who are willing to share a quote or expert information to the media. They distribute the list to the local media so that when the media needs someone to comment on for example, why jelly beans are falling from the sky, they can ask the jelly bean expert for a quote or news clip spot. I am not sure if this list is shared with outsiders, but you can try.

Association leaders:
If you use the Encyclopedia of Associations, you can find the associations for everything from the AMA to the Association of Jelly Bean makers. You can contact the association and they can connect you to someone that may be willing to share their expertise.

Government agencies, reports and documents:
Search Google and type :gov after your search statement. For example: jelly beans:gov. Your search results will include only sites with .gov in the url.

Libraries:
There are thousands of Special Libraries that can connect you to primary resources and perhaps experts. Use the ALA Directory (American Library Association) to find an alphabetical lists of libraries in your state.  http://books.infotoday.com/directories/American-Library-Directory.shtml
Most public and academic libraries have this print source. I think there may also be an online version.

Depending on your topic, an expert may be just about anywhere.  :hiding

I hope this helps.
#8 - August 24, 2016, 09:06 AM

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Sala, I LOVE this information! I've written a few NF articles and had no problem finding experts but I am also writing NF PBs and will definitely refer to your list as I need to find some experts for reviews.  :yourock
#9 - August 24, 2016, 10:49 AM

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Sala, thank you so much for all you've shared. Very helpful.
#10 - August 24, 2016, 11:15 AM
TEN EASTER EGGS (Cartwheel/Scholastic, 2015)
www.vijayabodach.blogspot.com
Author of over 40 books and 60 magazine pieces

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Thanks much, Sala.
#11 - August 24, 2016, 03:11 PM

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