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To Hire or Not To Hire… An Editor

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m beginning to shepherd my completed mystery novel toward self-publication.  I have amazing friends who are helping me out with this:  one who’s doing the art, another who’s doing the proofreading, and yet more who have given me wonderful feedback while the book was in production.  But one of the things I keep asking myself is: should I hire a professional editor?

Basically, I think the work of an editor breaks down into four categories:

Proofreading: The catching of typos, grammatical errors, dropped punctuation, and times when you said “canvas” but you really meant “canvass.”

Line Editing: A whole host of polishing efforts at the sentence level, all of which can be prefaced with “Wouldn’t it sound better if…?”

Macro Content Editing: The big issues, such as a character arc not working, a setting feeling blah, or the plot seeming unbelievable.

And, lastly, but certainly not leastly…

Micro Content Editing

This is perhaps the most varied and finicky of the four, and encompasses such issues as:

  • Your protagonist said she’d meet her lover in two days, but it has actually been three.
  • Your protagonist leaped to an unfounded assumption in this paragraph.  We need at least one sentence explaining how he got there.
  • You have two characters in this scene called “the captain” and “the colonel.”  We need names to be able to distinguish them easily.
  • On page 200, you are counting on your readers remembering a fact about a minor character introduced on page 60.  Most of them won’t.

In short, it involves a lot of small polishing efforts that have nothing to do with prose, but have to do with the consistency and comprehensibility of the whole product.

While proofreading, line editing, and macro content editing are the sorts of things I can do very easily with the help of my near and dear friends and writing group, micro content editing is just a touch different.  It requires a fairly book-y person: “avid reader” or “English major” are probably not adequate qualifications for this job.  It helps if your micro content editor can read the entire manuscript over a day or two, so they can catch inconsistencies.  It also doesn’t hurt if they know your genre intimately.

Companies that offer editorial services don’t really advertise their skill at micro content editing.  They advertise their proofreading abilities, or else their macro content editing.  Occasionally they advertise line editing.  But micro content editing is, to me, at least as important to putting out a professional product.

In the course of my work on the podcast, I’ve seen a number of novels that clearly had someone performing the first three services… but sort of missed out on this fourth one.  So I’m left thinking, can I even hire someone to do this?  How will I know that they’re able to until they actually do it?  Will I ever know, given that any micro content editing issues in my manuscript are issues I already missed?

Anyone got some answers for me?

In this episode, we review River Panj, a thriller that took us on an insightful tour of Tajikistan. We also talk with author Nick Cole, about his book The Old Man and The Wasteland, and about the many choices writers have when evtering the modern marketplace.

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