Confused about the order of things

by Uchiha Sasuke

Question: I am 13, and I finished my manuscript, and I'm about to give it to my sister, who is an excellent writer, to edit. While she is doing that I am planning to make a list of agents, learn more about the industry, and start drafting some query letters.

I am confused about whether I am supposed to get professional edits by a "freelance" (I think that's what its called) editor before I query to agents. Or will the agent help me find an editor, or will it get edited after it gets accepted by a publishing house?
Thank you so much!

Answer: In the traditional publishing system, an agent will submit your manuscript to acquisition editors at various publishing houses in order to sell it for you. After you have a contract, the publisher will assign you one of its editors to work with you to prepare the manuscript for publication.

This system is still in place. However, in recent years it has become much harder to sell a manuscript to a publisher. Publishers are buying fewer books and their acquisition staff are under pressure to buy only books with a strong potential for becoming best sellers, and to accept manuscripts that need almost no editing.

At the same time, there are more emerging writers than ever trying to break into the business.

All this pressure has caused some aspiring writers to hire freelance editors to pre-edit manuscripts before they start submitting them to publishers, in order to improve their chances.

Also, many new writers choose to self-publish rather than go the traditional route (because it seems easier, though it is more costly and the odds of success are lower). Self-publishers also hire freelance editors to help them prepare their books for publication.

Here are my thoughts on your situation...

1. Never pay an agent to have your book edited. In fact, never pay an agent at all. A proper agent makes his/her money by selling your book on your behalf. They take 10-20% of the royalties as their reward and send the rest to you. An agent who makes money by charging writers for services is probably not a good agent.

2. While you could hire a freelance editor to help you prepare your manuscript, it may not be necessary. Sometimes no amount of pre-editing will save a bad book, and a great book will not benefit as much from pre-editing. Be aware that an editing service will cost you a fair chunk of money (sometimes several thousand dollars). (Tip: the most important chapters to polish are the first two or three, so you could just hire a editor to help you with those.) If you do hire an editor, check their credentials carefully before hiring them. Find out what published books they have edited before. Also, you should know what you are getting (substantive editing vs. line editing vs. proofreading).

3. In fact, you should check out all agents and editors on Preditors & Editors ( before you approach them. This site will tell you which ones are not reputable and should be avoided.

4. Before you hire an editor, you might consider joining a writers group (which often costs nothing) where people read and critique each other's manuscripts. Or you could approach local professional writers and ask if they would be willing to read your book and give their opinion. See if your local college or library has a "Writer-in-residence" whose job often includes giving feedback to aspiring writers. Getting some knowledgeable, objective, and free feedback is a good idea before you start spending money.

5. One advantage to being 13 is that sometimes people will be more generous with their time. Also, if your work is good, then being young is a selling point.

6. While you could be one of those lucky few who experience success right away, most writers need to develop a thick skin and dogged determination. Rejection is frequent and criticism can be harsh. You have to be willing to keep learning, keep improving, keep revising, keep writing new stories, and keep trying, even if it takes you a decade or more. And never get disheartened.

Best of luck.

Comments for Confused about the order of things

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Jul 31, 2015
Editing before querying
by: Uchiha Sasuke

So is it reasonable to hire a freelance editor or similar before Querying to agents? Or do agents not like people who get their work professionally edited before querying?

Aug 01, 2015
by: Glen

I doubt an agent will object to being shown a better manuscript. (Not that there's any need to tell them you've done some work with an editor.) Most writers will revise a manuscript many times before they start querying agents. You want to feel the book is the best it can be before you query, because that increases your chances.

However, there is no requirement to hire an editor. Most of the time, writers revise on their own or with the help of a critique partner or critique group. (You might want to pick up a copy of "Self-editing for Fiction Writers" by Renni Browne and Dave King.) Learning how to revise your own work can benefit you as writer in a number of ways.

I can't tell you whether you should hire an editor. It's your choice. But you may want to explore other free avenues before you go this route. At the very least, you want to know that your current draft shows enough promise to justify the expense. It's hard to be objective about your own work, which is why I suggest you get some objective, expert opinions first.

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