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Do I Need an Editor Before an Agent?

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A question that comes up frequently in writing groups and social media is: should I hire a freelance book editor before submitting my manuscript to agents or publishers?

Often in the self-publishing arena, you must do everything yourself, including hiring your own editor. However, traditional publishing is quite different. First, let’s look at how traditional publishing operates. 

Traditional Publishing

If you want to publish your book traditionally, you’ll first need to find a literary agent. Most traditional publishing houses accept agent-only submissions, although some indie presses and smaller publishing companies do not require it.

When you sign up with a literary agent, you should expect to work together with them on a series of revisions, also known as developmental editing, before submitting your work to publishing houses.

If you have a contract with a publisher, they may do rounds of developmental editing for you. Once all the foundations are set, your publisher will assign an editor to proofread, copy edit, and fix the formatting, cover design, and layout. You can learn more about the details of the editor job here.

Why You Don’t Need to Hire an Editor Before Submitting Your Project to Agents

Since most of the editorial services are provided when you pursue traditional publishing, hiring an editor is an unnecessary step to take before you submit your work. But bringing on an independent editor can help you spot the mistakes you didn’t see before you make your submission. so you can offer the best possible manuscript.

However, these edits do not guarantee that an agent or a traditional publisher will accept your manuscript. They’re much more likely to reject you if they don’t like your story or concept, even if it is well edited. If the latter occurs, the thousands of dollars you’ve spent to have it edited will be wasted. Considering the rejection rate for manuscript submissions is 97%, it’s often a good idea to wait when bringing on an editor.

Hiring an Editor for Developmental Advice or Feedback Can Improve the Chances of Getting Your Manuscript Accepted

Publishing is fiercely competitive, and being in the rejection pile is rough. Submitting your manuscript to agents is daunting because some elements of a submission package, such as a synopsis and a query letter, are challenging to get right. Hiring an editor to get advice and feedback on these elements before sending your work off is helpful. Editors who understand the publishing market, how agents work, and are familiar with your genre can help guide you and improve your chances of being accepted.

When an agent is interested in your story or concept, they request the entire manuscript. So it’s helpful to get a professional evaluation or critique on it first, to make sure it’s as solid as possible before making your submission.

Sentence-Level Editing Isn’t Necessary Before Manuscript Submission

If you’re about to submit work to agents or publishers, you won’t require any sentence-level editing on your manuscript because they can handle these tasks for you. However, if you’re worried you may have problems with flow or your work may have chunky sentences, a line edit can take care of these issues and reassure you before submission. Honing your self-editing and writing skills could be beneficial in the long run if you’re looking to pursue traditional publishing, as doing your own editing will save you a significant amount of money.  You can also read more about the cost of an editor here.

Final Thoughts

Be wary of anyone who says you need to spend tons of money on editing before submitting your manuscript to an agent or publisher. If you need help with a manuscript critique or your submission package, then bringing on an editor to help get them perfect, can be a good idea.

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