Sunday, July 6, 2014

5 Should You Hire an Editor Before Querying? Agents Weigh In!

Hi and welcome! Lisa here again with some amazing agents to answer the question:

Do you think it's a good idea for writers to hire an editor before querying? 

Jordy Albert from The Booker Albert Agency

If you have beta readers and critique partners, I think you'd be set. But I wouldn't say no never hire a professional writer. For example, I think an editor would be really beneficial if you were going to self-publish, or wanted help on grammar and that sort of thing.

Ginger Clark from Curtis Brown, Ltd. 

If an author has the money available, and they hire an editor who has extensive, impressive credits and is the right kind of editor for their work, then getting feedback from a freelance editor on their manuscript before querying agents would probably be valuable. But it’s not necessary, and authors should not spend money they do not have doing this. And they must make sure they work with an editor who has either worked at a major publisher or has freelanced extensively with a major publisher and has years of experience editing their kind of book, be it mysteries or literary fiction or middle grade fiction.

Sarah Davies of Greenhouse Literary

Generally, I’d say it’s not worth hiring an editor. Though depends what kind of editor you mean! An editor who can help you structure your story, develop characterization and voice, and iron out major problems could be a good idea, if you see yourself as an apprentice learning your writing craft. Though of course you’ll have to stand alone, working with agent or publishing editor, later on so you do need to have attained a level of confidence in yourself rather than being terribly reliant on someone else. A line editor, who’s all about punctuation and small-scale phrasing, probably isn’t worth it. At the point of submission, agents and editors are looking more at the story as a whole.

Stacey Donaghy of Donaghy Literary Group 

Hiring a reputable editor is costly. This is really up to the writer, and would depend on the state of the manuscript. Once a manuscript is requested the expectation is that it is polished, meaning it should not contain SPAG and developmentally should be in good shape. While there is always editing that takes place once a manuscript is sold to a publisher, this does not mean that an agent will take on an unpolished manuscript. Remember that agents are not there to do editing, while we might make suggestions- this is very different from what an editor would do. Agents do expect to receive submission ready manuscripts, so again it is up to the writer to determine if his/her manuscript is submission ready. Having said that, perhaps the question is, does your manuscript need editing?

Karen Grencik from Red Fox Literary 

I do think it’s a good idea to hire an editor who is well versed in young adult fiction if the author can afford it and getting published is of primary importance. Newer authors who hire experienced editors definitely have a leg up over authors who are working alone or only with a critique group because the quality of their manuscripts is generally much better.

Sara Megibow of the Nelson Literary Agency 

Great question! The short answer is - whether or not a writer hires an editor, I do think a manuscript should be 100% complete and ready before querying. Some writers don’t need an editor in order to get their manuscript to submissions level. Other writers need or want that editor before submitting. Either way - it’s up to you. When I review query letters and sample pages for potential representation, I don’t take into consideration whether or not it has been professionally edited. For me, the manuscript is either something I love and think I can sell or it’s not - regardless of how it got to that state. Saying “it’s been professionally edited” in the query letter doesn’t add bonus points to the submission and not having it professionally edited doesn’t add a red flag.

In general, too many submissions come through our slush pile that aren’t ready. In my opinion, an editor could have helped many of these books get to the next level. However, I acknowledge that hiring that person is expensive. If you are going to get an editor, don’t skimp - hire someone with credentials and client referrals in the genre of work that you are writing. If hiring an editor is not a financial option, here are some other suggestions:

Suggestion #1 = Read 3-5 books in your genre, published in the past 2-3 years, preferably by debut authors and published by major publishing houses.

Suggestion #2 = Once your book is done, set it aside for 2-4 weeks and then re-read with fresh eyes before submitting.

Suggestion #3 = Attend a writing conference - especially one run by RWA or SCBWI.

I hope that helps! Happy writing!


  1. This was a really interesting read, especially as I'm getting read to send my MS out to beta readers soon. Thank you!

  2. Good information here. It's nice to know the consensus seems to be there are other ways to be sure your manuscript is ready. Thanks for a helpful post.

  3. Really helpful round up of insights! Thanks for reaching out to these fab agents and for sharing.

  4. Karen Grencik! <3

    Sounds like the key is not perfection...just a darn good story that's been well edited.

  5. Thank you for this round up. I've been considering hiring an editor, but I couldn't afford an awesome one, so I'll keep working with my crit. partners.


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