Quick Question*
Should I Hire an Editor Before I Submit to Agents?

publishing questionsFive years ago I rarely encountered anyone who paid to get his work edited before submitting to agents and publishers. Now just about every writer I run into at conferences talks about “my writing coach” or “my editor.”

At the 2014 San Francisco Writers Conference last month I heard a very jarring question. The New York editors panel was asked: “Will traditional publishers insist on editing my book?” There’s so much wrong with that question, and this whole situation, it’s kind of hard to know where to start.

What bothers me is what’s behind these questions: a deep misunderstanding, created by too many anti-New York publishing blogs, about this whole businesses.

Short answer: Before you submit to agents, your novel should be the best you can possibly write. You’ll have written it, put it aside a few weeks, rewritten it, gotten a few informed reads, rewritten it, read it aloud to yourself and finally said to yourself, “My, that’s fine.”

In nonfiction, before submitting, you’ll have thought through every aspect of your book start to finish, including the entire structure and the market and the competition, and crafted a stunning proposal with a few sample chapters. And you’ll have put that proposal down and let it rest, then come back to it, re-read it and revised it ten or twenty times.

If you’re truly uncertain about the quality of your work, of course you can hire an editor. But keep this in mind: Agents don’t get excited when queries say “I’ve had this book professionally edited.” They get skeptical. They wonder: Edited by whom? Why? 

And publishers don’t expect a professionally edited work.

Editors at publishing companies DO spend less time editing than they used to and DO outsource some editorial work. But they still edit. Publishers employ editors to give your work a substantive edit, a line edit, a copy edit and a proof. 

So hire an editor if you feel you must, but don’t expect that be a plus with industry professionals.

Exception: If you hire a top editor who has worked at publishing companies and is known to agents and publishers, that person may be a big help in taking the next steps.  For a professional at this level, expect to pay between $75-$125 per hour.

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