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View Full Version : Should I Hire an Editor Before Submitting my MS to an Agent?



pattmayne
06-22-2018, 04:20 PM
I put a lot of work into this horror novel I've written. I have a couple novels published with small publishers and several self-published novels and collections of shorts, plus some short-story credits in small magazines. I naturally want to take the next step towards a career as a writer, and that means I want to get an agent for this horror novel.

I've done several edits and I've been seeking feedback from some test-readers, but I'm also thinking about just hiring an editor to really tear the thing apart for me so that I can send the absolute best version of the manuscript to an agent.

Is this overkill? Is it somehow "bad form" to allow a professional editor to see the MS before sending it to an agent? If any agents are reading this, do you encourage or discourage pre-submission professional editing? Maybe it's superfluous? I'm pretty broke so I can't really afford it, but I want to give this 100% and make absolutely sure that I maximize the potential of this novel.

Any insight is greatly appreciated!

lizmonster
06-22-2018, 04:41 PM
Not an agent, but AFAIK the general consensus is no, you don't want to do this, mostly because when your MS ends up at a publishing house, they're going to have their own in-house editors. Not only will they have different conventions/desires than a freelance editor you hire, you won't have to pay them.

I don't think this is a hard-and-fast rule, of course. There's something to be said for a comprehensive edit from a professional, but I'd take it as something to learn from. If you're striving to be a professional storyteller, you need to know how to structure a story. Which does, of course, require the ability to read one's own work with a little distance, and that takes practice.

My goal was always to hand something to my editor that he wouldn't need to do a thing with. And although he always had notes anyway, I felt much more comfortable both when I accepted his changes and when I rejected them, because I had confidence in the basic structure of what I'd given him.

I seem to have rambled. :) TL;DR: In general, the kinds of edits you'd hire out for are the kinds of edits you should be able to make yourself, but a) this is a learning curve, and b) good feedback from a good editor is awesome. For myself: I'd do it for a work I planned to self-pub, but not one I was querying.

Earthling
06-22-2018, 04:55 PM
Also not an agent. I would say no, for several reasons:

1. You don't have a spare $1000+ lying around, and a decent structural edit is at least that much. You can find people claiming to be editors who will do it for much less, but you get what you pay for.

2. The agent and then the publisher will likely want revisions, and you need to be able to provide rewrites to the same standard as your original submission. Are you going to go to a professional editor each time?

3. You can get the same for free from other writers in a swap or pay-it-forward arrangement. There's no guarantee you'll get professional-level feedback and it takes trial and error to find critique partners you can work with, but the same is true of finding an editor in the sea of people offering their services. The only difference is you aren't out of pocket if you make a mistake on a free exchange.

4. The feedback I got from agents, and then the feedback I got from publishers once I had an agent, was contradictory. No two editors have ever had the same reasons for rejecting my work (N.b. if your writing has technical problems, this will probably be different. But once you get beyond that, the reasons are all subjective). Even if you pay a top notch editor and get a great service, the agents and editors who then see your manuscript will probably have an entirely different set of issues with it and you'll be in the same boat.

I can't come up with anything for the positives column...

Harlequin
06-22-2018, 05:40 PM
If you can't afford it, and also given you have a publication history, no, dont do it.

There are a LOT of positives to hiring an editor if you are a newbie writer; a good editor is also a great teacher, when you're starting out. It can massively accelerate the speed at which you learn.

I dont buy the argument that agents dont like it because i have literally never hears of or encountered this from an agent. Some writers I know have even been passed to agents via indie editors who liked their work. And honestly if an agent did mind I would have consider that elitist; an editor is no more cheating than a writing degree for example. Probably costs similar to a creative writing course but has better feedback.

But you're not new, you're not needing to learn, and you're not self publishing these, AND you're broke so I wouldn't bother. In this case.

Sparverius
06-22-2018, 09:03 PM
Here's my experience, for reference. :) I hired an editor for a developmental/copy edit combo before querying. I learned so much—noticed my common errors and stopped making them, learned how to format a squeaky clean MS, and recognized what part of my style/process was working and what still needed work. I could have learned some of that through beta readers and craft study, but it would have taken much longer and much more weeding through poor advice too (it's made me a better critiquer, as I can pass on what I learned from his edits). In most cases an editor isn't worth the cost if you intend to query agents, but I saw it as an investment in my craft. Based on that edit, he introduced me to several top tier SFF agents who may not have given me the time of day otherwise. I'm agented now and on sub, and might not be in the same position if not propelled by that editor's faith.

pattmayne
06-23-2018, 01:04 AM
Thanks for all the replies.

I think I'll skip the editor part. I just want to make sure the book is as PERFECT as possible before sending it to an agent, but the editor probably won't make the difference between acceptance and rejection, so I'll just find a casual reader or two and send it along.

Thanks again to everybody who responded. I really appreciate the insight!

pattmayne
02-08-2019, 10:51 PM
In case this topic was of interest to anybody, here's an update regarding how my process went:

First, I didn't take the advice here. I started by finding a few beta readers (which actually does follow the advice here...), and one of them had good advice (I had too much detail in the book, and too much philosophizing or "author filibustering"). But then I hired an editor for a few hundred dollars (contrary to the advice here), who provided a couple useful comments but basically said that the book was ready to go.

I was then going to seek an agent, but the editor said that they had some connections with some small publishers and would help me find a place for the book. This seemed exciting, but it failed in the end. I received a form rejection letter from the publisher, and now I feel like I've basically wasted months and months and months... I should have just gone seeking an agent.

NOTE: Nobody burned me here. The editor was trying to be helpful, and the publisher had no obligation to publish my book (or offer feedback). But in the end I believe that I was compelled by a lack of confidence when I sought out an editor. Now I'm basically back to square one, seeking an agent (or small publisher) like I should have done last year.

I feel like an idiot, honestly. I knew better. I need an agent. I need representation. Publishers have their own editors. I made a mistake, and I can't get that time back. It really bugs me. I have nobody with whom I can discuss strategy, so I'm alone in the dark here trying to figure out the best route. This is how we learn...

Maryn
02-08-2019, 10:54 PM
It may be dark, but we're all in here with you. Every one of us has made mistakes that wasted time, effort, ideas, money, or worse.

So here, let's make a pillow fort where we eat cookies and snuggle in our fuzzy blankets until we feel pretty good, even though it's dark in here.

Maryn, paralyzed by fear of failure

eqb
02-09-2019, 12:08 AM
It may be dark, but we're all in here with you. Every one of us has made mistakes that wasted time, effort, ideas, money, or worse.

So here, let's make a pillow fort where we eat cookies and snuggle in our fuzzy blankets until we feel pretty good, even though it's dark in here.

Maryn, paralyzed by fear of failure

What Maryn said.

And hey, why didn't anyone tell me about the pillow fort???

pattmayne
02-09-2019, 01:00 AM
It may be dark, but we're all in here with you. Every one of us has made mistakes that wasted time, effort, ideas, money, or worse.

So here, let's make a pillow fort where we eat cookies and snuggle in our fuzzy blankets until we feel pretty good, even though it's dark in here.

Maryn, paralyzed by fear of failure

Thanks Maryn!

I don't want a pillow fort though, I want to sharpen up! When I said "this is how we learn," I totally meant it. I'm done complaining now lol. I have stuff to do.

Thanks again to all who replied... especially those whose advice I should have followed in the first place!

mccardey
02-09-2019, 01:09 AM
I feel like I've basically wasted months and months and months...

You haven't, because -

This is how we learn...

It's a journey - try to take all the pleasure you can in it. :Sun:

Carrie in PA
02-09-2019, 01:25 AM
In case this topic was of interest to anybody, here's an update regarding how my process went:

First, I didn't take the advice here. I started by finding a few beta readers (which actually does follow the advice here...), and one of them had good advice (I had too much detail in the book, and too much philosophizing or "author filibustering"). But then I hired an editor for a few hundred dollars (contrary to the advice here), who provided a couple useful comments but basically said that the book was ready to go.

I was then going to seek an agent, but the editor said that they had some connections with some small publishers and would help me find a place for the book. This seemed exciting, but it failed in the end. I received a form rejection letter from the publisher, and now I feel like I've basically wasted months and months and months... I should have just gone seeking an agent.

NOTE: Nobody burned me here. The editor was trying to be helpful, and the publisher had no obligation to publish my book (or offer feedback). But in the end I believe that I was compelled by a lack of confidence when I sought out an editor. Now I'm basically back to square one, seeking an agent (or small publisher) like I should have done last year.

I feel like an idiot, honestly. I knew better. I need an agent. I need representation. Publishers have their own editors. I made a mistake, and I can't get that time back. It really bugs me. I have nobody with whom I can discuss strategy, so I'm alone in the dark here trying to figure out the best route. This is how we learn...


You did NOT waste all that time. You have learned some very valuable things about the business and about yourself. You've got a clearer path in mind, and now you KNOW. If you had not taken a few detours, you might still be floundering and wondering if you should do this or that. You're past square one, I promise. :)

I'll bring tea for the pillow fort.