Beyond the Smoke
Terry Burns

Terry Burns is an agent with Hartline Literary as well as writing inspirational fiction. As a writer he has over 40 books in print including 10 novels. He has a new 4 book series from Port Yonder Press entitled “The Sagebrush Collection” of his collected short works and the first released March 2010 entitled “On the Road Home.” A Young Adult entitled Beyond the Smoke won the Will Rogers Medallion and a new book “A Writer’s Survival Guide to Publication” also from Port Yonder Press was developed out of the month long course he held for ACFW. A popular speaker at workshops across the country, a bookstore of his available works as well as a regular blog can be found at As an agent Terry says "I'm looking for a good book, well written in a unique voice, aimed at a market that looks promising, and where I feel I have the contacts appropriate to be able to sell the book in that market. I’m pretty open as to genre but I don’t do children’s, sci fi or fantasy. He’s a member of the Association of Author’s Representatives (AAR).

Hartline Literary
Visit our blog From The Heart

Answers From The Agent

Value of Freelance Editing

The most popular sessions at conferences are agent and editor panels where people get to ask specific questions. 

This column is going to respond to such direct questions, plus questions that come from the Hartline blog and 

other sources. I’d love to hear from you.

Here’s a question a lot of people ask:

“Following a careful look at your information, I hope to submit my work to you in the near future. I have just a bit of tidying up to do first. But I am unclear about formal editing. To hire a freelance editor is quite costly and I am a bit reluctant to take on that expense until I have some indication that my work is saleable. So my question is: Do you want formal editing before a work is presented to you, or can that come after?”

I’d have to say first and foremost that it depends on what shape the manuscript is in. Editors are looking for manuscripts that are in publishable shape so that a company’s editorial staff won’t have to do a lot of work on them. Agents are looking for ready-to-go manuscripts.

We receive hundreds of manuscripts a month, and most are good. That means a good manuscript is simply not good enough. To make the cut, a manuscript has to be exceptional. If an author submits a manuscript that needs a lot of formal editing, chances are it will be upstaged by those authors who have done the editing, or hired a professional copyeditor, to make their manuscripts reach that exceptional level.

But let’s say you skip having your manuscript edited and submit it to see if it is good enough. It turns out that it isn’t. What have you lost? You may have burned a bridge to publication. Had that manuscript been properly edited, it might have crossed that bridge, but now that avenue is probably closed to you. Yes, it can be expensive to have your manuscript edited, but what is the cost of spending hours and hours writing the book, only not to get it published? Agents and editors keep logs of what has been submitted and do not like to see projects resubmitted after it has been turned down (at least without getting advance permission to resubmit).

So the short answer is, what does your manuscript need to make it truly ready, to allow it to rise to that exceptional level and stand out from all the good books being submitted? That’s a question you have to answer for yourself. Can you get a guarantee that your manuscript is saleable before you invest in it? I can’t even guarantee that the manuscripts I choose to represent are saleable. I believe they are or I wouldn’t take them on, but there just aren’t any guarantees.

If an author decides his or her manuscript needs editing, I am asked to recommend someone. But I don’t make recommendations because it may appear that I have a vested interest. Recommending any writing-related service providers, whether it be a copyeditor or publicist, would probably get me thrown out of the AAR (Association of Author Representatives), which monitors such activities. I can and do keep a list of potential copyeditors on my Website, but I remove any from that list if I get reports of any questionable activities on their part.

When seeing a copyeditor, check with other authors and ask who they have used. When contacting copyeditors, always ask them what titles they’ve edited and what publishers or authors they’ve edited for. And be sure to ask potential copyeditors for a free sample edit of a couple pages of your manuscript. After evaluating their work and their initial comments about your manuscript, you’ll have a good idea if you and the editor are a good match.


Survival Guide