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).
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.
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.