Monday, March 14, 2016

Agency Lessons: editing before querying

Agency Lessons is a weekly post that gives authors and readers an inside look into the mind of a literary agent and a peek behind the curtain of how books are made.

Today's question comes from the mailbox and it's aptly timed as I was recently involved in a long conversation about this with several other authors.

So here's the question:
Should I tell an agent if I have worked with a free lance editor who use to work for Scholastic in polishing my manuscript or is that something I should leave out?

So, there's really two issues here I want to address.

First, what to put in your query.

Does this sort of thing belong in your query? Not really. Because as I'm reading queries, I am assuming and hoping that you have worked with critique partners and beta readers to get your manuscript in tip-top shape. If you haven't, you are not ready for querying yet.

For me, this is the equivalent of saying you attended a rigorous workshop or read three dozen craft books. Great! That's awesome and I'm glad you've taken the craft so seriously. Now prove it with your pages.

Also, having someone edit your manuscript is not the same as an endorsement of your work. I don't know if you took this editors advice and I have no idea if they thought is was a good project. Also, lots of freelance editors out there have worked with (or still work with) big names in publishing so this doesn't sound as impressive as you'd think.

Overall, this doesn't really do anything to impress.

However, it could be a deterrent. The second issue I want to talk about is whether you should use an editor at this stage.

Here's the scenario that plays out in my head when I see something like this:
Author takes an okay manuscript and works with an editor to polish it to perfection. Author queries agent who loves it and signs author. Agent sells the project. Author writes next project, but isn't going to hire another editor because they already landed the agent. Author sends new project to agent and agent stares in disbelief that same author who produced last manuscript gold has written this new not stellar manuscript.
As an agent, I'm not just looking for clients who I can work with on one book. I want someone who is ready to launch a career. That means selling lots of their books. I can't do that if it means doing multiple rounds of detailed edits before I can pitch each project.

Also, I'm not sure why an author would want to do this. One of the benefits of working with a traditional publisher is the editorial services. You'll get to work with top notch editors, copy editors and proofreaders. And not pay for them.

The long and short of it is that any information that details the process of how your manuscript ended up in my hands should be left out of the query. Let your query suck me in with the story, then dazzle me with the pages.

For those who are interested in dazzling me with your pages, I am now officially back open to queries, but for YA projects only. Show me what you got. :)

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