Just a quick reminder: Laura is teaching a class at Margie Lawson’s Writers Academy for the month of September – Submissions that Sell! If you need help on your submission, check it out!
Now, here’s Lori!
I typed The End and did a little happy dance in my office. I’d finished my manuscript and could hardly wait to query Agent X. How quickly would he sell it, I wondered? I’d been writing the entire story with him in mind. He had, after all, read my previous manuscript and liked it. He called me a talent. He invited me to submit future projects. So naturally, he’d scoop up my new project, right? Wrong.
Agent X’s rejection—an impersonal form letter from his assistant just one day after the query was sent—stopped me cold. The easy path to publication I’d hoped for was starting out exactly like my previous attempts—with rejection.
I knew landing an agent was a vital first step on the path to publication, and arguably the most difficult. I didn’t have friends in the industry. I didn’t have writing credentials. I was a teacher, not a journalist. What I had was a story I believed in. But was I willing to repeat the past, submitting query after query and collecting rejection letters? No, I wasn’t. This time, I had to do something different. But what?
After much deliberation, I decided to make an investment—a fairly hefty investment at that. I hired a professional editor.
I didn’t want anyone to know. Hiring an editor seemed like cheating to me. Shouldn’t a genuine writer be able to see her mistakes and fix them herself? Would it still be my story? And if the manuscript wasn’t already good enough to gain representation, then maybe I didn’t have the chops to be a writer.
I was afraid I’d be judged–the girl who had to attend remedial writing class. Can you imagine a teacher being expected to teach for free, sometimes for an entire school year, all the while being critiqued by a supervising teacher? Or a doctor, providing medical care under someone else’s supervision before venturing out on her own? What about a cook, offering free samples from his test kitchen before actually serving it to his patrons?
Um, well, yes, we can imagine these scenarios. Of course other professions require consultation and internships and residencies. Why should writers be any different?
Through the recommendation from a friend, I hired Erin Brown from Erinedits.com. Erin had worked as a women’s fiction editor at two major publishing houses, so she was a perfect fit for my manuscript.
Now, here’s the hard part…professional editing is expensive! Most editors have a variety of packages available, ranging from a complete manuscript evaluation and feedback, to simply a query letter and/or synopsis review and edit. A complete manuscript evaluation and feedback can cost upwards of $3,000! That’s right, not exactly chump change. And query and synopsis reviews are typically a couple hundred dollars each. So, whether it’s your last stop before publication, or you simply want to take your manuscript to the next level, it’s important to proceed cautiously when hiring a professional editor.
- Unless money is no object, make sure you believe in your project whole-heartedly.
- Ask other writers for referrals.
- Scour editor websites. Make sure the site and the editor look professional. Does s/he belong to editor guilds or associations? Who are their other clients? Can you contact them?
- Ask the editor for a sample edit, either one s/he has available, or a sample page or two of yours.
- Check out the editor’s credentials. Does s/he have writing or publishing experience?
- Look for an editor who specializes in your genre, if possible.
- Ask about a payment plan.
- Try negotiating a discount if you choose to purchase a combined package.
Since selling the book, I’m no longer embarrassed to admit that I used an editorial service. I’ve learned it’s actually quite common among published authors. Today, publishing houses expect a polished manuscript, not a work in progress. And so do agents. The onus is on the writer to find, and pay for, outside editing.
I have no way of knowing whether The Life List would have sold had I not invested in an editorial service, but I’ve never once second-guessed my decision. Having someone with expertise read my work, provide feedback and suggest changes was invaluable, and very likely made the difference between a pass and a purchase.
So, what do you think? Would you ever consider using an editorial service?
A former speech pathologist and guidance counselor, Lori Nelson Spielman currently works as a homebound teacher for inner-city students. Her debut novel, THE LIFE LIST, has sold in 16 countries and Fox 2000 has purchased the film option. Lori and her husband live in Michigan.