Querying Agents: Should you Hire an Editor First?

So you’ve completed the first draft of your novel, edited it the to best of your abilities and now you’re ready to query. Maybe you’re further along than that – perhaps the rejections have started rolling in and you’re wondering if you should hire a professional. And here is the important question: Would hiring an editor help you get representation from an agent or perhaps even lead to becoming published?

After my recent one-to-one with an editor I’ve battled with this question. Some of the advice I received resonated with my gut instinct. Great. Whilst other parts I’ve debated with my betas, toyed with changes and generally procrastinated over. Who’s opinion should I trust more, someone in the industry for 20yrs or just little, blundering novice, me.

On Friday I attended a writing conference with a fellow blogger from Uninspired Writers and we had two agents from Greene & Heaton give us their opinion on the matter. Working with any professional can be a costly matter, which may well be outside of many writers grasp.

But a far more interesting point was; agents are used to working with writers who have a rough draft, it’s their job to know how to edit a manuscript to make it shine. Provided your MS is polished to it’s best and has no spelling mistakes or grammatical errors. By implementing an editor’s changes you’re effectively adding a third persons subjectivity to the mix. You may end up editing out parts that the agent would have loved and add elements they hate.


These points aligns with previous advice I’ve heard, which is, by working with an editor before submitting your manuscript, it is no longer authentically yours. Because it has been enhanced by someone else. The agents may well assume your work is up to scratch only to discover that it is not.

I think these pose an interesting conundrum. Who amongst us wouldn’t want to jump the queue and get ahead? But is that really benefiting us in the long haul. On the other hand, having areas in our manuscript highlighted as weak by an editor, critique partner or beta, especially if we had a niggling feeling it was, can only benefit us.

Remember advice is subjective, an agents preferences is subjective, heck this blog post is subjective.

Listen to that inner voice and have faith in your journey. If you want to work with an editor, do it and learn from it. If you’re struggling with someone’s feedback, because you believe those elements are integral to your story, listen to your gut instinct and leave them in your story.

You are the master creator of your world – in fiction and reality.

Fantasy writer Lorraine Ambers blog banner

Have you heard similar advice from professionals? Or have you worked with an editor and known in your heart their changes would help or hinder your story? If so, share them with me, you know I love hearing from you.

Thanks for stopping by, until next time, Much Love.

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© Author Lorraine Ambers and http://www.lorraineambers.com, 2019.
As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

31 thoughts on “Querying Agents: Should you Hire an Editor First?

  1. Hmm…this is a really interesting way to look at it, that working with an editor makes the story no longer just yours. I’ve worked with an editor for my WIP (which I hope to being querying soon) but I never feel like she takes the story away from me. She’ll point out parts that aren’t making sense, character’s motivation that isn’t clear, or things I could go deeper with if I wanted to, but in the end it’s all up to me. I still get to decide what the character’s motivation is, get to make parts clearer the way I want to. Maybe it’s just about finding an editor that isn’t invasive? Just my thoughts.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You make excellent points, and working with a good editor should be like this.
      I’m simply passing on the advice I’ve gleaned from agent. And let’s no forget that another agent may have conflicting advice from the ones I’ve stated.
      Ultimately, all we can do is work with the advice that feels right for us, after all, we make changes based on our critique partner feedback. How is this any different from an editors feedback?
      I was recently advices to rewrite my beginning, I suppose I’m referring to major changes like this.
      Thanks for your comments, they really are valid points. 😊

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Great post. I’m still undecided about a structural or developmental editor, so it’s good to hear that others have the same questions. You commented: “Part of being a writer is navigating the unknown and managing our insecurities.” That is exactly how I feel, but I thought it was just me.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m currently re-writing and trying to produce a second draft of “Blue Cottage”. My critique partner did a pretty good job of telling me to re-write the whole thing. But after reading your post I have to ask two questions:
    1. What if you’re a poor speller, and
    2. What if you can’t remember the rules of basic grammar to save your life. Due to a medical event that happened in the eighties, I can’t remember the rules of grammar. I can read about them now but two hours later the information is gone. I wouldn’t know a subject from a predicate. Employing an editor sounds like the way to go.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This was a really insightful piece of information from them, and you’ve articulated it perfectly here to help other writers make their choice.
    It was so wonderful to enjoy the event with you and spend the day talking all things writing! ❤ xx

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I agree with this article so much! As an author your dream is to publish a novel, but it is a fine line of achieving that dream without compromising yourself in the process, whether it is editors, agents, even publishing companies, you want to find the right fit for you, and work with people who make your voice heard, not diminish it. Thanks for sharing this. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Great post, Rainy! I’ve heard similar advice from agents/publishers at conferences too. They said not to waste money paying for a professional edit before submission, because if they like your MS, their own team will edit. They backed up what you’ve written here: get it as polished as you can and that’s good enough 😊.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Ron Owen

    Your topic is a dammed if you do and dammed if you don’t.
    If you land an agent they usually help you with fine-tuning your work, however, if they spot problems in your query and sample, then they know your book is rife with the same problems. One agent told me she receives 200 queries a day and with the flood of queries agents receive, they can easily choose another wanna-be author who’s work is more polished than yours.
    The problem with editors is that most are so darned expensive, charging around a thousand dollars for a novel. Pity they don’t work on commission.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Ha, work on commission. excellent idea.
      There are many stumbling blocks for writers in the query trenches, even if there writing is excellent.
      The only advice for writers determined to get an agent is to preserve.


  7. I was hoping for a “Yes, you should”, or “No, you shouldn’t”. But I totally understand where you’re coming from. If money was no object, I would 100% work with an editor. Unfortunately, that is not the case, so I have to keep on weight my options until I see a sign.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I think a lot of the decision depends on what kind of editing you’re looking for. I’ve hired an editor before (never queried – just absolutely terrified of rejection), but I did it for more copy-editing and making myself feel like the book was exactly what I wanted. When you’re doing sci-fi or fantasy, you often have enough made-up words that a simple spellcheck is impossible. A copyeditor can help you get out those poor sentences or accidents. After that, if you decide to switch gears and do self-publishing, the book will be in good shape.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think you’ve highlighted something important here, it depends on what type of editor you get.
      If you can afford it a copy editor or proof reader would be beneficial before submitting.
      I was referring to more structural changes.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Dempsey’s Grill was rejected about 100 times. Give or take. And that was before I brought my editors in. Without them Dempsey would have been shelved. But keep in mind, my way doesn’t apply to all. Always use your best judgement.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. “agents are used to working with writers who have a rough draft, it’s their job to know how to edit a manuscript to make it shine. “– my understanding is that agents are used to polished drafts, not rough drafts, and a rough draft will damn you. They want, esp. for debut authors, manuscripts that aren’t going to be a lot of effort on the publisher/editor’s side.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re absolutely right. Even though the agent said ‘rough drafts’ she did reiterate that the MS should be edited, proof read and contain no errors.
      In this instance, I think the description ‘rough draft’ was used so that writers understood they didn’t have to hire a structure editor.
      Thanks for your comment, you’ve raised an important point. 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Pingback: How to Hook an Agent – Lorraine Ambers

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