Some authors have heard that agents engage in pre-submission editing prior to submitting to publishers. Failing that, they know that editing is literally in an editor’s job title.
So if you just have a great idea for a book, an agent and editor will help you polish it up into something publishable, right?
Don’t count on it.
Yes, sure. Some agents really do offer pre-submission editing. But typically these are situations where agents are taking a book project that’s nearly there and helping it that last extra mile across the finish line. They’re taking books that are already in the 99.5th percentile and getting them to the 99.9th. They’re not taking a hot mess and turning it into gold.
Ideas are highly, highly overrated. Execution is what matters. Your writing needs to be competent at worst, ideally much more than that. However you feel about [insert traditionally published bestseller with a reputation for being poorly written], it is way better than the vast majority of what goes unpublished. (Don’t believe me? Find a way to read some slush).
Take your time if you’re considering publishing. Revise, get some feedback, revise some more, get some more feedback, revise again, consider getting a professional edit, revise again, do a final pass, and then–maybe then–you’ll be ready to pursue publication.
Unless you are writing on a highly topical nonfiction project with a very specific bombshell, current events don’t tend to matter much in the book world, particularly for fiction. It doesn’t pay to rush.
It’s a massively competitive landscape out there and it’s harder than it’s ever been to break out of the crowd. Agents want something you think is perfect. And even then you may still have more work to do.
Need help with your book? I’m available for manuscript edits, query critiques, and coaching!
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Art: Lower section of the Annaberger Bergaltars by Hans Hesse