Are Agents Expected to Edit?

Are agents expected to be editors?

That depends on if we’re talking about a substantive edit vs a line edit. Many times, agents will ask an author or potential author to tweak and/or reorganize the content of their material. The author is either willing or unwilling to make those adjustments, which may affect whether or not they are signed. However, if you believe that when you submit your project to an agent that a line edit is somehow included in their services, you’ve been listening to those who simply don’t understand the process.

It is your job as the writer—the creator of the work—to fine-tune and polish the text. You’re the writer, right? The agent will not only expect you to produce a clean copy, but will insist on it if they are to represent you. This is to preserve the agent’s reputation, and to introduce you to publishers with the confidence that you are capable of living up to the publisher’s demands.

Since there is some confusion about this floating around out there, I thought I would explain the industry’s standard. I’ve never heard of an agent editing an entire manuscript with the exclusion of myself when I was first starting out and didn’t know better. All of my editor friends would say, “Kimberly, why are you editing that manuscript? That’s the author’s job!” Finally, from lack of time, energy, and simply getting wise to the practice, I learned which responsibilities were mine, and which ones were not.

When a writer signs with Living Word, they are asked to adhere to a proposal template that you’ll find posted on this website. I created this template from the prospective of 8 years spent reviewing manuscripts submitted to the editorial department of Harvest House, as well as 4 years prior to that in the sales department. I’ve read the best of the best—those proposals that instantly intrigue and sparkle—as well as those not so dazzling. It was this insight that led me to fashion what publishers have come to expect from this agency, with many of the projects making it to PubCo (Publisher’s Committee), which is the last stop before a contract is offered.

For my authors, I help guide them in writing an outstanding proposal while holding them to the highest of industry standards. Then, line by line, I edit both the proposal and sample chapters before sending them out into the world. This is what you can expect from a good agent.

What do the pros do before querying an agent? They hire a good editor.   

My advice to you is to hire a reputable freelance editor to comb through your manuscript pulling out typos, grammar errors, and addressing any issues that reflect laziness, a deficit in attention to detail, or just screams ROOKIE! A green author is merely showcasing their inexperience by having a problem with or doubts about this very foundational rule.

Note: There are those freaks of nature who write a first draft as though it were their twentieth—virtually error-free. Yes, I’ve seen them, admired them, and wish there were more of them. No myth, just naturally gifted. But the fact remains that they are 1 in about 5,000. Seriously. And you know who you are! If you are not completely confident that you dwell among their ranks, get an editor!

As an agent who happens to be an editor as well, I’m careful not to blur the lines that separate the two. When I edit a project, it is in no way attached to this agency. Let it never be said that I acquire for one service for the benefit of the other. Each business is a stand-alone, and will remain that way. Those who do sign with Living Word are aware that with my combined experience in publishing and editing, their projects rise to a level of quality and substance that gets noticed.

In closing, I’ll be posting a laundry list of editorial missteps that I see regularly within submissions that were thought to be—by the author (and their friends)—clean. Stay tuned…


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