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Questions From the Inbox

I wrote a YA novel. I am seeking publication. Any tips/advice?

I edited and polished my manuscript, however I am considering professional editing. I am currently seeking a literary agent and have queried several. I understand how the publishing process works. My goal is to publish my novels through a major publisher.

Earlier in the year I decided to join with Eaton Literary Agency. Eaton Literary Agency charges fees. I do not recommend, unless you plan to pay around $5,000.00.

Feel free to post the above information in your blog for other aspiring writers.

Now I am reevaluating my options. I am considering to pay for professional editing. But, if I land a literary agent, they can edit the novel themselves.

Ms. McCormick, how do you think I should handle this situation?

-Jessie Rose

Hi Jessie!  Lots to tackle here.  First of all, congratulations on finishing and polishing your manuscript! 

As for Eaton Literary, I'm very sorry you got tangled up in an agency that charges fees.  For future querying, please look up all the agents and agencies on your list at Preditors & Editors.  If the agent or agency isn't listed or there's no information available on them, consider checking with a large writing forum such as AbsoluteWrite for a thread on the agency.  AbsoluteWrite has a comprehensive Bewares and Background Checks forum.  And if you're still unsure, you can always get in touch with me or the staff at Writer Beware.

You mentioned you're considering professional editing.  Here's the thing, do you think your writing is good enough to gain you representation?  If so, then I don't believe you should bother with a professional editing service.  A good line-by-line edit can cost a couple thousand dollars, and a broad assessment hundreds.  If you feel your writing needs a lot of help, however, then it's something to consider.  I'm more likely to suggest joining a critique group, SCBWI, and/or taking some classes though.  To me, it makes a lot more sense to build the tools needed to be a professional writer than to rely on others.  As for agents, only some are editorial and many don't have the time to do line-by-line edits.  Your manuscript needs to be as perfect as you can make it before you query, and then an agent will offer input as needed, per preference.  It's not something you can count on, so I think it's good you're considering your options and evaluating your writing. 

Beyond what I've said here, please check the agent research posts I've done in the right sidebar.  I also highly recommend perusing agent blogs for informative posts on publishing.  Nathan Bransford, Janet Reid, and Rachel Gardner are a few of the best resources out there, but I have a large list of agent and editor blogs in the left sidebar that you can get lost in for days.

All that said, my best piece of advice is this: Google and research everything!  Don't walk into anything blindly if you don't have to.  And don't be afraid to e-mail me more specific questions.  You're doing the right thing by asking and learning!

Now, I'll turn the blog over to my readers and see what advice and tips they have to share.  I didn't have as much time to list resources as I would have liked and I know they'll come through for you.  Thanks for e-mailing!


Heather Hansen said...

Two things:

I understand how the publishing process works.

And then,

But, if I land a literary agent, they can edit the novel themselves.

No, my friend, you don't. You really, REALLY don't understand how it works.

1. Fix your writing: Read, study, get some books on how to write and self-edit.
2. Learn the industry: Read blogs, get some publishing books, go to conferences.
3. Write a new novel.
4. Edit it at least 3 times.
5. THEN query.

Anonymous said...

I was just about to say what Heather did. No agent is going to edit your work for you, even a hands on agent is going to expect an all but publishable book if they're going to take you on.

Read loads, reads loads of blogs, get in a great critique group or get some truly great crit partners and write, write and when your fingers start to bleed, write some more.

Lisa Nowak said...

One thing I'd like to add is that an agent has to really fall in love with your work to take it on. This is highly subjective, and they're looking for reasons to reject you, because they have thousands of other people to choose from. Even if you have an excellent manuscript they will pass it over if it doesn't strike their fancy. When I first started submitting I thought that if a manuscript was marketable, any agent that represented that genre would take it. Not so. They have to believe in it the way you do. And they don't fall in love with everything sent to them any more than you fall in love with every book in the library.

Beth said...

I wrote my first manuscript about eight years ago, thought it was brilliant, and submitted it. It was rejected (and has been many times since). The best thing I did was join a couple of classes -- one for beginning writers and then a smaller one for more experienced writers.
Since then, I have become a much, much better writer. I have experienced many rejections, but have had two books published with a third one to come out this fall.
A couple of other pieces of advice: don't rule out smaller publishers, and never underestimate the kindness of other writers. I am constantly amazed at how generous they have been with advice and suggestions, and I try to "pay it forward" any time I can.

Paul Greci said...

I don't know if I have anything more to add. I like Casey's take on developing yourself as a writer instead of paying an editor.

And what Heather said: Fix your writing.

And, I think what Lisa said is key, you want an agent who falls in love with your writing. The more well executed your story is and the more original your voice, the better chance you'll have of making that kind of connection.

Good luck. I think you are on the right track by reaching out to Casey and others.

Heather Kelly said...

I am increasingly thankful for this community of writers. I am so thankful for blogs like Casey's and people who take the time to honestly comment on these types of questions and talk about their own experiences. Sinking into the blogging world and talking virtually with other writers has taught me so much about writing and the business side of writing--at a pace that I could really process. I hope that this person find a good community of writers to support them, whether on-line or in person.

Laura Pauling said...

Finding trusted writers who can review your work is priceless.

And I'm going to give you the benefit of the doubt and hope when you said that agents edit - you meant that most agents usually have editorial revisions for you to complete. And that you realized you needed to make your manuscript the best you could before querying.

At some point if you've done everything from research, how-to books, forums, crit partners, and you still aren't sure what's wrong - maybe consider paying an editor. I don't think I'll do that, well, because I just can't afford it.

Good luck!