So, here's the question I see a lot:
Do I need to hire an editor before querying an agent?
Yeah, it's a vague answer, but the answer depends on you, right? Let me explain...
(Disclaimer: This advice is geared toward writers seeking agent representation. NOT self-published writers, that is a whole different ball-game.)
Editing is a skill set all writers need, but how you acquire this skill set is entirely up to you. Naturally, most of us can't afford or don't want to pay the costly editor fees. Now, I'm not bagging on editors, they're doing the lord's work, and I've hired many in my time.
But the reality is writing is a career that does not generate a lot of income, especially at first, so the idea of paying hundreds if not thousands of dollars on what is effectively a hobby is not something most grown-ass people are willing to do.
If it comes between paying rent or an edit on a novel that probably won't receive an agent or a lucrative publishing contract, I hope the rent is paid.
This, frankly, sucks.
It is a tall gate that keeps a lot of amazing voices out of the literary world. Many cultures outright refuse to accept writing as an occupation.
But fear not! Hiring an editor is not the only way to make sure your novel is polished.
Do not underestimate the power of Critique Partners! You can find them on Twitter, on whole websites dedicated to this very thing (https://www.scribophile.com).
Generally, it goes Critique Partner for major revisions, and Beta Readers for overall impressions.
Receiving critiques is also a skill set. There is a blog post somewhere around here that gives you a general code of conduct on how to not be a dick when receiving or giving feedback.
Not sure you're ready to have someone else read your work? Sign up for editor mailing lists.
They usually give you a bunch of free resources on self-editing.
It costs 4.99 to buy an ebook on self-editing.
I personally own, The Emotion Thesaurus, The Writer's Guide to Character Emotion, Writing The Breakout Novel, Revision & Self-Editing, On Writing: A Memoir, Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, and The Elements of Style.
All it really comes down to is whether or not you are willing to do the work.
And just so we're clear, you do not need to spend a single cent on a manuscript to get an Agent.
The total cost of my manuscript before my agent signed: 0$
So, why do agents want polished novels? Don't they do edits too?
(Please don't hurt me) Maybe.
Different agents do different things. Some agents are NOT editorial.
An agent who is editorial will want to have a hand in revisions. This means they want to help newer and developing authors, but that doesn't mean they want to have to educate you on the difference between your and youre.
Once you begin querying, it is your intent to make your writing a business.
Think about your day job. We all make mistakes, but if you could not demonstrate knowledge or ability...what would happen?
Same with writing. If you are trying to query an agent, it is imperative that you know your shit. This doesn't mean you must know everything, but it means you know enough that you don't expect an agent to be your editor. That's not their job.
Not all agents are editorial!
All agents want a clean, polished manuscript that is ready for submission, but editorial agents will give give more input and take more time on the work itself.
Non-editorial agents are not going to delete your submission if it's not perfect. This doesn't mean it is 100% error free. It just means an editor in a publishing house will be the next person to do revisions on your manuscript.
So, if the agents still want the manuscript edited, why are some "editorial" and some are not?
I'm happy to say I can finally give you a less vague answer!
Some writers want to go straight to submission.
For many reasons, writers may lose their agent. Sometimes they quit, retire, change directions, move on to different jobs, whatever.
If a writer loses their agent, it doesn't mean they start all over again. For an established writer, the sun does not set even if their agent does. Sometimes a writer really just needs someone to deal with the contractual aspects and does not need editorial input.
Some writers just don't need editorial input other than what the publishing house wants to see.
So there you have it.
Yes, all agents regardless of their background will want a polished manuscript. If you're querying, it's now your job to be a proficient writer, and that includes self-editing skills or a full bank account.
I write stuff. Sometimes people like reading it.