Will you get me a book deal? 

I would love for you to get a book deal—for most writers, this is the ultimate goal! Keep in mind that many variables are involved in getting an offer, including not only the strengths and originality of your project but also industry trends, timing, and luck. Becoming a published author also depends on how and why you are looking to get published. (Do you want to be published by an up-and-coming or established publishing house? Would you being willing to try a digital-only imprint? Is self-publishing an option?) 

Your chances of finding a publisher also depends on how much you’re willing to revise. As the renowned editor Maxwell Perkins once said, a good editor serves as a guide to the author; in the end, “the editor can only get as much out of the writer as the writer has in him.” (Ghostwriters and collaborators, on the other hand, are paid to take charge of a work and command much higher fees than editors as a result—see the glossary of terms for more information.) So, while I can’t guarantee that a publisher will offer you a book deal, I will do my best to help you improve your chances. 

Will you work with me until my project is ready?

I am happy to work with you on an on-going basis. Over the years I’ve noticed that some writers revise quickly and take all the feedback they receive to heart; others take their time and their plans change along the way. With my approach to editing, you are not obligated to pay for services you may or may not want in the future. You also have the opportunity to decide at every stage whether I “get” your writing or not. (I will also make this assessment when I receive your sample pages.) If my feedback is proving helpful, then I’d love to work with you until you land a deal—and beyond!

Can you help me send out my project to agents? 

Should we decide to work together for the long haul, I will gladly talk to you about sending out your project. While I can’t put you in direct contact with literary agents, I will review your query letter. If you’d like me to make suggestions about strategy, I would want to wait until I see the full results of our work together, and this could require several rounds of edits. If I truly feel that your manuscript is ready to submit to agents, I will make this clear but still provide edits to help make it the best it can be. Of course, if you’re really eager to find out if your work can sell as is, you should feel free to query agents at any time, even if my feedback suggests otherwise. You never know when you will be snapped up! 

Would you be willing to work on commission, like an agent? Can’t you just be my agent?

Unlike an editor, an agent focuses on the sales potential of a work. Although I began my publishing career on the agenting side and continue to collaborate with agents on occasion, I love to edit—I always have. And right now I’m much more interested in editing than selling. 

I already have critique partners and am taking a writing class. Do I still need an editor?

If you can find critique partners and/or beta readers, terrific. They will give you an honest assessment of your manuscript, and for free. Freelance editors will also give you an honest assessment, but their notes tend to be very detailed and include concrete ideas on how to improve your work, all with an eye toward the market. Freelance editors also deliver their notes within a specific timeframe. You can always work with critique partners, beta readers, and freelance editors simultaneously. You’ll just have to decide whose advice to folllow if the feedback is conflicting. Similarly, it’s fine to join a writers’ group and work with an editor at the same time. The benefit of working with your own editor is that you won’t have to spend any time critiquing others people’s work; instead, you can focus on your own.

I just need someone to take a look at my book and tell me if it’s good. Can you do that?

First of all, your book probably is good. The question is really, “Can it sell in today’s market?” and it’s a million dollar question. If you’d just like an answer, then you should query agents or self-publish and watch the numbers. If you’d like detailed feedback to back up the answer, I’ll do my best to help.

I am looking for someone to clean up my story. Is this something you can do?

By “clean up,” do you mean look for typos, change the wording, or both? Keep in mind that there is a world of difference between, say, a proofreader (whose main job is to catch errors) and a book doctor (who will both correct errors and change the style of your book). That said, I do offer light line edits along with my initial critique, and this might include correcting minor spelling and grammar errors. Should you want your full work to be line edited after this stage, we can discuss. 

It might help to compare selling your book to selling your house. Some people take their chances and receive an offer right away; others prefer to do some tidying up first, maybe a paint job. If you really want to make a strong first impression and your house (book) has been on the market for some time, I’d suggest that you spend some time focusing on the inside. While having a spotless house (error-free book) doesn’t hurt, it will be worth the investment to hire someone to help you with some interior improvements, as you’re likely to get a better deal in the end.

Can we work together electronically so I can avoid printing and mailing costs? 

 I am happy to review a description and excerpt of your work on-line. For longer works, I find it quicker and easier to take notes on a hard copy than an electronic copy, and I tend to take copious notes on each new project I receive. Once I’ve finished my assessment, I use the electronic version of your work to do some fact-checking. While I ask you to bear mailing and printing costs, I will recycle print outs upon request (or toss them if you’re more comfortable). Also, I typically do line edits electronically.

 What do you think of self-publishing? Isn’t it easier than traditional publishing?

Yes, in certain ways, self-publishing is easier. Barnes and Noble’s Nook PressAmazon’s Kindle Direct PublishingKoboLuluBlurb, and Smashwords are just a few self-publishing platforms that let writers control almost the entire publishing process and offer high royalty rates. However, self-publishers—also known as indie authors or author-publishers—must pay for editorial, design and other book publishing services that traditional publishers provide for free. And to find success, they also need the time and the savvy to know how to market themselves. (Also see my blog posts about self-publishing versus traditional publishing.)